Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 11 to 64, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 65 to 72, inclusive, answered orally.

Garda Reserve.

Damien English

Question:

73 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the progress of the Garda Reserve since its establishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14362/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

136 Deputy Mary Upton 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 currently 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. [14272/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 136 together.

At 31 March 2009, there were 322 attested Reserve Gardaí and 152 Reserve trainees. Details of the stations to which Reserve members are currently assigned are set out in the table below.

The Agreed Programme for Government has set a target strength for the Reserve at 10% of the full-time strength of the force. As the Garda Reserve depends on volunteers who undertake their training and other duties during their free time, it is difficult to predict how many people will commence training in any particular period. However, I can assure the Deputies that the Garda Commissioner is continuing to make every effort to reach the recruitment target. In that context I would point out that the moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the public service does not apply to the Garda Reserve.

Recruitment is ongoing and the Public Appointments Service has received over 1,100 expressions of interest to join the Reserve in 2009. The PAS hold interviews on a rolling basis at a range of locations around the country. The ongoing public information campaign to recruit members to the Garda Reserve includes indoor and outdoor awareness raising campaigns and radio and TV promotional interviews nationally and locally.

The Government is strongly committed to the development of the Reserve. 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.

Stations to which the 322 attested Reserve Members are currently assigned

Station

Number

Anglesea Street

10

Arklow

1

Ashbourne

1

Athlone

1

Balbriggan

3

Ballina

3

Ballyfermot

3

Baltinglass

1

Ballymun

6

Bandon

1

Blackrock

5

Blanchardstown

10

Bray

3

Bridewell

5

Cahir

1

Carlow

5

Carrick-on-Shannon

1

Carrick-on-Suir

1

Castlebar

8

Cavan Town

3

Celbridge

1

Claremorris

1

Clonakilty

2

Clondalkin

3

Clonmel

2

Clontarf

4

Coolock

6

Crumlin

3

Donnybrook

4

Drogheda

7

Dun Laoghaire

4

Dundalk

5

Ennis

8

Enniscorthy

2

Fermoy

2

Finglas

4

Fitzgibbon St

5

Galway

18

Gorey

1

Gurranabraher

6

Henry Street

10

Howth

3

Kells

1

Kevin St

6

Kildare

3

Kilkenny

6

Kilmainham

3

Letterkenny

5

Longford

1

Lucan

7

Macroom

1

Malahide

1

Mayfield

3

Middleton

3

Monaghan Town

4

Mullingar

6

Naas

2

Navan

2

Nenagh

1

New Ross

1

Newbridge

2

Pearse St

17

Portlaoise

1

Raheny

3

Rathfarnham

3

Rathmines

2

Ronanstown

1

Roscommon

3

Santry

4

Sligo

6

Store St

6

Sundrive Rd

1

Swords

4

Tallaght

2

Terenure

3

Thurles

1

Tipperary Town

1

Togher

4

Tralee

2

Tramore

2

Trim

1

Tuam

2

Tullamore

4

Watercourse Rd.

3

Waterford

9

Westport

3

Wexford

1

Whitehall

2

Departmental Expenditure.

Liz McManus

Question:

74 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way, in respect of the announcement of 3 February 2009, he intends 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. [14255/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions No. 56 and 110 of 25 February, 2009.

Since then and in advance of the publication of the Revised Estimates Volume, my Department has introduced a number of measures to achieve the general administrative cost reductions which are required.

All expenditure in my Department's Vote Group is reviewed every month by the Department's Financial Management Committee. Expenditure trends are identified and where necessary, corrective measures are put in place. In addition to this high level expenditure control function, each Departmental agency, division and associated body has its own financial management processes which, in some instances, monitor trends on a weekly basis.

Prudent financial management requires that contingency arrangements be put in place, where possible, to cover unanticipated events. In this respect my Department's contingency arrangements include the postponement of spending decisions on "discretionary" items until such time as the likely overall expenditure patterns on the Vote Group have become clearer.

Clearly, the Government sector, as a major procurer of goods and services, is in a unique position to maximise its purchasing power. Consequently, my Department has undertaken a comprehensive analysis of existing supplier arrangements, costs and rates in order to identify potential savings. This is in addition to the savings already being achieved by the implementation of the 8% reduction in professional fees. In advance of the establishment of the National Procurement Operations Unit, my Department has also strengthened its sectoral procurement network in order to achieve the best prices from the market.

The Deputy will be aware that a key area where savings can be realised is in the shared services approach, where back office functions, such as Finance, ICT and HR, can be shared by a number of different units to produce cost savings. My Department fully supports the concept of shared services and currently operates a major public sector financial shared services centre in Killarney, as well as an IT shared services facility which encompasses the core Department, twenty sectoral agencies and over 1,500 users.

I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that my Department is also participating in the Office of Public Works (OPW) Energy Awareness Campaign. This project aims to conserve energy in State Buildings and has as its objective a 15% reduction of CO2 emissions per annum in all of the nominated State Buildings. A number of my Department's main buildings are included in this project and, with the assistance of the OPW and external advisors, we are already well on the way to achieving our targets and real cost reductions in energy supply.

I expect that, in accordance with the Government's decisions on these matters, the required budgetary savings will be achieved by my Department in 2009. The precise details of these reductions are still being finalised and will be published in the normal way in the Revised Estimates Volume on Thursday. As the Deputy will appreciate, I cannot pre-empt their formal publication but I anticipate that the amount to be saved in respect of these administrative reductions will be in the order of €10m.

Prisoner Deaths.

Dan Neville

Question:

75 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the number of prisoners who have died in custody in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14397/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that there have been six deaths in custody in 2007, eleven deaths in 2008 and three deaths to date in 2009.

All deaths in custody are the subject of a Garda investigation and an inquest held in a Coroner's Court. The cause of death is determined by a jury on the basis of the information presented to the Court. Of the twenty deaths in custody since 2007, the cause of death has been determined formally in five cases. Two deaths were attributed to natural causes, two were classified as deaths by misadventure and an open verdict was recorded in one case.

The circumstances of each death in custody are also examined by a multi-disciplinary group in each institution. Their objective is to identify, where possible, measures which might be implemented to contribute to a reduction in the risk of deaths in the future. In addition, the Irish Prison Service Steering Group for the Prevention of Self-Harm and Death in the Prison Population provides a forum for collating the reports of the local groups and disseminating significant findings throughout the prison system. There are strategies and plans in place in all institutions for the prevention of suicides.

As regards deaths in Garda custody, I am informed that 6 people have died in custody since 2007.

Section 102 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005 requires the Garda Commissioner to refer to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) any matter that appears to indicate that the conduct of a member of the Garda Siochana may have resulted in the death or serious harm to a person.

Since GSOC has become operational in May 2007 there have been three deaths in custody. A file was sent to the DPP in one case — returned with no direction for prosecution — and two other cases are still under investigation.

The Treatment of Offenders in Custody Regulations (1987 and 2006) prescribe the actions of the Garda Siochana when dealing with persons in their custody. Members are fully aware of their responsibilities to those in their custody and of the need for strict compliance with the regulations. In this regard there have been a number of developments in recent times:

guidance notes on the Regulations for members of An Garda Síochána had been extensively updated to incorporate legislative changes and other legal developments and to reflect best practice. These notes have been circulated to all members.

In his foreword to the new guidance notes, the Garda Commissioner has stressed that it is imperative that members of An Garda Síochána in complying with legal requirements promote respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

A revised Garda Síochána Custody Record had been introduced incorporating a new section on children and capturing more comprehensive details on the condition of the detained person on arrival.

The operation of all these measures is subject to ongoing monitoring and review as appropriate and is part of An Garda Síochána's overall commitment to upholding and protecting the rights of all detained persons.

Finally, on a related point, arising from the Dean Lyons case an Expert Group to examine the adequacy of Garda protocols and procedures relating to the interviewing of vulnerable persons was established. This group is expected to report in the near future.

Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 72.

Guardianship Rights.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

77 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the guardianship rights of non-marital fathers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14417/09]

Existing legislation makes extensive provision for unmarried fathers with respect to their children.

Under the law as it stands — section 6A of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, as inserted by section 12 of the Status of Children Act 1987 — an unmarried father may apply to the court to be appointed a guardian of his child. Alternatively, where there is agreement between the parents, they can make a statutory declaration under section 2(4) of the Guardianship of Infants Act, as inserted by section 4 of the Children Act 1997, conferring on the father the status of guardian.

Under section 11 of the 1964 Act, a guardian may apply to the court for its direction on any question affecting the welfare of the child, including directions as to custody and access. In addition, the section provides that the unmarried father of a child, even if he is not a guardian, may apply to the court for orders on custody and access. Section 3 of the Act provides that, in deciding on an application relating to the custody, guardianship or upbringing of a child, the court shall regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration.

These legislative provisions are comprehensive. They permit the court in cases of disagreement to decide on arrangements for the child's care and upbringing having regard to the child's best interests. The vast majority of applications by unmarried fathers for guardianship are granted by the court.

Prison Building Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

78 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans in respect of capital projects in the prison sector in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14401/09]

The 2009 prisons capital programme includes a number of important projects.

Thornton Hall

A preferred bidder for the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the new prison development at Thornton Hall, County Dublin has been selected. 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 negotiations with the preferred bidder are currently at an advanced stage. These negotiations are focussed on progressing financial, technical and legal aspects of the project. Construction of the new prison will commence immediately after contract award and should take no more than 3 years to complete.

New Blocks at Castlerea, Portlaoise and Wheatfield

Other major projects in hand at present include the commissioning and opening of new cell blocks at Portlaoise and at Wheatfield and a new remand wing at Castlerea Prison. These projects will provide over 400 additional spaces. The developments at Portlaoise and Castlerea are on schedule and it is expected that both blocks will be ready for occupation shortly.

The new cell block at Wheatfield, also on schedule, will be ready later in the year.

In addition to these projects, a new Recreation Building is due for completion shortly at Castlerea along with revisions to the Exercise Yards and some other facilities.

Mobile Phone Inhibition

Phases 1 and 2 of this project have been successfully completed and evaluated in the Midlands Prison.

The results of the project so far have convinced the Irish Prison Service of the merit of extending the inhibition system to the new "C" Block in Portlaoise Prison and the nearby Segregation Unit, and installation work is currently ongoing.

Three other companies, each relying on technology designed by themselves (and different in its modus operandum from each others), are also being given an opportunity to install trial systems of mobile phone inhibition in some of our prisons.

When evaluation of the trial systems is complete, it is intended to seek competitive tenders on a prison by prison basis from all companies whose product meets our requirements for installation of inhibitors. The roll-out of this project will continue throughout 2009.

Other Projects

A number of smaller but nevertheless significant projects in the areas of ICT, Fire Safety, CCTV, Exercise Yard netting and other Security Initiatives are planned for 2009.

A 2009-2012 rolling Capital Programme for the Prison Estate is currently being finalised. This programme will outline the key areas of capital expenditure over the next four years including the provision of additional prison spaces, enhanced security, elimination of obsolete and unsuitable accommodation and continued improvements to the fabric of the Prisons Estate.

Departmental Reports.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

79 Deputy Emmet Stagg 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 a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14271/09]

As indicated in my responses to Parliamentary Questions Number 62 of 18 December 2008 and Number 90 of 25 February 2009, 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.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

80 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will introduce the legislation promised to increase jail sentences for possession of a knife; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14252/09]

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 on strengthening the law on knife crime. These include:

increasing the maximum prison sentence for possessing a knife in a public place from one year to five years; and

creating an extended power of search without warrant in certain circumstances.

I have accepted these proposals and the relevant changes to the Law in this area will be made in the context of the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which was considered by Government at its meeting today. The Bill deals with a range of amendments to current statutes including very significant changes to the Firearms Acts.

Following the consideration of the matter by Government today, I expect to publish the Bill shortly and it is my intention to have the issues to which the Deputy refers along with the other important issues relating to the control of firearms and offensive weapons being dealt with in this legislation, brought before the House at the earliest possible opportunity.

In addition, 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.

As the Deputy will be aware, 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 in particular on the dangers of carrying knives and with the aim of reducing the number of incidents of knife crime.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

81 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the absence of needle exchange from places of detention amounts to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment; and if he has raised this issue with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. [8836/09]

The statement referred to by the Deputy has recently been made available by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Amongst various matters raised in the statement there is comment expressing reservation that needle and syringe exchange programmes are available to prisoners in only eight countries throughout the world and opiate substitution therapy in only thirty three States, often restricted to those who already have begun to receive treatment prior to incarceration.

There is concern expressed by the Special Rapporteur that, notwithstanding recommendations and decisions of various international Human Rights bodies, failure to provide adequate health services to detainees may contribute to conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. He goes on to raise concern that failure to ensure access to harm reduction measures — both inside and outside prisons — puts injecting drug users at unnecessary and avoidable risk of blood borne infection.

In the Irish context, I would remind the Deputy that all prisoners have access to health services on an equivalent basis to citizens in the general community covered by the General Medical Services scheme. The Irish Prison Service has, in the context of drug treatment services, been engaged in collaborative efforts involving community health and drug treatment resources aimed at ensuring that the range of services available to prisoners is consistent with good practice in the general community. Notwithstanding present resource difficulties, it remains a priority of my Department and the Irish Prison Service that such services will continue to be available.

Turning to the question of needle exchange in prisons. My position on this matter is clear — I do not support such a move. Any person seeking syringes, needles and fluids under such a scheme would essentially be indicating to the prison authorities that he or she is in possession of, or shortly will be in illegal possession of, controlled drugs and proposes consuming them. To supply a prisoner with the requested items in these circumstances would, in effect, be to tell him or her that prison management will facilitate the commission of serious criminal offences in the prison.

Needle Exchange Schemes would subvert, and run contrary to increasing staff vigilance in searching for drugs and preventing them being smuggled into prisons. As far as my Department is concerned, drug control in prisons would be reduced to a game in which a blind eye approach to successful breaches of the controls would, in time, become the order of the day. The Irish Prison Service is committed to the twin strategies of Supply and Demand Reduction to deal with the issues of drugs in prison — closing off routes of supply and providing appropriate support to prisoners to tackle their addictions. The introduction of needle exchange would run contrary to these approaches.

As previously stated, my priority and that of the Irish Prison Service is to ensure that an appropriate range of treatment services is available to all prisoners requiring these.

Legislative Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

82 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress that has been made in respect of legislating for covert surveillance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14392/09]

The Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Bill 2009 was published on 17th April 2009.

The Bill provides a statutory framework for surveillance by an Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and the Revenue Commissioners in their respective roles in combatting serious crime and protecting the State from subversive and terrorist threats.

Up to now surveillance has been used primarily as an intelligence gathering tool. Under the Bill material gathered under its provisions will be now capable of being used as evidence in criminal trials.

Phil Hogan

Question:

83 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he plans to bring proposals forward for management company regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10262/09]

Legislation to address the Law Reform Commission's recommendations on multi-unit developments is in the course of being drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel as a matter of priority. The intention is to publish the Bill in this Session.

The principal focus of the new Bill will be on ensuring good governance of property management companies and similar bodies which comprise the owners of units within multi-unit developments and which exercise management functions in relation to such developments. It is also intended to include provisions for the resolution of disputes arising in relation to such matters. The policy aspects extend to my Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Prisoner Releases.

Richard Bruton

Question:

84 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements in place to supervise prisoners following their release; the number of prisoners currently under supervision; the level of supervision that is taking place generally in respect of prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14335/09]

Generally speaking when a prisoner has fully completed his or her sentence he/she is no longer subject to any legal obligation to be subject to supervision. However, some former prisoners will of their own volition participate in courses/programmes arranged through the Probation Service. Furthermore, in the case of certain offences (e.g. sexual offences) the Judge at the time of sentencing may include a post release supervision order which applies after the custodial part of the sentence has been served. Some form of supervision may also be imposed by the Courts in the context of a part or full suspended sentence. Of course, prisoners, including life sentenced prisoners, given temporary release are still subject to their sentence and temporary release is given subject to various conditions which the prisoner must comply with or else they risk return to prison.

Persons come under the supervision of the Probation Service on release from prison under certain specific legislation, namely:

The Criminal Justice Act 1960 (temporary release) as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003;

The Sex Offender Act 2001; and

The Criminal Justice Act 2006

In respect of the Criminal Justice Act 1960 (temporary release) as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 there are currently 82 offenders under the supervision of Probation Service.

In respect of the Sex Offender Act, 2001 there were 106 sex offenders under the supervision of the Probation Service on the 20th April of which 80 have served a custodial sentence prior to commencing supervision. On the same date there were 139 offenders in custody who will be subject to supervision following release.

In respect of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 I am advised that the Probation Service is updating its record on the number of offenders in the community who are subject to Probation supervision in the community under this Act. When this work is completed I will provide the Deputy with the up-to-date information. I can tell the Deputy that there are currently 477 prisoners in custody serving part suspended sentences under the 2006 Act.

The Probation Service carries out formal risk assessments on offenders using validated risk assessment instruments. This informs both the level of supervision and the targets for intervention during supervision.

Evidence from research indicates that the higher the level of risk, the greater the level of intervention required. Supervision levels therefore vary depending on the level of assessed risk. Supervision incorporates a multi agency and cross sectoral approach.

Additionally my Department through the Probation Service financially supports a broad range of community programmes to support the supervision process. For example, in partnership with the Granada Institute, the Probation Service runs the Lighthouse Sex Offender Treatment Programme. This is a therapeutic group work programme which aims to reduce the risk of re-offending. There are two group work programmes running currently in Dublin and one in Cork. The three programmes offer places to a total on 24 sex offenders at any one time.

I should also make the Deputy aware of some more recent developments:

Firstly, I published a significant Discussion Document on the management of sex offenders last January which sets out a range of enhanced initiatives that will result in more strategic targeting of higher risk offenders by the Gardaí and the Probation Service with the full support of the Irish Prison Service.

Secondly, I have asked my Department to review the operation of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001.

Thirdly, I have also asked my Department to examine how we might use Electronic Monitoring technology to monitor sex offenders during the first six months following release from prison as well as the more general application of this technology to the wider prisoner population. The Project Group set up to look at this matter — which is led by the Probation Service — is due to report later in the year and my Department is looking at the legislative implications of monitoring the sex offender cohort for a defined period following release.

Proposed Legislation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

85 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to introduce legislation to allow for fines and civil debt to be paid incrementally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14345/09]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

134 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when, further to an interview (details supplied), he will introduce legislation to end prison terms of non-payment of fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14258/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 134 together.

The Fines Bill 2009 was published last Monday, April the 20th.

The Bill covers three main areas of policy; the indexation of fines, the capacity of persons to pay fines and alternatives to imprisonment where a fine has not been paid by the due date for payment.

In particular, section 14 of the Bill provides that where a fine is imposed on a person, that person may apply to the court to pay the fine by instalments. If the court is satisfied that to pay in full by the due date would result in undue financial hardship for the person who was fined, or to his or her dependants, the court can direct that the fine be paid by instalments over a period of one year. An extension of not more than a further year may be given by the court where it is satisfied that the financial circumstances of the person have changed and that the change is not due to the person's culpable neglect.

In addition, I am providing the courts with three new options where a fine has not been paid by the due date. These are the appointment of a receiver, where the fine was imposed following conviction on indictment, recovery of the fine as if it was a civil debt and the imposition of a community service order.

I believe that this legislation will make a significant contribution towards reducing the numbers imprisoned for the non-payment of fines while at the same time preserving the integrity of the fines system.

There are no plans at present to amend the law in relation to civil debt. However, operation of the law is being kept under review in my Department.

Legislative Programme.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

86 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress he has made in respect of the establishment of a judicial council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14360/09]

As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Questions No. 341 of 18 November and No. 28 of 18 December 2008 work on the scheme of the Judicial Council Bill is at an advanced stage of development in my Department.

Following contacts with the Chief Justice a working group was established in 2008 to advance the Bill. The Group comprises a nominee each of my Department and of the Chief Justice. Its work is nearing conclusion and I expect to be in a position to seek Government approval to draft the Bill shortly.

Garda Retirement.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

87 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications received to date in 2009 for early retirement from members of the gardaí; the way this compares to the same period in each year from 2002; his views on reports that a significant number of senior gardaí are planning to take early retirement as a result of the public service pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14253/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Gardaí who have voluntarily retired from An Garda Síochána in the first three months of each year from 2002-2009 was as set out in the table hereunder.

Dates

Voluntary Retirements

01/01/02 – 31/03/02

63

01/01/03 – 31/03/03

109

01/01/04 – 31/03/04

103

01/01/05 – 31/03/05

59

01/01/06 – 31/03/06

59

01/01/07 – 31/03/07

26

01/01/08 – 31/03/08

54

01/01/09 – 31/03/09

111

It is not possible to identify particular factors in decisions made by members to take early retirement, but clearly the rate of retirement will continue to be kept under review.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the degree to which he has monitored the number of break-ins at domestic or commercial premises in each of the past five years to date in 2009; the number of cases reported, recorded and investigated; the number of incidents in which the property was recovered in full or in part; the number of incidents in which prosecutions were initiated and successfully concluded or otherwise; if he intends to take particular initiatives to address this ongoing issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14324/09]

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.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management closely monitors crime trends and puts strategies in place to prevent, detect and reduce the number of incidences of this type of crime. Divisional Scenes of Crime Units provide a flexible and immediate response to emerging crime issues and assist in identifying and monitoring crime trends as they are emerging.

Injured parties are offered crime prevention and personal security advice by members of An Garda Síochána attending the scenes of such crimes. The Divisional Crime Prevention Officer can also be requested to attend at the scene and conduct a security audit, providing specific crime prevention or personal security advice, depending on the circumstances of the individual or business.

Firearms Licences.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

89 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of licensed handguns in respect of each year from 2002 to date in 2009; 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. [14264/09]

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 2,000 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 2,000 handguns licensed, and not as a result of a considered or deliberate public policy decision. As Mr. Justice Charleton said in a recent judgment 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 imminently.

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 cooperation with the relevant authorities. But the reality is specific issues arise from the inherent nature of firearms.

Drugs Offences.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

90 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the Central Statistics Office crime figures for 2008 and on the continued increase in the number of drug offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14257/09]

The most recent Central Statistics Office figures referred to by the Deputy show an increase of 25.4% in the overall total of drugs offences recorded for 2008 in comparison with 2007.

It is important to emphasise that, of their nature, drug offences are only recorded as a result of enforcement activity. For example, obviously possession of drugs for supply is only recorded as an offence where the law enforcement agencies have detected the offence and pursued it. The statistics in question, therefore, represent increased levels of enforcement and should lead to commendation of the efforts of those involved.

The House will be aware from media reports and elsewhere of the relentless action being taken particularly by An Garda Síochána in pursuing the activities of drugs gangs and the considerable success they have had through making major seizures and arrests.

Those successes are inevitably reflected in the recording of an increased number of drug offences but it would be a pity if, through some misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the statistics, this was to be counted as a failure rather than a success of their enforcement strategies.

That is not in any way to understate the extent of the problem of drug abuse and the need to devoting considerable resources to tackling it. That is exactly what is being done.

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.

In addition to the officers of the Force specifically assigned to the drugs issue who are attached to the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Divisional Drug Units, officers from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau all assist in our overall law enforcement response to drug trafficking and drug dealing.

In addition, 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 in tackling the problem.

Among recent and ongoing initiatives are the establishment of the Organised Crime Unit on a permanent footing, our involvement in the establishment and ongoing operation of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre in Lisbon, strengthened provisions in the Criminal Justice Acts 2006 and 2007 and the ringfencing of €21million this year for Operation Anvil.

Furthermore, I am confident that the legislation which I announced last week dealing with surveillance will be of particular value in tackling drugs gangs.

Finally I am sure all members of the House will accept fully that we cannot tackle the problem of drug misuse through law enforcement measures alone. We need to tackle the demand for drugs and, in this context, I can assure the House that my Department, and all the agencies under its aegis, are cooperating fully in the development of the new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009 to 2016 which is being drawn up under the aegis of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Crime Levels.

Willie Penrose

Question:

91 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2009; 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. [14261/09]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

112 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun murders which have taken place since the beginning of 2009; his views on such 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. [14239/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to bring to an immediate end the activities of criminal gangs, which has resulted in shootings, stabbings, armed robberies, murders, attacks and shootings on gardaí, extortion, witness intimidation, money laundering, racketeering and protection; his views on whether the threat of promised legislation has no bearing on such activity and does not deter others from joining in the fray; if he has proposals to put such persons off the streets on a permanent basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14325/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

124 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on recent gangland killings; and if he has proposals to deal with same. [14320/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91, 112, 114 and 124 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 in 2009 up to 16 April. Figures provided 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.

All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána and will continue to be so.

While An Garda Síochána have made significant progress in the investigation of a number of killings, there can be considerable difficulties for them in obtaining evidence in shootings which are the result of gangland activities. It has to be accepted that the reality is that associates of a victim of a gangland killing who would have information of value to An Garda Síochána often do not cooperate with Garda investigations. Indeed, they frequently fail to cooperate even when they themselves are the victims of violence. A number of changes to the law on evidence have been made to address this. It has also to be accepted that there is often no connection or personal association between the victim and the perpetrator, which makes it very difficult for An Garda Síochána in their investigation of such a murder. 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.

Our criminal law has been significantly strengthened in recent years. Many of these changes are targeted at fighting gangland crime. The Criminal Justice Acts of 2006 and 2007, in particular, introduced wide ranging reforms to strengthen the capacity of An Garda Síochána to tackle serious crime. One of the most far reaching has been the introduction of seven day detention for offences connected with organised crime such as murder or kidnapping involving the use of a firearm. The bail laws have been strengthened to allow the prosecution mount a more effective challenge to bail applications. For example, applicants for bail can be required to provide a statement of their means so that the prosecution can highlight any divergence between their lifestyles and their stated means as evidence of their involvement in gangland activity. The circumstances in which inferences may be drawn at trial from a suspect's silence in response to Garda questioning have also been expanded.

We will continue to press forward with this work in strengthening the criminal law. I published the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Bill 2009 on 17 April. The main purpose of the Bill is to strengthen the powers available to An Garda Síochána to prevent and detect serious crime, as well as to safeguard the security of the State against subversion and terrorism.

I have also indicated, particularly in light of the recent killing in Limerick which has very serious implications for the operation of the criminal justice system, that I am working on proposals to strengthen the criminal law in relation to gangland activity particularly through taking an approach similar to that taken against subversive organisations.

Work is ongoing on legislation to provide for the establishment of a DNA database for criminal investigations purposes. Such a database will greatly enhance the intelligence available to An Garda Síochána. I expect to be in a position to publish the Bill by the summer.

My proposals for the Criminal Procedure Bill are also well advanced. While this Bill is primarily aimed at giving effect to the legislative aspects of the Justice for Victims Initiative which I announced last June, some elements of it will be of considerable benefit in our fight against serious crime. In particular, it is proposed to enable the DPP to seek a re-trial where an acquittal is tainted due, for example, to intimidation of witnesses or jurors. There will also be a provision on expert evidence, to ensure that the prosecution is given adequate opportunity to examine and challenge evidence being introduced by the defence; in other words, there will be a levelling of the pitch. I expect to be in a position to seek Government approval for the publication of the Bill shortly.

Some time ago, I asked 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. 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.

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. I have accepted these proposals, and the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will take account of them.

The Garda Policing Plan for 2009, which reflects the priorities set for the Force by me as Minister, 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, is committed to targeting violent crime and those who engage or facilitate persons involved in such activity.

One of these operations is Operation Anvil, the primary focus of which 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 the Operation, up to 22 March, 2009, 2,469 firearms have been recovered throughout the country. There have also been over 7,500 arrests for serious crimes such as murder, serious assault, robbery and burglary and over 72,000 searches for weapons, drugs and stolen goods.

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 has increased 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.

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, who 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;

the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation which is responsible for investigating the activities of organised criminal networks; and

the National Drugs Unit and dedicated Divisional and District Drugs Units.

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

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

Year

Recorded

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2009*

11

1

0

2008

21

7

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 up 16 April.

Proposed Legislation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

92 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress that has been made in respect of the introduction of legislation to prevent money laundering in this jurisdiction in line with the third EU anti-money laundering directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14382/09]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

125 Deputy Ruairí Quinn 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. [14263/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 125 together.

The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering) Bill, which will transpose the requirements of the third EU Money Laundering Directive into Irish Law, along with those of the related implementing Directive is being drafted at present. The highest priority is being given to the drafting and publication of this Bill. The proposed legislation will also have regard to the relevant recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which published the third mutual evaluation report on Ireland's measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing in 2006 and made recommendations.

Ireland already has strong anti-money laundering legislation. The transposition of the 3rd EU Money Laundering Directive and legislative compliance with the FATF recommendations on anti money laundering and terrorist financing measures, will considerably strengthen and update our existing laws. I am taking the opportunity through this Bill to repeal and consolidate our existing anti-money laundering provisions in one statute. This approach will I believe facilitate all the various 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 given to the publication of the proposals on my Department's website. Following publication of the Scheme of the Bill my Department, along with the Department of Finance with whom my Department is working closely on the preparation of this legislation, undertook an extensive consultation process involving a wide range of interested parties. The process included both the provision of written submissions and meetings with many interested groups. The process was an extremely useful and important exercise for all concerned.

The transposition date for the relevant Directives was December 2007. The European Commission has brought proceedings against Ireland and some other Member States in relation to the transposition of these Directives. As the matter is currently with the European Court of Justice it would be inappropriate to comment any further. It should be noted however that I expect to be in a position to publish the legislation by the first half of this year and it is my intention that it will be considered by both houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible following publication.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

93 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that all files relating to complaints deemed finalised by the Garda Complaints Board up to and including 2005 have been destroyed; the considerations that preceded the decision by the Garda Complaints Board to destroy all the files; if the statutes of limitations, the fact that related cases remain sub judice and the fact that some files may have been of assistance to future investigations by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission were taken into consideration; the basis of the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14192/09]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 135 to 141 of 2nd April 2009. I have nothing further to add.

Crime Levels.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

94 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of murders that have taken place each year during the past five years and to date in 2009; and the number of convictions that have been secured in respect of these murders. [14350/09]

The following table contains the number of cases of murder recorded and the number of convictions secured in each year from 2004 to 2008 and in 2009 up to 3 April.

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, for example firearms offences. Furthermore persons charged and brought before the courts may be convicted of offences other than murder.

The number of murders and convictions recorded for the years 2004 to 2008 and in 2009 up to 3 April

Year

Recorded

Convictions

2009

15

0

2008

51

1

2007

78

28

2006

62

28

2005

53

24

2004

31

28

All figures are provisional and liable to change.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

95 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the drug rehabilitation programmes available in each of the State’s prisons; the number of prisoners who have engaged in such programmes in each prison each year for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14343/09]

The Irish Prison Service continues to implement its 2006 Drugs Policy & Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs Out of Prison. At present, any person entering prison giving a history of opiate use and testing positive for opioids on committal are offered a medically assisted symptomatic detoxification if clinically indicated. Patients can, as part of the assessment process, discuss with healthcare staff other treatment options which may include stabilization on methadone maintenance for persons who wish to continue on maintenance while in prison and when they return to the community on release. Methadone maintenance is available in 8 of the 14 places of detention accommodating over 80% of the prison population. The table below provides the number of prisoners who received opiate substitution treatment with methadone (detox, stabilisation or maintenance) since 2003.

Number of Prisoners Treated

Prison

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Cloverhill

591

528

571

678

710

827

Dochas

257

211

228

216

225

245

Limerick

15

3

4

8

10

37

Midlands

6

6

19

90

110

Mountjoy

592

394

590

464

594

553

Portlaoise

30

6

2

2

3

4

St. Patrick’s

43

3

1

8

15

28

Wheatfield

226

158

162

184

193

210

Totals

1,754

1,309

1,564

1,579

1,840

2,014

Drug users can present with multiple and complex problems. For that reason a multidisciplinary approach is needed to effectively care for this group and best practice would indicate that maintenance of a personalised therapeutic relationship yields the best outcomes. To assist this process, specialist addiction nursing posts were developed in the Irish Prison Service with a view to streamlining care and throughcare back into the community.

The Medical Unit in Mountjoy Prison has 9 spaces specifically allocated for a therapeutic drug free programme. This intensive programme is 6 weeks in duration and includes involvement from both prison based staff and external community agencies. Its aim is to assist prisoners in achieving a drug free status.

A further development has been the awarding of a contract for the provision of addiction counselling services to Merchants Quay Ireland. I am glad to tell the Deputy that this contract has been rolled out, and addiction counselling services are now available in prisons and places of detention where prisoners require such a service. The addiction counselling service delivers approximately 1000 hours per week of prisoner access to addiction counselling.

In addition, prisoners have access to a range of medical and rehabilitative services such as psychosocial services and work and training options which can also assist in addressing their substance misuse issues. This multifaceted approach is designed to meet the diverse needs of prisoners. Whilst it is not possible to give comprehensive detail on the total number of prisoners engaged in the various treatment modalities I can, as an example of one specific intervention, tell the Deputy that there were 2487 treatment episodes using methadone substitution in 2008.

Garda Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

96 Deputy Róisín Shortall 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 has 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. [14269/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the most recent figures available are as set out in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 96 of 25 February 2009.

The Garda Authorities are currently collating the up to date information and I will communicate it to the Deputy when it is to hand.

Proposed Legislation.

Shane McEntee

Question:

97 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress that has been made in respect of the introduction of a DNA database here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14389/09]

The Criminal Justice (Forensic Sampling and Evidence) Bill is on the A list of the Government's Legislation Programme for this session. The Bill will provide for the establishment of a comprehensive DNA database to aid criminal investigations and the identification of missing and deceased persons. The database will not only provide An Garda Síochána with an enhanced intelligence resource, it will also lead to greater efficiency in the use of Garda time and resources.

The timetable for publication has been affected somewhat by the need to consider and take account of the implications of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S and Marperv 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. I am informed by my officials that drafting of the Bill is progressing very well.

Community Policing.

Jack Wall

Question:

98 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received from the Garda Commissioner the report of the working group developing proposals for a comprehensive model of rural and urban community policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14274/09]

The Commissioner recently 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 it is intended that every District Officer throughout the country will take ownership of community policing within their area of responsibility.

A copy of the Garda National Model of Community Policing can be found on the Garda Website at www.garda.ie.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 72.

Garda Ombudsman Commission Report.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

100 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps taken in respect of the report of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission following the death of a person (details supplied) and in particular the recommendations in the report that require action by the Garda Síochána or the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14265/09]

The report and recommendations referred to relate to the alleged leaking of official material from Garda sources to the media relating to a deceased person. The full text of the Ombudsman Commission's report in relation to this matter is available on its website.

The report recommends to the Garda Commissioner that supervisory ranks of An Garda Síochána should regularly monitor the use of PULSE to ensure that members adhere to their legal and disciplinary obligations with regard to its proper use. The Ombudsman Commission also recommends that suitable measures be put in place by the Garda authorities to ensure audit trails of the usage of PULSE and any other official information systems can always be accurate and verifiable.

With regard to PULSE, An Garda Síochána have detailed procedures and instructions in place on the operation of the PULSE system. The PULSE system incorporates an accurate audit system which records all record creations and updates made on the system. The audit record includes the date and time when the update on the system took place and contains details of the user signed onto the system at that time. Audit-trails also record all inquires made on the core items of interest on the PULSE system including Person and Vehicle. Audit records are written at the time the associated transaction took place. These audit records can only be accessed centrally and are not available or visible to the users.

In response to the report, a review to consider the matters raised and identify options for enhanced usage of the PULSE Audit data in respect of the monitoring of data access has been conducted by the Gardaí. Specific proposals in this regard have been formulated and are presently under consideration by senior Garda management. Under these proposals an ‘Exception activity level report' and related business process has been advanced which will highlight to Garda Management specific PULSE records which are subject to a high level of data access activity occurring within a defined period. This new functionality will be included in the next major release of PULSE.

Prison Building Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

101 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied regarding the capacity of the preferred bidder to deliver the Thornton Hall prison project; the progress 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. [14273/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

126 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the superprison project at Thornton Hall. [14194/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 126 together.

The Thornton Hall Prison development is not a superprison. It 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 over a range of security and regime operational models.

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that negotiations with the preferred bidder are currently at an advanced stage. These negotiations are focussed on progressing financial, technical and legal aspects of the project. They encapsulate the continuation of the design development and negotiations to enable the Irish Prison Service to contract with the PPP Company and commence construction of the prison facilities. While, as stated, negotiations on the contract are at an advanced stage they have not, however, reached the point that the Project Agreement can be signed. Construction will commence 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 options which can still be considered.

Pressures on the international financial markets have the potential to impact on all major capital projects, including the Thornton Hall PPP project. It is the responsibility of the commercial consortium, under the PPP process, to arrange the funding and other resources to deliver the project. 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. The cost of the site was largely offset by the sale of the prison lands at Shanganagh, County Dublin. An additional 8.7 acres has also been acquired to provide a dedicated access road to the main prison 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 development. The cost of the additional land was €1.3 million.

A total of €10.3 million has been expended to end March 2009 on professional fees and preliminary site works including surveys, landscaping, security, site preparation and maintenance of the property. As is the case in all major infrastructural projects, comprehensive geological, engineering and archaeological surveys were conducted at the site.

Pre-nuptial Agreements.

Alan Shatter

Question:

102 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the matter of pre-nuptial agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14413/09]

The Study Group on Pre-Nuptial agreements examined pre-nuptial agreements having regard to the provisions in the Constitution on the protection of marriage and the requirement that proper provision be made for parties to divorce proceedings.

The Group's core recommendation is that both the Family Law Act 1995 and Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 be amended to provide that the courts be required to have regard to existing pre-nuptial agreements when making ancillary relief orders in judicial separation and divorce proceedings. The Group's recommendations are being considered for inclusion in the Family Law Bill referred to in the Government's Legislation Programme announced on 22 April 2009.

Garda Strength.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

103 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the claims made at the recent conference (details supplied) that cutbacks in the Garda force were hampering garda response to calls for help from the public. [15588/09]

There has been a very considerable increase in Garda resources in recent years, with the number of attested members rising from 10,968 at the end of 1997 to 11,895 at the end of 2002, to 13,755 at the end of 2007 and to 14,371 in the most recent figures. Even in this year of budgetary constraints, some 900 student gardaí will become attested which, taking into account projected retirements, will further increase the strength of the Force to 14,900 by the end of this year.

The number of civilian support staff, expressed as a whole time equivalent figure, has also increased in recent years from 1,688 at the end of 2007 to 2,133 in the most recent figures.

The budget for overtime in the Garda Síochána for 2009 has been reduced from a record provision in 2008, but is still a substantial €80 million, which includes an increase in the allocation for Operation Anvil from €20 million to €21 million.

These significant increases in Garda resources mean that the Force is well-placed to absorb the impact of budgetary constraints and to continue to provide a top-class policing service.

Garda Operations.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

104 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the information available to the Garda authorities regarding the extent of the threat posed by so-called dissident republican paramilitary groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14250/09]

The Deputy will understand that it would neither be helpful nor wise for me to comment on the specific details of Garda activities to combat the threat posed by paramilitary groups. The House can be assured, however, that the threat arising from the activities of these groups is kept under constant review by the Garda Síochána. Priority is given by the gardaí to intelligence-led operations targeting these groups commensurate with the threat posed. These operations involve the strategic deployment of local and specialised resources as required. Close co-operation exists at all levels between the Garda Síochána and its counterparts in Northern Ireland in the context of countering and investigating the activities of groups which pose a security threat.

Appointments to State Boards.

Jack Wall

Question:

105 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the appointment of a new chief executive for the Equality Authority; when he expects an appointment to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14242/09]

The recruitment of a new CEO for the Authority is going ahead under the auspices of a public competition being organised by the Public Appointments Service. I am advised that there is a very considerable level of interest in the post and therefore it could be some time yet before a candidate is selected for appointment, by the Equality Authority, under the normal statutory procedures.

Prison Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

106 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way he will respond to the latest visiting committee report on Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, which reportedly found that overcrowding is so bad that conditions are degrading, rival gang members cannot be segregated and drugs and mobile phones continue to be smuggled in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14195/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has received the report from the Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee for the year 2008. That report has been translated in accordance with the provisions of the Official Languages Act, 2003 and I am arranging to have it published as soon as possible.

I wish to advise the Deputy that there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months, where we have seen dramatic increases in the number of sentenced prisoners and a trend towards longer sentences. What is clear is that there is a trend of increased committals from the courts. Figures show, over the past 12 months, the number in custody in Mountjoy has increased by 15%.

As the Deputy will appreciate the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts. I acknowledge that our prisons are operating in excess of their bed capacity at this time. Equally it is also clear that the continuation of the current capital programme is necessary if overcrowding is not to become a problem going forward.

Since 1997 in excess of 1,300 prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick Prison.

However, given the serious pressure that the Prison Service has been experiencing during the last 12-18 months, in 2008 it became necessary to introduce additional contingency accommodation through the doubling up of cells in Mountjoy, Wheatfield, Cloverhill, Midlands and Arbour Hill Prisons and in the Training Unit. This provided 180 temporary bed spaces. In addition, in 2008, 70 new prison spaces were introduced at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House Open Centres.

As the pressure shows no sign of abating the Irish Prison Service recently decided to increase their capacities through the doubling up of further cells, thus creating 200 additional temporary bed spaces which will come on stream shortly.

Furthermore, building projects in Castlerea, Wheatfield and Portlaoise Prisons are due to be completed in the coming months. This will create an additional 400 extra spaces which will temporarily alleviate the situation pending the construction of new prisons at Thornton Hall, Co. Dublin and Kilworth, Co. Cork.

I am fully conscious of the Irish Prison Service's responsibility to provide safe and secure custody for those placed into custody. This is one of the main reasons for the introduction of recent security initiatives to combat contraband items being trafficked into prisons, one of the major challenges facing prisons worldwide. These include:

airport style security screening using x-ray machines and scanning equipment,

the establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence and targeting specific security problem areas,

the establishment of a Drug Detection Dog Unit within the Irish Prison Service,

the installation of mobile phone blocking technology, and

the segregation of a number of serious drug and criminal gang members in a high security unit in Cloverhill Prison.

Airport style scanners and x-ray machines are now in operation at the entrances to all the relevant closed prisons. Cell and area searches for contraband such as mobile phones take place in all prisons on a daily basis. These include random, targeted and intelligence led searches. These searches have been particularly effective and local intelligence indicates that the availability of mobile phones has decreased across the prison system. No visitors are permitted to enter prisons while in possession of a mobile phone.

I can also advise the Deputy that prison management, in order to ensure the safety of prisoners, immediately separate prisoners seeking protection from the general prison population or from specific prisoners identified as presenting a threat. It is at the committal stage that the majority of prisoners seek protection. External influences imported to the prison on committal include gang rivalry, drug debts and perceived cooperation with the Gardaí. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and based on the information available, a decision is made as to where a particular prisoner will be accommodated.

Garda Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

107 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the basis on which the gardaí became involved in an investigation into the unauthorised hanging of caricatures of An Taoiseach in two Dublin art galleries; if a formal complaint was made to the gardaí; if so, the person by whom it was made; the basis on which a member of the gardaí visited a national radio station and sought details of e-mails; if the Garda investigation has been concluded; his views on whether this is the most effective use of Garda time and resources; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14247/09]

The Deputy will appreciate that I have no role in relation to the investigation or prosecution of cases.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that on 7 March, 2009 a complaint was received from the National Gallery of Ireland by An Garda Síochána at Pearse Street in respect of an incident. In the course of the investigation into this incident, a second incident was reported to An Garda Síochána by the Royal Hibernian Academy.

I am further informed that an investigation file is being prepared for submission to the Law Officers and it would, of course, be a matter for the Director to decide whether further action is warranted.

In the circumstances, the Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.

Garda Equipment.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

108 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the national speed camera programme; when the national speed camera programme will commence; the reason for the ongoing delays with the roll out; the amount of funding he has allocated to the speed camera programme for 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13689/09]

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, allowing for the contract discussion phase of the procurement process to proceed.

Following the supplementary budget submitted by the Minister for Finance to the Dáil on 7 April, the detailed allocations to Departments are currently being finalised. Against this background discussions are taking place between my Department, the Departments of Transport and Finance and An Garda Síochána with a view to making every effort to proceed with this project as speedily as possible. Until contract discussions are concluded, it is not possible to indicate a specific timescale for the project.

Programmes for Government.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

109 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to implementation of the 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. [14260/09]

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. 110 answered with Question No. 72.

Garda Investigations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

111 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions he has had with the financial institutions to prevent so-called tiger robberies; if new security measures have been agreed to ensure the safety of staff and the security of money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14249/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

133 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the stage of the garda investigation into the robbery of €7.6 million from a bank (details supplied) on 27 February 2009 in a so-called tiger robbery; the amount of the money recovered to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14248/09]

Finian McGrath

Question:

474 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied). [15725/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111, 133 and 474 together.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the incident to which the Deputies refer remains the subject of an active and ongoing investigation.

Shortly after the incident a number of persons were arrested. Charges have been preferred against two of those arrested, and these individuals are currently before the Courts. A sum of money relating to these charges was also recovered, but, in the circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to go into any further details about the matter. The investigation is continuing with a number of lines of enquiry being pursued by the Investigation Team and an Investigation File is being prepared which will be submitted to the DPP in due course.

As I stated in the immediate aftermath of this robbery, I spoke to the Chief Executive of the institution and expressed my concern that such a large sum of money could be removed from the bank in this manner. Several meetings have also taken place between An Garda Síochána and representatives from the financial institutions to discuss issues relating to their security arrangements, including the issue of so-called ‘tiger' kidnappings. There are agreed response procedures, which are detailed and all-encompassing, between An Garda Síochána and the financial institutions to deal with situations where members of staff or their families are taken hostage in order to facilitate robberies of such institutions. An Garda Síochána does not, for obvious security reasons, disclose information relating to such procedures and protocols.

I know that the members of this House will agree with me when I say that it is vitally important that financial institutions follow the robust procedures and protocols that are in place to prevent robberies. These are there, first and foremost, to protect employees. It is important to recognise that it is only by rendering so-called ‘tiger' kidnappings unsuccessful that we will stop them happening, and thereby protect innocent employees from being caught up in them in the future.

Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 91.

Garda Deployment.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

113 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the need for the deployment of the maximum possible number of trained gardaí in the battle against criminal gangs, he will undertake a review of the use of trained detectives as drivers for Ministers and other designated persons and the possible filling of at least some of these posts by civilian drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15587/09]

The allocation of duties among members of the Garda Síochána, including security and protection duties, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, who has made clear the priority he attaches to front-line operational policing through measures such as Operation Anvil and the recent establishment of the Organised Crime Unit.

There has been a very considerable increase in Garda resources in recent years, with the number of attested members rising from 10,968 at the end of 1997 to 11,895 at the end of 2002, to 13,755 at the end of 2007 and to 14,371 in the most recent figures. Even in this year of budgetary constraints, some 900 student Gardai will become attested which, taking into account projected retirements, will further increase the strength of the Force to 14,900 by the end of this year.

The number of civilian support staff, expressed as a whole time equivalent figure, has also increased in recent years from 1,688 at the end of 2007 to 2,133 in the most recent figures.

This significant increase in resources have considerably enhanced the capacity of the Garda Síochána to combat organised crime.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 91.

EU Directives.

Willie Penrose

Question:

115 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility remaining to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14262/09]

My Department has responsibility for seven 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 contains 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 and I expect to be in a position to publish the legislation in the near future. 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 and is being given the highest priority. I expect to be in a position to publish the legislation in the first half of this year.

Three recent Directives remain to be implemented. They are not overdue. They are: 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.

David Stanton

Question:

116 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 932 of 2 April 2008, his views on changing the summer time arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14317/09]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department, in accordance with EU Directive 2000/84/EC, compiled and communicated submissions in respect of this issue to the European Commission from a number of relevant Departments and semi-state bodies in July 2007.

Following consideration of the information made available to it from Member States, the European Commission reported that it took the view that the analysis set out in the proposal for the Directive remained valid and that no member state had expressed a wish to abandon summer time or change the provisions of the current Directive.

Accordingly, I can advise the Deputy that there are no plans to change the present summer time arrangements.

Departmental Reports.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

117 Deputy Emmet Stagg 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 case of a person (details supplied). [14270/09]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 54 of 25 February 2009. The position remains unchanged.

Departmental Agencies.

Joe Costello

Question:

118 Deputy Joe Costello 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 his behest in 2008 will be published in view of the fact that its terms of reference was to analyse what has been achieved by the provision of public funding to the Equality Authority and to determine if the Equality Authority is meeting his Department’s current and future requirements in an economic and effective manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14243/09]

As indicated in my reply to Question No. 131 of 25 March 2009, the Value for Money review of the Equality Authority has not yet concluded. This, however, is expected to be finalised in the near future. The decision on publication of the report will be taken in due course.

Garda Operations.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

119 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the gardaí have received a request for additional assistance from the Police Service of Northern Ireland following the recent murders of two British soldiers and a member of the PSNI in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14251/09]

I share the horror expressed by all sides of the House in response to last month's murders in Northern Ireland. The groups responsible for these heinous crimes represent no-one but themselves. Their actions show nothing but contempt for the will of the Irish people.

Having said that, the Deputy will understand that it would neither be helpful nor wise for me to comment on the specific details of Garda activities to combat the threat posed by paramilitary groups. It is the case, however, that close co-operation exists at all levels between the Garda Síochána and its counterparts in Northern Ireland in the context of countering and investigating the activities of these so-called dissident groups. The House can be assured that every support will continue to be given to the Garda Síochána in its efforts to defeat these groups.

Garda Strength.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

120 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available broken down by full members, those who have attested but not concluded their training, those in training, the expected number who will be recruited during 2009, the anticipated number at each category at the end of 2009, the number of members of the force who are expected to retire during 2009 and the number who will be recruited in the first half of 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14266/09]

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

476 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the numbers in the Garda Síochána, both those who are fully trained and attached to various stations and those in training; the numbers that will be admitted into training in the months ahead; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15731/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 476 together.

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of attested members of An Garda Síochána on 28th February 2009, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 14,371. The number of recruits in training (Phases 1 to 3) at that date was 1,043. 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 28 February 2009. It is expected that approximately 945 Gardai will complete Phase 3 of their training during 2009.

In relation to retirements, it is anticipated that approximately 400 members of An Garda Síochána 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.

100 Students were inducted into the College in February and it is anticipated that a further 100 will be inducted in early May.

Legislative Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

121 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will update bankruptcy legislation to bring it into line with other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12297/09]

The Government Legislation Programme announced on 22 April 2009 does not provide for any proposals to amend the law on bankruptcy. However, operation of the law contained in the Bankruptcy Act 1988 continues to be reviewed in my Department.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

122 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will order the commencement of sections 108 to 110 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to introduce electronic tagging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14138/09]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

127 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will order the commencement of sections 11 to 13 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007 to introduce electronic tagging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14139/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 127 together.

As the Deputy is aware, in January of this year I announced the establishment of a Project Board, led by the Probation Service, to examine specific possibilities as well as the implementation of electronic monitoring more generally, in this jurisdiction. The Project Board has commenced its examination which includes the cost and viability of introducing a pilot phase and I expect to receive their recommendations later this year.

The commencement of the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 and 2007 mentioned by the Deputy will be informed by the recommendations of the Project Board.

In tandem with the work of the Project Board my Department will examine the legislative implications that may be necessary to supplement the existing enabling provisions in the Criminal Justice Acts of 2006 and 2007 should we proceed to introduce a pilot phase of electronic monitoring in this jurisdiction for a specific group or groups of convicted offender.

Official Engagements.

Denis Naughten

Question:

123 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the visit of his Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to Nigeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14275/09]

The position with regard to the Minister of State's visit to Nigeria was set out in his reply to Question No. 289 on 31 March, 2009.

Question No. 124 answered with Question No. 91.
Question No. 125 answered with Question No. 92.
Question No. 126 answered with Question No. 101.
Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 122.

Asylum Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

128 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to reduce the cost of current asylum applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14276/09]

I attach a high level of priority to ensuring that asylum applications are dealt with fairly and as quickly as possible, so as to minimise the cost to the State. The costs associated with the asylum system are multi-faceted but centre mainly on accommodation, application processing and operational costs and costs associated with judicial reviews. Inter-related factors include the numbers in the asylum system; the length of time taken to process claims and the impact of delays as a result of non co-operation by applicants; the high level of judicial reviews and the apparent abuse of that process in many instances by applicants seeking to prolong their stay in the State.

The cost of accommodating asylum applicants accounts for the bulk of the expenditure on asylum by my Department. In this regard, the direct provision system is an efficient means of accommodating asylum seekers. If this system was not in place the cost to the State of accommodating asylum seekers would be higher.

Various efficiency and cost reduction measures continue to be implemented across INIS with a view to reducing the costs associated with asylum applications. On the application processing side, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) keep processing times and scheduling arrangements under ongoing review with a view to limiting the amount of time applicants have to wait for a recommendation or decision, all of which impact on direct provision costs.

Particular emphasis is placed on maximising the number of asylum cases transferred to other European States for processing under the Dublin II Regulation and an increased focus on the return of failed applicants to their countries of origin through deportations and voluntary return.

There are also a range of other strategies in place aimed at tackling the various abuses of the asylum process and expediting the processing of asylum applications.

Other efficiency and cost reduction measures being pursued to reduce asylum costs include:

implementation of the Government decision dated the 3 February, 2009 in relation to achieving an 8% reduction in spending on professional fees;

engagement with contractors for asylum seeker accommodation to achieve an 8% reduction in RIA expenditure;

commencement of Government agreed Value for Money (VFM) Review of spending by RIA on asylum seeker accommodation;

implementation of strategies aimed at reducing asylum application numbers;

establishment of ORAC Presenting Panel and an on-line system of access to Tribunal decisions, both of which are intended to speed up appeal hearings and reduce backlogs in the RAT;

consolidating shared services related activities across INIS and redeploying resources to processing areas;

strategies aimed at reducing the delays and costs associated with Judicial Review proceedings, such as greater use of in-house training, expertise and precedents, resulting in less use of counsel; ongoing review of practices and procedures and quality-proofing of decisions.

Finally, the Deputy will be aware that the enactment of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 will be a key measure for achieving efficiencies in the asylum applications processing system itself, for establishing a more effective and streamlined removal process and for tackling abuses which the asylum and immigration system have to contend with, including apparent abuses of the judicial review system. The Bill comprehensively reforms and simplifies the current asylum system through the introduction of a single procedure for the investigation of all grounds put forward by applicants for protection. It is envisaged that there will be significant reductions in processing times upon enactment of the Bill, which will significantly reduce the costs involved in the asylum process.

Garda Operations.

Martin Ferris

Question:

129 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the policy and practice reforms that have taken place in the area of garda handling of informers since the earliest related Morris report recommendations were made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14198/09]

I understand from the Garda Authorities that the current Code of Practice for the management and use of intelligence sources became organisational policy effective from April, 2006.

The Code of Practice brings together established best practice and the recommendations made by Mr. Justice Frederick Morris in the report from the Tribunal of Inquiry into the activities of certain gardaí in the Donegal Division.

It has been circulated to every member of An Garda Síochána and sets out the professional standards required to maintain the confidence of the public and the courts in the use of intelligence sources.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

130 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals in relation to privacy legislation; if it is intended to proceed with such legislation; and the reasons thereof. [14319/09]

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

Garda Stations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

131 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the provision of adequate Garda accommodation at Tallaght, Dublin 24; if the provision of the new Garda divisional headquarters has been postponed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14240/09]

I refer the Deputy to the response to Parliamentary Question No. 711 of 27 January 2009 which outlines both the immediate and longer term plans for the station which includes the provision of a Divisional Headquarters. I am advised by the Garda authorities that the short term office accommodation facilities are planned to be ready for occupation later this year.

Departmental Expenditure.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

132 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that his Department and the Irish Prison Service awarded contracts worth €100 million to one construction company despite only one, €4.7 million, project going to tender; the steps he has taken in the past to prevent taxpayers money being wasted in the course of prison and other projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14193/09]

The Accounting Officer and the Director General of the Irish Prison Service have briefed me in relation to all matters raised at the Public Accounts Committee hearing held in March. In relation to contracts awarded to a particular construction company as referred to by the Deputy, I understand that this issue is the subject of a review by the Public Accounts Committee so it would not be appropriate for me to comment specifically on the issues raised at this time.

The Irish Prison Service has taken several major steps in recent years in order to ensure that maximum value for money is achieved for all expenditure. In March 2007, a new professionally trained Central Procurement Unit was established within the Irish Prison Service, with the stated purpose of modernising the procurement function and introducing new policies and procedures to ensure that enhanced controls are exercised over the procurement process.

Following consultation with internal stakeholders, the Irish Prison Service Procurement Policy was issued by the Director General in September 2008. The Irish Prison Service Finance Directorate is engaged in an ongoing promotion and education process in relation to the Procurement Policy and related presentations have been made to staff at all levels within the organisation. The issue of procurement and, in particular, adherence to the Procurement Policy, is an ongoing item on the agenda for senior management meetings. During 2008, a number of key staff appointments were made to the Finance Directorate of the Irish Prison Service, including a Director with sole responsibility for Finance and Procurement.

The Irish Prison Service is committed to ensuring that procurement is carried out in an open and transparent manner in line with best practice with the overriding principle of achieving value for money.

Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 111.
Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 85.

Crime Levels.

Liz McManus

Question:

135 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the view expressed by the Garda Commissioner in an interview (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. [14256/09]

I have already made it clear that recent trends concerning gangland violence in particular are a matter of grave concern and that I am giving priority to a series of new legislative measures directed specifically at this problem in the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill.

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%.

The Garda Policing Plan for 2009, which reflects the priorities set for the Force by me as Minister, 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, is committed to targeting violent crime and those who engage or facilitate persons involved in such activity. One of these operations is Operation Anvil, the primary focus of which 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 the Operation, up to 22 March 2009, 2,469 firearms have been recovered throughout the country. There have also been over 7,500 arrests for serious crimes such as murder, serious assault, robbery and burglary and over 72,000 searches for weapons, drugs and stolen goods.

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.

The adequacy of our legislative provisions is kept under review and strengthened where necessary. I have consequently recently published the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Bill, which is ground breaking legislation providing for the first time a legal framework to allow covert surveillance material to be used in trials for serious crimes with appropriate safeguards.

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. While ade 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.

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. I have accepted these proposals and the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will take account of them.

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.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 73.

Drug Seizures.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

137 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity and value of seizures of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and other drugs here during 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the proportion of the overall flow of drugs into Ireland believed to be represented by these seizures; the new initiatives he is planning to control the flow of illegal drugs into the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14241/09]

I am setting out in a tabular statement giving the latest available information in relation to drug seizures for 2007, 2008 and this year to date.

This statement shows seizures of a total value of over €168m being made in 2007 and just under €200m in 2008. Because of the covert nature of the activity, it is simply not possible to give a reliable estimate of the proportion of drugs coming into the country that these figures represent.

While it is true that some international studies attempt to estimate the proportion of overall drugs seized to production, this is not a reliable guide to the situation in any particular country. In particular, such figures cannot reflect increased enforcement levels in a country. 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.

An Garda Síochána is satisfied that, in addition to the considerable volume of drugs seized in the last two years and again this year to date, there has been a significant impact on drug-trafficking by the arrest and prosecution of a number of major players involved and the activities of a number of crime gangs have been disrupted, resulting in a number of crime groupings being dismantled.

In addition to the officers of the Force specifically assigned to the drugs issue who are attached to the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Divisional Drug Units, officers from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau all assist in our overall law enforcement response to drug trafficking and drug dealing. In addition, the Garda 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 in tackling the problem.

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 ringfencing of €21million this year for Operation Anvil.

I am confident that the legislation that I have introduced dealing with surveillance will be of particular value in tackling drugs gangs. I am sure all Members of the House will accept fully that we cannot tackle the problem of drug misuse through law enforcement measures alone. We need to tackle the demand for drugs and, in this context, I can assure the House that my Department, and all the agencies under its aegis, are co-operating fully in the development of the new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009 to 2016 which is being drawn up under the aegis of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Appendix 1

Drug seizure data

The following table provides details of the quantities and estimated street value of the most significant drugs analysed by the Forensic Science Laboratory for 2007, 2008 and the provisional figures for 2009 (up to 1st April 2009)

2009*

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis**

85,348.593 grams

1,024,183

Cannabis Resin

339,745.786 grams

2,378,221

Heroin

27,708.85 grams

5,541,770

Cocaine

12.322 kgs

862,540

Ecstasy

12,118 tablets & 139.762 grams

128,168

Amphetamine

10,210.565 grams

153,158

Total Value

10,088,040

**Cannabis now valued at €12 per gram.

2008*:

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

947,849.73 grams

1,895,699

Cannabis Resin

5,276,728.611 grams

36,937,100

Heroin

209,605.430 grams

41,921,086

Cocaine

1,681.693 kgs

117,718,510

Ecstasy

100,635 tablets & 1.144 kgs

1,063,550

Amphetamine

8,217.052 grams & 946 tablets

137,446

Total Value

199,673,391

2007*

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

774.029 kgs

1,548,058

Cannabis Resin

1,279.149 kgs

8,954,043

Heroin

148.369 kgs

29,673,800

Cocaine

1,763.725 kgs

123,460,750

Ecstasy

279,017 tablets, 13.381 kgs

3,459,220

Amphetamine

58.223 kgs, 10,471 tablets

1,030,410

Total Value

168,126,281

*Statistics provided are operational, provisional and may change.

Garda Operations.

Martin Ferris

Question:

138 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the implications for the management of policing projects such as the new community policing model and major operations such as those into the Crumlin-Drimnagh and Limerick gangland feuds and so on, of the recently introduced pension levy, cuts to overtime, recruitment and promotions embargo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14197/09]

I am informed by the Commissioner that the introduction of the recent levy as a result of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act does not impact on any policing operations of An Garda Síochána and also that the maximum amount of policing resources have been allocated to front line policing and that overtime budgets are primarily focused on intelligence led, time limited operations.

In this regard the Deputy should be aware that despite pressure on resources, funding for Operation Anvil has increased in 2009 from €20 million to €21 million. In addition to this the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána is expected to reach approximately 14,900 by the end of this year.

The Commissioner has committed to the introduction of community policing in all 112 districts in the country. For some districts this will be a new initiative while for others a re-invigoration of the existing community policing structure will be required. The roll out is supported by a robust Implementation Plan developed by the Community Policing Implementation Team at Garda Community Relations Division. A comprehensive Strategic ‘Action Plan' has been developed for the successful implementation of the Garda Síochána National Model of Community Policing.

Intelligence-led operations are used to target organised crime groups by utilising specialist units including the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Organised Crime Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Targeted intelligence-led operations such as Operation Anvil continue to result in significant seizures of firearms and property related to criminal activity and have led to the arrests and prosecutions of those involved.

Juvenile Offenders.

David Stanton

Question:

139 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 79 of 25 February 2009, if the report on the analysis of Garda youth diversion projects has been completed; if he has published same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14318/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Irish Youth Justice Service report on the baseline analysis of the Garda Youth Diversion Projects has been completed. The report is currently being examined by my officials. I expect it to be ready for publication shortly.

Departmental Reports.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

140 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the actions he has taken in response to the Coulter report on the operation of the family courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15584/09]

The Report of the Family Law Reporting Pilot Project sums up the work of the one-year pilot project, undertaken by Dr Carol Coulter for the Courts Service. This initiative was permitted by a change in the law on the in camerarule in family law. Dr Coulter was engaged to carry out the reporting of family law on a pilot basis.

Following the publication of the final report, the Courts Service Board established a Special Committee to oversee the Family Law Reporting Project for a further year and to consider the recommendations made with a view to making proposals for their implementation. I understand that the Committee is preparing a report for consideration by the Court Service Board.

Trafficking in Human Beings.

Pat Breen

Question:

141 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures that are being put in place at EU level to deal with the trafficking of human beings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15857/09]

On 25 March, 2009 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Framework Decision on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting Victims repealing a Framework Decision agreed in 2002 on combating trafficking in human beings. The primary purpose of this Proposal is to repeal and re-enact the 2002 Framework Decision with additional criminal law provisions to bring them in line with other international instruments. The proposal also contains additional non-legislative provisions. The new elements primarily deal with victim support, prevention, investigation, prosecution and monitoring.

The question of establishing an informal EU Network of National Rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms on trafficking in human beings is also being considered at present. Information regarding immigration related criminality is collated, analysed and disseminated by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), including such information and intelligence received, on a regular basis, through the Europol and Interpol National Units, based at Garda Headquarters. In particular, personnel from the GNIB assist in investigations relating to the suspected trafficking and smuggling of persons, initiated in other jurisdictions, where it is suspected either the suspect(s) or victim(s) have entered this State.

Members of the Garda Síochána, in particular personnel attached to the National Support Services attend courses organised by CEPOL (the European Police College) concerning trafficking in human beings which are targeted at:

(i) senior police officers who are responsible for prosecution services and/or counter trafficking cases,

(ii) members of lecturing staff in police training and development units and

(iii) heads of police forces who deal with questions of human trafficking.

The next training course is due to take place in Lithuania in May 2009.

Ireland attends the Europol Expert meeting on trafficking in human beings which takes place on an annual basis. This meeting allows Member States to share their experiences and provide operational case examples of trafficking in human Beings. Ireland is part of a number of Europol Analytical Work Files which provide both strategic and operational support. In this context a trafficking in human beings bulletin is circulated on a quarterly basis which is disseminated to members of the Garda Síochána. Other support provided to Ireland by Europol includes expert advice, intelligence reports, training and information exchange through the Europol Information System/Europol National Unit. Operational support can include operational analysis of investigations in Member States, coordination of investigations (e.g. organisation of meetings at Europol) and support from other Europol National Units, which in Ireland is based at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park.

Council of Europe.

Joe Costello

Question:

142 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Taoiseach the way he proposes to mark the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15167/09]

As a founding member, Ireland attaches particular importance to the Council of Europe and its institutions. For that reason, my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, has accepted an invitation from the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Foreign Minister Moratinos of Spain, to attend a specially convened meeting of the Committee of Ministers in Madrid on 12 May 2009, which is intended to mark the 60th anniversary.

Departmental Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

143 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of uncertified sick days taken within all sections of his Department for the years 2007 and 2008 and to date in 2009; the number of employees who have taken uncertified sick days in the categories one to ten days and over ten days; the number of uncertified sick days taken Fridays and Mondays; the number of persistent offenders with regard to uncertified sick days who have been sent for an independent doctor's opinion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15677/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following table. For reasons of confidentiality and taking into account the provisions of Data Protection legislation, it would not be appropriate to reveal information on staff who have been on uncertified sick days and who were sent for independent doctors' opinions; mine is a small Department and such disclosure could inadvertently identify individual staff.

Year

Number of Employees: who have taken Uncertified Sick Leave

Uncertified Sick Days: 1 to 10 Days

Uncertified Sick Days: Over 10 Days

Number of Fridays: taken as Uncertified Sick Leave

Number of Mondays: taken as Uncertified Sick Leave

2007

85

170.5 days

None

21

53

2008

72

158.5 days

None

20

36

January to 20 April 2009

28

50.5 days

None

10

4

Official Engagements.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

144 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Taoiseach if he has plans to invite the Australian Prime Minister Mr. Kevin Rudd to Ireland before the end of 2009 to strengthen ties between Australia and Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15693/09]

I have no plans to invite Prime Minister Rudd to Ireland in 2009 nor have I any knowledge of his seeking to travel here this year. Prime Minister Rudd would of course be most welcome to visit Ireland should a visit be proposed.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

145 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the responsibility she has if the conditions of legislation as set out in the Mines and Quarries Act 1965 were not respected, that is, work of inspectors who were appointed to examine the mines to make sure they were fully ventilated and that dust was controlled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15842/09]

The primary responsibility for health and safety in private-sector workplaces does not rest with the State. It rests with those who control such workplaces and those who work in them.

The basic law governing health and safety at work is to be found in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (No. 10 of 2005) and Regulations made under it, including the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007). There is also a body of sector-specific legislation which applies to Mines namely the Mines and Quarries Act 1965 (No. 7 of 1965) and Regulations made under it as well as the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Extractive Industries) Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 467 of 1997).

In line with a process concluded in 2007 in relation to the quarrying sector, which resulted in revised Regulations, proposals for the rationalisation of mining legislation are currently being developed by the Health and Safety Authority. Under the current health and safety legislation for the sector, it is the duty of the manager of a mine to take such steps as are necessary to facilitate below ground ventilation in the mine for the purposes of (i) diluting gases that are inflammable or noxious so as to render them harmless and removing them, and (ii) providing air containing a sufficiency of oxygen.

Due to the complex nature of mining operations and the potential for multiple fatalities from major incidents — such as from fire below ground, inrush and collapse — the Health and Safety Authority has specialist mining inspectors to carry out inspections at mines.

The Mines and Quarries Act 1965 provides that where a Health and Safety Authority inspector is of opinion that in the interests of the safety or health of the persons employed, it is necessary or expedient to improve the ventilation produced in any part of that mine that is required to be ventilated, the inspector may serve on the manager of the mine a notice requiring either that (i) ventilation which is produced in that part of the mine must conform to specified requirements, or (ii) works for the purpose of improving the ventilation in that part of the mine are put in place.

In excess of 1,500 inspections have been carried out by the Health and Safety Authority in the Mines and Quarries sector over the past three years. The total number of enforcement actions was 164, in addition to 555 written advices. Further details can be found in the Authority's Annual Reports which are public documents. As the number of quarries far exceeds the number of operational mines, of which there are four underground mines currently operating in Ireland, the number of specific mining inspections were 24 in the years 2006 and 2007.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

146 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount the 51,000 training places allocated to FÁS will cost; if these 51,000 places will be the result of reallocating existing resources already assigned to FÁS or if she has allocated new funds from the Exchequer; if these courses will be shorter than 12 months in duration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15118/09]

The cost of the 51,000 FÁS training places I announced on 5 February 2009, is €25.750 million, which has been reallocated from within the FÁS Training Services and Service to Business Divisions and is not the subject of a new allocation of funding from the Exchequer. As with all courses provided by the Training Services Division these courses will be shorter than 12 months in duration.

The aim of these additional places is to help the unemployed to develop new skills and competencies and assist them in securing employment as soon as possible. They will also lead to certification under the National Framework of Qualifications or other recognised certification frameworks.

In addition, in the supplementary budget I announced the creation of a further 18,525 training places for the unemployed at a cost of €61.4 million to bring the total number of training and work experience activation places funded by my Department to approximately 128,000.

Richard Bruton

Question:

147 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of training courses she estimates will be provided by FÁS in 2009 detailing the different training areas in which courses are provided; her estimate of the size of waiting lists and waiting times to get on courses across the different categories; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15122/09]

FÁS, the National Training and Employment Authority, aims to offer a wide range of training courses and delivery methods to suit individual client needs in the development of their skill-sets. In 2009 the Authority estimates that they will be in a position to deliver 6,062 training courses under the Training Services, Community Services and Services to Business categories.

Courses will continue to be adapted to address a changing labour market and, in this respect, FÁS has enhanced the traditional course offerings of specific skills training (SST's) to now include Short Courses, Night Courses and Online Courses as well as Community Based courses. The suite of Short Courses recently developed and expanded by FÁS typically consist of a Preparing for Work Module, which includes Job Seeking and Interview Skills, and one or two technical modules. The Short Course Programme will be delivered through In-Centre Training and Contracted Training. The decision on which courses to offer in a Region will take place based on demand through a process of consultation between Training Services, Employment Services and Services to Business.

While waiting times vary considerably at individual course level a recent customer survey conducted on behalf of FÁS indicated that the average waiting time (between applying for a course and starting) in 2008 was 7.7 weeks compared with 9.7 weeks in 2007. The size of waiting lists across the different course categories very much depends on the course type, duration and capacity and location of the course. Short courses on average run every 4-9 weeks which reduces the wait list and increases capacity compared to a traditional course running over a 16 week period.

Courses, where FÁS is the prime recruiter, are broadly classified into 15 main categories and are shown in the following table for the Deputy's information.

Training Category

Office / Administration

Computer Hardware / Networks / Programming

Computer Applications

Construction Related

Engineering Related

Electronics / Industrial Servicing

Sales / Marketing

Transport / Warehousing / Distribution

Health / Beauty / Child Care / Welfare

Pre Employment / Job Clubs / Return to Work

Self Employment / Enterprise

Animal / Land / Marine

Sports / Leisure

Other

Uncategorized (Local Training, Community Training Centres etc)

Employment Rights.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

148 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the legislation which governs contract workers here; if she will introduce new legislation in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15181/09]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the position of persons with contracts for services i.e. the self-employed, under employment rights legislation.

The current body of employment rights legislation, which includes transposition of EU Directives into domestic law, applies to employees or persons with contracts of service and does not apply to persons with contracts for services i.e. self-employed. As this legislation provides for the rights of employees in relation to their employment with an employer, it would not make sense for it to apply to the self-employed as autonomous persons. The rationale for such legislation applying to employees or persons with contracts of service only is that employees could be vulnerable in their employment relationship with an employer. Accordingly, there would not be any logic in applying to the self-employed employment rights legislation such as the Unfair Dismissal Acts, the Carer's Leave Act or the Redundancy Payments Acts etc. In the circumstances there are no proposals to introduce legislation to apply employment rights legislation to persons with contracts for services.

Redundancy Payments.

Mary Upton

Question:

149 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will ensure that employers are reimbursed the 60% rebate of statutory redundancy payments to which they are entitled within the timeframe set out on her Department website; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15234/09]

The huge increase in the number of Redundancy Payment claims lodged with the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department in the latter part of 2008 and, to date in 2009 is unprecedented and is giving rise to delays in the processing of redundancy payments for individuals and companies within a reasonable timeframe. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics which indicate that, at the end of the first quarter of 2009, the number of new claims lodged with my Department was 19,742 which equates to almost 50% of the entire level of applications lodged for the whole of 2008 i.e. 40,607.

While measures are being taken to address the backlog of claims applications, including the allocation of additional staff resources to the area, the volume of work on hand is such that very significant slippage has occurred in the timeframes for processing redundancy claims as against the targets which the Department originally set itself. The Department's website atwww.entemp.ie which is updated regularly, gives information on the month from which claims are being processed. Currently, the Redundancy Payments Section is finalising on-line rebate claims to employers received in November 2008 and manual claims for October 2008. Every effort is being made to deal with the backlog of claims and to improve the turnaround time for processing claims.

Semi-State Bodies.

Ulick Burke

Question:

150 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost to Enterprise Ireland of their annual budget for 2007 and 2008 on conferences, fairs, board meetings, advertising and their overseas programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15271/09]

The Deputy will appreciate that I have no role or function in the day to day administration matters of Enterprise Ireland. My Department does, however, have responsibility for ensuring that corporate governance procedures, systems of internal financial control and reporting relationships are in place. Enterprise Ireland has confirmed to me that they operate in accordance with the Framework Code of Best Practice set out in the Code of Practice on the Governance of State Bodies. Each year the agency confirms in its annual report that they are in compliance with the Code. Additionally, I receive a separate report from the Chairperson affirming that they are in compliance with the Code.

The Financial Statements, audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, are published annually and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the Enterprise Ireland Annual Report. Expenditure in 2007 on Administration, Operation and Promotion are set out in the following table. The audited 2008 figures will be available and published in the Enterprise Ireland 2008 Annual Report in the near future.

Administration, Operation and Promotion 2007

€’000

Remuneration and Other Pay Costs

72,685

Library Services and Other Client Related Costs

1,445

Rents, Rates, Service Charges & Insurance

10,645

Travelling Expenses

6,772

Printing, Postage & Stationery

2,136

Communication & IT Costs

2,418

Repairs, Maintenance & Leasing Charges

1,209

Light, Heat & Cleaning

1,622

Board Members’ Emoluments

431

Professional Fees

4,626

Audit Fee

85

Tangible Fixed Assets Below Capitalisation Threshold

752

Other Operating Expenses

2,949

107,775

Company Closures.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

151 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress of discussions with prospective interested parties in relation to the future of the workforce of a company (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15327/09]

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. I have conveyed 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.

IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland have formed a project team to promote the operation through the IDA overseas network of offices and to meet with and assess expressions of interest in the operation.

There are a number of expressions of interest from different parties in acquiring at least elements of the business and both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are actively exploring options with interested parties. Time is needed to assess these proposals by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. 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 in the normal way.

The State agencies will continue to engage with all groups, indigenous and overseas, interested in building commercially viable and sustainable operations to secure as many of the jobs as possible at Dublin Airport.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Simon Coveney

Question:

152 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people in Cork city and county who have received an offer of training from FÁS each month to date in 2009 under the national employment action plan; the number waiting in Cork City and County for an offer of this training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15410/09]

The National Employment Action Plan Preventive Strategy (NEAP) involves a systematic referral of certain cohorts of registered unemployed persons by the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA) to FÁS for assistance.

Department of Social and Family Affairs NEAP (National Employment Action Plan) referrals to FÁS Employment Services, Cork, in the first three months of 2009 totalled approximately 1,800 clients, of which 900 expressed an interest in availing of training.

In the first quarter of 2009, 711 of NEAP clients received an offer of training. A breakdown of these is provided in the following table. The remaining 189 NEAP clients, primarily from guidance interviews in March 2009 are scheduled to receive offers of training over the next four weeks.

Month 2009

Full Time Training

Evening/Saturday Morning Courses (estimate)

Technical Employment Support Grant Funded Training

January

163

56

46

February

135

54

March

147

32

78

Total

445

88

178

Overall Total

711

Leo Varadkar

Question:

153 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts she will make to ensure that apprentices at a company (details supplied) can finish their apprenticeships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15452/09]

A total of 60 apprentices will be affected by redundancy at the company referred to by the Deputy. This total includes 54 aircraft mechanics apprentices and six mechanical, automation and maintenance fitting (fitters) apprentices. The apprentices break down into three categories as outlined below:

Group 1 — 28 air craft mechanics apprentices at phase 3 of their apprenticeship

Group 2 — 26 air craft mechanics apprentices at phase 4 of their apprenticeship

Group 3 — 6 mechanical automation and maintenance fitting (fitters) apprentices at phase 3 of their apprenticeship FÁS has put in place appropriate measures to assist each of these groups in progressing their apprenticeships. These measures are outlined as follows.

Group 1: 28 air craft mechanics apprentices at phase 3

The 28 air craft mechanics apprentices at phase 3 who have been made redundant by the company in question have been scheduled to attend an additional phase 4 programme provided by DIT with the support of the HEA commencing on 20 April 2009.

Group 2: 26 air craft mechanics apprentices at phase 4

This group of apprentices completed their phase 4 off-the-job training on 20 February 2009. Their phase 5 on-the-job training commenced on 23 February, 2009 and is for a period of 52 weeks. The company in question have advised FÁS that this group will be made redundant on 17 April 2009.

It will be necessary for this group to complete phase 5 on-the-job training prior to the commencement of the phase 6 off-the-the-job training. This is due to the essential regulatory requirements for health and safety and the need for the apprentices to practice the skills developed at phase 4.

FÁS is currently engaging with other stakeholders in the Air Craft Maintenance sector in an effort to source on-the-job training for this group of Air Craft Mechanics. This group, on completion of phase 5 on-the-job, will be scheduled for their phase 6 off-the-job training in February 2010.

Group 3: 6 mechanical automation and maintenance fitting (fitters) apprentices at phase 3

This group of apprentices is expected to be called for phase 4 off-the-job training in either in September 2009 or January 2010 depending on capacity availability.

Job Losses.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

154 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will provide a breakdown of the number of apprentices who are unemployed or redundant by the type of apprenticeship which they do and the stage which they have reached; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15453/09]

The current apprenticeship population is 24,774 of which 4,697 are redundant due to the reduction in employment in the economy.

FÁS has responded to the increase in the number of redundant apprentices by introducing a number of measures. Over 3,400 places have been provided, are currently being provided or have been put in place for future provision under these measures. FÁS with the support of the stakeholders in the apprenticeship system is providing opportunities for redundant apprentices within the capacity and resources available and the situation is been monitored on an ongoing basis.

A table showing the number of redundant apprentices by trade and phase is provided as follows.

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4

Phase 5

Phase 6

Phase 7

Total

Cabinet Making

7

7

43

10

20

10

16

113

Wood Machinery

1

0

2

1

2

0

2

8

Print Media

0

0

0

0

4

0

0

4

Electronic Security Systems

2

0

4

0

0

0

0

6

Electrical

74

40

308

106

427

85

245

1,285

Electrical Instrumentation

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

2

Motor Mechanics

16

11

28

9

35

13

21

133

Agricultural Mechanics

2

0

3

2

1

0

0

8

Heavy Vehicle Mechanics

2

2

3

1

2

0

3

13

Vehicle Body Repairs

5

1

8

3

4

3

6

30

M.A.M.F.

3

3

24

1

7

0

3

41

Toolmaking

1

0

0

0

3

0

0

4

Farriery

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Aircraft Mechanics

0

0

30

0

0

0

0

30

Refrigeration

4

1

6

1

6

2

6

26

Sheet Metalworking

10

0

7

1

5

0

12

35

Metal Fabrication

14

10

17

4

19

5

5

74

Floor & Wall Tiling

0

0

7

0

6

0

0

13

Industrial Insulation

5

0

1

0

0

0

0

6

Carpentry & Joinery

8

14

366

103

466

71

163

1,191

Painting & Decorating

6

1

20

2

19

7

19

74

Plumbing

32

26

388

74

329

84

156

1,089

Brick & Stonelaying

2

0

93

27

154

26

51

353

Plastering

5

2

46

9

38

17

18

135

Construction Plant Fitting

6

0

7

2

6

1

1

23

Total

206

118

1,411

357

1,554

324

727

4,697

Semi-State Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

155 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff who are employed in Science Foundation Ireland at present, and in 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15454/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

156 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the embargo on recruitment to the public sector applies to Science Foundation Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15455/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

The Deputy should note there is not an embargo on recruitment to the public sector as this would imply that no filling of vacancies whatsoever could take place. The Government decision regarding the moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the public service, which is effective from March 27 2009, provides the Minister for Finance with the authority to allow for the filling of vacancies in exceptional circumstances where warranted. Such approval from the Minister for Finance may, in due course, involve the redeployment of staff from other Departments or public bodies.

I can confirm that the moratorium will operate in respect of non-commercial state bodies and is therefore applicable to Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Staff numbers serving in SFI are outlined in the following table.

Date

Number

31st December 2007

36

31st December 2008

50

20th April 2009

54

Work Permits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

157 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by an organisation (details supplied) regarding the proposed changes to the work permit system; her plans to address these concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15632/09]

I am aware of the concerns expressed by the organisation named and welcome their ongoing and valuable input into my Department's work on economic migration policies. Indeed, input received from the organisation during a consultation process on proposed changes was incorporated into the final policy decisions.

Ireland has benefited greatly from immigration. However, we need to be sure that our economic migration policies are adapted to reflect the changed realities of the Irish labour market. As a result, it is essential that we now take steps to ensure that every possible effort is made by employers to find suitably skilled employees from within the existing labour market. Initiatives such as strengthening the labour market needs test will facilitate this process.

Departmental Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

158 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of uncertified sick days taken within all sections of her Department for the years 2007 and 2008 and to date in 2009; the number of employees who have taken uncertified sick days in the categories one to ten days and over ten days; the number of uncertified sick days taken Fridays and Mondays; the number of persistent offenders with regard to uncertified sick days who have been sent for an independent doctor's opinion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15670/09]

The statistics requested by the Deputy for my Department, which employs approximately 1,100 staff, are contained in following table.

2007

2008

2009

Total

Uncertified sick days

1,016

1,199.5

329

2,544.5

Staff

465

533

216

1,214

Staff who took 1-10 days

465

533

216

1,214

Staff who took over 10 days

0

0

0

0

Monday or Friday*

399

454

131

984

I should point out that the figures at* above relate to uncertified sick leave taken either on Monday or on Friday. There were no staff of my Department referred for an independent doctor’s opinion as a result of taking uncertified sick leave in the period in question.

Redundancy Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

159 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedure for employees, whose employers do not provide the required paperwork, for receiving their statutory redundancy payments; the process that requires them to do so in order that their payment can be processed; and the length of time this process should take. [15700/09]

Normally, employees receive their redundancy entitlements from their employer. Employers are then entitled to apply to the Department for a rebate of 60% of the statutory element of the redundancy payments made. If, at this stage, an employer submits a claim which is incomplete, the Department will seek the necessary information from the employer. In these circumstances, employees will normally suffer no delay as they should already have received their redundancy payment. The delay in these cases caused by incomplete claims will result in the employer not getting a rebate until all information is received. The period of time involved depends in each case on how quickly the employer responds with full information.

Where an employer is not in a position to pay the statutory lump sum, my Department pays the statutory amount from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) to individual employees and seeks reimbursement of 40% of the total payments from the employer. When an employer is not in a position to pay statutory redundancy, the Redundancy Payments Section requires proof of inability to pay. The employer is asked to provide a letter from his Accountant or Solicitor confirming inability to pay together with documentary evidence (i.e Audited Accounts/Statement of Affairs) within 30 days of issue of the communication. Where an employer does not provide the information requested or refuses to pay within the agreed timeframe, the employee is advised to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) against the employer, seeking a determination of their entitlement to statutory redundancy. The average waiting period for a case to be heard before the EAT is, I understand, currently around 27 weeks.

Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Michael Ring

Question:

160 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will confirm the stated policy of the Employment Appeals Tribunal in relation to High Court judicial reviews taken against it in view of the opinion that the EAT is adopting a policy of not contesting judicial reviews taken against it. [15742/09]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent body under the aegis of the Department. As an independent body, I have no role in relation to the day-to-day operation of the Tribunal.

I understand that each judicial review proceedings in which the Tribunal is named is considered on the basis of the notice of motion before the Court. All aspects of the motion including previous similar proceedings are considered before a decision is reached whether or not to take part in the judicial review proceedings.

Employment Support Services.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

161 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will provide details of the new measure announced in the 7 April 2009 supplementary budget regarding getting graduates back to work through work experience programmes (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15797/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

165 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the location, when and the way the 2,000 work experience scheme places announced by her are to be allocated; the person who is to provide them; the types of work experience involved; the criteria for qualification; and the way interested people can apply or obtain further information. [15950/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 165 together.

The Work Experience Scheme, which was announced in the Supplementary Budget, is being established to provide 2,000 six-month places to individuals who are unemployed and it will also include the placement of graduates. This scheme will provide invaluable work experience to individuals who are unemployed, who have just left college or have very limited experience of the workplace.

The places will be created on a cost neutral basis, as the State's payment will be equivalent to social welfare Job Seeker Benefit/Allowance weekly rates. Discussions are ongoing between my Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs and it is expected that these discussions will be finalised in the coming weeks when further details will be available pertaining to this scheme.

Job Losses.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

162 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the jobs task force in Limerick in the wake of the announced job losses at a company (details supplied); if she has instructed the Industrial Development Authority to join this task force; if the IDA will make Limerick and the mid west a priority region for inward investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15945/09]

Following the January announcement by Dell, I established the Mid West Task Force, Chaired by Mr Denis Brosnan. The role of the Task Force, amongst others, is to assess the particular impact on the wider regional economy of the decision to close certain parts of the Dell plant in Limerick and associated job losses in other companies and also to carry out an analysis of the potential impact of the current economic downturn on the Mid-West Region. As part of its analysis, the task force is meeting with and obtaining inputs from all the relevant State Development Agencies, including the IDA. I have asked the Task Force to provide me with an interim report on their findings and this is likely to be completed in May.

It is also important to point out that IDA has been working diligently to secure new investments for the region and over the last year companies like Vistakon, Zimmer, Cook, DTS and Microsemi have had announcements in the region. The Agency currently has a pipeline of projects under consideration. These potential investments are being pursued and IDA Ireland will do everything possible to speed up the investment decisions in Limerick's favour.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

163 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the location, when and the way the 12,000 places on ten week training courses places announced by her are to be allocated; the person who is to provide them; the types of course covered; the criteria for qualification; and the way interested people can apply or obtain further information. [15948/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

164 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the location, when and the way the 1,800 places on 20 week training courses announced by her are to be allocated; the person who is to be provide them; the types of course covered; the criteria for qualification; and the way interested people can apply or obtain further information. [15949/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

The additional 12,000 ten week and 1,800 twenty week training courses announced in the supplementary Budget will be funded by FÁS, the National Training and Employment Authority, and brings the total number of training places available in courses of ten and twenty week duration to 92,000. These extra places are designed to build upon the existing training and development work already undertaken by FÁS in developing new skills and competencies for the unemployed.

The precise details of the roll-out of these additional activation places, including allocation, qualifying criteria and the types of courses covered will be finalised over the coming weeks. This is to ensure that the additional places created will be targeted to deliver the maximum positive benefit to the diverse needs of the unemployed.

Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 161.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

166 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the location, when and the way the pilot scheme for short-term workers announced by her are to be allocated; the criteria for qualification; and the way interested people can apply or obtain further information. [15951/09]

The pilot scheme for short-term workers will provide training and income support to 277 workers considered to be in vulnerable employment. Under this pilot training programme workers who are on a three-day week and receiving social welfare payments for the days they are not working will receive 2 days training a week for a period of 52 weeks.

Discussions are ongoing between my Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs and it is expected that these discussions will be finalised in the coming weeks when further details will be available pertaining to this scheme.

Departmental Programmes.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

167 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the cycle to work scheme introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2008; the progress made to date to implement the scheme; and the number of Departments and public sector agencies actively availing of this scheme. [15127/09]

The cycle to work scheme came into operation on 1 Jan 2009. The purposes of the scheme are to encourage more employees to cycle to and from work, to contribute to lowering carbon emissions, to help reduce traffic congestion, and to help improve health and fitness levels.

The scheme allows an employer to provide an employee with a bicycle (including an electrically assisted bicycle) and cycle safety equipment, e.g. helmet, lights, reflective clothing, as a benefit of his/her employment without the employee being liable for benefit-in-kind taxation. The scheme applies where the bicycle is used by the employee for travelling to and from work or for travelling between workplaces.

The scheme can be implemented through salary sacrifice arrangements in a similar manner to the existing Travel Pass Scheme. Under such an arrangement, the employer provides the bicycle and/or safety equipment to the employee who agrees to forego or sacrifice part of his or her salary every pay period in order to cover the cost of the bicycle and safety equipment. Any salary sacrifice arrangement must be completed within a maximum period of twelve months and the arrangement will be reflected in the employee's pay over that period.

The bicycle and safety equipment up to the value of €1,000 are exempt from benefit-in-kind taxation under the scheme. Employees will not be liable to income tax, employee PRSI, or levies on the cost of the bicycle and safety equipment up to this limit. Where the cost exceeds this amount, a BIK charge will apply to the balance. The scheme is available to individual employees once only in a five year period.

The employer will also benefit in that employer PRSI is not payable on the cost of the bicycle and/or safety equipment. Employers will not, however, be able to reclaim the VAT paid on the bicycle and/or safety equipment.

Participation in the scheme is voluntary for employers. However, when an employer agrees to participate, he or she must make the scheme generally available, on an equal basis, to all employees requesting it.

There is no notification procedure for employers to indicate to the Revenue Commissioners that they are operating the scheme. However, the purchase of bicycles and associated safety equipment by employers for employees will be subject to the normal Revenue audit procedure with the normal obligations on employers to maintain records (e.g. invoices, salary sacrifice agreements between employer and employee, such agreements to include a statement from employees that the bicycle and safety equipment are for their own use and will be used for travelling to and from work).

The cycle to work scheme is effectively available since 1 January 2009 to private sector employees where employers agree to operate the scheme.

Implementation of the scheme in the civil service is being dealt with by my Department. Introducing the scheme in the civil service has given rise to a number of issues including that of public procurement. These issues will be resolved shortly. I also understand that the Office of Public Works will be advertising in the near future seeking expressions of interest from those selling bicycles and pedelecs (electrically assisted bicycles), and who are prepared to supply bicycles and cycle safety equipment to those availing of the scheme in the civil service.

A circular providing for a scheme in the civil service will be issued as soon as practicable and those arrangements should provide a framework for the implementation of a similar scheme in the wider public service.

Tax Code.

Tom Hayes

Question:

168 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if a reduction on the VAT applied to the installation of domestic water softening units will be considered. [15197/09]

With regard to the VAT applied to domestic water softening units, or indeed any other goods and services, it is important to bear in mind that the VAT treatment of goods and services is subject to EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In this regard, it is not possible to apply the reduced rate of VAT to water softening units which are subject to the standard 21.5% VAT rate.

However, I would point out that the reduced VAT rate of 13.5% may currently be applied to products which are provided under a single supply and install contract where the VAT exclusive cost of the goods does not exceed two-thirds of the total VAT exclusive charge to the customer.

National Archives.

Mary Upton

Question:

169 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if there are plans to increase the space in the National Archives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15266/09]

The Land Commission is currently accommodated in the National Archives premises in Bishop Street, Dublin 8. The Office of Public Works is in the process of relocating the Land Commission personnel and their records from Bishop Street and will allocate the space freed up by this move to the National Archives for storage purposes.

Tax Code.

Michael Creed

Question:

170 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if a registered charity (details supplied) in County Cork is exempt from paying local authority rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15404/09]

I should point out that the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the exercise of his duties under the Valuation Act 2001 and that I, as Minister for Finance, have no function in decisions in this regard.

The Valuation Act 2001, which came into effect on 2 May 2002, provides that all buildings used or developed for any purpose, including constructions affixed thereto, are rateable unless expressly exempted under Schedule 4 of the Act. Schedule 4 outlines the categories of property and the various uses that are deemed to be non-rateable under the Act, including buildings occupied by a charitable organisation and used exclusively by that organisation for charitable purposes and otherwise than for profit.

In the case of the valuation of premises occupied by Clondrohid Community Childcare, I am informed by the Valuation Office that a Revision Officer has been appointed following a request from Cork County Council to revise the valuation. In considering the request, the revision officer will examine all aspects of the case, including the occupier's claim for exemption. In this regard, I might mention that the grant of charitable status to an organisation does not of itself entitle that organisation to an exemption from rates. The nature of the occupation and use of the premises and the particular terms and conditions of the organisation's Memorandum and Articles of Association will be determining factors in whether the premises occupied by the organisation will be exempt or not. Before a definitive decision is made in the case, the occupiers of the premises in Clondrohid will be afforded an opportunity by the Revision Officer to make Representations.

If dissatisfied with the outcome, they may appeal to the Commissioner of Valuation in the first instance, and subsequently to the independent Valuation Tribunal. There is also a further right of appeal to the High Court and ultimately to the Supreme Court on a point of law.

Disabled Drivers.

Dan Neville

Question:

171 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [15459/09]

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

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

Tax Code.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

172 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance his views on the representations from an organisation (details supplied). [15092/09]

I am conscious of the decline in the motor industry in Ireland and internationally due to the contraction in economic activity. I, and my officials, have had meetings with representatives of the motor industry at which the issues referred to in the correspondence were raised. These matters were considered in the context of the recent Supplementary Budget and it was decided to introduce a VAT Margin Scheme for second-hand cars as outlined in Page B.8 of the Summary of Supplementary Budget Measures — Policy Changes.

Pension Provisions.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

173 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the basis, in view of the fact that retained fire officers have no public service pension entitlement and no access to a public service pension scheme, on which they are deemed liable to pay the public service pension levy; if he will review the imposition of the levy on retained fire officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15098/09]

Retained firefighters are subject to the pension-related deduction as they are entitled to join the Local Government Superannuation Scheme and receive a pension and lump sum from a local authority. Those who do not take that option are eligible for a non-contributory retirement gratuity arrangement. Under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, retained firefighters are, therefore, subject to the deduction.

However, in the recent Supplementary Budget, I announced a change to the structure of the deduction which will exempt the first 15,000 euro of earnings. This should benefit retained firefighters, especially those with no other public service employment.

The Deputy will be aware that I undertook during the Dáil debate on the deduction to have the case of the retained firefighters examined to see if there are exceptional circumstances with regard to this group of public servants. That examination is in progress.

Tax Code.

Damien English

Question:

174 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Finance when an application for a tax refund by a person (details supplied) made to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners will be decided on; the reason for any undue delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15108/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that correspondence was received from the taxpayer on 17th February 2009 and that a refund cheque issued on 1st April 2009.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

175 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the number of car repossession orders made in each month over the past 12 months in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15111/09]

It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the number of cars seized by the Revenue Commissioners for breaches of Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) legislation. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as a general rule all vehicles imported permanently into the State must register for VRT purposes within one working day of arrival. This rule applies equally to vehicles imported by EU and non-EU persons. In practice, Revenue allows latitude of a maximum of seven days for registration.

Revenue mobile units continuously monitor both Irish and foreign registered vehicles on our roads as part of their regular and ongoing enforcement activity. As part of this enforcement activity, vehicles in serious breach of the VRT regulations are seized. The following Table gives the number of vehicles seized in the State in each month over the past twelve months. In addition to the VRT collected, penalties in excess of €1 million were charged in respect of these vehicles.

Month / Year

Number of Seizures

April 2008

120

May 2008

191

June 2008

175

July 2008

98

August 2008

120

September 2008

137

October 2008

151

November 2008

168

December 2008

131

January 2009

143

February 2009

164

March 2009

284

Financial Services Regulation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

176 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if measures will be taken to request financial institutions, in view of current financial and economic circumstances, to allow mortgage holders who are on fixed rate mortgages to move to variable rate mortgages without incurring a severe financial penalty to do so. [15157/09]

The Deputy's question refers to the redemption fee applied by mortgage providers in circumstances that a customer seeks to break a fixed rate mortgage. Mortgage lenders in Ireland generally seek to recover costs of funds when a borrower with a fixed rate mortgage agreement seeks to terminate the agreement some time before the term agreed.

Traditionally redemption fees were articulated with the institution specifying that a given number of months interest would apply. Overtime, they have generally moved towards a mechanism which reflects the difference between the contracted rate and current market rates applied to the amount outstanding for the remaining fixed period. Where a redemption fee is payable on a housing loan the mortgage agent has to inform the consumer about it at the outset.

Compensation sought by the lender reflects the cost to the institution of obtaining the funds on the capital market at a certain cost, as against selling them on at a related price. Institutions fund the fixed rate agreement through funding on markets, generally through interest rate swaps. This allows them to hedge their exposure to interest rate fluctuations. Where the borrower seeks to repay the loan before the contractually agreed fixed term in an environment where interest rates have declined, the institution is exposed to re-investment risk, i.e., it will be unable to re-lend the funds at a rate related to their cost, due to intervening market fluctuations.

Ireland is relatively unusual in the EU context in that borrowers have an absolute legal right to repay their loan early as set out in Section 121(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1995. However Section 121 goes on to recognise that while a consumer will not be liable to pay an early redemption fee with respect to a variable rate loan, this exemption from redemption fees does not apply where the rate of interest is fixed or is fixed for one year.

The Deputy may wish to note that as part of the preparations for the EU White Paper on Mortgage Market Integration, which was published in December 2007, the Mortgage Industry and Consumer Expert Group agreed that lenders should receive a compensation when a consumer repays his or her fixed rate loan earlier than at its contractual termination.

There are significant benefits for both individual householders and for the stability of the housing and financial sector overall from greater take-up of fixed rate mortgage and it would not be advisable to embark on any course of action which could impact adversely on the cost and availability of fixed rate mortgages in the future.

On 26 March 2009, I undertook, in this House, to contact the Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator on the subject of customers who wish to switch from a fixed rate mortgage. On foot of that my Department has contacted the Financial Regulator to request confirmation that the redemption costs for switching from a fixed rate mortgage cover funding costs only and that there are no other costs included in these charges. The Financial Regulator has confirmed to my Department that it is looking into this matter and that it will revert shortly. I will advise the Deputy of the outcome of the Financial Regulator's consideration of this matter.

Departmental Programmes.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will supply a run down of various Government investment in the Cahir electoral area, County Tipperary, since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15159/09]

Individual projects are a matter for the relevant responsible Departments. The Deputy may obtain specific information for the Cahir electoral area from the relevant Departments.

Tax Code.

Joe Costello

Question:

178 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend the Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 to ensure that the daily requirement for residency in the State for tax purposes is 24 hours not a portion of the day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15165/09]

Section 15 Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 amended section 819 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to provide that, for 2009 and subsequent years, an individual is regarded as present in the State for a day if he or she is present in the State at any time during that day.

This provision amended the previous tax residence rule, denoted as the "Cinderella rule", under which individuals could be in the State on a given day but not present for that day for tax purposes provided they arrive after midnight and depart before the following midnight.

The purpose of the amendment was to make it more difficult for an individual to arrange his or her affairs to become non-resident for tax purposes. The Deputy's proposal would make it easier for individuals to be non-resident. As a result, I do not intend making the suggested amendment.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

179 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will permit funds to write off rebates due to them on foot of redundancy payments against tax due, in view of the fact that the delays in repaying is driving firms out of business. [15177/09]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the 60% statutory redundancy rebates that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment administer.

Taxes paid by employers include tax levied directly on the employer such as Income Tax or Corporation Tax but also fiduciary taxes such as PAYE Income Tax, Income Levy or VAT levied on the employees or customers of that employer. Also relevant would be levies and contributions collected from employees such as PRSI and Health Levy.

In the circumstances and given that there is no provision in taxation, social welfare or health legislation to offset tax liabilities in the manner suggested, it is not possible to offset the 60% statutory redundancy rebates against a tax liability due to Revenue.

I am, however, advised by Revenue that where a business is awaiting a statutory redundancy rebate and it is experiencing particular difficulties in meeting its tax payment obligations because of a delay in receiving the repayment, then subject to satisfactory evidence being provided of the repayment due and its quantum, Revenue will be accommodating in deferring for a reasonable period collection or enforcement action that would otherwise ensue in the event of delayed payment of tax.

Tax Collection.

Michael Ring

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [15178/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer in question contacted his local tax district in March 2009 to inform them that he had received payment of a pension from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The pension covered the period from July 2008 to March 2009 and was subjected to the PAYE emergency tax procedures, as the taxpayer had not applied for a PAYE Tax Credit Certificate when he became entitled to receive the pension. A PAYE Tax Credit Certificate has been issued to the taxpayer for 2009 and, once processed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the emergency procedures will cease and have the effect of refunding some or all of the tax suffered by the taxpayer.

The reason that the taxpayer's affairs cannot be fully regularised until the end of 2009 is that a return of all income earned in 2008 will be required which should include the portion of his pension earned in 2008 but not paid by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food until 2009 and subjected to tax in 2009. In order to regularise the taxpayer's affairs it will be necessary to review both the 2008 and 2009 tax years as some of the pension paid in 2009 is properly assessable in 2008 while the tax deducted is due in 2009. This review cannot be carried out until the end of 2009.

Pension Provisions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

181 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if persons who have applied for early retirement due to ill health but are not approved by 1 May 2009 will be forced to postpone 90% of their lump sum until retirement age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15233/09]

Where persons who have applied for early retirement due to ill-health have not had their applications approved by 1 May 2009, the terms of the benefits of ill- health retirements will not be affected by the proposed Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement.

Richard Bruton

Question:

182 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on exempting members of an association (details supplied) from the pension levy, under section 8 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15236/09]

I have no proposals to exempt members of the Association referred to by the Deputy from the pension-related deduction.

However, in the recent Supplementary Budget, I announced a change to the structure of the deduction which will exempt the first 15,000 euro of earnings. This should benefit the group of public servants in question, especially those with no other public service employment.

I also undertook, during the Dáil debate on the pension-related deduction, to have the situation of this group of public servants examined to see if there are exceptional circumstances in their case. That examination is in progress.

Financial Services Regulation.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

183 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Finance if he will instruct the financial institutions, who have not already done so, to allow people to change from fixed rate mortgages to variable rate without penalties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15254/09]

The Deputy's question refers to the redemption fee applied by mortgage providers in circumstances that a customer seeks to break a fixed rate mortgage. Mortgage lenders in Ireland generally seek to recover costs of funds when a borrower with a fixed rate mortgage agreement seeks to terminate the agreement some time before the term agreed.

Traditionally redemption fees were articulated with the institution specifying that a given number of months interest would apply. Overtime, they have generally moved towards a mechanism which reflects the difference between the contracted rate and current market rates applied to the amount outstanding for the remaining fixed period. Where a redemption fee is payable on a housing loan the mortgage agent has to inform the consumer about it at the outset.

Compensation sought by the lender reflects the cost to the institution of obtaining the funds on the capital market at a certain cost, as against selling them on at a related price. Institutions fund the fixed rate agreement through funding on markets, generally through interest rate swaps. This allows them to hedge their exposure to interest rate fluctuations. Where the borrower seeks to repay the loan before the contractually agreed fixed term in an environment where interest rates have declined, the institution is exposed to re-investment risk, i.e., it will be unable to re-lend the funds at a rate related to their cost, due to intervening market fluctuations.

Ireland is relatively unusual in the EU context in that borrowers have an absolute legal right to repay their loan early as set out in Section 121(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1995. However Section 121 goes on to recognise that while a consumer will not be liable to pay an early redemption fee with respect to a variable rate loan, this exemption from redemption fees does not apply where the rate of interest is fixed or is fixed for one year.

The Deputy may wish to note that as part of the preparations for the EU White Paper on Mortgage Market Integration, which was published in December 2007, the Mortgage Industry and Consumer Expert Group agreed that lenders should receive a compensation when a consumer repays his or her fixed rate loan earlier than at its contractual termination.

There are significant benefits for both individual householders and for the stability of the housing and financial sector overall from greater take-up of fixed rate mortgage and it would not be advisable to embark on any course of action which could impact adversely on the cost and availability of fixed rate mortgages in the future.

On 26 March 2009, I undertook, in this House, to contact the Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator on the subject of customers who wish to switch from a fixed rate mortgage. On foot of that my Department has contacted the Financial Regulator to request confirmation that the redemption costs for switching from a fixed rate mortgage cover funding costs only and that there are no other costs included in these charges. The Financial Regulator has confirmed to my Department that it is looking into this matter and that it will revert shortly. I will advise the Deputy of the outcome of the Financial Regulator's consideration of this matter.

Tax Collection.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

184 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the increasing annoyance and frustration felt by accountants and other such professions regarding their relationship with the Revenue Commissioners in so far as bureaucratic procedures are concerned; his views on whether there is too much bureaucracy involved; if such bureaucracy will be reduced without prejudice to the necessary checks and balances that are a necessary part and parcel of taxation collection measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15273/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not aware of increasing annoyance and frustration on the part of accountants.

Revenue operates a network of formal contacts with tax practitioners ranging from the Taxes Administration Liaison Committee (TALC) to local Revenue and Practitioner forums. TALC was established in 1989 and is a liaison committee between Revenue, the Irish Taxation Institute (ITI), the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies of Ireland (CCAB-I) and the Law Society of Ireland. TALC is a forum for consultation and discussion between Revenue and practitioners on a wide variety of issues concerning the administration of tax in Ireland and meets regularly throughout the year. Regular meetings at Regional and District level between Revenue staff and local tax practitioner and their representatives further support TALC dialogue. Given such a wide network of contacts, Revenue would have expected to be made aware of such annoyance and frustration, but this is not the case. TALC produces practical suggestions for improved administration on an ongoing basis. For example, at the TALC meeting on 17 April, streamlined processes for issuing tax refunds to businesses were discussed and agreed.

In recent years Revenue has made many charges in the way it does business:

The Revenue Online Service (ROS) now allows tax accountants to file tax returns and pay their taxes on line. This has greatly streamlined the whole business of tax filing, the main point of contact between Revenue and tax professionals.

Revenue has simplified tax administration; for example, reducing the number of VAT returns for smaller businesses.

A new service, the Revenue Technical Service was set up to answer difficult tax queries from tax practitioners. Many more examples of simplification could be given. In 2006, Revenue surveyed small and medium-sized businesses and found that 84% of respondents were either "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the service they get from Revenue. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers/World Bank report "Paying Taxes 2009-The Global Picture", Ireland is the sixth ‘easiest' country (out of 181 countries surveyed) in which to pay taxes.

While there is always room for improvement, I'm satisfied that Revenue is alert to the needs of business and has mechanisms in place to identify those needs, and is willing to respond where possible having regard to the necessary checks and balances to ensure compliance.

However, if the Deputy is aware of a particular issue, that matter should be brought to the attention of Revenue in one of the fora mentioned above.

Pension Provisions.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

185 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if a person retiring from the public service at pension age, not an early leaver, will be liable for tax on the gratuity payment they receive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15277/09]

Finian McGrath

Question:

206 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [15743/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185 and 206 together.

Under statutory pension schemes and pension schemes approved by the Revenue Commissioners there is no liability to income tax in respect of retirement gratuities or lump sums paid to members of such schemes on retirement. Provided the individual referred to in the question is a member of such a scheme and the lump sum payment complies with Revenue rules in this area, there is no liability to income tax on the retirement lump sum payment. In this regard, it should be noted that the tax arrangements for retirement lump sums apply in respect of pension schemes in both the public and private sectors.

As I mentioned in my Budget Speech on 7 April last, the Commission on Taxation is examining various aspects of pension tax treatment, including the treatment of retirement lump sum payments and I expect to be dealing with the Commissions' recommendations in the 2010 Budget in December.

Tax Code.

Michael McGrath

Question:

186 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the issues raised by an association (details supplied) in the context of the forthcoming Finance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15289/09]

I am conscious of the difficulties being encountered in the farm machinery business in conjunction with other businesses, however, given the current Exchequer deficit position, the Budget 2009 policy decision of increasing the standard VAT rate continues to be necessary in order to support the public finances. We are borrowing to fund day to day public services which is unsustainable as future generations will be required to pay higher taxes unless we correct our public finances.

Regarding the differential in VAT rates resulting from temporary reduction in the UK standard VAT rate from 17.5% to 15% up to the end of 2009, as recognised by the farm machinery industry in their correspondence, the VAT rate is not the only factor in the price differential between North and South of the border. The weakening of sterling has had, and is having, a far more significant impact on relative prices than any VAT changes in this regard.

As a small open economy, many of our standard rated goods are imported, and cutting the VAT rate could benefit the economies from which we import more than our own. In other words, while, it might help the consumer, it would not be the most effective way of helping our own economy.

Regarding the validity of VAT registration numbers, this forms part of the checks carried out by Revenue officers, including with their counterparts in Revenue & Customs in the UK, and in Northern Ireland in particular, in connection with audits and assurance checks where risk or suspicions arise. These checks are carried out using the EU VAT Mutual Assistance Programme, which is designed specifically to tackle cross-border VAT fraud. This programme allows for exchanges of information between EU Member States in relation to VAT matters and also allows the presence of officials from a Member State in another Member State while enquiries are being carried out. These are VAT anti-fraud measures and Ireland plays a full role in the exchange of information with all other Member EU States, including the UK, with whom we have a good working relationship.

Checks of the control procedures in place between the State and Northern Ireland will continue as part of Revenue's work programmes in 2009. Revenue will continue to liaise, as appropriate, with the competent authorities in Northern Ireland, under the EU Mutual Assistance programme. Any specific allegations regarding the abuse of VAT numbers will be investigated fully. Regarding to the availability of financing, the Deputy will be aware that as part of the recapitalisation package announced on 11 February 2009, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland reconfirmed their December commitment to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10%. AIB and Bank of Ireland have also committed to public campaigns to actively promote small business lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. Compliance with this commitment will be monitored by the Financial Regulator. The banks will make quarterly reports, with the first report to end March 2009 to be submitted by end April 2009.

Government Departments and State agencies have engaged with banks and business representatives in a variety of settings on issues surrounding the flow of credit for business. A formal structure for those contacts on an ongoing basis will be finalised shortly.

An independent review of credit availability, funded by the banks but managed jointly by the banks, Government and business representatives is also underway and will be completed shortly. Amongst the issues covered by this review will be changes in bank lending, repayment terms and a comparison with customer experiences prior to the onset of the financial crisis. I am satisfied that this review, along with the quarterly reports from the recapitalised institutions, will give a clear picture regarding the flow of credit in the Irish economy, which will inform future policy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

187 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the programme changes introduced in the 2009 Estimates published on 14 October 2008 designed to make savings in expenditure in 2009; and the amount of savings achieved in each programme within each Department. [15290/09]

The detailed 2009 expenditure allocations will be published in the Revised Estimates of Public Services 2009 tomorrow, Thursday 23 April. These allocations reflect all changes which impact on Departmental expenditure in 2009.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

188 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will explain the tax treatment of redundancy payments, particularly with regard to the income levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15396/09]

Pat Breen

Question:

209 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the way the recent increases in the income levy will be applied; if it will apply to compulsory and voluntary redundancy payments; if so, if he has plans to reverse this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15821/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

210 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person who took voluntary redundancy at the end of December 2008 will be subject to the income levy rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15853/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188, 209 and 210 together.

The position is that statutory redundancy payments are exempt from both income tax and income levy.

In addition, ex-gratia redundancy payments in excess of the statutory redundancy amount are exempt from income tax and the income levy, subject to certain limits, namely—

a basic exemption of €10,160 plus €765 per complete year of service in excess of statutory redundancy; or

if more beneficial, the Standard Capital Superannuation Benefit, which is 1/15th of the person's annual income (average of the last three years) for each year of employment less any tax-free lump sum which is received or receivable under any approved or statutory pension scheme.

The basic exemption from income tax and income levy as outlined above can be further increased by up to €10,000 if the person is not a member of an occupational pension scheme. This can only be claimed if the person has not made any claim in respect of a lump sum received in the previous 10 tax years.

The amount of redundancy payment in excess of whichever exemption applies is liable to both income tax and income levy. The income levy rates announced in the Supplementary Budget, namely, 1.67% on the first €75,036, 3% on the next €25,064, 3.33% on the next €74,880, 4.67% on the next €75,140 and 5% on the remainder, apply to the whole of a person's 2009 income.

With regard to an individual who took voluntary redundancy at the end of December and received the termination or lump sum payment associated with that redundancy before 1 January 2009, the person will not be liable to the income levy on that payment. However if the termination payment was actually made on any date on or after 1 January 2009, then the person is liable to the income levy on that payment on the basis set out above.

The treatment of taxable redundancy payments paid prior to 1 May will be considered in the context of the preparation of the forthcoming Finance Bill.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

189 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 7 of 8 April 2009, if he has received clarification of the comments made by CIROC in respect of pension arrangements which are inconsistent with public policy and tax laws; and the steps he will take to address these matters. [15402/09]

In my reply to the previous question raised by the Deputy on this issue, I indicated that my Department was examining the matters raised in the CIROC report. Following that consideration, and in light of discussions between my Department and the Revenue Commissioners, the matters raised in the report are to be taken up by the Commissioners with the institutions involved, with a view to ensuring that the practices concerned are in compliance with pensions tax provisions and with tax law generally.

Tax Collection.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

190 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the number of DIRT free deposit accounts operated here by the banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15417/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

191 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the number of DIRT free deposits accounts which were opened in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15418/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 and 191 together.

Section 34 of the Finance Act 2007 introduced a new scheme to allow the operation of Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) exempt savings accounts subject to two conditions: (a) the account holder must be aged 65 years of age or over or be permanently incapacitated; and (b) their total income must not exceed the relevant exemption threshold, i.e. €20,000 (for an individual) or €40,000 (for a married couple) in 2008.

Provisional figures show that in 2008 73,738 DIRT free deposit accounts were operated. Of these, 46,528 accounts were held with Banks and the balance were held with either Credit Unions or An Post. The equivalent figures for 2007 were 68,855 and 20,591.

Tax Yield.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

192 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue received by the Exchequer from DIRT tax each year from 2002 to 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15419/09]

The following table sets out the net yield from Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) collected from 2002 to 2008:

Year

€m

2002

206.5

2003

153.3

2004

143.6

2005

167.1

2006

254.4

2007

471.8

2008

653.8

Tax Collection.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

193 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the efforts made by his Department and the Revenue Commissioners to inform people about their potential entitlement to a DIRT free deposit account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15420/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that when DIRT exempt accounts were introduced in April 2007, the initiative was widely publicised. Publicity measures included the production and dissemination of two information leaflets; the first DE1 was for account holders who qualified on the basis of being aged 65 years, while the second DE2 was for those who qualified on the basis of permanent incapacitation. These leaflets provided comprehensive information for qualifying taxpayers on how to have interest credited without deduction of DIRT. The application forms and information leaflets were made available in Revenue offices and in financial institutions. In 2007, Revenue arranged for information to be issued to social welfare customers in receipt of state pensions, which resulted in 100,000 information leaflets being sent out in conjunction with other information being circulated by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

I am further informed that in 2008 Revenue produced and circulated over 2,550 information posters about DIRT exempt accounts for those aged 65 years and over. The posters were circulated for display in Citizens Information Offices, banks, post offices and in Revenue's local public offices. Irish versions of the posters were also printed and circulated. Revenue also provided briefing material to relevant interested parties including the Senior Times magazine and Age Action Ireland.

Information about DIRT exempt accounts is also available on the Revenue website,www.revenue.ie. Provisional figures show that in 2008 73,738 DIRT free deposit accounts were operated, which demonstrates the satisfactory arrangements which have been made.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

194 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the number of people who made a claim for a tax refund on becoming unemployed in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15421/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of people who made a claim for a tax refund on becoming unemployed in the years in question are as follows:

2007 — 27,652.

2008 — 44,987.

2009 (to 17 April) — 6,018.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

195 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the efforts made by his Department and the Revenue Commissioners to inform people about their potential entitlement to a tax refund if they are made unemployed during the tax year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15422/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have a range of information available to taxpayers in relation to their entitlements to claim tax refunds if they are unemployed.

The Revenue website,www.revenue.ie contains a wide range of information in relation to how claims can be made and what information customers need in order to make a claim.

At the start of each tax year, the Revenue Commissioners send all taxpayers a tax credit certificate which sets out their tax credits and their standard rate band. When sending out the 2009 tax credit certificates, the Revenue Commissioners included a booklet PAYE for Employees. This 16 page booklet about the PAYE system included 2 pages of information about changing jobs and what to do in relation to a possible tax refund if a taxpayer is out of work. The booklet was sent to over 2.2 million taxpayers in November and December 2008 in advance of the start of the tax year. The information was presented in an easy-to-read format in booklet form in order that PAYE taxpayers would use it as a handy reference guide about the tax system.

Regarding the specific question about people who become unemployed, I am advised that this is handled in a very direct way. When a person becomes unemployed, their employer provides them with Form P45 which includes information in the section titled "Important Notes for Employee" about what a taxpayer should do if unemployed and claiming a tax repayment. Taxpayers who are unemployed and claiming a tax repayment are advised to send parts 2, 3 and 4 of the Form P45, with a completed Form P50, to their local Revenue Office. I am fully satisfied with this arrangement.

Furthermore, Revenue operates a Lo Call 1890 telephone service for PAYE taxpayers taking between 6,000 and 12,000 calls per day, depending on the time of year. Information on unemployment refunds is available from the Lo Call service.

Tax Yield.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

196 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue received by the Exchequer each year from 2004 to 2008 from the 2% levy on non-life insurance policies; the amount of same which is derived from motor insurance policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15423/09]

A 2% stamp duty, which was introduced in 1982, is charged on most non-life insurance premiums and is part of the normal stamp duty system. The exceptions are re-insurance, voluntary health insurance, marine, aviation and transit insurance and export credit insurance. The yield to the Exchequer from 2004 to 2008 was as follows:

Year

Yield

€m

2004

97.7

2005

90.8

2006

88.3

2007

85.4

2008

80.1

It is not possible to distinguish between the different types of insurance business within the yield from the non-life levy. The purpose of the non-life levy is to broaden the tax base, while increasing the sources of revenue available to address the current pressures on the public finances.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

197 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of budgetary projections for 2009, 2010 and 2011, including all appropriations-in-aid, for expenditure receipts and balances; and if he will explain the spike in this figure for 2009, with corresponding figures for 2007 and 2008. [15467/09]

Budgetary projections for 2009, 2010 and 2011 are broken down in the following table and are consistent with the figures published in Supplementary Budget 2009, published on 7 April. The corresponding figures for 2007 and 2008 are also included in the table. The figures from 2007 are taken from the Appropriation Account 2007 and the Finance Account 2007, while the 2008 figures are Department of Finance estimates.

2007 Outturn

2008 Provisional

2009 Estimate

2010 Estimate

2011 Estimate

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Gross Voted Current Expenditure

48,607

53,475

56,588

56,757

56,111

Non-Voted (Central Fund) Current Expenditure

3,937

3,936

5,855

7,796

9,304

Gross Current Expenditure

52,544

57,411

62,442

64,553

65,415

less Current Appropriations-in-Aid and balances

11,647

12,653

16,077

13,816

13,531

Net Current Expenditure

40,897

44,758

46,365

50,737

51,884

Gross Voted Capital Expenditure

7,819

8,920

7,329

6,621

5,491

Non-Voted Capital Expenditure

853

797

871

832

825

Payment to the NPRF

1,516

1,690

3,000

1,449

Gross Capital Expenditure

10,187

11,407

11,200

7,453

7,765

Less Capital Appropriations-in-Aid

92

473

465

481

479

Net Current Expenditure

10,096

10,934

10,735

6,972

7,286

The figure for Appropriations-in-Aid increases significantly from €12.7 billion in 2008 to 16.1 billion in 2009 primarily due to the increase in Social Insurance Fund (SIF) expenditure associated with the rise in the Live Register: this increased expenditure is financed fully from SIF resources (including the accumulated SIF surplus) in 2009, and these resources are recorded as Appropriations-in-Aid. However, from 2010 the surplus is eliminated and a cumulative deficit is forecast for the SIF. The total SIF resources available to meet SIF expenditure will therefore be lower than in 2009, with the Appropriation-in-Aid figure being reduced accordingly.

The following table shows a percentage breakdown of Appropriations-in-Aid for 2009. The SIF related Appropriation-in-Aid includes income for 2009 and a drawdown of the accumulated surplus.

2009

%

SIF related Appropriations-in-Aid

63

Health Levy

12

Pension-Related Deduction*

5

Other Appropriations-in-Aid

20

Total

100

*€80 million of the Pension-related deduction impacts on Gross Expenditure through the Local Government Fund.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

198 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if an exemption on mortgage income tax relief will be granted when a couple has a home loan for more than seven years but in the past couple of years had the rate of interest fixed by the lending institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15577/09]

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

199 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the mortgage of persons (details supplied) in County Cork regarding abolishment of mortgage interest relief after seven years. [15578/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 199 together.

The position is that Mortgage Interest Relief for principal private residencies will cease for all mortgages from the 1st May, where the mortgage holder has been in receipt of mortgage interest tax relief for more than seven years. The exception to this rule is where a new loan has been taken out in the last seven years for the purpose of buying a new home or for the purposes of repair, development or improvement of their current home.

The fixing of the rate of interest on an existing mortgage does not, in itself, constitute a new qualifying loan. In the circumstances outlined in both of these questions, no exemption from the abolition of the relief is available.

Financial Services Regulation.

Jack Wall

Question:

200 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views on correspondence (details supplied); the action he will take to address the matter of the lack of available funds to small and medium enterprises; if his attention has been drawn to the black market effect of cash in hand that the lack of such funding will create; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15579/09]

Government Departments and State agencies have engaged with banks and business representatives in a variety of settings on issues surrounding the flow of credit for business. A formal structure for those contacts on an ongoing basis will be finalised shortly.

A Code of Conduct for Business Lending to Small and Medium Enterprises was published by the Financial Regulator on 13 February and took effect on 13 March. This code will apply to all regulated banks and building societies and will facilitate access to credit, promote fairness and transparency and ensure that banks will assist borrowers in meeting their obligations, or otherwise deal with an arrears situation in an orderly and appropriate manner. The business lending code includes a requirement for banks to offer their business customers annual review meetings, to inform customers of the basis for decisions made and to have written procedures for the proper handling of complaints. Where a customer gets into difficulty the banks will give the customer reasonable time and seek to agree an approach to resolve problems and to provide appropriate advice. This is a statutory code and banks will be required to demonstrate compliance.

In addition, as part of the recapitalisation package announced on 11 February, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland reconfirmed their December commitment to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. If the mortgage lending is not taken up, then the extra capacity will be available to SMEs. AIB and Bank of Ireland have also committed to public campaigns to actively promote small business lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. Compliance with this commitment will be monitored by the Financial Regulator. The banks will make quarterly reports, with the first report to end March 2009 to be submitted by end April 2009. Officials from my Department are also in regular contact with the banks concerned in relation to their progress on implementing these measures.

An independent review of credit availability, funded by the banks but managed jointly by the banks, Government and business representatives is also underway and will be completed shortly. Amongst the issues covered by this review will be changes in bank lending, repayment terms and a comparison with customer experiences prior to the onset of the financial crisis. I am satisfied that this review, along with the quarterly reports from the recapitalised institutions, will give a clear picture regarding the flow of credit in the Irish economy which will inform future policy.

Departmental Agencies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

201 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance when he will extend the special Civil Service incentive career break scheme and shorter working year scheme to the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15627/09]

The special civil service incentive career break scheme and shorter working year scheme are initially being implemented for the civil service. Discussions have taken place at official level on wider application of these, or equivalent schemes, to other appropriate areas of the public service. It is a matter for the relevant Minister with responsibility for staff in those public service areas as to whether the extension of these schemes is appropriate in those areas.

Job Creation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

202 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if he has examined ways in which to encourage persons who have investments abroad to redirect their investments into the domestic economy in order to compensate for falling foreign direct investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15647/09]

Ireland will continue to be successful in securing investment and job creation, whether by domestic or foreign investors, if the overall climate for investment is favourable in comparison to other countries. This Government through its policies, including the development of a relatively low taxation regime for business, has created an attractive environment for investment. Significant additional support continues to be made available to investors, primarily through agencies under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment such as the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland, which encourage investment, by both domestic and foreign investors.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P45 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15650/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Form P45 is issued by the employer and not by Revenue. On the 23rd March 2009 Revenue wrote to the employer regarding the matter. As no reply was received, and in the absence of receiving Form 45 from the employer, Revenue has decided to contact the taxpayer to obtain this information. The employer will also be contacted again in an effort to finalise this matter.

Departmental Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

204 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the number of uncertified sick days taken within all sections of his Department for the years 2007 and 2008 and to date in 2009; the number of employees who have taken uncertified sick days in the categories one to ten days and over ten days; the number of uncertified sick days taken Fridays and Mondays; the number of persistent offenders with regard to uncertified sick days who have been sent for an independent doctor's opinion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15672/09]

Under the Civil Service Sick Leave Regulations, sick leave for single or two-day absences in total not exceeding seven days in any period of twelve months may be granted without a medical certificate. If the number of day's absence without medical certificate in any period of twelve months, reckoning backwards from the date of the latest absence, exceeds seven in the aggregate, the staff member may face disciplinary measures e.g. loss of annual leave/pay.

Regular monitoring of the number of uncertified sick days taken by each individual is carried out throughout the year. For those staff members who have taken 5 days uncertified sick leave over any period of twelve months, a notification is issued by the Human Resources Unit to the staff member via their supervisor advising them that they are approaching the limits which are used as the thresholds in relation to access to promotion, payment of increments, eligibility to transfer, etc. It must be emphasised that in no circumstances can an individual take more than 7 days uncertified sick leave in any twelve month period.

Year

Total Number of staff serving in the Department (full-time & part time)

Total Number of Staff Members on Uncertified Sick Leave

Total Number of Days Uncertified Sick Leave

Average Number of days

2007

691

296

569.69

1.92

2008

672

285

617.30

2.17

2009*

666

95

138.00

1.45

*Please note the figures for 2009 are up to 31 March.

While the Deputy's concern with absences before or immediately after a weekend is understood, it is possibly important to realise that many of the Department's staff are employed on less than a full time basis e.g. split week. Accordingly the significance of Monday/Friday absences may be less than otherwise would be the case. In the timescale given, it is not possible to identify the number of sick days taken on a Friday or Monday in each of the years concerned. However, the Deputy may wish to know that the Comptroller & Auditor General is currently undertaking an examination on Managing Sickness Absences in the Civil Service.

Individual instances of sick leave (uncertified and certified) are in certain situations referred to the Chief Medical Officer for the Civil Service, who is independent in the implementation of his functions. The Chief Medical Officer has however, recommended that repeated short term absences should, in the first instance at least, be dealt with through normal internal management procedures.

Pension Provisions.

Michael McGrath

Question:

205 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that part-time fire-fighters, who are not members of a pension scheme, are being charged the public sector pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15708/09]

Those part-time or retained firefighters who are not members of the Local Government Superannuation Scheme are eligible for a payment in lieu in the form of a non-contributory retirement gratuity arrangement. The pension-related deduction also applies to those eligible for such a payment. However, in the recent Supplementary Budget, I announced a change to the structure of the deduction which will exempt the first 15,000 euro of earnings. This should benefit retained firefighters, especially those with no other public service employment.

Questions No. 206 answered with Question No. 185.

Departmental Staff.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

207 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Finance his views on reallocating staff from other Departments and agencies to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service in an attempt to alleviate the workload currently being experienced by MABS personnel in offices here due to the economic downturn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15760/09]

In the light of constraints on the public finances and the need to maximise the use of resources, it is necessary to develop appropriate redeployment mechanisms so that staff can be moved from activities which are no longer priority to areas of greater need. In my Supplementary Budget 2009 I stated that I intended to allocate and redeploy staff in the civil service to areas of highest priority.

In relation to the allocation of staff to MABS, which is not part of the civil or public sector, it is a matter for the parent Department, in consultation with my Department, to establish the priority areas in this context, the appropriate level of resources needed and how they might be provided.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

208 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax foregone by the State in the past three years for which figures are available in respect of the off-setting of rental income against mortgage interest on foreign property with a breakdown by commercial and non-commercial property, and with a breakdown by property location. [15793/09]

I assume that the Deputy is enquiring about the amount of tax forgone by allowing interest relief on borrowings to finance the purchase, improvement or repair of foreign property to be set off as an expense against the rental income from that property.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as personal income tax returns of foreign rental income are not required to separately identify claims for interest relief from claims for other expenses such as repairs, insurance and management expenses there is, therefore, no statistical basis on which they can provide an estimate of cost relating to the amounts of interest relief involved.

Questions Nos. 209 and 210 answered with Question No. 188.

National Assets Management Agency.

Joe Costello

Question:

211 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the talks he had engaged in with the EU Commission or Central Bank prior to the supplementary Budget on 7 April; if the EU had given approval or encouragement for the establishment of the National Assets Management Agency; if the EU had given approval for State aid for the initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15879/09]

On 25 February 2009, the European Commission provided guidance on the treatment of asset relief measures by member states. The Commission considers that a common European approach is presently needed to deal with the treatment of impaired assets, to make sure that foreseeable losses are disclosed and properly handled and banks can use their capital to resume their normal function of lending to the economy instead of fearing they would need this capital to cushion against possible losses. Guidelines were also issued by the European Central Bank on bank asset support measures.

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) initiative announced on 7 April will be developed and implemented within the common EU framework detailed in the European Commission Guidance and guidelines issued by the European Central Bank.

My officials have already started the cooperation with the European Commission to ensure that the design and the implementation of the NAMA proposal will be consistent with EU requirements. The measure will be formally notified to the European Commission under State aid rules in due course.

Joe Costello

Question:

212 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance if funding of the National Assets Management Agency will constitute part of the national debt; if he has consulted with the EU Commission on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15880/09]

In the Supplementary Budget I announced the formation of a National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), which will operate as an independent commercial entity under the aegis of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). As I mentioned in the Supplementary Budget speech, assets will be transferred from the banks to the Agency with the purpose of ensuring that the banks have a clean bill of health, their balance sheets strengthened and uncertainty over bad debts is reduced. This will underpin a sustained flow of credit on a commercial basis to individuals, households and businesses in the real economy.

The assets will be acquired by the issuing of Government Bonds to the banks. While this will result in a significant increase in gross national debt, this will be offset by the value of the assets purchased. The cost of servicing the debt will be met from the income accruing from the purchased assets, and the debt incurred will be repaid from funds raised from the eventual disposal of the assets. Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission in relation to the issues surrounding the establishment of NAMA.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

213 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he, the Central Bank or the Financial Regulator have given instructions to the management at Anglo Irish Bank with respect to the treatment of distressed loans; if the treatment of distressed loans and debtors has changed since the issuance of the bank guarantee on 30 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15897/09]

Anglo Irish Bank is being run on an arms length commercial basis. Consequently, normal commercial decisions, which include those relating to treatment of distressed loans and debtors and overall credit management and control, are a matter for the Board of Anglo. As with other credit institutions, the Financial Regulator supervises Anglo's credit management processes in line with regulatory requirements.

The terms of the guarantee Scheme did not provide for specific changes to the treatment of distressed loans and debtors of covered institutions, but, as the Deputy will be aware, a range of reporting and commercial conduct requirements were introduced as part the guarantee Scheme, to ensure compliance with the objectives of the Scheme, and as with all covered institutions, Anglo is subject to these.

I would note that the terms applying to debtors of Anglo Irish Bank were unaffected by the introduction of the guarantee Scheme, or the subsequent taking into public ownership of Anglo. As I have stated previously, as with any commercial bank, Anglo will pursue all loan agreements to their full extent, to maximise the return from the bank's loan book.

I would also note that as part of the Government's Bank Customers Package, codes of practice on business lending and mortgage arrears have been put in place on a statutory basis and published by the Financial Regulator to ensure that all banks operating here deal in an honest way with customers and consumers and that they are treated in a reputable and respectable fashion.

National Assets Management Agency.

Joan Burton

Question:

214 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if loans at Anglo Irish Bank are to be included in the remit of the National Assets Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15898/09]

The position on the inclusion of loans at Anglo Irish Bank in the remit of the National Asset Management Agency will be considered having regard to Anglo's particular circumstances and the business planning process currently under way. All actions in relation to Anglo will be closely co-ordinated with the initiatives being taken in relation to the sector as a whole.

Anglo will remain as a going concern, being run on an arms length commercial basis. The Government has committed to further support measures for Anglo as necessary, consistent with EU State aid requirements.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

215 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken action or put in place measures to effect the 10% reduction in all expenses other than mileage rates, as announced by him in his 7 April 2009 budget speech; when he expects this measure to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15899/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

216 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken action or put in place measures to effect the discontinuance of long service payments or increments for serving TDs, as announced by him in his 7 April 2009 budget speech; when he expects this measure to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15900/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

218 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken action or put in place measures to effect the discontinuance of the arrangement whereby Oireachtas Members who are on paid leave of absence as teachers can keep the difference between their teachers’ salary and the cost of employing a replacement, as announced by him in his 7 April 2009 budget speech; when he expects this measure to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15902/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

219 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken action or put in place measures to effect the 50% reduction in allowances paid to Oireachtas committee chairs, as announced by him in his 7 April 2009 budget speech; when he expects this measure to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15903/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

220 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken action or put in place measures to effect the discontinuance of payments to whips and vice-chairs of Oireachtas committees; when he expects this measure to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15904/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

221 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made with reducing the number of Oireachtas committees; when he expects these reductions to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15905/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215, 216 and 218 to 221, inclusive, together.

Work on the various issues raised by the Deputy is progressing. In some instances legislation is required. It is expected that the initiatives in question will be implemented during this Dáil term.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Question:

217 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken action or put in place measures to effect the discontinuance of the arrangement whereby former Ministers are paid ministerial pensions while they are still Members of the Oireachtas, as announced by him in his 7 April 2009 budget speech; when he expects this measure to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15901/09]

It will be necessary to change the relevant legislation to give effect to this measure. My Department is in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General on the matter.

Questions Nos. 218 to 221, inclusive, answered with Question No. 215.

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

222 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance when he will publish details of the public service early retirement scheme for public servants aged 50 years or over as announced in his 7 April 2009 budget speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15906/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

224 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the public service early retirement scheme for public servants aged 50 years or over, as announced in his 7 April 2009 budget speech, could undermine certain areas such as the gardaí, by encouraging many skilled senior staff to retire early without adequate replacements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15908/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 224 together.

Details of the recently announced Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement, ISER, in certain areas of the public service were outlined in Annex D of my Financial Statement of 7 April last. Officials of my Department are finalising the operating details of the Scheme for the civil service. The civil service circular, which will be issuing very shortly, will be used as a template for the operation of the Scheme in other appropriate areas of the public service, although there may have to be modifications to accommodate the particular needs of those areas.

In general, the Scheme will be subject to local management arrangements and controls to ensure that its operation does not undermine the effective delivery of services to the public. The Scheme will not apply to members of An Garda Síochána or where any other arrangements for early retirement already exist. In addition, it will not apply where the recently announced moratorium on recruitment and promotion allows retiring staff to be replaced.

Official Engagements.

Joan Burton

Question:

223 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding his tour of financial capitals to restore Ireland’s international reputation; the number of elected representatives and civil servants who accompanied him on this trip; the steps that were taken to ensure that costs for the trip were minimised in view of the challenging Exchequer position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15907/09]

As I indicated in my Budget speech, I intend to visit financial capitals around Europe in order to communicate details of the resolute actions being taken by the Government to address the difficulties in the public finances and the domestic banking sector, but I have not yet done so. I did, as part of my St Patrick's Day engagements in London, meet with representatives of the financial services industry and the financial services media in order to outline the Government's determination to address the current difficulties. On that occasion, I was accompanied for part of the visit by my Private Secretary, two officials from my Department and an official from the National Treasury Management Agency.

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 222.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

225 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the reason, in view of the fact that he admitted shortly before the 7 April 2009 budget that the 0.5% increase in the VAT rate in October 2008 had been a failure, he did not take the opportunity in the supplementary budget to reverse this measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15909/09]

As the Deputy is aware, the 0.5% increase in the standard VAT rate from 21% to 21.5% was introduced in the 2009 Budget as part of a general package of revenue-raising measures to fund key public services. The UK Government, as part of a fiscal stimulus package, then reduced their standard VAT rate from 17.5% to 15% on a temporary basis with effect from 1 December 2008 to 31 December 2009.

It would appear that the timing of Ireland's VAT increase, given the subsequent temporary reduction in the UK rate, may have sent the wrong signal to consumers. However, given the current Exchequer deficit position, the Budget 2009 policy decision of increasing the VAT rate continues to be necessary in order to support the public finances.

We are borrowing to fund day to day public services which is unsustainable as future generations will be required to pay higher taxes unless we correct our public finances. As a small open economy, many of our standard rated goods are imported, and cutting the VAT rate could benefit the economies from which we import more than our own. In other words, while, it might help the consumer, it would not be the most effective way of helping our own economy.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

226 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the progress with the recapitalisation or other action with a building society (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15910/09]

The building society to which the Deputy refers is covered under the Government's guarantee scheme. This has led to increased scrutiny and oversight of the operations of the building society and to increased engagement with its management including with regard to the institution's capital position.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government announced on 7 April 2009 its intention to establish a National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). Assets will be transferred from participating institutions to NAMA with the purpose of ensuring that relevant institutions have a clean bill of health, their balance sheets are strengthened and uncertainty over bad debts is reduced.

The Government will consider the position of relevant institutions on an individual basis in the light of the proposed establishment of NAMA, the capital requirements of the institutions concerned and the requirement to protect the position of the taxpayer. In bringing forward the necessary legislation to establish NAMA and the details that will govern its operation, further discussions will be undertaken with the relevant institutions including the institution referred to by the Deputy where its participation in NAMA and its future capital position will be discussed.

Joan Burton

Question:

227 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made with the recapitalisation or other action with a building society (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15911/09]

The building society to which the Deputy refers is covered under the Government's guarantee Scheme. This has led to increased scrutiny and oversight of the operations of the building society and to increased engagement with its management including with regard to the institution's capital position.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government announced on 7 April 2009 its intention to establish a National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). Assets will be transferred from participating institutions to NAMA with the purpose of ensuring that relevant institutions have a clean bill of health, their balance sheets are strengthened and uncertainty over bad debts is reduced.

The Government will consider the position of relevant institutions on an individual basis in the light of the proposed establishment of NAMA, the capital requirements of the institutions concerned and the requirement to protect the position of the taxpayer. In bringing forward the necessary legislation to establish NAMA and the details that will govern its operation, further discussions will be undertaken with the relevant institutions including the institution referred to by the Deputy where its participation in NAMA and its future capital position will be discussed.

Joan Burton

Question:

228 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made with the recapitalisation or other action with a bank (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15912/09]

The bank to which the Deputy refers is covered under the Government's guarantee Scheme. This has led to increased scrutiny and oversight of the operations of the institution and to increased engagement with its management including with regard to the institution's capital position.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government announced on 7 April 2009 its intention to establish a National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). Assets will be transferred from participating institutions to NAMA with the purpose of ensuring that relevant institutions have a clean bill of health, their balance sheets are strengthened and uncertainty over bad debts is reduced. The Deputy will be aware that the institution in question is in a strong capital position and is not subject to the same level of concern in relation to asset quality as other institutions.

However, the Government will consider the position of relevant institutions on an individual basis in the light of the proposed establishment of NAMA, the capital requirements of the institutions concerned and the requirement to protect the position of the taxpayer. In bringing forward the necessary legislation to establish NAMA and the details that will govern its operation, further discussions will be undertaken with the relevant institutions including the institution referred to by the Deputy where its participation in NAMA and its future capital position will be discussed.

Joan Burton

Question:

229 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on suggestions from the credit union sector that credit unions contribute to Exchequer funding needs through the placement of surplus funds through the National Treasury Management Agency as investments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15913/09]

I would like to draw to the Deputy's attention that it is open to credit unions to invest in government bonds, which are issued by the National Treasury Management Agency. Government bonds are fixed-term, fixed-rate investment instruments which are part of the National Debt.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joe Costello

Question:

230 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the legal provisions for the transfer of cash to a bank outside this jurisdiction; the restrictions on transfer of this cash back to Ireland; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that finance companies (details supplied) facilitate such transactions; if this may constitute money laundering under the act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15915/09]

Any person who carries on the business of money transmission is subject to the money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and accordingly is required to identify their customers, keep records, train staff and report suspicious transactions to the Garda Síochána and to the Revenue Commissioners. Money transmitters are also subject to EU Regulation 1781/2006 which requires that money transfers be accompanied by the identity of the sender including name, address and account number. These money laundering requirements would also apply to any transfer of funds back to Ireland provided that the institution making the transfer is located in another EU Member State or in a country which has implemented the relevant recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering — the main international anti money laundering organisation.

Whether or not any particular transfer of funds by a money transmission business involves money laundering would be a matter for investigation by the Garda Síochána and ultimately for judgement by the Courts.

Money transmitters are required to be authorised by the Financial Regulator under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004. The authorisation process involves the application of a "fit and proper" test to the persons directing the business. The Financial Regulator conducts ongoing supervision of authorised businesses to ensure that they meet the requirements of the money laundering and terrorist financing provisions of the Criminal Justice Acts.

Pension Provisions.

Joe Costello

Question:

231 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance when he proposes to approve the new RTÉ pension scheme, the 50/50 risk sharing scheme; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15916/09]

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has primary responsibility for matters relating to RTÉ, including its pension schemes. However I have a role because of my responsibility for public service pension policy and for public service expenditure generally.

Under the terms of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960 (as amended) RTÉ pension schemes and arrangements are subject to the approval of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. This is similar to the provisions normally used when establishing a State body.

My understanding is that late last year a new pension arrangement of a hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution scheme was proposed and was agreed to by Management and Unions. The details of this new arrangement, including a draft Scheme, were submitted to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources seeking Ministerial approval and consent, as required under the governing legislation. This correspondence was also copied to my Department by RTÉ.

Examination of a pension scheme is a complex and detailed exercise. In addition the use of hybrid schemes in the public sector is a relatively new development. My officials are in discussion and consultation with officials in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources regarding the examination of the new RTÉ hybrid scheme and will endeavour to progress matters as soon as possible.

Denis Naughten

Question:

232 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will furnish a reply to a commitment given in the Houses of the Oireachtas on 25 February 2009 to provide the figures on the cost of including low paid workers within the pension levy; if he will explain the way he could evaluate the matter as marginal on that date and yet be unable to furnish the figures requested within two months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15922/09]

I can inform the Deputy that I have now written to him about this matter. The new public service pension-related deduction was introduced earlier this year. As you know, this was done by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 which was signed into law on 27 February 2009. The recent Supplementary Budget changed the pension-related deduction to ameliorate its effect on lower paid public servants.

During the Committee stage debate on this Bill in the Dáil, you raised the issue of public servants who might now qualify for means tested benefits as a result of paying the deduction. Our debate on that occasion made clear the need to introduce the pension-related deduction in the light of the severe budgetary constraints we are experiencing taking account of the nature and quality of public service pension terms generally.

The means tests for FIS purposes and for medical card qualification take into account the pension-related deduction for public servants. A quantification of public servants who may have means slightly above the current income thresholds is not possible but the number is not estimated to be of such a scale as to call into question the impact on the Exchequer. The recent Supplementary Budget change will also reduce any effect on these means tests qualifications.

Financial Services Regulation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

233 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if it is his intention to make provision to assist fixed rate mortgage holders who are required to pay a substantial penalty when changing to a variable rate mortgage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15925/09]

The Deputy's question refers to the redemption fee applied by mortgage providers in circumstances that a customer seeks to break a fixed rate mortgage. Mortgage lenders in Ireland generally seek to recover costs of funds when a borrower with a fixed rate mortgage agreement seeks to terminate the agreement some time before the term agreed.

Traditionally redemption fees were articulated with the institution specifying that a given number of months interest would apply. Overtime, they have generally moved towards a mechanism which reflects the difference between the contracted rate and current market rates applied to the amount outstanding for the remaining fixed period. Where a redemption fee is payable on a housing loan the mortgage agent has to inform the consumer about it at the outset.

Compensation sought by the lender reflects the cost to the institution of obtaining the funds on the capital market at a certain cost, as against selling them on at a related price. Institutions fund the fixed rate agreement through funding on markets, generally through interest rate swaps. This allows them to hedge their exposure to interest rate fluctuations. Where the borrower seeks to repay the loan before the contractually agreed fixed term in an environment where interest rates have declined, the institution is exposed to re-investment risk, i.e., it will be unable to re-lend the funds at a rate related to their cost, due to intervening market fluctuations.

Ireland is relatively unusual in the EU context in that borrowers have an absolute legal right to repay their loan early as set out in Section 121(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1995. However Section 121 goes on to recognise that while a consumer will not be liable to pay an early redemption fee with respect to a variable rate loan, this exemption from redemption fees does not apply where the rate of interest is fixed or is fixed for one year.

The Deputy may wish to note that as part of the preparations for the EU White Paper on Mortgage Market Integration, which was published in December 2007, the Mortgage Industry and Consumer Expert Group agreed that lenders should receive a compensation when a consumer repays his or her fixed rate loan earlier than at its contractual termination.

There are significant benefits for both individual householders and for the stability of the housing and financial sector overall from greater take-up of fixed rate mortgage and it would not be advisable to embark on any course of action which could impact adversely on the cost and availability of fixed rate mortgages in the future.

On 26 March 2009, I undertook, in this House, to contact the Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator on the subject of customers who wish to switch from a fixed rate mortgage. On foot of that my Department has contacted the Financial Regulator to request confirmation that the redemption costs for switching from a fixed rate mortgage cover funding costs only and that there are no other costs included in these charges. The Financial Regulator has confirmed to my Department that it is looking into this matter and that it will revert shortly. I will advise the Deputy of the outcome of the Financial Regulator's consideration of this matter.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

234 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that if a person who is eight years into their first time buyer mortgage trades up to another home they can avail of tax relief on their mortgage interest for a further seven years on their new mortgage loan. [15953/09]

The position is that mortgage interest tax relief, through the tax relief at source system, would be granted at the appropriate rate of relief for a period of 7 years where, in the circumstances outlined, a new loan is taken out on a newly purchased home. In the circumstances described, the person would now be classified as a non first time buyer and therefore would qualify for relief at a rate of 15% on the first €3,000 of interest paid per individual or €6,000 in the case of a married couple.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

235 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify his recent statement that he intends abolishing mortgage interest relief; the date from which this will take effect; and if existing recipients of the relief will be affected by this change. [15954/09]

I assume the Deputy is referring to my budget speech on 7th April where I outlined the Government's decision in relation to Mortgage Interest Relief for principal private residences. While this relief has not been abolished, with effect from 1st May 2009, its availability will be restricted to the first seven years of any qualifying loan. I also stated that, as house prices fall, the provision of Mortgage Interest Relief will be kept under review with a view to eventual abolition. The Commission on Taxation are reviewing this, along with the rest of the taxation system, and I expect to receive their recommendations later this year.

Should any future decision be taken to abolish Mortgage Interest Relief, those taxpayers that already have qualifying loans will continue to have access to the relief until the 7 year limit is reached.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Pat Breen

Question:

236 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the decision by the Russian Federal Ministry of Education not to accept documents from adoptive parents with a home study or post-place commitment from a list of ten providers; the implications of this decision for parents who have already applied; if she will expedite the outstanding post place reports to assist in this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15085/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

240 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the ten Health Service Executive regions were added to the list of home study providers blacklisted by the Government of the Russian Federation on 3 April 2009; and the steps being taken to ensure that the concerns expressed by the Russian authorities are dealt with from the point of view of inter-country adoptions. [15341/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 and 240 together.

Post placement reports in relation to adoption are a requirement of a number of countries that send children to be adopted by Irish applicants. While there is no statutory basis for such reporting, the Health Service Executive has, and continues to, facilitate the preparation of such reports.

The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has been in touch with the Health Service Executive to clarify the situation in relation to any such list of outstanding reports. The Health Service Executive has confirmed that reports continue to be supplied from all regions and that the Executive is following up in respect of reports which may be completed but not yet transmitted. However, it should be noted that responsibility for the translation and the transmission of the completed reports, in respect of children adopted from the Russian Federation, rests with the applicants.

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

237 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on proposed bonuses for management in the Health Service Executive and in particular a proposed bonus for the chief executive officer of the HSE; if a bonus has been proposed; the amount of same; if it has been approved by him and the board of the HSE; if it will be awarded; when it will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15212/09]

James Reilly

Question:

262 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on proposed bonuses for management in the Health Service Executive; the proposed bonuses to senior management and in particular a proposed bonus for the chief executive officer of the HSE; if a bonus has been proposed; the amount of same; if it has been approved by her, the board of the HSE and the Department of Finance; if it will be awarded; when it will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15211/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237 and 262 together.

It is a matter for the board of the HSE to review annually the matter of performance related award payments to the CEO and a number of senior managers in accordance with the contractual provisions applicable to the individuals involved and the provisions of the approved arrangements which govern these matters. The HSE has advised me that no determination has been reached in relation to such matters and no proposals in relation to such bonuses are currently scheduled for consideration by the Board of the HSE.

Child Abuse.

Pat Breen

Question:

238 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce a 24-hour child protection service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15213/09]

The Government and the HSE remain committed to the development of a comprehensive needs-based service for children at risk. Minister Andrews has personally chaired regular meetings between officials from his Office and senior child welfare and protection managers in the HSE aimed at improving the provision of services to children at risk. A key component of these discussions has been the provision of out of hours care.

In this context, the HSE is now putting in place a standardised national system whereby Gardaí can access an appropriate place of safety for children found to be at risk out of hours under Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. This service will conform with Child Care Regulations and with the National Foster Care Standards. The provision of this service aims to ensure that children presenting as ‘at risk' outside of normal working hours are provided with an appropriate emergency place of safety thereby reducing or eliminating social admissions of children in an acute hospital setting. Foster families are currently being recruited with a view to commencing the service on or before 1 June 2009.

In addition, and instead of developing a stand alone social work out of hours service, it has been agreed to develop alternative proposals based on a more integrated approach which builds on the HSE's existing out of hours services including GPs, acute hospital services and mental health services. This should provide a more effective and integrated service by using existing resources and strengthening the links between services such as mental health and social work to appropriately address incidents occurring outside usual working hours. The aim is to ensure that persons seeking personal social services outside normal working hours can be provided with appropriate advice, information, support and, in emergency situations, access to specialist staff, such as staff working in the areas of mental health and suicide prevention.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

239 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding inter-country adoption, in particular such adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam; the status of the agreement between the two countries; the status of persons who had been on the list of adoption before the initial agreement was terminated; the position in this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15309/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

268 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15235/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

285 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date in effecting a new bilateral adoption agreement with Vietnam; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15300/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

301 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if a delegation of officials from her Department will travel to Vietnam before the expiration on 1 May 2009 of the bilateral adoption agreement between Ireland and Vietnam to discuss the putting in place of a new bilateral agreement; when such a delegation will travel to Vietnam; if such a delegation will be accompanied by representatives from the Irish Adoption Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15511/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239, 268, 285 and 301 together.

Ireland offered to provide the Vietnamese Authorities with the text of a draft agreement as a basis for negotiations. A draft Bi-lateral Agreement for Inter-country Adoption was delivered on 6 March, 2009, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to the Vietnamese Authorities for their consideration. On 2 April, 2009, the Vietnamese Government invited a delegation from Ireland to visit Vietnam to discuss the provisions of the draft Bi-Lateral Agreement provided. The Irish delegation will travel to Hanoi on the week commencing on 20 April, 2009 (the earliest opportunity provided to meet with the relevant Vietnamese Ministries) for an intensive round of discussions on this draft Bi-lateral Agreement.

The delegation will be led by the Office of the Minister for Children who will be assisted in discussions by the Adoption Board. Channels for international discussions between Ireland and other jurisdictions are a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Discussions will be facilitated and guided locally by the Irish Embassy in Hanoi.

I would like to again reiterate my personal commitment, and the commitment of the Government, to conclude an agreement with Vietnam. As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland has a long and positive relationship with Vietnam, but I must also emphasise the need to respect the authority of that jurisdiction, having regard to the sensitive nature of discussions regarding inter-country adoption. The work to prepare for and advise the Government on this issue and the implementation of the Government's decisions is being given the highest priority. These are complex matters that require careful consideration. At all times, the Minister and the Government, and officials advising them, are guided by the need to respect and protect the best interests and rights of the child.

Question No. 240 answered with Question No. 236.

Mental Health Services.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

241 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is an inter-departmental working group or committee working on the reinvestment of funds received from the disposal of mental health hospitals. [15447/09]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

300 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if consultation with the Department of Finance on the Health Service Executive priority mental health projects to be funded from the sale of psychiatric hospitals has taken place; the percentage of the funds realised through the sale of psychiatric hospitals to be returned to mental health care services; the alternative care programme, its cost and funding for the patients of St. Loman’s Hospital and Newcastle Hospital; and if she will recruit a national director of mental health services. [15449/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 300 together.

‘A Vision for Change' the Report on the Expert Group on Mental Health recommended that a plan to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals should be drawn up and implemented, and that the resources released by these closures should be re-invested in the new mental health service infrastructure requirement. The Departments of Finance and Health and Children have agreed in principle to the release of the proceeds of the disposal of properties prior to 2006 for reinvestment in mental health capital development. The arrangements for property disposal require Department of Finance approval in each case, the lodging of the proceeds as Exchequer Extra Receipts and the re-Voting of the funds for approved projects. Disposals to date amount to over €42m and a submission detailing the projects to be funded from these disposals was received from the HSE on 12 February last. At a meeting between officials from my Department and the HSE to discuss the matter, it was agreed that the HSE would forward a revised submission to my Department and this is expected shortly.

In relation to the recruitment of a National Director of Mental Health Services, the Health Service Executive has responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. However, it has been made clear to the HSE on a number of occasions, most recently by the Independent Monitoring Group in its annual report published this week, that the most effective way to bring about the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change' would be for a senior person to be assigned at national level with specific responsibility for delivering on reform in the mental health services.

Health Services.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

242 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of refuge places for victims of domestic violence here annually for the past five years; the location of these places; and the funding allocated to each centre annually for the past five years. [15472/09]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

243 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on mandating the Health Service Executive to ensure sexual assault treatment centres are established in all regions, with on-call staffing; and the number of sexual assault centres nationwide. [15473/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 243 together.

As these are service matters they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

244 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if the forthcoming Adoption Bill will provide for the continuance of the bilateral agreement with Vietnam and the introduction of bilateral agreements with Russia and Ethiopia; if there will be provision for an inter-country adoption agency; the measures that will be adopted to reduce the delay in the assessment of applications by adoptive parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15839/09]

Finian McGrath

Question:

344 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [15851/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 344 together.

The Adoption Bill, 2009, which will give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption, was published on 23 January, 2009. A core principle of the Hague Convention is that inter-country adoption should be child-centred — that is, in all stages of the process, the child's interests must be paramount. Legislating for inter-country adoption is essential to give protection to children during the process of adoption. The Hague Convention has put in place the equivalent of a contract between States to regulate the standards that will apply in each jurisdiction. It is an additional safeguard for a receiving country like Ireland regarding the standards that are being applied in the sending country, over which we have no jurisdiction. As a receiving country, it is especially important to have some confidence in the process of consent to the adoption, the status of the child as adoptable and a guarantee of no improper financial gain from the process.

I firmly believe that legislation and, specifically, the regime of the Hague Convention provide an assurance for individual children, their families, and the State, that appropriate procedures have been followed and that the adoption was affected in the best interests of the child. As such, it is our intention that inter-country adoptions will now meet the standards of the Hague Convention.

Under the proposed new legislative regime, prospective adoptive parents will be able to adopt from countries that have ratified the Hague Convention, and from those countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement based on Hague standards. As part of the preparations for the likely passage and entry into force of these new legislative arrangements, my Office has been liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs to identify and negotiate with countries that continue to seek homes abroad for children in need of alternative care which cannot be provided domestically. We are working actively to assess the possibilities of entering into bi-lateral agreements with a small number of countries, including Ethiopia and the Russian Federation.

As regards the Russian Federation, my Office is undertaking preparatory work to consider the contents of such an agreement, including anticipating the likely requirements of the Russian Federation. While every effort will be made to conclude a bi-lateral agreement with countries from which children have traditionally been adopted by Irish applicants, in advance of any of the proposed changes in Irish law taking effect, it must be acknowledged that these matters will be determined to a considerable degree by the Governments of these sovereign States.

However, at this point in time, it is my priority to endeavour to ensure that an international bi-lateral agreement with Vietnam is put in place as soon as possible, to maintain the continuity of arrangements between Ireland and Vietnam in relation to inter-country adoption. In this regard, I am pleased to inform the House that an Irish delegation is currently in Hanoi — the earliest opportunity provided to meet with the relevant Vietnamese Ministries — for an intensive round of discussions on this draft Bi-lateral Agreement. The delegation is being led by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, who will be assisted in discussions by the Adoption Board. Ireland has a long and positive relationship with Vietnam, but I must also emphasise the need to respect the authority of that jurisdiction, having regard to the sensitive nature of discussions regarding inter-country adoption.

As the Deputy is aware, requests for assessment for inter-country adoption are continuously increasing. The Study on Inter-country Adoption, undertaken by the Children's Research Centre in Trinity College, revealed that Ireland has one of the highest rates for inter-country adoption in Europe. It is against this background that the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is continuing to work to create the appropriate legislative, policy and administrative frameworks that will ensure a well regulated regime of adoption.

A family that wishes to adopt should be recognised beforehand as being able to promote, safeguard and support the development and well-being of a child in need of adoption in a lasting manner. However, it is acknowledged that persons applying for inter-country adoption are experiencing delays as regards waiting times for assessment, and that there are also concerns regarding the standardisation of the service across the country.

It should be noted that the increasing numbers of children adopted from abroad create additional pressures on inter-country adoption teams within the HSE. This is because these same teams provide post-adoption reports to the sending countries, at the request of those countries, with the agreement of the adoptive parents. This is an important component in the willingness of countries to consider Irish applicants for adoption. It is also important to note that subsequent to undergoing an assessment with the HSE, and to receiving the Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability from the Adoption Board, applicants must then wait before receiving a referral for a child from the sending country. The waiting times for referral are outside the jurisdiction of both the HSE and the Adoption Board and are dependant on the regulations that each individual country has with regard to inter-country adoption. I would like to assure you that attention is being given to this issue by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and reiterate the importance of a rigorous and effective assessment system that is provided on a timely, fair and transparent basis.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

245 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the types of income on which the health levy is currently payable; and the types of income that are currently exempt from the health levy. [15936/09]

The health levy is payable on all income other than that earned by those

earning less than €500 per week/€26,000 per year

who have a medical card or its EU equivalent

under 16 years

over 70 years

in receipt of certain categories of social welfare payments (i.e. survivor's pension, widows (non-contributory) pension, deserted wife's benefit and allowance, death benefit pension and one parent family payment)

The basis on which contributions are levied is set out in the Health Contributions Act, 1979 as amended. On foot of the recent Supplementary Budget the Social Welfare Bill 2009 contains provisions to increase the rate of contribution. The current rate of contribution is 2% of gross income up to €1,925 per week or €100,100 per annum and 2.5 % on the balance of income in excess of those amounts in a contribution year. With effect from 1 May, subject to the legislation being enacted, the new rates to be applied are 4% of gross income up to €1,443 per week or €75,036 per annum and 5% on the balance of income in excess of those amounts in a contribution year.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

246 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [15094/09]

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.

Child Care Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

247 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will address the concerns of the community child care workers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15114/09]

The Community Child care Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is implemented under the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006 -2010 for which I have responsibility. With regard to the proposals received by the Deputy in relation to the CCSS, the following is the position. The objective of both the previous support schemes under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP), and the CCSS, has been to provide funding to community child care services to enable them to charge reduced fees to disadvantaged and low income parents. Under the previous scheme, participating services were required to charge tiered fees based on ability to pay, however, many of them did not implement this requirement. Under the CCSS, specific subvention rates have been set with 3 categories of parents benefiting from subvented fee rates and parents who do not qualify for subvention paying the full economic cost of their child care places(s). Neither scheme provides for core funding and to do so would be discriminatoryvis-à-vis commercial child care providers who cannot benefit from the scheme.

The CCSS is a targeted scheme available only to services provided in community child care facilities, and the Deputy's proposal to set Band C eligibility by reference to the average industrial wage would, therefore, be discriminatory to the majority of parents using commercial child care services and who are not benefiting from the scheme. Also eligibility by reference to the average industrial wage would require services to seek details of parents' earnings whereas the CCSS is based on existing means tested criteria which include receipt of social welfare payment, family income supplement (FIS) or having a GP visit or Medical Card. Eligibility for the medical and GP visit cards takes account of factors relevant to disadvantage and low income, and is considered a reasonable basis on which to set the upper threshold at which parents qualify.

As the CCSS is a publicly funded support scheme for community services targeted at low income and disadvantaged parents, it is necessary that it is based on clear and transparent criteria which measure the actual level of service provision as well as the level of disadvantage of the parents availing of the participating service. A discretionary scheme would not meet these requirements. The CCSS also assists services in ensuring that they operate on the basis of a sustainable business model based on a fee structure which is appropriate to their actual operating costs.

It should be noted that funding provided under the previous EOCP scheme amounted to €37 million in 2007. Funding provided under the CCSS amounted to €52m in 2008, and is expected to increase to €56m in 2009. The September 2008 service returns indicated that there had been a significant increase in the number of children attending services, not just in the disadvantaged cohort, but also among middle and upper-income families. As there is no prospect of additional funding being provided to increase the current subvention rates an increase in the Band C subvention rate would require a reduction in either the Band A rate, the Band B rate or a combination of both.

To co-ordinate the provision of quality child care training a new Workforce Development Plan is being developed by the Early Education Unit in my Office. This will have a positive impact on the career paths of child care workers and should help retain personnel in the child care sector. The recent Budget announcement of the introduction of a free pre-school year in early childhood care and education (ECCE) from January next will also help to sustain thousands of jobs in the child care sector. The scheme will provide a capitation grant of over €2,400 to participating services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

248 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in the case of a child care group (details supplied) in County Tipperary which has applied for funding. [15120/09]

Tom Hayes

Question:

249 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding will be made available to a community playgroup (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15129/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 and 249 together.

Both of the queries raised by the Deputy relate to grant funding under the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006 -2010, which is implemented by my Office with the assistance of Pobal.

As the Deputy may be aware, the finalisation of the latest portfolio of capital grant applications, under the NCIP, was delayed pending the introduction of the recent Supplementary Budget. Following decisions in the budget the capital allocation now available for 2009/2010 will meet existing capital grant commitments but will not be sufficient to allow for the approval of any additional grant applications. It is therefore not possible to approve the capital grant application for the group referred to by the Deputy at this time. My Office will be writing to the group shortly to advise them of this outcome.

In relation to the Deputy's query in regard to funding under the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), also under the NCIP, I understand that the group in question has been advised that it's funding allocation for 2009 is €20,000 and that Pobal is in the process of making the quarterly payment.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

250 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [15133/09]

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.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

251 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to move rheumatology services from Our Lady’s Hospital, Manorhamilton, County Leitrim to Sligo General Hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15134/09]

The HSE indicates that replies issued to the Deputy in relation to this issue on 7 and 17 April 2009 and that the position has not changed in the interim.

Hospital Accommodation.

Joe Carey

Question:

252 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the bed capacity in relation to each category of patient over the past five years for hospitals (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15136/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

253 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applicants awaiting placement for long stay in hospitals (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15137/09]

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

Medicinal Products.

Joe Costello

Question:

254 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the way she will ensure that the ban on happy pills is implemented and enforced; if she has written to the head shops which sell these pills informing them of the new statutory instrument; if she has contacted the Garda regarding seizing the existing supply of pills which are illegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15138/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

297 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 (Controlled Drugs) (Declaration) Order 2009 is effective immediately; the steps that have been taken to notify retailers of the change in the law and to secure compliance; the arrangements in place with An Garda Síochána to ensure same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15411/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254 and 297 together.

On 31 March 2009, Benzylpiperazine (BZP), one of the so-called ‘party' or ‘happy pills' available for sale in ‘head shops' was declared a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 (Controlled Drugs) (Declaration) Order 2009. This means that the possession and sale of BZP are now illegal. A press release issued from my Department on 31 March and there was considerable media coverage of the ban on BZP.

Head shops possessing supplies of BZP must dispose of those stocks or risk prosecution under the Misuse of Drugs Acts. Enforcement of this measure is a matter for the Gardaí who have powers under the Misuse of Drugs Acts to search premises and to seize supplies of BZP which have not been disposed of.

The Gardaí were kept informed both of the impending control of BZP prior to 31 March and also of the Government's decision taken on that day.

Health Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

255 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will continue home support for children suffering from autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15174/09]

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.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

256 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a copy of the orthodontic guidelines for children under 16 seeking non-routine dental treatment. [15194/09]

The Guidelines referred to by the Deputy were developed by The Orthodontic Review Group established by the Health Service Executive in 2006.

As the implementation of the new guidelines is the responsibility of the Executive, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Traveller Community.

James Reilly

Question:

257 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the moneys and resources in the letters of allocation to the Health Service Executive, the Eastern Regional Health Authority and former health boards in relation to Traveller health development from 1998 to 2008; the cost centres the moneys were allocated to in the HSE, ERHA and former health boards; the name of the cost centres; if the moneys were used year on year; the amount currently allocated to Traveller health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15198/09]

Allocations to the former health boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority in relation to Traveller health for the years 1998 to 2005 are presented in the following table. These development funds are in addition to the ongoing current expenditure on Traveller health.

Health Board/Authority

Year

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Total

€m

Eastern/ ERHA

0.344 (IR£0.271m)

0.309 (IR£0.243m)

0.343 (IR£0.270m)

0.249

0.221

0.298

1.764

Midland

0.116 (IR£0.091m)

0.126 (IR£0.099m)

0.140 (IR£0.110m)

0.101

0.077

0.104

0.664

Mid Western

0.067 (IR£0.053m)

0.126 (IR£0.099m)

0.137 (IR£0.108m)

0.152 (IR£0.120m)

0.111

0.083

0.112

0.788

North Eastern

0.051 (IR£0.040m)

0.103 (IR£0.081m)

0.103 (IR£0.081m)

0.114 (IR£0.090m)

0.286

0.070

0.094

0.821

North Western

0.051 (IR£0.040m)

0.060 (IR£0.047m)

0.046 (IR£0.036m)

0.051 (IR£0.040m)

0.037

0.054

0.073

0.372

South Eastern

0.067 (IR£0.053m)

0.103 (IR£0.081m)

0.103 (IR£0.081m)

0.114 (IR£0.090m)

0.083

0.094

0.127

0.691

Southern

0.067 (IR£0.053m)

0.136 (IR£0.107m)

0.149 (IR£0.117m)

0.165 (IR£0.130m)

0.120

0.095

0.129

0.861

Western

0.067 (IR£0.053m)

0.156 (IR£0.123m)

0.171 (IR£0.135m)

0.190 (IR£0.150m)

0.138

0.121

0.163

1.006

Total

0.371 (IR£0.292m)

1.143 (IR£0.900m)

1.143 (IR£0.900m)

1.270 (IR£1.000m)

1.125

0.815

1.100

6.967

Allocations of €2 m and €1m were made to the HSE for the years 2006 and 2007 respectively and no additional development funding was allocated in 2008.

As the remainder of the information sought in the Deputy's question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Nursing Education.

Michael Creed

Question:

258 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if the recently advertised postgraduate degree in public health nursing (details supplied) is available to non-Health Service Executive staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15203/09]

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for the sponsorship arrangements for Student Public Health Nurses this matter has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Mental Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

259 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on bringing forward a cross-departmental action plan regarding the implementation of A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15205/09]

In January 2008, the Government established the Office for Disability and Mental Health as a cross-cutting Government Office with a remit across four Government Departments: Health and Children, Education and Science, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Office was assigned four key priorities one of which is to bring a new impetus to the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change’ working in partnership with the HSE and other stakeholders including other Government Departments to achieve implementation of agreed targets. The Office aims to bring about improvements in the manner in which services respond to the needs of people with disabilities and mental health difficulties, by working to develop person-centred services, focusing on the holistic needs of clients and service users and actively involving them in their own care.

Bilateral meetings with officials from other Government Departments to discuss progressing recommendations in‘A Vision for Change’ and ‘Reach Out’ are taking place within this context.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

260 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of service provided to a child (details supplied) in County Louth; the reason this service falls short of that available to other children with similar disabilities; and if she will ensure that sufficient funding is made available in order to ensure that this child receives appropriate support. [15208/09]

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.

Bullying in the Workplace.

James Reilly

Question:

261 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of legal fees and costs and damages incurred in respect of 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 by her Department on human resources issues specifically bullying; the amount of the largest claim incurred or settled in that period; the amount incurred on legal fees and costs and damages by the Health Service Executive on human resources issues specifically bullying for these years; the amount of the largest claim incurred or settled in that period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15210/09]

The Chief State Solicitor's Office provides my Department with legal advice. The costs arising from the provision of such advice are met directly by that Office. In the years referred to by the Deputy, my Department did not pay any damages in respect of bullying.

As the information requested by the Deputy in respect of the Health Service Executive is not available in my Department, my Department has accordingly referred that part of the question to the Executive for attention and direct reply.

Question No. 262 answered with Question No. 237.

Hospital Services.

Ulick Burke

Question:

263 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional space per hospital ward and theatre that has been put in place at University College Hospital Galway since it has been designated as a centre of excellence; if she or the Health Service Executive west has made provision for the recruitment of additional medical and nursing staff to cater for the extra work load in providing specialist cover; the additional funding that has been provided for the delivery of extra services at UCHG as it is now a designated centre of excellence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15222/09]

The matters raised by the Deputy relate to the provision of healthcare services and accordingly, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy on the matters.

Ambulance Service.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

264 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of calls for private ambulances processed on behalf of privately insured patients in Health Service Executive facilities through ambulance control rooms in the mid-western, western and north western regions of the national ambulance service, and to which private ambulance companies these were allocated; the number of calls to each company for the period January 2007 to 1 April 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15224/09]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

265 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded payment under the health repayment scheme. [15230/09]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Damien English

Question:

266 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be made available for a person (details supplied) in County Meath at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15231/09]

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.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

267 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the waiting time for child and adolescent mental health services in the south Lee area, Cork, is three years; the steps she will take to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15232/09]

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

Question No. 268 answered with Question No. 239.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

269 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of chiropody services for elderly patients; if they are obliged to pay a top-up fee to their chiropodist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15237/09]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

270 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of chiropody services for patients with mental disabilities; if they are obliged to pay a top-up fee to their chiropodist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15238/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 269 and 270 together.

As the Deputy's questions relate to a service matter they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Service Transport.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

271 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of vehicles owned by the Health Service Executive for transporting patients with disabilities; the cost of this service to the HSE, including the cost of paying drivers; the number of HSE staff members or care assistants that must be on board each vehicle to accompany each patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15239/09]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

272 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if she operates a scheme to provide house accessories and fittings for the elderly or infirm; the amount of money allocated for this scheme each year; the number of people who have received this allowance in 2008 and 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15241/09]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

273 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money spent on taxis for transporting patients in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15242/09]

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

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

274 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children undergoing orthodontic treatment which is paid for by the State; the number of children on a waiting list for orthodontic treatment in Dublin, and countrywide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15243/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

275 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the unit for cystic fibrosis sufferers will commence construction at Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15255/09]

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

Tom Sheahan

Question:

276 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Cork University Hospital has not employed an operator for the PET scanner at the hospital, in view of the fact that people are having to travel to Dublin to have this scan carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15256/09]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

277 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress regarding the new hospital in Dingle, County Kerry; if the hospital and all its day services will be fully operational in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15257/09]

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

Nursing Home Standards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

278 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the residential homes for older people under the Health Service Executive considered to be not up to the standards set in the Health Information and Quality Authority standards recently published; if she has information on the work which needs to be carried out to bring them up to standard; if there are plans to provide replacement beds rather than refurbish buildings in some cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15263/09

In preparation for the introduction of the new national standards for residential care settings for Older People, the Health Service Executive has put in place a programme of preparation to ensure that its public facilities will be in a position to comply with the requirements of the standards. This preparation has focused on two particular areas to ensure that: policies, procedures and overall service are sufficient to meet the new standards; and the overall infrastructure is adequately developed on a phased basis.

The Executive established a Residential Standards National Reference Group which included Managers/Directors of Nursing of HSE residential facilities. Under the auspices of this group, each residential care setting is currently undertaking work to benchmark their facility against the standards in order to identify and address the deficits that can be addressed on a cost neutral basis. There are also formal implementation groups established across the four areas with the national group acting as a reference group to guide the work of the implementation groups at local level. The overall effort is to ensure preparation within the public facilities to comply with each of the 32 standards.

In some cases, additional investment will be required. In 2006, at the request of my Department, the Executive carried out an assessment of need for residential care for older people in preparation for both the impending standards and the National Development Plan 2009-2013. As part of this work, an assessment was undertaken to establish the extent to which existing public residential accommodation required replacement or refurbishment in the context of emerging standards, but also in the context of wider environmental and structural requirements including health & safety, fire and other criteria.

In terms of reconfiguration and development the focus of the HSE's programme is to target the highest priority locations in the first instance and progressing over time, within the resources available, to bring all our facilities up to the required standards. The Deputy will be aware that Standard 25 addresses the physical environment for all types of residential centres. A distinction is made between new and existing facilities. This provides a six year period for existing nursing homes, whether public, private or voluntary to meet certain infrastructural deficits, for example with regard to room sizes, the number of residents per room and usable floor space. The Chief Inspector has discretion to extend this timeframe where the provider and the Chief Inspector agree a written, explicit, costed plan with timescales to address these deficits.

The 2009 National Service Plan sets out its plan for the management and configuration of public long-term residential care services in the current year. The Service Plan identifies a requirement to reduce the number of long-term residential care beds in some parts of the country, particularly where there is a surplus and/or the standard of facilities is considered inadequate, and where it is necessary to address infrastructural deficits in order to meet health & safety and fire requirements, and the new standards. It also provides for a number of additional and replacement long-term residential care beds over the course of 2009. The latest information from the HSE indicates that 737 additional beds and 506 replacement beds will become operational during 2009. This includes beds being provided under the Capital Plan and beds being provided under the Fast-Track Initiative.

Health Services.

Niall Collins

Question:

279 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children the Health Service Executive’s plans for Bolands Meadow, Foynes, County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15272/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Niall Collins

Question:

280 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a schedule to the full range of allowances and entitlements a holder of a medical card can avail of; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15282/09]

Full eligibility for health services is granted to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive are unable to provide general practitioner, medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. Under the Health Act 2008, persons aged 70 years and over are statutorily entitled to a medical card should their gross income not exceed €700 per week for a single person or €1,400 per week for a couple. Determination of an individual's eligibility status is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

Persons with full eligibility are entitled to general practitioner services, prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, child health services, home nursing and a maternity and infant care service.

Other services such as allied health professional services may be available to medical card holders but are not based on a statutory entitlement. Medical card holders may also be entitled to free transport to school for children who live 3 miles or more from the nearest school, exemption from state examination fees in public second-level schools and financial help with buying school books. They are also exempt from paying the health levy and the income levy.

Hospital Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

281 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of the capital cost of transferring the specialist breast centre from Cork’s South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital to Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15284/09]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

282 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the anticipated annual running cost of Cork University Hospital’s new breast clinic; if the necessary funding has been put in place to ensure that the increased staffing and other running costs can be met; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15285/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 and 282 together.

As these are service matters they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Assisted Human Reproduction.

Michael McGrath

Question:

283 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to introduce legislation in respect of embryonic stem cell research in this country. [15291/09]

At present there is no legislation in Ireland governing the intervention in the natural process of creating human life; instead, medical practice is governed by guidelines issued by the Medical Council. My Department is developing an appropriate regulatory framework for the area of Assisted Human Reproduction, which will also encompass the area of human embryonic stem cell research. This work involves, inter alia, examining the approaches to regulation in other jurisdictions and considering the ethical and legal issues that arise. It will also take into account the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on this area — when completed — and any judgment of the Supreme Court in the RvR (frozen embryos) case.

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

284 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will be provided with the necessary orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15294/09]

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

Question No. 285 answered with Question No. 239.

Niall Blaney

Question:

286 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Health and Children when the report on the national review of the Health Service Executive funded adult day services 2007 to 2008 will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15311/09]

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.

Cardiovascular Health Strategy.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

287 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that enough is being done to implement the cardiovascular health strategy; the number of its 211 recommendations that have been implemented to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15313/09]

The Government has committed over €60 million since 2000 towards the implementation of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy, ‘Building Healthier Hearts'. This funding has supported a wide range of new services and initiatives which have had a positive impact on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with heart disease. An audit of progress on the implementation of the Strategy showed a continuing decline in cardiovascular disease.

However, given the many changes that have occurred since the strategy was launched in 1999, an updated policy on cardiovascular health, including stroke, was considered necessary to ensure that cardiovascular health continues to be a high priority for the health service. In September 2007, I established a Cardiovascular Health Policy Group to draw up a new policy framework for the development of all aspects of cardiovascular health, including stroke. It is expected that the report of the Group will be published by the end of June 2009.

Seán Connick

Question:

288 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is committed to the work of local voluntary cardiac groups; the person in her Department who is responsible for co-ordinating these groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15321/09]

The organisation, co-ordination and funding of voluntary cardiac groups is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and accordingly I have referred the Deputy's question to the HSE for direct reply.

The Health Promotion Policy Unit of my Department is responsible for policy matters in relation to cardiovascular health, and in particular, the development of a new Cardiovasculaar Health Strategy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Seán Connick

Question:

289 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding will be released to a hospital (details supplied) in County Wexford to allow completion of phase 2 of building works; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15322/09]

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

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

290 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of all applications for property-related accelerated capital allowance schemes in relation to mental health centres. [15335/09]

While it is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive to certify that the qualifying conditions specified for eligibility for capital allowances for mental health centres have been met, it is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners to determine entitlement to any such capital allowances. In the circumstances the Deputy may wish to address his query to the Revenue Commissioners.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

291 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [15349/09]

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

Proposed Legislation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

292 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [15350/09]

The Bill referred to by the Deputy has completed Committee Stage in the Dáil. It is the Minister's intention to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to implementing the scheme in the second half of 2009. Unfortunately it is not possible to give a more specific timeframe at present.

Question No. 293 withdrawn.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

294 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) is to be moved from a centre on a full-time basis. [15399/09]

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.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

295 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding application forms for medical cards (details supplied). [15406/09]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the operational responsibility for the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme which includes the medical card and GP visit card benefits. The policy of the HSE is to have application forms for medical cards and GP visit cards widely available. Application forms should be available at: Health Centres; Local Health Offices; Community Information Centres; GP Surgeries; Department of Social and Family Affairs Local Offices; Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS) Offices; Other designated areas as appropriate.

If the Deputy would like to provide more details on the cases concerned, the Executive will investigate the matter further.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

296 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is proposed to increase the funding to an organisation (details supplied) in 2009; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that as a result of budgetary cutbacks many services have had to be cut; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15409/09]

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.

Question No. 297 answered with Question No. 254.

Hospital Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

298 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients treated or admitted from St. Michael’s Unit, South Tipperary General Hospital, Clonmel and St. Luke’s Hospital, Clonmel, County Tipperary to accident and emergency units or admitted to general hospitals; the reason for such treatment and admissions; and the details regarding the care and welfare of such patients for the past ten years. [15436/09]

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

Tobacco-Related Diseases.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

299 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has conducted a regulatory impact analysis on the effects of the costs incurred on foot of implementing the regulations governing the display of cigarettes in convenience stores and local newsagents; and her views on alternative regulations that would be less costly to implement for the small retailers. [15448/09]

The measures in question were provided for in legislation enacted by the Oireachtas in 2002 and confirmed again by Government and the Oireachtas in 2004 prior to the Government's decision of 21 June 2005 that Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) should be carried out on all proposals for primary legislation.

I do not believe that these measures, which will come into effect on 1 July next, will impose onerous obligations on tobacco retailers.

Question No. 300 answered with Question No. 241.
Question No. 301 answered with Question No. 239.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

302 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of claims, fully processed but not awarded under the health repayment scheme on a county basis in tabular form; and when these claims will be awarded. [15521/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

306 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of claims pursuant to a scheme (details supplied) that are outstanding; and the reason they are not being finalised and awarded. [15526/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

326 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if all applications made under a scheme (details supplied) have been finalised; and is she will provide this Deputy with a full and complete breakdown of the cost of this scheme to date. [15736/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

327 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a scheme pursuant to an Act (details supplied) is near completion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15737/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

328 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the initial timeframe for a scheme (details supplied); and the estimated timeframe for completion of this scheme. [15738/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

329 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there are cases outstanding under a scheme (details supplied) in view of the length of time the cases are being dealt with. [15739/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 302, 306 and 326 to 329, inclusive, together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed Scheme Administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald.

The scheme was launched in August 2006 and it was envisaged that the timeframe for the scheme would be 2/3 years. Since the commencement of the scheme approximately 35,000 applications have been received by the Scheme Administrator. To date 33,600 applicants have now either received an offer of repayment or have had their application rejected. As a result, there are in the region of 1,400 claims to be processed and it is anticipated the vast majority of these claims will be processed over the coming weeks. It should be noted that repayments offered cannot be paid until the statutory 28 day period for appeal has elapsed and a completed acceptance form has been returned to the Scheme Administrator. In addition, claimants who receive offers must be given the opportunity if they so wish, to appeal the Scheme Administrator's decision.

The Scheme is progressing as speedily as possible and every effort is being made to settle the remaining claims as quickly as possible. However, there are a number of different factors which have affected the length of time it takes to process a claim. A very high number of deficiencies have appeared on claim forms which must each be rectified before they can be processed. Over 13,500 estates who have lodged claims to date did not have a grant of representation, as required by law, and the Scheme Administrator has had to establish probate before the claim can be progressed. All relevant facilities around the country have had to be visited to review and retrieve their records of payment. The format in which this information was stored varied widely between institutions and usually included a mixture of paper files, handwritten files and computer files.

In regard to the cost of the scheme, a total of €393.7m has been expended to date on the Health Repayment Scheme and a breakdown of the costs is as follows:

€m

Repayments to 31st March 2009

371.7

Overheads 2006

3.0

Overheads 2007

5.0

Overheads 2008

14.0

Total Expenditure

393.7

The number of claims fully processed but not yet awarded are as follows:

County

No. of Claims fully processed but not yet awarded

Armagh

1

Carlow

9

Cavan

4

Clare

19

Cork

79

Donegal

23

Dublin

118

Fermanagh

1

Galway

12

Kerry

16

Kildare

19

Kilkenny

7

Laois

6

Leitrim

8

Limerick

15

Longford

3

Louth

8

Mayo

18

Meath

9

Monaghan

4

Offaly

2

Roscommon

3

Sligo

18

Tipperary

10

Tyrone

2

Waterford

10

Westmeath

6

Wexford

7

Wicklow

13

Total

450

Mental Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

303 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the average national waiting time for assessment by a child psychiatrist; the waiting time for patients in south Tipperary; the maximum time for assessment in south Tipperary at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15523/09]

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

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

304 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the average national waiting time for assessment of a child by a speech and language therapist; the waiting time for children in south Tipperary; the maximum time for assessment of children in south Tipperary at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15524/09]

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.

Tom Hayes

Question:

305 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the average national waiting time for assessment by an audiologist; the waiting time for patients in south Tipperary; the maximum time for assessment in south Tipperary at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15525/09]

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

Question No. 306 answered with Question No. 302.

Tom Hayes

Question:

307 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the average national waiting time for an endoscopy; the waiting time for patients in south Tipperary; the maximum time on waiting lists in south Tipperary at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15527/09]

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

Health Service Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

308 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15602/09]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

337 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she has instructed An Bord Altranais that no staff contracts are to be renewed as part of the moratorium on staff numbers in the public sector despite the fact that An Bord Altranais is entirely self-funded and receives no money from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15795/09]

Michael Kennedy

Question:

347 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Health and Children the relationship between her Department and An Bord Altranais, particularly in respect of employment contracts, their conditions and their non-renewal; the role, financially, her Department and the Health Service Executive has in funding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15892/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 308, 337 and 347 together.

An Bord Altranais (The Nursing Board), which was established under the Nurses Act, 1985, is the statutory regulatory body for nurses and midwives. The Board consists of 29 members, 17 of whom are elected by nurses and 12 appointed by the Minister, 2 of whom are representatives of the Department of Health and Children.

Under the Act the Minister has a range of functions in relation to the Board one of which, Section 17 (1), relates to the officers and servants of the Board "In addition to the Chief Executive Officer, there shall be appointed such and so many persons to be officers and servants of the Board, as the Board, with the consent of the Minister, from time to time determines."

The Act also provides that the Local Government (Superannuation) Act, 1956 applies to the Board and its officers and servants as if it were a local authority.

In addition to its statutory functions, the Board also administers the Nursing Careers Centre on behalf of the Health Services. For this purpose ongoing funding is provided by the HSE and the amount of this funding in 2007 was €600,000.

While the bulk of the Board's income is generated by fees paid by nurses and midwives, it is a statutory body whose staff have access to a public service pension scheme. It is thus covered by the recent Government decision that, with effect from the 27 March 2009 to end 2010, no post in the public sector, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion, or payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade. The decision also applies to temporary appointments on a fixed-term basis and to the renewal of such contracts. Therefore, when vacancies arise each agency must reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly.

In the case of the health sector, any exceptions to this principle, which will arise in very limited circumstances only, require the prior sanction of the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Finance.

Hospital Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

309 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the specialist consultants with expertise in adult and in paediatric cystic fibrosis to be appointed for the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15641/09]

Tom Hayes

Question:

319 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if the physiotherapist required by paediatric cystic fibrosis patients in Limerick Regional Hospital, who has been replaced since 2007, has been recruited. [15702/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 319 together.

In order to implement savings measures on public service numbers, the Government has decided that, with effect from 27 March 2009 to end 2010, no post in the public sector, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion, or the payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade. The decision also applies to temporary appointments on a fixed-term basis and to the renewal of such contracts.

Arrangements have been put in place for the health sector that aim to ensure that key services are maintained insofar as possible and there will be flexibility in relation to the filling of key frontline posts for the following grades; Hospital Consultants, Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, Clinical Psychologist, Behavioural Therapist, Counsellor, Social workers and Emergency Medical Technicians to allow for the continued development of integrated health care, particularly primary and community care, care of the elderly and people with disabilities.

The way in which the Government decision will be applied is a matter for the Health Service Executive. My Department has asked the HSE to reply to the Deputies in relation to the specific issues raised.

Medical Cards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

310 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the areas of dental care that are available to people with a medical card; if it includes fillings that are considered necessary by the dentist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15642/09]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

311 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15662/09]

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

Departmental Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

312 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of uncertified sick days taken within all sections of her Department for the years 2007 and 2008 and to date in 2009; the number of employees who have taken uncertified sick days in the categories one to ten days and over ten days; the number of uncertified sick days taken Fridays and Mondays; the number of persistent offenders with regard to uncertified sick days who have been sent for an independent doctor’s opinion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15674/09]

The number of uncertified sick days taken by officers in my Department in 2007, 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 are 679.45, 522.42 and 139.23 respectively. These figures relate to general service grades (Assistant Secretary to Clerical Officer).

Under Circular 25/1978 an officer ". . .may be granted leave for one or two days without medical certificate, within a limit of seven days in the aggregate in any period of twelve months. . . ." Data is therefore not currently collated by my Department in respect of uncertified sick leave above seven days. If an officer exceeds the limit of seven days in any period of twelve months the excess is deducted from either his/her annual leave allowance (above statutory minimum), in the current year or in the following year, or a deduction is made from his/her salary. The following table shows the number of people who took between one and seven days uncertified sick leave in the calendar twelve months of 2007 and 2008.

Total number of uncertified sick days

Number of people in 2007 (headcount)

Number of people in 2008 (headcount)

0.5 – 1

97

84

1.5 – 2

98

89

2.5 – 3

41

30

3.5 – 4

33

26

4.5 – 5

21

11

5.5 – 6

7

2

6.5 – 7

2

3

Data is also not collated by my Department in respect of the days of the week on which officers take uncertified sick leave. However, the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General undertook sick leave data analysis across several Government departments in 2008 and I understand that "day of the week" was one of the criteria examined. The findings and recommendations of the C & AG are awaited at this time.

Officers who are absent on certified sick leave for more than 4-6 weeks, depending on the condition, are routinely referred to the office of the Chief Medical Officer of the Civil Service (CMO) for review and advice. These referrals are solely based on a duty of care principle and should, in no way, be seen as a sanction or disciplinary action against an officer. In fact, the intervention and guidance of the CMO can often aid an officer's return to work after illness. The Human Resources Unit of my Department does not refer officers to the CMO in relation to uncertified sick leave. Rather, as provided for in Paragraph 12 of Circular 25/1978, a formal notification and reminder of the rules governing uncertified sick leave is sent to any staff member who reaches a total of 5 or more days uncertified sick leave in any "rolling" twelve month period. A copy of this letter is also forwarded to the officer's section head, for appropriate follow-up and management.

Medical Cards.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

313 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card application by a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [15680/09]

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

Thomas Byrne

Question:

314 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [15681/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

315 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a helipad at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; if there is one, if she will advise about its usage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15689/09]

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

Health Service Executive Expenditure.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

316 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money spent by the Health Service Executive on private security firms across the State for the years 2006 to 2008, inclusive, and to date in 2009, inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15695/09]

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

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

317 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an application for shoes under the podiatry scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15696/09]

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.

Tom Hayes

Question:

318 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the average national waiting time for assessment by an adult psychiatrist; the waiting time for patients in south Tipperary; the maximum time for assessment in south Tipperary at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15701/09]

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

Question No. 319 answered with Question No. 309.

Medical Cards.

Michael McGrath

Question:

320 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on issuing a medical card in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Cork. [15710/09]

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

Michael Creed

Question:

321 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application for a medical card by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [15717/09]

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

Michael Creed

Question:

322 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on a medical card application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [15718/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

323 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be called for an outpatient appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15720/09]

The management of out-patient waiting lists is a matter for the HSE and the individual hospitals concerned. I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's question to the Executive for direct reply.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

324 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [15726/09]

The matter raised by the Deputy relates to the provision of health care services and accordingly, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Hospital Services.

David Stanton

Question:

325 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the way she will ensure that front-line services provided by nurses are protected in view of the moratorium on recruitment and promotion imposed on the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15733/09]

In order to implement savings measures on public service numbers, the Government has decided that, with effect from 27 March 2009 to end 2010, no post in the public sector, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion, or payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade. The decision also applies to temporary appointments on a fixed-term basis and to the renewal of such contracts. Therefore when vacancies arise, each agency must reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly. In the case of the health sector, any exceptions to this principle, which will arise in very limited circumstances only, require the prior sanction of both the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Finance.

In order to ensure that essential front-line services provided by nurses and other health care professionals are maintained, the new employment control framework for the health sector provides for the redeployment of staff (and associated salary costs) within and across the hospital and primary, community and continuing care pillars, and from one institution to another to support the development of integrated care delivery.

The way in which the Government decision will be applied in the health sector is a matter for the Health Service Executive, and I have accordingly referred that part of the Deputy's question to the Executive for attention and direct reply.

Questions Nos. 326 to 329, inclusive, answered with Question No. 302.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

330 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify a matter (details supplied). [15744/09]

The next stage in the development of St. Vincent's Hospital will involve the building of a new ward block to replace existing accommodation. The new facility will include appropriate isolation facilities and accommodation for cystic fibrosis patients as required. This project has always been a priority for this Government. I am very pleased that we have found a way to allow the project to proceed to tender, so that it can be operational as early as possible in 2011.

Clinical and infrastructural needs at St. Vincent's will determine the configuration of beds across various specialties. There has been no upper limit placed by the hospital or the HSE on the allocation of beds to a particular specialty.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

331 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if persons (details supplied) will be supported. [15745/09]

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.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

332 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views, in response to the funding difficulties that community child care groups are facing due to the changes introduced in the child care subvention scheme, on making additional supports available such as heating, electricity and rental assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15749/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006-2010, under which the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being implemented.

Services participating in the CCSS receive annual funding on the basis of the number of qualifying parents recorded as using the service in a particular reference week, generally set in late September of each year. Services may apply mid-year to have their funding reviewed, where they believe they would benefit from additional funding as a result of having additional numbers of qualifying parents. In 2009, services have been advised that they should request a review by 26 March and that the reference week will be that ending on 10 April. Where a review results in an increased level of funding, this will be calculated with effect from 1 April.

The objective of both the previous support schemes under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP), and the CCSS, has been to provide funding to community childcare services to enable them to charge reduced fees to disadvantaged and low income parents. Under the previous scheme, participating services were required to charge tiered fees based on ability to pay, however, many of them did not implement this requirement. Under the CCSS, specific subvention rates have been set with 3 categories of parents benefiting from subvented fee rates and parents who do not qualify for subvention paying the full economic cost of their childcare places(s). Neither scheme provides for core funding and to do so would be discriminatory vis a vis commercial childcare providers who cannot benefit from the scheme.

It should be noted that funding provided under the previous EOCP scheme amounted to €37 million in 2007. Funding provided under the CCSS amounted to €52m in 2008, and is expected to increase to €56m in 2009. The September 2008 service returns indicated that there had been a significant increase in the number of children attending services, not just in the disadvantaged cohort, but also among middle and upper-income families. As there is no prospect of additional funding being provided to increase the current subvention rates an increase in the Band C subvention rate would require a reduction in either the Band A rate, the Band B rate or a combination of both.

To co-ordinate the provision of quality childcare training a new Workforce Development Plan is being developed by the Early Education Unit in my Office. This will have a positive impact on the career paths of childcare workers and should help retain personnel in the childcare sector. The recent Budget announcement of the introduction of a free pre-school year in early childhood care and education (ECCE) from January next will also help to sustain thousands of jobs in the childcare sector. The scheme will provide a capitation grant of over €2,400 to participating services.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

333 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is proposing to engage a private company to take calls regarding at-risk children and then to nominate short-term foster families for them; if so, the name of the company; if she has sought the views of or discussed this proposal with children’s and human rights organisations; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has described such a proposal as inappropriate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15755/09]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

334 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds at a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo that are being closed down. [15778/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

335 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the bed capacity of a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo; and the bed capacity expected after staffing cuts are made. [15779/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

336 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff being let go at a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo. [15780/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 334 to 336, inclusive, together.

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

Question No. 337 answered with Question No. 308.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

338 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the assistance available to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 to obtain the drug Tysabri which they have been told is unavailable under the long-term illness scheme and which costs €3,000 a month. [15833/09]

The issue of access to the drug in question is being given consideration by the Health Service Executive (HSE). Arising from a recent review of neurology services a clinician led review group is to advise on how best to ensure that there is fair and equitable access to the drug and other agents used to treat the particular condition, taking account of clinical need, benefits and cost. The Group is to include patient representation.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to reply directly to the Deputy on the specific case raised.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

339 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concern of a growing number of parents and the potential damage that can be inflicted on young children by her decision not to approve the recruitment of temporary cover speech and language therapists across the service in place of therapists on maternity or parental leave or other long-term absences; if she will lift the embargo on such temporary appointments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15834/09]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Governments ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

340 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers on the waiting lists for initial assessments for children referred to the speech and language therapy services in each of the counties Cavan, Monaghan and Louth; the numbers in each case who have been waiting more than three months; the staffing levels and the actual in attendance levels in each of the speech and language therapy teams, that is excluding those on approved leave; if a staffing shortage exists; if steps will be taken to recruit temporary cover speech and language therapists across the named counties, to be followed by approval for further full-time appointments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15835/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

341 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan has not had their initial assessment by a speech and language therapist in the Louth service, having been listed for same since 25 August 2008; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the County Louth speech and language therapy service, like the services in counties Cavan and Monaghan and throughout the State, is under staffed due to her ban on recruiting temporary replacement staff for therapists on maternity, parental or other longer-term leave; if she has informed herself of the efforts of those staff attempting to provide for the needs of all children referred to this service; the action she will take to address this deficiency in service provision that can have consequences for some children now and in later life; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15836/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 340 and 341 together.

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

Youth Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

342 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 73 of 7 April 2009, if the national youth work advisory committee has completed its review of the 2003 to 2007 plan; when the new plan will be drawn up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15843/09]

The National Youth Work Advisory Committee is completing its review of the 2003 — 2007 National Youth Work Development Plan and has given initial consideration to possible next steps for the development of a new plan, having regard to current youth work policy and practice in Ireland. I understand that the Committee proposes to discuss the matter further with my Department and is at present considering the format of these discussions.

Patient Private Property Fund.

Denis Naughten

Question:

343 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 95 and 96 of 26 February 2009, the position regarding the issues raised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15846/09]

The HSE is about to commence the calculation and refund of interest retained on Patient Private Property (PPP) funds invested since 2005. It is envisaged that the first payments will be made during May 2009. The HSE is continuing the validation of data on client balances to allow calculation of actual interest owed and assign that interest to existing client PPP accounts or arrange for the refund to be passed on directly to clients or their estate.

Question No. 344 answered with Question No. 244.

Care of the Elderly.

Billy Timmins

Question:

345 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is in receipt of home help which has been reduced with the result that there is no weekend help; if same will be reversed and the previous times reinstated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15873/09]

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

Legislative Programme.

James Reilly

Question:

346 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 to come before Dáil Éireann for Report Stage; when she expects the legislative process on the Bill to be completed; if she will confirm that the required funding is in place in 2009 to implement the proposed provisions of the Bill; the amount of funding which has been provided for 2009 and estimated for 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15878/09]

The Minister envisages the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 commencing Report Stage in the Dáil as soon as possible. Thereafter, it is intended to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to implementing the scheme in the second half of 2009. Unfortunately it is not possible to give a more specific timeframe at present.

Budget 2009 provided €55 million for the implementation of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme this year. As the Deputy is aware, in advance of the introduction of the scheme, a dedicated subhead for long-term residential care has been established (subhead B16). The total funding in the subhead for 2009 stands at €909 million. It is estimated that approximately €1 billion will be required for 2010.

Question No. 347 answered with Question No. 308.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

348 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been made on the provision of capital funding for a new health centre (details supplied) in County Cork. [15893/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

James Reilly

Question:

349 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be provided as soon as possible to purchase a wheelchair for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15894/09]

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.

James Reilly

Question:

350 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the provision that has been put in place to provide speech and language therapy for a child (details supplied) in County Meath; the alternative arrangements that have been put in place to provide cover; when will this much needed service for this child will recommence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15895/09]

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.

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

351 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount that is used in the calculation of income regarding the assessment of income for an over 70 years medical card and in particular the calculation of interest on savings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15896/09]

Under the Health Act 2008, automatic entitlement to a medical card for persons aged 70 or over ceased on 31st December 2008, and with effect from 1st January 2009, the income thresholds for entitlement to a medical card for those aged 70 or over is €700 (gross) per week (€36,500 per year) for a single person and €1,400 (gross) per week (€73,000 per year) for a couple.

Any savings and similar investments up to €36,000 (single)/€72,000 (couple) will be disregarded when assessing means and only interest from savings or similar investments above these figures will be considered as income. The relevant portion of savings and similar investments will be assessed on the income calculated at a notional interest rate (currently 5%), based on the prevailing interest rates at the time of application. The Health Service Executive's (HSE) Central Application Unit will review the notional rate on a quarterly basis.

Alternatively, where an applicant wishes to have the actual interest from savings/investments considered, then the HSE will apply this approach and use the most beneficial option in favour of the applicant, subject to submission of the appropriate certificates from the relevant institutions. In the case of "longer term" investment accounts, where the interest is only applied at the end of a fixed period, if the applicant so wishes, the HSE will only take account of the interest earned on the date the investment matures. Any calculation of interest is inclusive of Deposit Interest Retention Tax.

Frank Feighan

Question:

352 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim is requested to refurnish all financial documents and so on to the Health Service Executive in order to obtain an over 70 years GMS card when these documents were sent to the local office in January 2009 and an acknowledgement of receipt received; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that original documents were sent and no copies were kept; and when a GMS card will issue to this person. [15918/09]

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

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

353 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money currently being spent on autism services here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15934/09]

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.

David Stanton

Question:

354 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children and young people who have availed of psychiatric, psychological and other such support services outside the State in 2008; the number of such children and young people who are currently receiving such a service; the locations at which such services are being provided; the cost in 2008 of such services being provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15937/09]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

355 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 190 of 2 December 2008, the progress which has been made by the Health Service Executive in the national review of autism services; if the timed work plan was completed by February 2009; if the report has been completed and will be available by summer 2009 as promised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15938/09]

As the Deputy is aware, the Health Service Executive previously stated in response to Parliamentary Question Reference No. 43461/08 that the review is to be finalised in 2009. I have arranged for the above question to be referred to the Health Service Executive to clarify the current position for the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Michael Creed

Question:

356 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application for a medical card by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [15940/09]

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

Road Network.

Willie Penrose

Question:

357 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the impact the reduction in the roads programme announced in the 7 April 2009 budget will have in relation to Westmeath County Council and in particular in relation to the county roads programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15789/09]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each individual local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants paid by my Department.

Following the Supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009, revised allocations were notified to local authorities on 14 April 2009, in respect of regional and local roads. The original allocation for Westmeath County Council was €17,748,365, the revised allocation for the Council is €13,941,365.

Port Authorities.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

358 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will publish the 2007 Deloitte report into Shannon Foynes Port Company; the reason there has been a delay on publishing this report; if he has undertaken a wider investigation into the operation of the SFPC in view of the allegations surrounding the governance of the SFPC and allegations of alleged fraudulent activities at the SFPC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15153/09]

The report referred to in the Deputy's question is an internal audit report carried out for Shannon Foynes Port Company. The report is confidential and is not intended for publication.

In September 2008 I appointed a new chairperson and five other directors to the board of the company. The board is, in the first instance, responsible for corporate governance.

My Department continues to closely monitor the company's business in accordance with normal corporate governance practice.

Taxi Regulations.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

359 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport his views on appointing a deputy taxi regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15209/09]

Michael Creed

Question:

360 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Transport if he proposes to appoint a deputy taxi regulator as provided for under the Taxi Regulations 2003, who will have a specific remit for the Munster region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15316/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 359 and 360 together.

Sections 13 and 14 of the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003, provide that the Commission for Taxi Regulation shall consist of at least one and not more than three members appointed by the Minister for Transport with the consent of the Minister for Finance and following selection by the Public Appointments Service. Section 15 of the Act provides for the designation by the Commission, where there is only one Commissioner, of a member of staff of the Commission as "deputy Commissioner" to act in the absence of the Commissioner or where the membership of the Commission is vacant.

In accordance with these provisions one Commissioner is in office and the Commission for Taxi Regulation has appointed a deputy Commissioner. It is not open to me, under the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003, to appoint a deputy Commissioner and I do not propose to appoint a second Commissioner.

Public Transport.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

361 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the feasibility studies for the provision of light rail and bus rapid transit in Waterford, Cork, Galway and Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15325/09]

We made a commitment in the Programme for Government of 2007 to conduct feasibility studies into light rail systems in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, and to have these completed within two years. I subsequently asked the local authorities in these cities, who have responsibility for these studies, to see that the feasibility of Bus Rapid Transit systems was simultaneously taken into account.

The Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford studies are currently under way, and I look forward with interest to the completion of these studies. I shall, on their completion, consider the recommendations in these studies before making decisions on how best to enhance public transport.

Road Network.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

362 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the new allocations given to each local authority for local and regional road maintenance and repair work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15401/09]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each individual local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants paid by my Department.

Following the Supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009, revised allocations were notified to local authorities on 14 April 2009, in respect of regional and local roads. The revised allocations are set out in the following table.

2009 Allocations

County Councils

Carlow

5,196,199

Cavan

13,052,025

Clare

16,032,498

Cork

43,880,723

Donegal

28,664,397

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

6,109,699

Fingal

5,788,866

Galway

24,234,746

Kerry

17,985,097

Kildare

15,769,264

Kilkenny

11,373,699

Laois

9,045,928

Leitrim

8,960,699

Limerick

13,190,198

Longford

6,380,799

Louth

10,920,631

Mayo

22,316,746

Meath

16,566,473

Monaghan

12,445,199

North Tipperary

11,008,598

Offaly

8,180,699

Roscommon

13,118,265

Sligo

10,706,899

South Dublin

8,250,899

South Tipperary

10,762,998

Waterford

13,672,699

Westmeath

13,941,365

Wexford

12,784,498

Wicklow

20,603,820

City/Borough Councils

Cork

4,264,000

Dublin

12,682,450

Galway

1,674,000

Limerick

2,294,000

Waterford

2,289,000

Clonmel

488,903

Drogheda

405,000

Kilkenny

393,000

Sligo

1,993,000

Wexford

443,000

Town Councils

Arklow

177,000

Athlone

359,000

Athy

177,000

Ballina

177,000

Ballinasloe

177,000

Birr

177,000

Bray

385,000

Buncrana

177,000

Bundoran

126,000

Carlow

373,000

Carrickmacross

177,000

Carrick-on-Suir

177,000

Cashel

126,000

Castlebar

177,000

Castleblayney

126,000

Cavan

177,000

Ceannanus Mor

177,000

Clonakilty

177,000

Clones

126,000

Cobh

177,000

Dundalk

385,000

Dungarvan

177,000

Ennis

373,000

Enniscorthy

177,000

Fermoy

177,000

Killarney

177,000

Kilrush

126,000

Kinsale

177,000

Letterkenny

359,000

Listowel

177,000

Longford

177,000

Macroom

126,000

Mallow

177,000

Midleton

177,000

Monaghan

177,000

Naas

373,000

Navan

373,000

Nenagh

177,000

New Ross

177,000

Skibbereen

126,000

Templemore

126,000

Thurles

177,000

Tipperary

177,000

Tralee

373,00

Trim

177,000

Tullamore

177,000

Westport

177,000

Wicklow

177,000

Youghal

177,000

Departmental Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

363 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the number of uncertified sick days taken within all sections of his Department for the years 2007 and 2008 and to date in 2009; the number of employees who have taken uncertified sick days in the categories one to ten days and over ten days; the number of uncertified sick days taken Fridays and Mondays; the number of persistent offenders with regard to uncertified sick days who have been sent for an independent doctor's opinion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15678/09]

The number of uncertified sick days taken within all sections of my Department amounted to 637 days in 2007, 513 days in 2008, and 157 days to date in 2009.

The maximum number of uncertified sick days allowable per person in any one year is 7. No employee is permitted to take over 7 days uncertified sick leave in any one year.

496 staff took an average of 1.28 uncertified sick days in 2007, 365 took an average of 1.40 uncertified sick days in 2008 and 110 took an average of 1.43 uncertified sick days to date in 2009.

As my Department's management system records sick leave by date rather than by day, it is not possible to furnish the information in respect of Fridays and Mondays within the time available. I will arrange to furnish this information to the Deputy at a later date.

No staff members have been referred to the Chief Medical Officer on the basis of their uncertified sick leave. Employees on certified sick leave may be referred to the Chief Medical Officer on an individual basis under the sick leave regulations. If an individual is found to be abusing the sick leave facility, disciplinary action, including withdrawal of the privilege of uncertified sick leave, may be invoked.

Departmental Expenditure.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

364 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money that has been spent on public transport projects in all counties under Transport 21 since its launch; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15694/09]

Exchequer capital and current grants to CIE and accessibility grants are not allocated on a county basis.

Expenditure on Luas/Metro projects relates to the Greater Dublin Area only. Under Transport 21, a total of €363m was spent on these projects up to the end of 2008. A provision of €159m has been made for Luas/Metro projects in the current year. In addition, Integrated Ticketing is being rolled out in the GDA initially. The expenditure on Integrated Ticketing from 2006 to date is €8.5m. It is not possible to breakdown by county.

Traffic Management grants are made available to fund bus priority, cycle and pedestrian facilities and other traffic management measures. The total grants are as per the table below. A provision of €55m has been made for the current year in respect of Traffic Management Grants. Grants provided under Transport 21 for 2006, 2007 and 2008 broken down by county are as follows:

County

2006

2007

2008

Dublin

24,633,066

38,162,739

56,283,820

Kildare

728,875

429,459

1,353,300

Meath

2,215,649

1,853,950

104,643

Wicklow

70,000

18,150

225,563

Cork

6,543

5,534

5,131

Galway

945

390

3,462

Limerick

681

1,194

3,330

Waterford

519

73

174

Total

27,656,278

40,471,489

57,979,423

Road Network.

Michael Creed

Question:

365 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Transport the decrease in the 2009 non-primary roads allocation to Cork County Council; if he will tabulate the way this increase compares with all other local authorities allocations; if he will also provide a per kilometre figure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15721/09]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each individual local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants paid by my Department.

Following the Supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009, revised allocations were notified to local authorities on 14 April 2009, in respect of regional and local roads. The revised allocations are set out in Table 1.

Regional and local road grants are allocated under a number of grant categories. The only grant categories which are calculated by reference to length of road are the discretionary improvement, discretionary maintenance and restoration maintenance categories.

Details of the 2009 grant allocations per kilometre to each county council under these specified grant categories are set out in Table 2.

Table 1

2009 Initial Allocations

2009 Revised Allocations

County Councils

Carlow

7,503,699

5,196,199

Cavan

18,396,025

13,052,025

Clare

21,767,498

16,032,498

Cork

61,242,343

43,880,723

Donegal

38,392,397

28,664,397

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

8,711,699

6,109,699

Fingal

8,170,866

5,788,866

Galway

33,557,804

24,234,746

Kerry

24,361,139

17,985,097

Kildare

24,578,264

15,769,264

Kilkenny

15,396,813

11,373,699

Laois

12,453,928

9,045,928

Leitrim

12,622,699

8,960,699

Limerick

18,330,598

13,190,198

Longford

8,798,799

6,380,799

Louth

13,158,636

10,920,631

Mayo

30,351,746

22,316,746

Meath

21,312,473

16,566,473

Monaghan

17,018,199

12,445,199

North Tipperary

14,739,598

11,008,598

Offaly

11,351,699

8,180,699

Roscommon

17,847,265

13,118,265

Sligo

14,924,751

10,706,899

South Dublin

13,826,899

8,250,899

South Tipperary

15,029,998

10,762,998

Waterford

17,601,699

13,672,699

Westmeath

17,748,365

13,941,365

Wexford

17,744,046

12,784,498

Wicklow

23,878,820

20,603,820

City/Borough Councils

Cork

6,979,000

4,264,000

Dublin

18,325,656

12,682,450

Galway

3,805,000

1,674,000

Limerick

4,210,000

2,294,000

Waterford

5,170,000

2,289,000

Clonmel

721,740

488,903

Drogheda

644,000

405,000

Kilkenny

625,000

393,000

Sligo

2,225,000

1,993,000

Wexford

675,000

443,000

Town Councils

Arklow

287,000

177,000

Athlone

581,000

359,000

Athy

287,000

177,000

Ballina

287,000

177,000

Ballinasloe

287,000

177,000

Birr

287,000

177,000

Bray

624,000

385,000

Buncrana

287,000

177,000

Bundoran

204,000

126,000

Carlow

605,000

373,000

Carrickmacross

287,000

177,000

Carrick-on-Suir

287,000

177,000

Cashel

204,000

126,000

Castlebar

287,000

177,000

Castleblayney

204,000

126,000

Cavan

287,000

177,000

Ceannanus Mor

287,000

177,000

Clonakilty

287,000

177,000

Clones

204,000

126,000

Cobh

287,000

177,000

Dundalk

624,000

385,000

Dungarvan

287,000

177,000

Ennis

605,000

373,000

Enniscorthy

287,000

177,000

Fermoy

287,000

177,000

Killarney

287,000

177,000

Kilrush

204,000

126,000

Kinsale

287,000

177,000

Letterkenny

581,000

359,000

Listowel

287,000

177,000

Longford

287,000

177,000

Macroom

204,000

126,000

Mallow

287,000

177,000

Midleton

287,000

177,000

Monaghan

287,000

177,000

Naas

605,000

373,000

Navan

605,000

373,000

Nenagh

287,000

177,000

New Ross

287,000

177,000

Skibbereen

204,000

126,000

Templemore

204,000

126,000

Thurles

287,000

177,000

Tipperary

287,000

177,000

Tralee

605,000

373,000

Trim

287,000

177,000

Tullamore

287,000

177,000

Westport

287,000

177,000

Wicklow

287,000

177,000

Youghal

287,000

177,000

Table 2

2009 allocation under Discretionary Improvement & Discretionary Maintenance and Restoration Maintenance

Regional and Local Road length in County Council areas (KM)

2009 allocation per Km under Discretionary Improvement & Discretionary Maintenance and Restoration Maintenance

County Councils

Carlow Co Council

1,646,000

1,153

1,428

Cavan Co Council

4,106,000

2,876

1,428

Clare Co Council

5,625,000

3,940

1,428

Cork Co Council

16,524,000

11,574

1,428

Donegal Co Council

8,596,000

6,022

1,427

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co Council

1,860,000

652

2,853

Fingal Co Council

2,188,000

1,022

2,141

Galway Co Council

8,669,000

6,072

1,428

Kerry Co Council

6,030,000

4,224

1,428

Kildare Co Council

2,984,000

2,090

1,428

Kilkenny Co Council

4,068,000

2,850

1,427

Laois Co Council

2,816,000

1,973

1,427

Leitrim Co Council

2,931,000

2,053

1,428

Limerick Co Council

4,859,000

3,404

1,427

Longford Co Council

2,093,000

1,466

1,428

Louth Co Council

1,637,000

1,147

1,427

Mayo Co Council

8,392,000

5,878

1,428

Meath Co Council

4,177,000

2,925

1,428

Monaghan Co Council

3,388,000

2,374

1,427

North Tipperary Co Council

3,469,000

2,431

1,427

Offaly Co Council

2,773,000

1,943

1,427

Roscommon Co Council

5,311,000

3,720

1,428

Sligo Co Council

3,567,000

2,499

1,427

South Dublin Co Council

1,695,000

792

2,140

South Tipperary Co Council

3,906,000

2,736

1,428

Waterford Co Council

3,507,000

2,457

1,427

Westmeath Co Council

2,859,000

2,004

1,427

Wexford Co Council

4,551,000

3,188

1,428

Wicklow Co Council

2,833,000

1,984

1,428

Public Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

366 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ensure that people with a disability have equal access to public transport and taxis in view of the decision in the supplementary budget on 7 April 2009 to cut a programme to improve accessibility for disabled persons to public transport by €5 million; his position on the commitment in the programme for Government 2007 to have 100% wheelchair accessible taxis in all cities by 2010 in view of the fact that wheelchair accessible taxis as a percentage of the overall taxi fleet have dropped from 21% in 2000 to 5% in 2008; his views on whether a commitment to an accessible taxi fleet is imperative to ensure people with a disability can fully participate in society; if he will grant priority to this matter in view of the fact that 26% of accessible taxis are ten years or older; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15748/09]

Policy regarding public transport accessibility is set out in ‘Transport Access for All', my Department's Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act, 2005. Measures to implement the Plan are already well advanced. Since the year 2000, all major refurbishment projects at bus and rail stations, together with the construction of new stations and the purchase of trains or buses take account of the needs of people with mobility and sensory impairments.

Significant resources for accessibility are being provided under Transport 21 to facilitate further progress. Accessibility is being built into new public transport infrastructure projects and funding is also being provided to continue the phased retrofit of existing infrastructure. While the 2009 allocation for public transport accessibility improvement projects has been reduced from €25m to €20m, the revised allocation represents a 43% increase on the 2008 allocation and provides ample scope for accessibility improvement projects planned for 2009.

In addition, funding of €11 million, an increase of 10% on the 2008 provision, is being provided by my Department in 2009 for the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) which also provides services to people with disabilities. In relation to wheelchair accessible taxis, the percentage of the whole taxi fleet that was wheelchair accessible in 2008 was 7.5%. While this is a reduction from the percentage of the fleet that was wheelchair accessible pre-liberalisation, the number of wheelchair accessible taxis has actually increased, though not at the same rate as the overall expansion of the fleet. There were 1,600 licensed wheelchair accessible taxis in 2008 — up from 1,246 in 2005. The Commission for Taxi Regulation has submitted proposals for a subsidy scheme to assist in the purchase of wheelchair accessible taxis and the issue is under consideration in my Department having regard to the commitment in the Programme for Government and in the context of the overall budgetary situation. In the context of the public consultation which the Commission has launched on the basis of the economic review of the taxi sector, it has sought submissions from the public and the taxi industry on the key recommendations of the review, including in relation to measures to secure greater provision of taxi services for people with disabilities and it is undertaking further analysis in this regard.

State Airports.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

367 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport the scale of the debt at each of the State airports at Shannon, Cork and Dublin at the end of 2007 and 2008; the current position regarding debt at each of the airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15756/09]

The Dublin Airport Authority plc (DAA), which has responsibility for Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports, had overall borrowings of just under €1.1 billion at the end of 2008, as compared with borrowings of almost €500 million at the end of 2007. The increase in debt levels during 2008 is attributable to the €600m Eurobond issued by DAA in July 2008 to fund its €1.2 billion capital investment programme in the period up to 2009.

I understand that at the end of 2008 about €200 million of the borrowings relates to Cork airport, €70 million relates to Shannon airport and the remainder relates to Dublin airport.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

368 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport when the necessary legislation will be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas to enable the customs and Border protection facility be put in place at Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15757/09]

Pat Breen

Question:

370 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 338 of 11 November 2008, if legislation to give effect to the provision of full pre-clearance facilities at Shannon Airport has been finalised; when he expects this legislation to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15864/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 368 and 370 together.

Drafting of the necessary legislation for preclearance is at an advanced stage and I intend to introduce the legislation to the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks to enable Shannon Airport to be in a position to commence preclearance in the summer period.

Road Traffic Offences.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

369 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the timetable for the introduction of outstanding penalty points to the schedule of penalty points offences which have yet to be implemented; the date they were originally intended to be implemented; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15838/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

371 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he will postpone for three months the introduction of additional new penalty points for motorists in view of the backlog at test centres and public concerns in respect of delays in contacting these centres by telephone, fax or e-mail for appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15935/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 369 and 371 together.

Penalty points have been introduced on a phased basis, beginning in 2002, and since then in 2003, 2004, 2006 and this year (with effect from 1 May). This process will continue for the remaining offences which are scheduled to become penalty points offences in the Road Traffic Acts

In all cases, penalty points are applied to existing offences, and with the aim of improving road safety through driver behaviour, and in the case of the most recent penalty point offences, improving vehicle standards. For example, the use of a vehicle without a test certificate (where applicable) is already an offence which on conviction carries a fine of up to €2,000 or imprisonment for up to 3 months or both.

It is now the case, for the 5 offences to which penalty points will be attached with effect from 1 May, that such points will be applied on conviction, in addition to any fine or imprisonment.

The increase in inquiries to the National Car Testing Service has created some difficulties in making applications for tests, but these are temporary and thousands of test appointments have successfully been made in the last few days, including for cars which were due to be tested in 2007 and 2008.

I have no plans to postpone the commencement date of the 1st of May. The number of test appointments made by cars due for testing in 2007 and 2008 underlines both the road safety message and the effectiveness of the penalty point system.

I am sure the Deputy will continue to support my efforts to introduce all aspects of the Road Safety Strategy including the introduction of Penalty Points.

Question No. 370 answered with Question No. 368.
Question No. 371 answered with Question No. 369.

Visa Applications.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

372 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to amend the three year rule for American voluntary workers working with Irish churches of different denominations here to allow them to stay here for longer periods in view of the fact that it takes time for them to settle into communities and build up relationships and that they come fully supported financially from the USA, including having medical insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15758/09]

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

373 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views, if he does not have plans to amend the three year rule for American voluntary workers working with Irish churches here, on extending the period they can stay in view of the fact that they bring a positive contribution to communities through their projects and do not gain materially from being here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15759/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 372 and 373 together.

A general policy has been in place for a number of years to the effect that religious and volunteer workers in the State could remain for a maximum of 3 years. However, this policy, while remaining in force, has not been rigorously applied and such volunteer workers have on a case by case basis been facilitated with further renewals, although it is not intended that such permissions be open-ended.

The particular immigration status given to religious and volunteer workers indicates that they are not entitled to participate in the labour market. It was also understood they are dependent on their employing church or organisation for their upkeep, finances, and medical expenses or the person concerned could of course organise their own private medical insurance.

My Department is currently reviewing the policy in relation to religious and volunteer workers and when that process is completed the terms and conditions governing this category of temporary migration will be set out clearly for the benefit of all parties.

Citizenship Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

374 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 298 of 31 March 2009, if his attention has been drawn to the application for naturalisation of a person (details supplied) which was also submitted to his Department in December 2008 and has been granted; the length of time it currently takes to process a naturalisation application in respect of a child; when this application is expected to be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15100/09]

The application for naturalisation from the first named person, a spouse of an Irish citizen, has been granted.

Applications for certificates of naturalisation on behalf of the second and third persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in December 2008.

Applications for naturalisation are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale.

Applications on behalf of minors are dealt with by a separate unit in the Citizenship Division of my Department, because they generally require less processing than standard adult applications, it is usually possible to finalise them more quickly.

There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

375 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the naturalisation application in respect of a person (details supplied); when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15121/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 320 on 17 December 2008. Officials in the Citizenship Section inform me that processing of this application is ongoing and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in due course.

Residency Permits.

Joe Costello

Question:

376 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who has an Irish born child since 2002 is not entitled to residency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15145/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person to whom he refers entered the State and applied for asylum on 2 April 2003. This application was refused and the person in question subsequently undertook to leave the State voluntarily. Her departure from the State was confirmed on 14 December 2004.

The person concerned did not make any application for permission to remain in the State under the arrangements then in place for the parents of children born in Ireland. Since the termination of the IBC/05 Scheme, there is no longer any separate procedure or free-standing right of any person to apply for permission to remain in the State on the sole basis of parentage of a child born in Ireland.

Prisoner Transfers.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

377 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) is receiving the proper medication for a condition during periods of transfer between prisons. [15155/09]

The Irish Prison Service is committed to providing general health care for the assessment, treatment and care of prisoners comparable to that which is available in the community and appropriate to a prison setting.

The person referred to by the Deputy is currently on remand in Cloverhill and is on methadone maintenance. He has made a number of court appearances since his initial committal on 20 December 2008. He was remanded by the courts to Castlerea prison and steps were taken to transfer him to Cloverhill where his methadone treatment was continued.

I am advised that all decisions regarding the medical treatment afforded to this person, while in custody in Castlerea, were taken by the prison doctor.

Residency Permits.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

378 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when his Department expects to make a decision in respect of the application for long-term residency of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [15158/09]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in September 2007. I understand that applications received in July 2007 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Court Procedures.

Joe Costello

Question:

379 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15164/09]

Proceedings under the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 in relation to the case raised by the Deputy are currently before the courts. As the Deputy will be aware, subject to the Constitution and the law, the courts are independent in the exercise of their functions. As Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I have no function in relation to the determination of the proceedings.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

380 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15182/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in February 2008.

The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

The Deputy has not provided sufficient information with regard to the mother of the person concerned to enable me to give a detailed response. If the Deputy wishes to furnish further particulars, Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department will advise him of the position.

Garda Training.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

381 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the length of the waiting list for advanced driving courses for the Garda; his plans to provide resources to address this waiting list delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15183/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is currently no waiting list to undergo advanced driving courses.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

382 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of residency in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15184/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the first person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in February 2008.

The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the second person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that they have no record of applications for Long Term Residency from either of the persons concerned.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

383 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extended residency will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15185/09]

The person concerned was, as an exceptional measure, granted temporary permission to remain in the State for a six month period to 8 April 2009. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 8 October 2008.

The person concerned is required to apply in writing for the renewal of this permission. As my Department's records show no evidence of such a renewal application having been made to date, it is recommended that the person concerned should do so without further delay.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

384 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in respect of the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15186/09]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 561 of Tuesday 24 March 2009, in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

385 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for residency in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15187/09]

The first named person concerned has been granted an extension of her temporary permission to remain in the State for a two year period until 19 March 2011. This decision was conveyed in writing to the first named person concerned by letter dated 17 April 2009.

In relation to the second named person concerned, the position is that if an application for asylum has been made by the person in question, the Deputy will be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

386 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15188/09]

Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

387 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15189/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in March 2008.

The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

388 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15190/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 12 October 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 October 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

389 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure to be followed in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 who wishes to apply for permission to remain here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15191/09]

I am currently unable to answer the Deputy's Question due to the lack of information provided. I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that they have sought further information regarding details of the person referred to by the Deputy. This information has not yet been received by my officials.

Missing Persons.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

390 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the establishment of a dedicated missing persons unit including a response network similar to the amber alert in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15193/09]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

446 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report from the Garda Inspectorate regarding the need to establish a dedicated missing persons unit, including a response network similar to the amber alert in the USA. [15509/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 390 and 446 together.

In July 2008, I asked the Garda Síochána Inspectorate to undertake a review and advise on the need to establish a dedicated Missing Persons Unit within An Garda Síochána and a response network for missing children similar to "Amber Alert" in the USA. This was in accordance with a commitment made in the Programme for Government.

I have received the Inspectorate's report. It finds overall that Garda systems for handling missing persons cases are in line with international best practice and makes recommendations on how these systems can be further enhanced. One of its key recommendations is that an emergency alert system for missing children, similar to the "Amber Alert" in place in other countries, should be established. I welcome this recommendation. The establishment of such an emergency alert system will be a challenging task and will require the support of a whole range of governmental agencies, NGOs and the media, as well as the support of the public.

The Garda Commissioner has welcomed the report and has indicated that An Garda Síochána will move forward with a commitment to working in partnership with governmental and non-governmental organisations dedicated to locating missing persons.

Citizenship Applications.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

391 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the countries from which citizenship applications are made; and the numbers of applications for the past five years. [15247/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 155 on 7 April, 2009 in relation to the number of applications received for the last five years. The position remains as stated.

The vast majority of applications for certificates of naturalisation are received from applicants residing in Ireland, because residency is a statutory requirement. However, a very small minority of applications are received from individuals residing abroad.

The following is a breakdown of the nationalities of applicants for naturalisation between 2005 and 2009.

Nationality

Total

Nationality

Total

Nationality

Total

Nationality

Total

Nationality

Total

Afghanistan

139

Chile

26

India

1,663

Mongolia

14

South Africa

1,631

Albania

279

China

1,027

Indonesia

34

Montenegro

3

Spain

15

Algeria

374

Colombia

50

Iran

204

Morocco

148

Sri Lanka

86

Andorra

2

Costa Rica

5

Iraq

359

Mozambique

8

Stateless

13

Angola

368

Croatia

298

Ireland

12

Myanmar

37

Sudan

546

Argentina

62

Cuba

52

Israel

45

Namibia

2

Swaziland

8

Armenia

35

Cyprus

2

Italy

34

Nepal

73

Sweden

3

Australia

325

Czech Republic

44

Ivory Coast

99

New Zealand

173

Switzerland

32

Austria

5

Denmark

1

Jamaica

38

Nicaragua

4

Syria

87

Azerbaijan

24

DR Congo

766

Japan

24

Niger

16

Tajikistan

13

Bahamas

1

Ecuador

21

Jordan

103

Nigeria

4,556

Tanzania

27

Bahrain

6

Egypt

351

Kazakhstan

107

Norway

1

Thailand

202

Bangladesh

1,127

El Salvador

5

Kenya

168

Oman

2

Togo

98

Barbados

1

Eritrea

45

Korea

42

Pakistan

2,055

Trinidad and Tobago

17

Belarus

428

Estonia

39

Kosova

413

Palestine

97

Tunisia

94

Belgium

4

Ethiopia

72

Kuwait

13

Panama

1

Turkey

296

Belize

1

Fiji Islands

2

Kyrgyzstan

19

Paraguay

1

Turkmenistan

2

Benin

1

Finland

5

Latvia

125

Peru

23

Uganda

54

Bhutan

3

France

40

Lebanon

74

Philippines

2,265

Ukraine

1,016

Bolivia

2

Gabon

1

Lesotho

8

Poland

200

United Kingdom

562

Bosnia

196

Gambia

8

Liberia

56

Portugal

14

United States of America

656

Botswana

7

Georgia

134

Libya

180

Romania

849

Uruguay

6

Brazil

212

Germany

73

Lithuania

81

Russia

1,212

Uzbekistan

54

Brunei

4

Ghana

181

Macedonia

31

Rwanda

53

Venezuela

22

Bulgaria

218

Greece

11

Malawi

13

Samoa

1

Vietnam

192

Burkina Faso

1

Grenada

1

Malaysia

346

Saudi Arabia

14

Yemen

12

Burundi

25

Guatemala

3

Mali

1

Senegal

18

Yugoslavia

80

Cambodia

1

Guinea

47

Malta

5

Serbia

87

Zambia

20

Cameroon

248

Guyana

1

Mauritania

22

Sierra Leone

112

Zimbabwe

632

Canada

160

Netherlands

21

Mauritius

15

Singapore

18

Cape Verde Islands

4

Honduras

3

Mexico

35

Slovakia

35

Chad

6

Hungary

17

Moldova

618

Somalia

400

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

392 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the counties in which citizenship applicants are residing when making the application for the past five years. [15248/09]

Statistics are not compiled in such a manner as to provide data on the counties in which applicants are residing when making applications for certificates of naturalisation.

Residency Permits.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

393 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) will receive their stamp for long-term residency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15258/09]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. The application for lon