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 5, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 6 to 47, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 48 to 57, inclusive, answered orally.

Haulage Licences.

Pat Breen

Question:

58 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he received complaints or correspondence regarding the issuing of haulage licences to people with criminal convictions in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21148/09]

John O'Mahony

Question:

98 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport if he received complaints or correspondence from the gardaí in the past five years regarding the issuing of haulage licences to people with criminal convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21224/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

99 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he received complaints or correspondence from licensed road hauliers regarding the issuing of haulage licences to people with criminal convictions in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21223/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58, 98 and 99 together.

A number of complaints have been received in the Road Transport Operator Licensing Unit of my Department. These complaints have come from a variety of sources, including individuals and organisations such as the Road Safety Authority and the Revenue Commissioners. However, it is not possible to indicate the exact number of complaints attributed to different organisations and individuals, as this would involve an inspection of a substantial number of individual files over a number of years.

Some of the complaints received relate to licensed hauliers who may have a conviction, for example, in relation to green diesel or driving offences.

Each complaint received is investigated by the section and enquiries made with the appropriate authorities to check if the licence holder continues to comply with all the licensing requirements, including good repute, financial standing, professional competence, and vehicle documentation.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

59 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent preliminary figures from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency in the UK which found that 36% of Irish registered vehicles in the UK are not roadworthy; the percentage of HGVs on roads here which have been found to be unroadworthy in 2008 and to date in 2009; if he will review the system to invigilate HGVs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21245/09]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has responsibility for matters relating to vehicle testing, including Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs).

The RSA was tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review of the arrangements for the for the roadworthiness testing of commercial vehicles in Ireland. In early 2008, I approved proposals from the RSA to reform the Commercial vehicle Roadworthiness system. The phasing and means of resourcing implementation of the reform plan is under consideration in light of current constrained Exchequer circumstances.

Departmental Agencies.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

60 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the Dublin Transport Authority to be fully operational; his views on whether the delay is acceptable in view of the fact that the act was signed on 8 July 2008; the action taken by him to have the authority operational in time for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21185/09]

Liz McManus

Question:

82 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport when the new Dublin Transport Authority will be established and fully operational; the process being run to appoint a chief executive officer for the DTA; if this is a national or internationally based process; when legislation will be published to transform the DTA into the National Transport Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21261/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 82 together.

Following the enactment of the Dublin Transport Authority my Department is proceeding with preparations for the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) during 2009.

A key part of those preparations is the recruitment of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) designate. The recruitment process which was overseen by the Public Appointments Service, was aimed at attracting interest from suitable candidates in Ireland and abroad. That process has now been concluded and I expect to be in a position to announce the CEO designate in the near future.

Last March I sought applications from persons interested in being appointed as a member of the new Authority. I am pleased to report that the process yielded 66 applications, which I am currently considering.

The renaming of the Dublin Transport Authority as the National Transport Authority is among the proposals included in the General Scheme of the Public Transport Regulation Bill, which was approved by the Government earlier this year. The Bill is now being drafted and it will be published as soon as possible.

Road Traffic Offences.

Phil Hogan

Question:

61 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce new transport legislation or regulations to pursue drivers accused of speeding outside the District Court system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21192/09]

The fixed charge system is an important element of the enforcement of road traffic offences, which is provided for in the Road Traffic Acts. While enforcement and issuing of notices is a matter for the Gardai, I would not agree that road safety is suffering in this regard.

The key indicator of road safety is the number of fatalities on the road, and we are still on target to reduce road deaths to no greater than 60 fatalities per million of population by the end of 2012 which equates to 252 deaths per year.

Fatalities on our roads have fallen in recent years, and the number for 2008, at 279, is the lowest since records began. The number of fatalities to date is 105 (22 May), and while this is one up on the same date last year, it is often difficult to match the same rate of progress of a record year such as 2008 and overall we are still well on target to meet the overall Strategy target.

I have no plans to introduce new legislation to deal with speeding or any road traffic offences outside the District Court system.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

62 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has reviewed the operation of the random roadside drug driving programme in the Australian state of New South Wales; the reason he has not introduced a similar programme to target drug drivers on roads here; the number of drivers who have been tested for drug driving each year since 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21253/09]

Driving under the influence of intoxicants, drugs as well as alcohol, is one of many key issues in road safety, and the testing of drivers in relation to drugs is already provided for in the Road Traffic Acts.

Currently, where a member of the Garda Síochána is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle, he or she may require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person to submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample.

I understand that the random drug driving testing scheme referred to by the Deputy is limited in application. It is based on saliva and the test is carried out at the roadside for the presence of methamphetamine and cannabis only.

There is no feasible basis yet in Europe for the introduction of a scheme of preliminary roadside testing for drugs. Testing devices are still in the prototype stages and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) is keeping abreast of developments. I will be guided by them as to when a roadside test suitable for use here becomes available and should be introduced.

In the meantime, the Road Traffic Bill, the drafting of which is nearing completion, includes provisions for "field impairment testing" i.e. non-technological methods by which the Gardaí can make a preliminary assessment about the possible presence of drugs.

The number of specimens tested for the presence of a drug or drugs by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for the years 2004 to 2008 is as follows:

2004 — 569

2005 — 747

2006 — 879

2007 — 1,555

and the provisional figure for 2008 is 1,900.

Departmental Agencies.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

63 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he will include the statutory provision of a passengers champion within the structure of the new Dublin Transport Authority/National Transport Regulator to make sure that commuters’ concerns in all modes of public transport including bus, rail, LUAS and taxis are at the heart of the system of transport regulation; the way passengers and commuters will be fully represented in the new transport regulatory system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21262/09]

Section 17 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 provides for the appointment of an Advisory Council to perform the following functions—

making recommendations to the Authority on a draft transport strategy, draft integrated implementation plan and draft strategic traffic management plan,

monitoring the implementation of the transport strategy, integrated implementation plan and strategic traffic management plan and making any recommendations it considers appropriate to the Authority,

making recommendations to the Authority in relation to the discharge of any of its functions.

The Advisory Council will comprise a chairperson and 23 ordinary members representing a wide range of interests. Of the 23 ordinary members, 4 members will be representative of the public interest. The procedure for the appointment of these 4 public interest representatives is that the Minister for Transport may prescribe organisations, which shall be invited to nominate candidates to be appointed by the Minister. The prescribed organisations may include organisations which, in the opinion of the Minister for Transport, are representative of:

the interests of transport users,

the interests of people with disabilities, or

persons whose professions or occupations relate to transport, land use planning, urban design, architecture or civil engineering.

In January 2009, the Government approved the General Scheme of the Public Transport Regulation Bill which contains proposals for a new regime for the licensing of commercial bus services, including those provided by Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, and for the extension nationally of the new structures that will apply to contracts for public transport services that have been established in respect of the Greater Dublin Area through the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008.

The new Bill will also provide for the amalgamation of the Commission for Taxi Regulation into the Dublin Transport Authority and the renaming of the DTA as the National Transport Authority. In association with that particular initiative, it is proposed that the Bill will provide for the retention of the advisory structures that are in place to support the Commission for Taxi Regulation, which provide that at least two members of the Council must represent consumer interests.

Public Transport.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

64 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport the details of discussions he has had with Bus Éireann in relation to cutbacks in its services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21233/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

88 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he has had contact with Bus Éireann management, workers or their representatives on proposals to cut 150 buses and 300 jobs at the company with reports that as many as 52 Bus Éireann routes will be axed; the action he will take before the 19 June 2009 deadline to maintain critical fleets, services and jobs at Bus Éireann particularly in the context of the positive invigilation of Bus Éireann in the recent Deloitte review of efficiencies in the bus sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21258/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 64 and 88 together.

I have been briefed by the company on the deterioration in its financial position due in the main to declining demand, revenue and increased costs. Decisions in relation to service rationalizations are a matter for the company itself. I understand that Bus Éireann are currently engaged in detailed discussions with its staff and their representatives on the measures proposed in this regard.

Traffic Management.

Joan Burton

Question:

65 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he has responded to the concerns of the residents and business people in Dublin city centre on the proposed busgate for College Green, Dublin which may have an impact on commercial life in Dublin city, if not properly managed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21271/09]

Traffic management in Dublin City centre is a matter for Dublin City Council, and I have no function in the implementation of such schemes.

Air Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

66 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport his views on legislation to protect airline passengers from the range of extra charges and levies that are continually being imposed upon them and particularly in view of the need to maintain passenger volumes in the airline sector; if he has had contact with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Commission on Aviation Regulation and the National Consumer Agency to review the increasing burden of additional charges on airline passengers including the new €30 levy on passengers carrying a separate duty free bag and the charge for accessing a boarding card at the airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21265/09]

It is not open to Ireland to introduce national legislation as the operation of air services, including the setting of fares, is the subject of common EU rules which are set down in Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008 which is directly applicable in the State. European carriers providing commercial air services can freely set their fares. This has been the case since 1992 when the market was first liberalised.

In the EC Regulation, which revised the common rules for the operation of the market last year, new provisions were introduced requiring greater pricing transparency. When publishing or advertising air fares, airlines must now include all applicable conditions and all applicable taxes and charges which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication. These pricing transparency provisions were introduced because the fare structure in the industry in recent years has changed significantly with many airlines now having differentiated pricing structures consisting of a basic fare with a number of optional pricing elements. The new rules require greater transparency in pricing information but airlines still have full pricing freedom. This ensures that consumers have fuller information available to them in making their travel choices.

Light Rail Projects.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

67 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport the estimated commencement and completion dates for Metro West, LUAS line BX and D, and the Dublin rail interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21270/09]

The start and completion dates for projects which are yet to commence construction, including Metro West, Luas Line BXD, and the DART Underground, will be determined as appropriate by the outcome of public consultation, the statutory planning approval process, the public procurement process and the funding available during the current difficult economic climate.

The provision of increased capacity will be a key consideration in determining public transport investment priorities in the period ahead. In that context, the DART Underground and Metro North, are particularly important rail investments as they form a core part of the planned integrated public transport network for the Greater Dublin Area envisaged by Transport 21.

Proposed Legislation.

Liz McManus

Question:

68 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport when he will introduce legislation to revise the 1932 bus licensing legislation; the proposed measures the new legislation will contain to reform the system of bus licensing; the reason for the delay in introducing this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21260/09]

In January 2009, the Government approved the General Scheme of the Public Transport Regulation Bill which contains proposals for a new bus licensing regime which will replace the Road Transport Act 1932, and the provisions of the Transport Act 1958 that relate to the provision of bus services by the State bus companies. In accordance with the Programme for Government commitment, the proposed licensing regime will provide a level playing field for all bus market participants.

The new licensing structure will apply in respect of all commercial bus passenger services, including those provided by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. It will establish a clear framework for assessing applications for bus route licences as well as a modern system of penalties and associated powers for revocation of licences.

The General Scheme of the Bill also contains proposals for extending nationally the provisions of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 in relation to the provision of public service obligations that are consistent with EU Regulation No. 1370/2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and by road.

The Bill will assign responsibility to the Dublin Transport Authority for bus route licensing and the award of public service contracts nationwide. It will also provide for the amalgamation of the Commission for Taxi Regulation into the DTA, as well as the renaming of the DTA as the National Transport Authority given its proposed national responsibility in relation to commercial bus licensing, bus and rail subvention and the regulation of small public service vehicles.

There has been no delay in introducing the legislation.

In the light of the Government approval of the General Scheme of the Public Transport Regulation Bill, the Bill is now being drafted and it will be published as soon as possible.

Rural Transport Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

69 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm the amount of money allocated to the rural transport programme for 2009; and if there are plans to reduce the funding or service. [16736/09]

Funding of Euro 11 million is being provided by my Department for the Rural Transport Programme in 2009, an increase of Euro 1 million on the outturn for 2008. This will maintain the existing level of service for this year.

Funding for the Programme beyond 2009 will be considered in the context of the Estimates process for 2010.

Public Transport.

James Reilly

Question:

70 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Transport the number of written warnings he has given State funded transport operators for anti-competitive practices since 2000 to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21229/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

74 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Transport the number of outstanding accusations of anti-competitive practices by State funded transport operators he is currently investigating; when he expects a determination for each complaint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21230/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 74 together.

Since 2000 my Department has received 22 complaints in relation to anti-competitive practices by State funded transport operators.

In eight of the cases my Department issued written warnings to State funded transport operators. All of the cases have been resolved apart from one, which is ongoing. It is envisaged that this investigation will be concluded shortly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his priorities to encourage commuters onto public rail and bus transport; the extent to which efforts have been made to identify the reasons most likely to encourage the public in this direction such as free parking, adequate bus shelters or other steps, other than punitive measures likely to be most helpful in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21241/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if studies have been done to identify the most compelling reasons for commuters to opt for bus and rail services in north Kildare and throughout the commuter belt; if punctuality, frequency of service, reliability, parking, adequate and safe waiting areas such as bus shelters and accommodation at rail stations have been studied; his plans to address these issues directly or in the context of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21530/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 237 together.

The priorities of the Government in relation to further improving and encouraging the greater use of public transport services is set out in the Government's sustainable transport policy, Smarter Travel published in February 2009.

It is clear from the public consultation undertaken for this policy document that among the key issues in promoting greater public transport use, in Co. Kildare and elsewhere, are increased capacity and improved quality together with the other factors referred to by the Deputy. Smarter Travel accordingly provides for increased public transport provision, better integration between modes, integrated ticketing and the availability of better travel information.

Investment in the projects under Transport 21 are being pursued in a manner consistent with these objectives and by the relevant agencies involved in the delivery of these projects.

Rail Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

72 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the enhancement of rail services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20980/09]

The day to day operation of train services, including scheduling of trains, is an operational matter for the relevant company and I have no function in this matter.

Significant investment is also being provided to ensure the safety, enhance the quality and increase the capacity of the rail network.

Work on three new Luas lines is currently underway as is work on the new commuter line in Cork, the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor and the first phase of the Navan rail line from Clonsilla to Dunboyne. Over €500 has been invested in railway safety under the Second Railway Safety Programme. The third Railway Safety Programme is being finalised by the Railway Safety Task Force. 234 new railcars have been ordered and have started to enter service. Significant progress is also continuing in the planning of major projects. The Oral Hearing on Metro North commenced in April and Irish Rail are on target to lodge a railway order application for the DART Underground later this year.

As I have stated previously the provision of increased capacity will be a key consideration in determining public transport investment priorities. In this context, Metro North and the DART Underground Project are particularly important rail investments as they form a core part of the planned integrated public transport network for the Greater Dublin Area envisaged by Transport 21.

Transport 21.

Alan Shatter

Question:

73 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Transport the number of projects detailed in Transport 21 which have yet to commence; the number which will not meet the deadline for the Transport 21 investment programme; the projects which have gone over budget; the amount in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21231/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if all of the proposals contained in Transport 21 are on target to proceed as planned; the exceptions, if any; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21534/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 241 together.

Transport 21 continues to provide the strategic framework guiding Government investment in transport up to 2015.

Over 60% of the major inter urban roads programme, linking Dublin with Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and the Border with Northern Ireland, has been completed and the remainder is under construction and on target for completion in 2010. The upgrade of the M50 motorway is also on target for completion in 2010.

On public transport, the new Docklands railway station has opened and Irish Rail has completely modernised its intercity rolling stock under Transport 21. A number of projects such as the Midleton rail line, Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor, the Luas line to Docklands and the Kildare rail project are scheduled to be completed this year, while construction continues on other projects such as the Luas lines to Cherrywood and Citywest and the first phase of the Navan rail line between Clonsilla and Pace.

However, in the light of the changed economic circumstances, it has been necessary to review investment priorities across all Government Departments. As a result of this review, my Department's priorities for the coming years have been identified as:

completion of the five major inter-urban roads

completion of the M50 upgrade project

progress on the Atlantic Road Corridor

provision of additional capacity on the public transport network through the delivery of key projects such as Metro North and the DART Underground programme.

The planning of the major transport capital projects identified in Transport 21 is continuing and they will be released for construction as soon as they are through statutory procedures and the available financial resources permit and consistent with the priorities I have outlined.

Since the commencement of Transport 21, 35 national roads projects have been completed, the vast majority on or under budget. However, seven projects have gone over budget:

N52 Mullingar Bypass;

N55 Cavan Bypass;

Dublin Port Tunnel;

N77 Kilkenny Ring Road Extension;

N5 Charlestown Bypass;

M50 Upgrade Phase 1 and N51 Navan Inner Relief Road.

These projects still have close out costs associated with them and it is not possible to say definitively what the final costs will be. However it is not expected that the final costs will be significantly more than originally anticipated.

Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 70.

State Airports.

Jack Wall

Question:

75 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he has been briefed by the Dublin Airport Authority on its €20 million programme of cutbacks which may see the loss of up to 400 DAA jobs at Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports; if he will report on the steps he is taking with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to protect aviation jobs and the aviation industry here in general in view of the recent loss of jobs in the aviation sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21264/09]

Issues relating to business matters generally and employment levels in particular at the three state airports are day-to-day commercial matters for the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) in which I have no statutory function.

The reality is that the world wide economic downturn has had a seriously negative impact on the aviation industry generally and this in turn has severely affected the financial position of the DAA. The recently published DAA annual report for 2008 shows that passenger number arrivals at the three State airports are down 0.6% which is the first fall in passenger numbers for 17 years. I understand that there have been further declines in the first quarter of this year.

I know that following the announcement of its annual results for 2008, which saw a drop in Group profit of 28% from 2007, the DAA has been reviewing all aspects of its business, with a particular focus on costs, including capital development and operational expenditure.

I also understand that discussions have commenced between the DAA and the airport unions on a major cost recovery programme. The programme is to be company wide applying to Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports.

In the context of our national aviation policy, my priorities are to maintain the highest possible levels of connectivity between Ireland and key markets around the world to support economic and tourism activity and to ensure that the development of our airports facilitates this. My Department will continue to closely monitor developments in the aviation sector that affect the attainment of these objectives.

I am very sensitive to the employment implications of the downturn on the aviation industry and I have kept in close contact with my colleague, the Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who, the Deputy will appreciate, has cabinet responsibility for employment matters generally.

In the context of my responsibilities as Minister for Transport, I hope shortly to introduce to the House, the Aviation (Preclearance) Bill 2009, which will facilitate the introduction of Preclearance at Shannon Airport, later this year and at Dublin Airport next year when Terminal 2 opens. Preclearance will boost development at the airport and open a range of potential opportunities for services between Ireland and the United States.

Proposed Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

76 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport when he will bring forward the new Road Traffic Amendment Bill; if it will include a provision for the mandatory testing of all drivers involved in a road collision; the reason there has been such a delay in bringing this legislation forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21244/09]

The drafting of a Road Traffic Bill, which inter alia includes measures for the mandatory testing for alcohol of drivers involved in road traffic collisions, is near completion. It is my intention to publish it in this session.

The Road Traffic Acts already provide that a member of An Garda Síochána, if of the opinion that a driver is under the influence of an intoxicant or intoxicants to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle, may require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person to submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample.

Transport 21.

John Perry

Question:

77 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Transport the projects he will prioritise in view of the changed financial circumstances since the publication of the Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21226/09]

In the absence of a new Programme for Government the issue of what projects may or may not be included does not arise.

Taxi Regulations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

78 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport when he will respond to the Commission on Taxi Regulations submission on long-standing proposals to take over responsibility for the issuing of small public service vehicle driver licences from An Garda Sióchána; if he will confirm, if a ban on the recruitment of new staff is the reason this reform of the taxi licensing system has been delayed indefinitely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21273/09]

The proposal to transfer the function of small public service vehicle driver licensing from An Garda Sióchána to the Commission for Taxi Regulation will require additional staffing levels in the Commission.

It is not envisaged that this proposal will be delayed indefinitely. However, in light of the current moratorium on recruitment in the Public Service, the proposal will need to be reviewed with a view to identifying if alternative arrangements can be made.

Public Transport.

James Reilly

Question:

79 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Transport the progress Dublin Bus has made in implementing the recommendations of the Deloitte report on Dublin Bus efficiency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21228/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

90 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on his recent meeting with Dublin Bus management on the recent axing of 120 buses from the Dublin Bus fleet and its impact on commuters in the Greater Dublin Area; when the long promised range of technical bus improvements including integrated ticketing, real time information and an AVT system will be introduced which were also recommended in the recent Deloitte Report on the bus sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21259/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 90 together.

My most recent meeting with Dublin Bus was on 9 March when I was briefed on the financial position of the company and the arrangements in place for the implementation of the recommendations of the Deloitte report. Operational matters including service rationalisations are a matter for the company.

I understand from Dublin Bus that it has commenced implementation of the recommendations of the Deloitte report including the application of the principles identified in the report such as the amalgamation of route legs and the use of even headways between buses as part of its cost recovery plan and the commencement of work on redesign of the network.

I am informed that the position in relation to Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) and real time passenger information is that Dublin Bus is rolling out AVL on a depot-by-depot basis with the first depot to be completed by the end of this year. Once AVL has been introduced this will enable Dublin Bus to provide Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) by way of internet or mobile phone access. Funding has also been set aside for Dublin City Council to enable the installation of RTPI display signs at bus stops in a similar fashion to those at Luas and DART stops.

Integrated ticketing in the Greater Dublin Area is being introduced on a phased basis, based on smart card technology. A progressive approach is being adopted to allow customers to familiarise themselves with using the new system and to permit transport operators to undertake the necessary testing associated with the integration of the technologies involved. Smart cards are now in use on Dublin Bus services in respect of a number of integrated ticket products such as annual and monthly integrated bus and rail and bus and Luas tickets. During 2010 smartcards with an electronic purse will be available to almost all public transport users in the Greater Dublin Area.

Departmental Schemes.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

80 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport when the cycle to work scheme will be fully operational; the amount the scheme will cost to operate in 2009 and for all full subsequent years; the health and safety and legal issues which have arisen from the implementation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21276/09]

I refer to the reply by the Minister for Finance to Question Number 157 on 19 May in which he referred to a number of issues that had arisen in relation to the implementation of the scheme in the civil service. Any clarification required in relation to such issues is a matter for the Department of Finance.

In relation to the date on which the scheme will become fully operational, the Minister for Finance's reply referred to earlier indicated that a circular is due to issue from his Department shortly.

The cost of the scheme will of course depend on the number of applications received and in the absences of information in this respect it is not possible to give a definitive estimate at this juncture.

Driving Tests.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

81 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport when he plans to publish proposals for a new green driving test; the measures the new green driving test will contain; if he will bring forward a full new eco-driving programme; if so, the amount of funding which will be allocated to it and the time period involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21246/09]

Smarter Travel, the new sustainable transport policy, specifically mentions eco-driving. Action 36 states:

We will include a module on efficient driving as part of the rules of the road and national driver test. We will also require that all public authorities ensure that their drivers are trained in efficient driving and that this is part of their job specification. We will ensure that, as part of the Climate Change Awareness Campaign, there is a sustained focus on the issue of driver behaviour. We will commission research to determine the on-board technology that can be introduced in public vehicles to reinforce eco-driving behaviour and promote efficient driving in the haulage industry.

Although the new Smarter Travel Policy was only launched in February, my officials have already held two meetings with the Road Safety Authority to examine the issues relating to the implementation of this action. It has been agreed that a team will be assigned to develop a programme to deliver the action and, later this year, I will be setting out the steps we will be taking to meet it.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 60.

Haulage Licences.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

83 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the criteria for awarding a haulage licence here; the restrictions in place for applicants with former criminal convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21215/09]

A Road Haulage Operator's Licence is granted under Section 2 of the Road Traffic and Transport Act 2006, and entitles the holder to carry on a road haulage business for hire or reward.

The criteria for the grant of a Road Haulage Operator's Licence are set out in Irish and EU legislation. The three criteria that must be met by every applicant are:

1. Good Repute,

2. Professional Competence, and

3. Financial Standing.

Good Repute is decided by reference to the criteria contained in the European Communities (Merchandise Road Transport) Regulations 1991, (S.I. No. 60 of 1991). Confirmation on convictions is sought from An Garda Síochána when deciding the issue of Good Repute.

Cycle Facilities.

Mary Upton

Question:

84 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the recently published National Cycling Policy Framework; the reason there are no deadlines for the achievement of actions on the NCPF in the document; when and the amount of funding which will be provided for the implementation of the NCPF; if he will further report on the recently announced national bike week; if he will confirm when the national pedestrian and walking strategy will be published; the key measures it will contain; the amount of funding he will allocate to the national pedestrian strategy; the time period over which it will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21275/09]

The National Cycle Policy Framework is a long-term vision that stretches from 2009 to 2020. The cost of delivery of the 109 actions that the NCPF envisages is estimated to be in the region of €2.3 billion.

The key ambition under NCPF is an increase in the modal share enjoyed by cycling from its current level of around 2% to 10%. I believe that this is an ambitious, yet achievable, target within the action period of 12 years. The wide-ranging nature of the individual interventions, their interlinked nature, and the undeniable challenges that face us in terms of availability of resources, means that it would not be productive, at this stage, to assign precise deadlines to each action.

I am satisfied that significant progress on implementing the NCPF can be made within existing resources this year. This will include holding National Bike Week as a key awareness raising event, investment in refurbishment of key cycle routes in Dublin City, advancement of work on the Sutton to Sandycove Cycle Route, identification of inter-urban cycle routes, initial legislative changes to facilitate safer cycling, and piloting of innovative cycling demonstration projects.

Insofar a Bike Week is concerned, I am happy that there has been a very high level of engagement from a wide range of stakeholders. I invite everyone to visit the dedicated website www.bikeweek.ie.

It is my intention to commence the process of developing a National Walking Policy later this year. It would be premature, in advance of its development, to speculate on the measures it might contain, the likely period it might span, or the potential cost of implementation.

Road Network.

David Stanton

Question:

85 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the amount being made available to Cork County Council in 2009 under the regional and local road grant allocations; the amount allocated under these schemes in the previous three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21234/09]

The road grant allocations to Cork County Council for regional and local roads in each of the years 2006-2009 are set out in the following table.

Year

€ million

2006

52.825

2007

60.726

2008

65.335

2009

43.881

Proposed Legislation.

John Perry

Question:

86 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Transport if he will ensure legislation is passed to enable comprehensive transport plans to be included in all future county and city development plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21227/09]

Action 42 of Smartertravel, the Government's policy framework for a sustainable transport future, provides that local authorities will be empowered to prepare transport plans that will complement their development plans. It is my intention to include proposals relating to transport plans in a Sustainable Travel and Transport Bill, on which preliminary work is underway in my Department, to underpin the objectives contained in Smartertravel.

Separately, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is preparing to bring the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill to Government shortly which reinforces the need for development plans to include, inter alia, mandatory objectives for the promotion of sustainable settlement and transportation strategies in urban and rural areas, including the promotion of measures to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions. This strengthening of planning law will improve integration of land use and transport planning and investment.

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 53.
Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 64.

Rights of Seafarers.

Willie Penrose

Question:

89 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the entry of a ship (details supplied) into Irish waters and the allegations that its crew members are owed thousands of euro in unpaid wages; the action he is taking to address exploitation of workers in the maritime sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21280/09]

Themv Defender, IMO Number 6919837, is registered in Cambodia. As a foreign ship entering an Irish port, she is subject to Port State Control inspections carried out in accordance with the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control.

The vessel was detained in Cork on 17th April 2008 following an inspection carried out by marine surveyors from my Department. The inspection revealed a total of 14 deficiencies, 5 of which posed an immediate and serious threat to the safety of the ship and the crew. The detention was lifted after 5 days following a re-inspection of the vessel.

During January 2009 the vessel was under detention for 11 days in the United Kingdom.

On 3rd March 2009, the vessel was inspected in Cork and the surveyors noted several deficiencies including watch keeping arrangements, safety management and matters related to living and working conditions onboard, which warranted the further detention of the ship. This detention was lifted after a period of 40 days following a further re-inspection of the vessel.

My Department does not have responsibility for the non-payment of wages on board foreign flagged ships which is a matter for the flag State, in this case Cambodia.

Ireland has consistently supported the International Labour Organisation in its efforts to promote global labour standards for seafarers. A new consolidated Maritime Labour Convention was adopted in February 2006 at the 94th International Labour Conference in Geneva. Ireland was represented at the Conference by a tripartite delegation consisting of Government officials, nominees of the employers (IBEC) and of the workers (ICTU). The new Convention sets out clear principles and rights for seafarers. EU member states are committed to ratifying the new Convention by 31 December 2010 and it is expected to come into force internationally in 2011.

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 79.

Taxi Regulations.

Mary Upton

Question:

91 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport when he will respond to the Commission on Taxi Regulation’s proposals to introduce a subsidy scheme to increase the number of wheelchair accessible taxis in view of the fact that at present as few as 7.5% of a fleet of more than 27,000 are wheelchair accessible; if he will review the recent €5 million reduction in accessibility to public transport programmes for people with a disability in Budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21274/09]

I understand that the Commission for Taxi Regulation, in the context of its follow up to the economic review of the small public service vehicle sector, is reconsidering the options for increasing the availability of wheelchair accessible taxis. I will further consider the Commission's proposals for a subsidy scheme to incentivise the provision of more wheelchair accessible taxis in the light of the outcome of this further work.

It should be noted in regard to the funding of accessibility improvements in public transport that accessibility is being built into new transport infrastructure and, while it is true to say that the funding for 2009 has been reduced by €5 million, the revised allocation of €20 million still represents an increase of 43% over the 2008 allocation and will be sufficient to cater for accessibility improvement projects over the course of the year.

Transport 21.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

92 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which arrangements have been put in place to encourage a reduction in the cost of all aspects of Transport 21 in line with the economic downturn and keeping in mind the need to achieve such reductions in line with increased competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21242/09]

A significant number of roads and rail projects are under construction at the present time and the costs involved were set on the award and signing of the associated contracts. Contracts for future projects will be awarded following competitive public procurement processes and costs will be determined by the bids received.

The implementing State agencies have indicated to my Department that there is a general downward trend in the cost of land purchases and tender prices in recent times.

Taxi Regulations.

Joan Burton

Question:

93 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport his views on the introduction of a moratorium on the issuing of taxi plates in view of the escalating crisis in the taxi industry and the need for regulatory reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21272/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Commission for Taxi Regulation has completed a major public consultation exercise on the recent Economic Review of the small public service vehicle sector which addressed, inter alia, a cap or moratorium on the issue of taxi licences which is not allowed under the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003. The Commission is currently engaged in meetings with taxi interests around the country and will be finalising a response to the submissions received and will be submitting its proposals for the further improvement of taxi services to the Advisory Council.

I will consider the outcome of this process and the views of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, the official representatives of the taxi industry and consumers and consumer interest groups insofar as they relate to my statutory responsibilities.

Light Rail Project.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

94 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on Metro North; when infrastructural works will commence for Metro North; if he will confirm that there have been no changes to the route or underground nature of the service provided in the long-standing Metro North plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21267/09]

Good progress continues to be made on the Metro North Project. The first round of tenders for the Public Private Partnership contract were submitted to the Railway Procurement (RPA) on 27th February 2009 and those tenders are being evaluated by the RPA.

The Oral Hearing before An Bórd Pleanála on the railway order application for Metro North commenced on the 1st of April. No enabling works on the project can take place unless and until the RPA secure an enforceable railway order which is expected towards the end of this year.

There have been no changes made to the draft railway order, including the proposed route and underground sections, as submitted by the RPA to An Bord Pleanála.

Road Traffic Offences.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

95 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the level of consultation which occurs between his Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and An Garda Sióchána on strategy and levels of enforcement for road traffic and transport law; if he has been briefed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and An Garda Sióchána on reduced levels of enforcement in view of the imposition of cutbacks on An Garda Sióchána; if he has proposed permanently increasing road safety enforcement to the levels that are often seen during bank holiday weekend road safety campaigns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21257/09]

Both enforcement of road traffic offences and enforcement levels are matter for the Garda Commissioner.

In relation to implementation of the overall Road Safety Strategy, a Cabinet Sub-Committee on Road Safety, which I chair, meets regularly to monitor progress, assess priorities, and identify any difficulties in implementation. Both the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner are members of this committee, among others.

Appointments to State Boards.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

96 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when he will appoint a new chairman for the Dublin Port Company; if he is considering internal and external candidates for the role; the criteria which has been laid down to select a suitable candidate for the job in view of the challenges facing Dublin and all of the national ports at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21263/09]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Dáil Question No. 189 answered on 20 May 2009.

Rights of Seafarers.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

97 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he will review the operation of the port state control in view of the fact that all matters relating to the fiscal entitlements of maritime workers are not within its remit and the ongoing allegations of abuse of many mariners in terms of wages and working conditions; the number of inspectors currently invigilating ships that use Irish waters and ports; the number of prosecutions which have been brought for non-payment or wages and breaches of health and safety conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21279/09]

Port State Control inspections onboard foreign flagged ships in Irish ports are carried out under the auspices of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on port state control and EU Directives. These inspections are carried out to check for compliance with international law.

Ireland will continue to work within the Paris MoU and with the other EU Member States so as to ensure the development of the necessary port state control procedures that will be required in connection with the entry into force of the Maritime Labour Convention. The new Convention sets out clear principles and rights for seafarers. EU member states are committed to ratifying the new Convention by 31 December 2010 and it is expected to come into force internationally in 2011.

The number of marine surveyors employed by my Department and who carry out a range of duties, currently stands at 22. A further 6 marine surveyors are currently under training.

With regard to prosecutions for non-payment of wages and breaches of health and safety conditions, the primary responsibility for the compliance with the law on board ships rests with the flag state in each case.

The payment of wages on foreign flagged ships is a matter for the flag state where the ship is registered and is a matter for the internal domestic law of that country.

The Department's surveyors inspect over 400 foreign flagged ships per year and they detain any ship which poses a safety hazard or which does not comply with the international requirements on living and working arrangements. However, non-payment of wages is not in itself a basis for detention of a vessel by surveyors of my Department.

Questions Nos. 98 and 99 answered with Question No. 58.

Rail Network.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

100 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if his recently expressed personal support for phase two and three of the western rail corridor means that the full western rail corridor project will proceed on deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21269/09]

Transport 21 provides for the reopening of the Western Rail Corridor on a phased basis in the period to 2015. Phase 1 of the Corridor, between Ennis and Athenry, is on target to be completed this year, with services due to commence in the Autumn.

In September 2006 the Government made a decision in principle to support funding for the development of Phase 2 of the Corridor between Athenry and Tuam. Once Phase 1 is completed the next step will be for Iarnród Éireann to conduct further studies to ascertain more reliable costings for Phases 2 and 3. This work is commencing in 2009.

Airport Development Projects.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

101 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his views on proposals to develop a new national airport in the midlands; if he has been briefed on the proposals for same; the contacts he has had with stakeholders involved in this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21266/09]

Private interests may develop airports in whatever location they wish provided that the requirements of the Irish Aviation Authority are met and that planning permission is secured it is, of course, a matter for the promoters to satisfy themselves that a new airport can function as a viable commercial entity. My Department has no plans to support the development of any new airports. I should add that there are also significant Dublin Airport Authority investment plans underway to meet national needs in the short to medium term.

In recent weeks my officials met a stakeholder of a proposal to develop an airport in the midlands and the long-standing policy of my Department, as outlined above, was conveyed at that meeting.

Light Rail Projects.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

102 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding contingency plans for the upcoming big dig for the major infrastructural works necessary for Metro North, the Dublin rail interconnector and the LUAS link-up including all relevant stakeholders, residents, community and local business groups; when the public information campaign will begin to inform the general public of what to expect with the big dig infrastructural works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21268/09]

I have previously advised the House that traffic management in Dublin City centre, including public information campaigns relating to traffic management, is a matter for Dublin City Council.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Dublin City Manager chairs the Dublin Transport 21 Implementation Group, which coordinates and oversees the Transport 21 investment programme in Dublin, pending the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority.

Two sub-groups have been established:

The Contingency Planning Group, which is chaired by an official from Dublin City Council, deals with the traffic management strategy for the Transport 21 construction phase, focused particularly on the city centre. I understand that the Contingency Planning Sub-Group meet monthly. Contingency planning will be an ongoing process during project construction. The contingency Planning Group has developed an initial plan which includes traffic measures such as the provision of Park and Ride Sites, enhanced public transport services, Real Time Information installations for bus stops, dedicated breakdown towing services, a bus gate at College Green and improved traffic light control at specific junctions. This will be kept under regular review by the Transport 21 Implementation Group.

The Communications Group, which has prepared a co-ordinated communications strategy for the construction period of major Transport 21 projects, such as Metro North and the Interconnector.

I last met the Stakeholders Group regarding the major Transport 21 infrastructural works in Dublin on 11 May 2009 at which the co-ordinated communications plan for the construction period of the major Transport 21 projects such as Metro North and the DART Underground was presented. A key theme of communications during construction works is "Dublin is open for business".

The communications campaign will be rolled out in advance of works on Metro North. The commencement of works is subject to the grant of an enforceable railway order by An Bord Pleanála.

Crime Prevention.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

103 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he has received and reviewed Europol’s new document Cargo Theft Report which highlights the way haulage operators are being targeted by organised crime gangs who see heavy goods vehicle drivers as easy targets; if he has had contacts with HGV drivers and their representatives on this issue; the action he is taking with EU partner states to address this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21278/09]

Issues relating to EUROPOL and criminal matters relating to the prevention of crime and theft are a matter for An Garda Síochána.

Departmental Agencies.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

104 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the changes to the Road Safety Authority’s budget under Budget 2009 and the supplementary Budget on 7 April 2009; the impact on his Department of changes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21251/09]

The budget for the Road Safety Authority for 2009 is €32.646m as per the Revised Estimates Volume published in April. Figures published before the REV are estimated and subject to revision, but as the Deputy will be aware from recent media coverage, the RSA's advertising budget in particular was reduced from €3.4m to €0.9m.

While my Department provides funding to Road Safety Authority, the allocation of resources, including own resources, to the various programmes is a matter for the Authority itself.

The functions delegated to the Minister of State are now exercised by me.

Cabinet Committee Meetings.

Liz McManus

Question:

105 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Taoiseach if the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change met in April 2009 as planned; the timeframe for the next meeting; and the schedule for meetings in 2009. [21046/09]

The Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security recently met on 29 April last.

The next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security has not been scheduled but is likely to take place before the Summer with further meetings as required during the remainder of 2009.

Nursing Home Fees.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

106 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach if, further to the May 2009 publication of the consumer price index detailed sub-indices, it is possible to provide specific details of the year on year percentage change in the typical price of nursing home fees and legal fees. [20741/09]

The Consumer Price Index covers Nursing Home Fees and Legal Fees but cannot produce individual information on either of these two categories. This is because both items form part of a wider category of services; nursing home fees are combined with fees charged by nursing agencies while legal services are one of the constituent components of the category covering professional and legal services, which includes other professional services such as auctioneers, estate agents, solicitors and engineers.

The CSO does not currently produce information on the individual components of these overall categories. However, the following table shows the annual changes for each month for Nursing Homes and Nursing Agencies and Professional Legal Services.

Table: Year on Year percentage changes (%)

Title

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Annual

Nursing homes and Nursing agencies

2003

7.4

7.4

7.4

6.2

6.2

6.2

2.8

2.8

2.8

2.4

2.4

2.4

4.7

2004

3.1

3.1

3.1

2.0

2.0

2.0

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.6

3.6

3.6

3.1

2005

4.6

4.6

4.6

4.3

4.3

4.3

4.2

4.2

4.2

4.4

4.4

4.4

4.3

2006

2.9

2.9

2.9

3.5

3.5

3.5

4.2

4.2

4.2

4.7

4.7

4.7

3.9

2007

7.6

7.6

7.6

11.0

11.0

11.0

15.0

15.0

15.0

14.6

14.6

14.6

12.0

2008

15.6

15.6

15.6

12.3

12.3

12.3

9.2

9.2

9.2

10.6

10.6

10.6

11.8

2009

7.9

7.9

7.9

6.5

Professional and legal services

2003

4.3

4.3

4.1

4.1

4.1

2.5

2.5

2.5

3.3

3.3

3.3

2.6

3.4

2004

2.6

2.6

1.5

1.5

1.5

1.7

1.7

1.7

0.5

0.5

0.5

1.9

1.4

2005

1.9

1.9

3.2

3.2

3.2

1.3

1.3

1.3

0.9

0.9

0.9

1.9

1.9

2006

1.9

1.9

0.5

0.5

0.5

6.2

6.2

6.2

7.6

7.6

7.6

5.5

4.3

2007

5.5

5.5

4.9

4.9

4.9

3.3

3.3

3.3

5.0

5.0

5.0

7.9

4.9

2008

7.9

7.9

11.9

11.9

11.9

9.7

9.7

9.7

7.8

7.8

7.8

5.3

9.1

2009

5.3

5.3

0.1

0.1

Departmental Payments.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

107 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the average time as of the end of April 2009 for payments to be made by his Department and each individual agency of his Department to outside businesses in respect of goods and services received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20932/09]

The average time for processing of invoices by my Department based on a review of invoices from 1st January to 30 April 2009 is 13 working days.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

108 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20960/09]

My Department has no funding allocation for the purposes raised by the Deputy.

Responsibility for measures in the area of alcohol and drugs misuse rests with the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, the Department of Health & Children and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Departmental Surveys.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

109 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the business surveys conducted by her Department; the surveys conducted by her enterprise support agencies; the surveys completed within the past 12 months; the list of surveys given to her for her information; the response she makes to business surveys; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20939/09]

The detailed information being sought by the Deputy, going back to 2004, is currently being compiled across my Department. However, in the short time available to me since the Deputy tabled this Question, I am not in a position to provide those details at present. A full response will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

110 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20953/09]

My Department provides support to members of staff affected by alcohol/illegal drug use through the Employee Assistance Service and facilitates attendance at treatment and rehabilitation programmes, where appropriate.

The cost of such programmes is the responsibility of the officers concerned.

Small Business Sector.

Finian McGrath

Question:

111 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will support a matter (details supplied). [20993/09]

I am very much aware of the difficulties facing small firms as a result of the current economic difficulties and whilst my Department does not provide funding or grants to business, my Department's continuous support for indigenous companies arises through maintaining a positive business environment and through particular interventions from the State development agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs).

The CEBs provide support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants. In addition, the CEBs deliver a range of non-financial supports to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow. All of the CEBs operate to the same criteria in relation to the assistance which they can offer i.e. they can support the establishment and/or the development of enterprises provided that the projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability and which over time may develop into strong exporting entities.

However, I would stress that priority is given to projects in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It is considered inappropriate to support other areas such as retail enterprises, personal services (e.g. hairdressers, gardeners, etc), professional services (accountants, solicitors, etc), construction, as it is considered that these enterprises generally give rise to unacceptable deadweight (where projects would have proceeded anyway) and/or displacement (where the projects simply displace business from other players in the market) concerns.

As detailed above, not all projects fall within the CEB eligibility criteria for grant assistance, however, the company are advised to contact their local CEB to discuss matters in greater detail. In addition to providing direct financial assistance, the CEBs also provide a range of indirect business advice and information assistance such as mentoring services, management capability training and development programmes, e-Commerce training initiatives, and the delivery of targeted Programmes to promote female entrepreneurship; these services may be available to the company. In order to more fully explore the range of options that may be available to them, they should initially contact Dublin City Enterprise Board, 5th Floor, O'Connell Bridge House, D'Olier Street, Dublin 2, (Tel No. 01 635 1144; e-mail: info@dceb.ie) to discuss their business needs with the relevant staff of the Board.

Redundancy Payments.

Pat Breen

Question:

112 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a person (details supplied) has not received redundancy payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21044/09]

My Department is in receipt of applications under the Insolvency and Redundancy Payments Schemes in respect of Arrears of Wages, Holiday Pay and Redundancy entitlement on behalf of the individual mentioned.

The Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act, 1984 and the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2007 state that an employee must be employed in employment, which is insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts, 1981 to 1984 to be eligible for these payments. The Department of Social and Family Affairs has confirmed that the individual in question was not insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts at the date of termination of his employment. His applications therefore, were refused and both the individual concerned and the relevant Liquidator were subsequently informed of this decision by letter.

If the individual concerned wishes, he may appeal this decision to the SCOPE Section of the Department of Social and Family Affairs, First Floor, Oisin House, Pearse Street, Dublin 2.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

113 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a redundancy payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21083/09]

Under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2007 all eligible employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on being made redundant. Payment of statutory redundancy is, in the first instance, a matter for the employer. In general, a redundancy situation exists where an employee's job no longer exists. It is up to the employer concerned to determine whether or not a redundancy situation exists. In the event of a dispute arising as to whether or not a redundancy situation exists, it is open to either party to apply to the Employment Appeals Tribunal for a determination on the matter. If an employer cannot pay the statutory redundancy to the employee, then my Department will pay the employee, provided that the employer provides satisfactory documentary evidence that he is not in a position to pay.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department has received an application from the individual concerned but still awaits the submission from the employer of satisfactory documentation of inability to pay. Once this is received, this individual's application will be processed within the time frame of 6-8 weeks.

Company Closures.

Richard Bruton

Question:

114 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on declaring a company (details supplied) in County Dublin eligible under the Employers Insolvency Act, 1984. [21096/09]

The Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act 1984, which transposed EU Council Directive 80/987/EEC into Irish law, is the legal base for the Insolvency Payments Scheme. This Scheme provides for payment of certain entitlements owed to employees by their employer at the time of liquidation. These entitlements include wages, holiday pay, sick pay, minimum notice and pension contributions. Claims in respect of such entitlements under the Insolvency Payments Scheme can only be processed if a company is insolvent within the definition of the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act 1984, and a "relevant officer" — normally, a receiver or liquidator — has been appointed and certifies the claims; or if an employer is insolvent in accordance with the laws of another EU Member State. It is my understanding that SR Technics is not in an insolvency situation within the meaning of the Act. No notification has been received to this effect and no claims by or on behalf of the workers in the company have been received under the Insolvency Payments Scheme.

An employer could not be deemed to be insolvent for one limited purpose only without reference to wider company law implications.

Work Permits.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

115 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that an employer has indicated that, due to economic constraints, their firm will not be in a position to fund renewal of the work permit application of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; the steps he will take to ensure that this person does not lose their employment by virtue of their employer’s refusal to fund a work permit renewal application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21141/09]

Under the Employment Permits Act 2006, the prospective employer or prospective employee can submit an application for an employment permit. The fees required for this application can be paid by the applicant.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

116 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of training places supplied through FÁS for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009, broken down according to FÁS division and funding allocated to FÁS by her Department in each of these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21318/09]

The details requested by the Deputy are set out as follows.

FÁS Training for Employment Expenditure plus Apprenticeship — 2005 to April 2009

Analysed by FÁS Division

Funding Expenditure

Training Services Unit

Community Services Unit

Services to Business Unit

Total

€ m

€ m

€ m

€ m

2009 (April Year To Date — YTD — Actual)

45.431

44.773

25.690

115.894

2008

160.259

137.623

63.810

361.692

2007

154.689

129.538

60.954

345.181

2006

143.541

118.132

53.092

314.765

2005

134.492

109.896

50.473

294.861

TOTAL EXPENDITURE

638.412

539.962

254.019

1,432.393

Places supplied Throughput

2009 (April YTD Actual)

14,945

8,480

7,334

30,759

2008

21,661

5,788

11,357

38,806

2007

20,743

6,085

11,132

37,960

2006

22,045

5,920

10,639

38,604

2005

23,062

6,376

11,265

40,703

TOTAL

102,456

32,649

51,727

186,832

Notes

1. Employment Schemes, Part-time course and Sponsored Training are not included in the figures above.

2. Places supplied 2005-2008 — based on persons who have completed their training in the year specified. i.e Throughput; does not include persons in-training at year end.

3. Places supplied 2009 ytd — based on throughput ytd plus persons in training at the end of Apr 09.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

117 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the breakdown of the 18,525 training places for the unemployed referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 146 of 22 April 2009, detailing the type of training places available; the sector responsible for delivering these places; if these places represent additional funding or a re-allocation of resources within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21319/09]

The Government announced in the supplementary budget that €128 million was being redeployed across my Department, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Department of Education and Science to provide increased support services and activation training places for the unemployed. This has enabled an additional 23,435 training and education activation places to be created from within existing resources.

As part of this process my Department has reallocated €61.4 million, largely from training people in employment programmes (such as the apprenticeship programme and Skillnets) towards training the unemployed. This redeployment of funds has enabled my Department to fund an additional 18,725 training, education and work placement places specifically for the unemployed.

The majority of these additional places are being provided under FÁS Training Initiatives Strategy and are short courses in specific skills training. These courses are designed to develop new skills and competencies for the unemployed to assist them in securing employment. FÁS is providing such courses for a broad range of different sectors including the retail, IT, construction, manufacturing and services sectors. Details are provided in the following table.

Programme

Training Places

Provided By

Short Courses

13,848

FÁS

Community Employment

400

FÁS

Work Placement Programme†

2,000

FÁS

Short Time Working Training Prog+

277

FÁS

Third Level part-time places*

1,500

HEA

Institutes of Technology-Redundant Apprentices Prog*

700

IOT/ FÁS

Total Places

18,725

†Joint Initiatives between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

*Joint Initiatives between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Education and Science.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

118 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the work experience scheme announced in the supplementary budget on 7 April 2009 is currently operational; if not, when it is due to be operational; the way the scheme operates or will operate; the criteria for participation in such a scheme; the number of places that will be available; the cost per place in the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21320/09]

I am happy to say that a working group consisting of representatives of my Department, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, FÁS and the Higher Education Authority have largely concluded their work on developing the proposals for the Work Placement Programme, which was announced in last month's supplementary budget. I expect that we will be in a position to announce further details on this programme in the very near future.

I can confirm that the programme will provide 2,000 six-month places to individuals who are unemployed. Under the programme there will be two streams. The first stream will be for 1,000 unemployed graduates and the second stream will consist of 1,000 places for other individuals. There is no direct cost to the Exchequer per place on the programme, as whilst on the programme participants will continue to receive their social welfare entitlements only from the Exchequer.

Work Permits.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

119 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will postpone her proposed changes to the work permits system to allow for a proper review and consideration of possible alternatives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21362/09]

The recent review of our employment permit arrangements was undertaken by my Department in order to ensure that they continue to be appropriate to the needs of a changing labour market, and were announced following the outcome of a consultation process with the Social Partners.

Under the Community Preference Principle, Irish employers must be satisfied that no suitable EEA nationals are available to fill a position before that job can be offered to a non-EEA national. My Department is anxious to ensure that a meaningful effort is made to apply Community preference in filling all job vacancies. It was, therefore, decided to strengthen this test in order to ensure that only those vacancies that cannot genuinely be filled by nationals of EEA countries are considered for work permit applications.

My Department recognises the fact that many permit holders have been living in Ireland for several years and have made a genuine contribution to the economy. Therefore, even where these permit holders have been made redundant from a post which is now considered ineligible for a work permit, they may continue to seek work in an ineligible category.

New arrangements regarding work permit renewals will only apply to non-EEA nationals whose permit application was approved on or after 1 June 2009. Persons who were granted a permit prior to this date will retain the original renewal conditions. My Department will continue to keep employment permit arrangements under review to ensure they remain suitable and relevant to current labour market conditions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

120 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has evaluated the impact that the new work permit rules will have on the exploitation of migrant workers; if she has assessed the cost implications to the taxpayer here of these changes through social welfare, lost taxes, undermining of tax compliant employment via the development of the black economy and the increased cost of forced deportations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21443/09]

The revised permit arrangements for new entrants only, that take effect on 1 June 2009, apply to existing schemes introduced under the Employment Permits Act 2006. A particular focus in developing these schemes was on increasing the rights and protections afforded to migrant workers and the means to ensure redress in the event of exploitative practices. The Act's provisions gave immigrants greater freedom, autonomy and control over their own employment choices by enabling workers for the first time to apply and re-apply for their own permit and allowing workers to change their employer and move to another employment in order to take advantage of better conditions or career options. In the case of Green Cards, migrants' commitment and contribution to their destination country was rewarded by fast tracking the process to long-term residency and the right and entitlements associated with such residency status.

The revisions being implemented on 1 June will not create any negative effects on the social welfare system. On the contrary, re-strengthening of the demand-led aspects of the system through a more robust labour market needs test will ensure that new entrants only come in where there is a job requirement.

The measures introduced under the 2006 Act also provided that employment permit applications are not approved for wages below the Employment Regulation Order/Registered Employment Agreement rates or the national minimum wage, and employers are prohibited from deducting recruitment expenses from employees, and from retaining their employees' personal documentation. As regards ensuring compliance with and enforcement of such provisions, the Employment law Compliance Bill, when enacted, will empower the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) to promote, encourage and secure compliance with the provisions of the Employment Permits Acts as well as other employment legislation. It is intended, through the co-operation of NERA and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) in enforcement of provisions under the Permits Acts, to increase compliance and to act as a deterrent to illegal work as a pull for illegal immigration.

There will be no diminution of such rights and protections as a result of the changes being introduced on 1 June 2009, and all workers, irrespective of country of origin, will continue to benefit from the coverage of the extensive body of employment rights legislation introduced in recent years.

Denis Naughten

Question:

121 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits which were issued in each of the past 12 months to applicants who had been made redundant by their previous employer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21445/09]

The information requested is currently being complied and will be forwarded to the Deputy in the coming days.

Communications Masts.

Joe McHugh

Question:

122 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the telecommunications mast beside Letterkenny Garda barracks; the number of commercial users there are; and the amount of rent that accrues from it. [20924/09]

The primary objective of the telecommunications mast adjacent to Letterkenny Garda Station, and all Garda masts, is to facilitate the services and activities of An Garda Síochána.

There are three mobile phone operators licensed by the Commissioners of Public Works to install equipment, for the provision of mobile telephony services, on the mast at Letterkenny Garda Station. These licences generate a gross annual revenue of €27,500 approximately.

Regulations Review.

Dan Neville

Question:

123 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance if he plans to repeal section 9 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. [21041/09]

I have no plans to repeal section 9 of the Financial Emergency Measures in Public Interest Act 2009. However, I understand that the Minister for Health and Children in accordance with the legislation will be initiating a review before 30 June 2010 of the operation of regulations made under the section.

Séadchomharthaí Náisiúnta.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

124 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Airgeadais cá bhfuil an leacht marmair a bhíodh ar crochadh gar don Fháiltiú i Scoil Éanna, Ráth Fearnáin i gcuimhne orthu siúd a fuair bás in 1916, agus nach ann dó a thuilleadh ó rinneadh athchóiriú ar an bhfoirgneamh. [21049/09]

Tógadh an leacht marmair as Scoil Éanna nuair a bhí oibrithe leasaithe a dhéanamh, agus beidh sé curtha ar ais in áit fheiliúnach nuair atá an t-ionad taispeantais réidh.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

125 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Airgeadais an bhfuil treoir tugtha ag Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí do threoraithe turais ‘Ballaí agus Doirse’ sna tithe móra galánta agus sna hionaid stairiúla eile faoina stiúir, ag cur cosc ar thagairtí do na hÓglaigh agus dóibh siúd a d’fhulaing ar son na ‘Saoirse’ agus sa chogadh i gcoinne na Sasanach, nó má tá sí tugtha, an aistarraingeofar í. [21050/09]

Níor thug Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí treoir mar sin. Tá gach turas fíor do stair na haoise i gceist.

Insurance Industry.

Finian McGrath

Question:

126 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support a matter (details supplied). [21651/09]

The pricing of insurance products reflect a broad range of factors, including for example, the level of cover, the number of claims, legal and administration costs, the cost of fraud as well as the overall cost level in the economy.

My Department has been advised by the Financial Regulator that while the non-life insurance market performed well up to the end of 2006, market sources indicate that much non-life business was written at a loss in 2007. This trend continued in 2008, but the companies were still willing to write business at a loss in order to maintain their market share. They were able to do this as a result of the reserves they had built up during profitable years. However, the situation could not go on indefinitely and indications are that firms are now taking action on pricing to underpin their financial positions.

In the current difficult trading climate, there is a delicate balance to be struck between ensuring the long-term sustainability of the insurance industry and at the same time making sure that the consumer obtains good value for money. I am particularly conscious of the impact of a significant increase in premiums for both the consumer and business and it must be a priority for insurance companies to ensure that insurance cover is provided as competitively as possible consistent with long term commercial sustainability and viability.

The Deputy will be aware that like all financial service providers, the insurance industry is also affected by financial market conditions and the economic situation. This is likely to be one of the reasons for increases in areas such as motor insurance.

In conclusion, the recent upward trend in insurance prices reflects a range of factors outside the control of the industry. It would not, therefore be appropriate from a policy perspective to seek to intervene in the commercial conduct or decision making of insurance firms in the absence of clear evidence of market failure in respect of which there is scope to address from a national perspective.

Tax Code.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

127 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if he will explain the reason a person should have to pay the Government levy on a credit card drawn on a UK bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20941/09]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that section 124 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 provides for a stamp duty charge in respect of credit cards.

The primary determining factor in establishing a charge to stamp duty on a credit card is that the individual credit card holder has an address in the State. Accordingly, where an individual has an address in the State a charge to stamp duty applies in respect of a credit card issued by a bank (including a UK bank) to that individual.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

128 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20955/09]

It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the cost of managing issues arising from alcohol and drug misuse by officers of the Department. Departments do not contribute in any way to the actual cost of treatment programmes; the only cost incurred is in the payment of the appropriate rate of pay, while the staff member participates in a residential programme. While there are indirect costs in dealing with problematic alcohol-illegal drug use e.g. cost of personnel staff time, including the support of the Employee Assistance Service, these must be offset against the Department's responsibilities to its staff and the potential cost of reduced performance and the loss of valuable expertise if staff succumb to an addiction.

An updated Alcohol and Drugs Misuse Policy for the Civil Service (Circular 8/2009) was circulated on 30 April 2009. That policy is designed to facilitate Departments in addressing alcohol and/or drug misuse and supporting officers with problems relating to alcohol and/or drug misuse.

Museum Projects.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

129 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that a museum (details supplied) is to be re-opened to the public; the expected timescale of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20967/09]

With a view to the re-establishment of the County Museum in Enniscorthy Castle, a survey and condition report on the fabric of the castle is in progress. This, together with a report on the necessary upgraded services, will inform the program of works, costs and timescale for completion.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

James Reilly

Question:

130 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Finance if, in his dealings with the banks and building societies, he will insist as part of these negotiations that the banks offer flexible affordable terms to fixed rate mortgage holders without excessive penalties in view of the fact that these homeowners are trapped in expensive mortgages at high rates; if he will request the banks to show generosity and flexibility to fixed rate mortgage homeowners; the number of homeowners on fixed rate mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20987/09]

I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to my dealings with those financial institutions covered by the Bank Guarantee Scheme.

I am advised that the number of owner-occupier homeowners on fixed rate mortgages is in the region of 96,000, based on information recently provided by the covered institutions.

Generally mortgages are for long periods. To some consumers a fixed interest rate on a mortgage offers peace of mind in that the borrower benefits from certainty regarding the cost of their mortgage and can accordingly budget more confidently. In doing so they avoid the risk of rate increases, but of course they forgo the chance to benefit from rate reductions. The choice of mortgage product ultimately rests with the consumer in light of the terms and conditions that their lending institution offers. The decision of borrowers is influenced by factors such as their personal preferences and their own assessment of the relative merits of fixed and variable rate mortgages.

Where a bank offers a fixed rate over a certain period it incurs additional costs in obtaining fixed or other funding in respect of the loan over the period. The additional costs will reflect both the market view in relation to future trends in interest rates for the period and the fact that longer term deposits generally attract higher interest rates than short term. In addition, where a customer changes from a fixed interest rate contract to a variable rate contract before the end of the term for which the interest rate was fixed, there is an associated cost to the lender. If lenders were prohibited from passing the entire costs to borrowers switching to variable rates, this could increase the price and reduce the availability of fixed rate mortgages. However, if a mortgage provider were charging fees other than the recouping of costs, then the Financial Regulator would require notification of same and could require the lender to amend such charges.

On 26 March 2009, I undertook, in this House, to raise concerns regarding the level of redemption fees with the Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator who has a statutory mandate to safeguard the interests of consumers. At the beginning of April my Department wrote to the Consumer Director to request confirmation that redemption fees charged for switching from a fixed rate mortgage cover funding costs only and that there are no other costs included.

To date, the Financial Regulator has been able to confirm to my Department, that all mortgage lenders have responded and that all have provided the formula used by that lender when calculating the early redemption fee applying to fixed rate mortgages.

The Financial Regulator is awaiting independent verification, by an actuary, from a number of lenders that the fee being charged recoups only those costs incurred by the lender when financing the fixed rate mortgage. However, the verifications received indicate that the formulae applied by lenders seek to recoup the loss to the lender arising from the early redemption of the fixed rate mortgage and do not seek to apply a penalty charge on the borrower.

The Financial Regulator is also examining whether any other costs are being charged such as administrative fees, etc. Any such charges may be subject to approval by the Regulator under section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 and will be examined further in that light. To date the responses indicate that most lenders do not levy additional charges in the case of early redemption of fixed rate mortgages.

The Financial Regulator has advised that further analysis may be necessary once all of the information is received and reviewed. Should the remaining analysis by the Financial Regulator indicate that further consideration of this issue is required, it will be carried out.

Tax Code.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

131 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) did not receive their full refund for recent dental work carried out; the further reason they were not told that the illness benefit was taxable; the reason tax was not deducted from their wages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21004/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer returned to work in August 2008. The Department of Social and Family Affairs normally notify the employer of the weekly taxable disability benefit and the date that it commenced. Unfortunately, because the Department of Social and Family Affairs records were not fully up to date, this did not occur in this instance.

When a review of their liability was carried out in respect of their Health Expenses claim for the year 2008, the disability benefit was included thus giving rise to the underpayment. Revenue has now carried out a review of this case for 2007. An overpayment of €1,396.00 has arisen due to the fact that there were unused credits for the period April 2007 – 17 November 2007.

The overpayment for 2007 has been reduced by the underpayment for 2008 leaving a net refund due of €981.14, which will issue shortly.

Brian Hayes

Question:

132 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W will have to pay the 2% income levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21042/09]

The position is that any individual with an entitlement to a full medical card is exempt from paying the income levy.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this person holds a full medical card and the income levy is not being deducted.

Tax Yield.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

133 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance the revenues received from betting tax in respect of the months of January, February, March and April for 2008 and 2009. [21051/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Betting Duty received for the months January to April 2008 was €15.36 million and the provisional yield for the same period in 2009 is €13 million.

Financial Services Regulation.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

134 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if he will establish an appeals mechanism for people who believe they are not being treated fairly by financial institutions; if he will use his influence on banks to reduce measures to allow fixed rate mortgage holders to switch to a variable rate and save money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21073/09]

There already is in place an appeals mechanism for people who believe that they are not being treated fairly by financial institutions. Where a customer of a financial service provider, regulated by the Financial Regulator, complains in writing to a financial institution regarding a particular matter and this fails to resolve it to her / his satisfaction, s/he may take the complaint up directly with the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO).

The FSO is an independent statutory body whose remit is to investigate, mediate and adjudicate unresolved complaints of customers about financial service providers. There is no charge for using the services of the FSO who can be contacted at the following address: Financial Services Ombudsman's Bureau, 3rd Floor, Lincoln House, Lincoln Place, Dublin 2, by phone to LoCall number 1890 88 20 90. Alternatively, one may make an online complaint using the FSO online complaints form at the FSO website www.financialombudsman.ie

The Deputy may wish to note that under the General Principles of the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code, a regulated entity must ensure that in all its dealings with customers and within the context of its authorisation, it acts honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of its customers and the integrity of the market. In addition, in its Common Rules for all Regulated Entities, the Consumer Protection Code stipulates that a regulated entity must have in place a written procedure for the proper handling of complaints.

As to whether banks should reduce measures to allow fixed-rate mortgage holders to switch to a variable-rate and save money, the Deputy will be aware that fixed rate mortgages can be regarded as a form of insurance against interest rate changes as fixed rate mortgages provide certainty and security to borrowers regarding the level of their repayments.

As referred to in the Deputy's question in circumstances that many households are faced with significantly increased financial pressures, the current environment of very low interest rates clearly highlights to fixed rate mortgage holders the saving that would be available if they benefited from a variable interest rate. It is clear, therefore, why many fixed rate mortgage holders seek to switch to secure lower repayments.

However, when a borrower signs a fixed-rate mortgage contract with a mortgage provider, the lender in turn enters into an agreement where they borrow the money at an agreed rate. The mortgage lender must repay the money at this agreed rate, so there is a cost to the institution if the fixed rate agreement is terminated before the agreed term which gives rise to the redemption fee charged in these cases.

On 26 March 2009, I undertook, in this House, to raise concerns regarding the level of redemption fees with the Consumer Director of the Financial Regulator who has a statutory mandate to safeguard the interests of consumers. At the beginning of April my Department wrote to the Consumer Director to request confirmation that redemption fees charged for switching from a fixed rate mortgage cover funding costs only and that there are no other costs included.

To date, the Financial Regulator has been able to confirm to my Department, that all mortgage lenders have responded and that all have provided the formula used by that lender when calculating the early redemption fee applying to fixed rate mortgages.

The Financial Regulator is awaiting independent verification, by an actuary, from a number of lenders that the fee being charged recoups only those costs incurred by the lender when financing the fixed rate mortgage. However, the verifications received indicate that the formulae applied by lenders seek to recoup the loss to the lender arising from the early redemption of the fixed rate mortgage and do not seek to apply a penalty charge on the borrower.

The Financial Regulator is also examining whether any other costs are being charged such as administrative fees, etc. Any such charges may be subject to approval by the Regulator under Section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 and will be examined further in that light. To date the responses indicate that most lenders do not levy additional charges in the case of early redemption of fixed rate mortgages.

The Financial Regulator has advised that further analysis may be necessary once all of the information is received and reviewed. Should the remaining analysis by the Financial Regulator indicate that further consideration of this issue is required, it will be carried out.

It is important to note that a number of important initiatives have been put in place by Government to assist borrowers in difficulties. These include the mandatory Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears requires that when a borrower is in difficulty the lender shall make every reasonable effort to agree an alternative repayment schedule. Under the Code consideration should be given on a case-by-case basis to alternatives such as deferral of payments, extending the term of the mortgage, changing the type of mortgage, or capitalising arrears and interest. In any case, lenders will not commence legal action for repossession until after six months from the time arrears first arise.

Finally, as part of the subscription agreement for their recapitalisation Bank of Ireland and AIB will not commence court proceedings for repossession of a principal private residence until after 12 months of arrears appearing where the customer continues to co-operate with the banks.

Richard Bruton

Question:

135 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the likely capital requirements of the credit unions in view of expected losses in 2009 and of the move to review the regulatory reserve ratio from September 2009; and the action he will take in the event that credit unions are unable to meet these new ratios. [21097/09]

The Deputy may wish to note that the financial structure of credit unions as mutual societies owned by their members is that they are not subject to capital requirements. Rather, under the legal framework for credit unions set out in the Credit Union Act 1997, a credit union must allocate 10% of each year's surplus to a statutory reserve.

According to the prudential return for credit unions as at 31 December 2008, the statutory reserve for credit unions stood at €1.3 billion representing 9.1% of credit union assets. In addition to the statutory reserves €0.4 billion (or €400 million) was held in other reserves bringing total reserves to 12% of assets.

The Registrar of Credit Unions in the Financial Regulator issued a consultation document on minimum requirements for the maintenance of reserves in credit unions on 3rd April 2009. Responses were requested by 15 May 2009. A number of the bodies consulted requested an extension to the deadline and this was extended to 22 May 2009. Following receipt and review of these submissions, the Registrar of Credit Unions intends to meet with the main representative bodies to discuss their concerns with a view to finalising the approach to implementation of the new regulatory reserve requirements for credit unions.

I understand that it is the intention that the measures will be implemented in a constructive and positive way that strikes an appropriate balance between the longer term goals which everyone supports and the short-term financial pressures on credit unions.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

136 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the rational for excluding class seven pension schemes from the insurance levy while including all other pension schemes; his view on whether this will distort the market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21098/09]

I announced in my Supplementary Budget on 7 April 2009 that a 1% levy was being introduced on life assurance premiums from 1 June 2009. However, following talks with the industry, this date has been changed to allow for a lead-in period. The implementation date, as set out in the Finance Bill is 1 August 2009.

The life levy applies to all premium income regarding policies of insurance referred to in classes I, II, III, IV, V and VI of Annex I to Directive 2002/83/EC, the "Life Assurance Directive".

The levy has been introduced on the same classes of life assurance as the previous life assurance levy, which was in place from 1982 to 1993. Class VII, as described in the Life Assurance Directive, relates to the management of group pension funds, and was not included in the previous levy on the basis of representations made by the life insurance industry at that time. For this reason, I have excluded the same insurance classes as were excluded from the previous life insurance levy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

137 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the income levies will be applied to employer contributions to personal retirement savings accounts but not to employer contributions to old style pension plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21099/09]

The income levy applies to all emoluments of an employment, including anything treated as a taxable benefit-in-kind.

The position is that an employer contribution to a personal retirement savings account (PRSA) is chargeable to income tax in the hands of the employee as a benefit-in-kind under section 118 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. As the income levy treatment follows the income tax treatment the employer's contribution to the personal retirement savings account will also be subject to the income levy.

Section 778 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides that an employer contribution made to an approved retirement benefit scheme or a statutory scheme is not treated as a benefit-in-kind for income tax purposes. Again, as the income levy treatment follows the income levy treatment, any employer's contribution to such schemes will not be subject to income levy.

Tax Code.

Michael Creed

Question:

138 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the criteria used by the Revenue Commissioners to determine entitlement to a tax credit for an incapacitated child; the reason intellectual disability is not accepted as a basis for entitlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21117/09]

Firstly, as regards the criteria for entitlement to the incapacitated child tax credit, the position is that section 465 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for a tax credit of €3,660 for the tax year 2009 where the claimant has living with him or her any child who, at any time during the relevant tax year to which the claim refers — (a) is under the age of 18 years and is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity, or (b) if over the age of 18 years at the commencement of the year, is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself. If the child is aged 21 or over, the incapacity must have arisen before the child became 21 or while the child was in receipt of full time instruction at any university, college, school or other educational establishment.

The tax credit can also be claimed in respect of: a step-child; a formally adopted child; or an informally adopted child or any child in respect of whom the claimant has custody, who meets the criteria set out above and who is maintained at the claimant's own expense. Where more than one child is permanently incapacitated, a tax credit may be claimed in respect of each such child.

Secondly, as to a child with an intellectual disability, the legislation does not make any reference to intellectual disability or, indeed, to any specific type of disability. The matter to be considered for the purposes of the incapacitated child tax credit in respect of a child with intellectual disability is the same as that for children with other types of disability and as outlined in the legislation.

"A child under 18 years of age shall be regarded as permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity only if the infirmity is such that there would be a reasonable expectation that if the child were over the age of 18 years the child would be incapacitated from maintaining himself or herself."

In this regard, where it is not obvious that the child's incapacity is of a serious and permanent nature, the general practice is for a doctor's certificate to be submitted with the initial claim for the tax credit. In such circumstances, the doctor's certificate should contain the following information: the date the incapacity first arose; the degree and extent of the incapacity; if the child is over 18 years of age, is he or she able to maintain himself or herself independently; or if the child is under 18 years of age, whether there would be a reasonable expectation that, if the child were over the age of 18 years, the child would be incapacitated from maintaining himself or herself .

Finally, if the Deputy has a particular case in mind, the Revenue Commissioners tell me that they are prepared to examine such case if the Deputy so wishes. As is usual, the Deputy can give the relevant details to my officials.

Infrastructural Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

139 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if the commitment in the supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009 to explore the proposal by the Construction Industry Federation to fund infrastructural projects has been progressed; if a scheme is under preparation; if it will be announced before the summer 2009 recess; if details of the type of projects, such as new school buildings are yet decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21293/09]

The Deputy will be aware that we are spending a considerable sum on Capital this year — 5% of GNP — one of the highest ratios in the world. This supports a substantial level of employment, while the reductions in tender prices mean that we can do more with less. Nonetheless, the Government is prepared to look at new ways to fund needed capital investment and support activity and employment in the construction sector provided: the terms are right and in the taxpayers' favour; the investment makes economic sense; value for money is secured; and the private sector shares the appropriate level of risk so as not to have a disproportionate impact on the public finances.

My officials have actively engaged with representatives of the pensions industry and other interested parties to discuss alternative funding proposals. These discussions have focused on both the possible sources of additional funding and on what steps would be required to access such funding. Further discussions on potential funding structures are scheduled for the coming days, and additional meetings will be arranged as necessary.

Architectural Heritage.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

140 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if conservation work will be carried out on Ratoo Round Tower, Ballyduff, County Kerry in 2009 in view of the historical and architectural importance of this national monument; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21316/09]

Ratoo Round Tower is not included in the 2009 programme of works. The south-west corner of the adjacent Ratoo Church will be re-pointed this year.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

141 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans to relocate additional staff to the Revenue office in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21327/09]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

142 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if there are plans to relocate additional staff to an area (details supplied) under the decentralisation plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21342/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 142 together.

The Revenue Commissioners have completed the decentralisation of staff to the office (details supplied) in accordance with the Government Decentralisation Programme, and there are currently 51 staff in place.

The ongoing deployment of staff in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners is a matter for the Commissioners in the normal manner and I am advised by them that there are no plans to relocate additional staff to this location.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

143 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has taken steps to ensure that VAT numbers are not being used illegally in Northern Ireland by persons who are not authorised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21348/09

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the intra-Community movement of goods between Member States is subject to a system of control whereby details of goods that have been zero VAT rated in the Member State of supply are notified to the authorities of the Member State of destination through the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES). This enables the authorities of the Member State of destination to ensure that VAT is accounted for. Furthermore, the supplier is obliged to confirm that the customer from the other Member State is registered for VAT and that the goods are removed from the Member State of supply. Otherwise the supplier is liable for payment of the VAT involved. The validity of the VAT registration number can be checked by the supplier via an online Europa website set up for this purpose.

In order to tackle intra-Community VAT fraud, the European Commission has enacted legislation (Council Regulation 1798/2003) governing administrative co-operation in the field of Value Added Tax with a view to combating cross-border VAT fraud. This legislation is used extensively by the Revenue authorities on both sides of the border who actively exchange information and provide mutual assistance with a view to detecting discrepancies or irregular transactions. Special programmes have been set up precisely for this purpose. The frauds detected to date include the use of hijacked, missing trader, and ceased VAT numbers. The penalties for non-compliance include the raising of VAT assessments against the supplier, the seizure of the goods involved and the prosecution of offenders.

James Bannon

Question:

144 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it makes economic sense to deprive homeowners of mortgage tax relief after seven years, impose tax increases and levies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21431/09]

As I said in my Supplementary Budget 2009 speech, the most urgent step required to restore and renew our economy is to stabilise our public finances. This, I believe, is crucial to the recovery of confidence among investors, consumers and businesses. In this context, as announced in my Supplementary Budget 2009 speech, the income and health levies were doubled and the thresholds reduced from 1 May 2009.

I believe that in these times of scarce resources support should be targeted at those most in need. Mortgage interest relief has therefore been limited to the first seven years of a mortgage from 1 May 2009. The relief is now targeted at those who bought their home when prices were at their peak while also supporting those who wish to move, improve or buy for the first time.

I understand that the Department of Social and Family Affairs provides a payment known as the Mortgage Interest Supplement for mortgage holders who have found themselves out of work or on reduced hours. Queries in relation to this payment should be directed to the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Child Care Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

145 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will address the concerns of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 whose child will not benefit from the new child care grant but who will commence school in September 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20938/09]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which was announced recently by the Minister of Finance.

The ECCE is being introduced from January 2010 as a free scheme to benefit children in the key developmental period prior to commencing school. The scheme will allow eligible children to avail of a free pre-school place in the year before the commence school. This will consist, generally, of 3 hours per day, 5 days per week over 38 weeks or 2 hours and 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week over 50 weeks. As the new scheme will be introduced from January next, the first full year will be from September 2010. Participating services will receive capitation of €64.50 per week where children attend for 38 weeks, and €48.50 per week where they attend for 50 weeks. Services will receive payments at the start of each term.

Participating children must, normally be aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on the 1st September of each year. Exceptions will be allowed where children have special needs or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of the local primary school. As the child in question will be aged 3 years and 6 months in January 2010, he will be eligible to participate in the free pre-school year prior to commencing primary school in September 2010.

Departmental Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

146 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that persons (details supplied) wanting to make an application under the incentivised scheme for early retirement not being able to do so despite the opening date of 1 May 2009 having passed; the action being taken to assist these applicants to make their application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21067/09]

The incentivised scheme of early retirement for the public health sector is effective from 18th May 2009 and the final date for receipt of applications is the 18th September 2009. The relevant circular (8/2009) and a question and answer document is available on the employer's intranet. Applications can be made on the provided application form and a final acceptance form is also provided.

In addition, a dedicated team is available to answer any specific questions employees or line managers may have and regional contact telephone numbers and e-mail addresses are available on the employer's intranet.

Health Service Allowances.

Damien English

Question:

147 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for a person (details supplied) in County Meath for the domiciliary care allowance will be decided on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21137/09]

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.

Positive Ageing Strategy.

Michael Noonan

Question:

148 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in implementing the objectives of the national positive ageing strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21289/09]

The commitment to develop a National Positive Ageing Strategy is set out in the Programme for Government 2007-2012 and is a key objective of my Office. The Government Decision of 17 January 2008 establishing the Office for Older People stipulated that the Strategy would be prepared by a cross departmental group chaired by the Director of the Office. The Group has met on two occasions and comprises representatives of eleven Government Departments and the Central Statistics Office.

In preparation for the development of the Strategy, the National Council on Ageing and Older People commissioned a research study on National Strategies for Older People which was finalised in October last year. The staff of the National Council, which is being subsumed into the Department of Health and Children, will join the Office for Older People to support the preparation of the Strategy.

Since my appointment in April, I have met with a considerable number of older people's organisations and have sought their views on the Positive Ageing Strategy. Arrangements for the launch of consultations on the Strategy are at an advanced stage.

Child Care Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

149 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence from persons involved in the ECCE scheme; the views expressed in this regard that the proposed operation of this scheme will be inoperable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21378/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

150 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if, with regard to the proposed ECCE scheme, she agrees with persons working in the area who feel that fixing the fee at €64.50 per child per week is equivalent to price fixing in the industry and in that regard may be open to legal challenge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21379/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

152 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will explain the way the fee of €64.50 was reached in regard to the ECCE scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21381/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 150 and 152 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) with effect from January 2010.

An annual capitation fee of over €2,400 will be paid to participating services in return for the provision of a free pre-school year to each child. The payment will be made in advance at the start of each term or quarter, as applicable. The scheme will be open to the almost 5,000 pre-school services operating in the State, including full and part-time daycare services as well as sessional playschool services. The capitation fee was set at a rate of €4.30 per hour which is considered sufficient to accommodate the majority of services. It is accepted that some services at the higher end of the market may not choose to enter the scheme, in much the same way as some fee paying primary schools are outside of the national school system, however, I expect the majority of services will enter the scheme.

Services can participate in the scheme on the basis of a number of options. A full or part-time daycare service will be required to provide a pre-school service for 2 hours 15 minutes per day, five days a week for 50 weeks (241 days) per year, in return for the capitation fee of €48.50 per week. A playschool sessional service, such as a Montessori, will be required to provide a pre-school service for 3 hours per day, five days a week for 38 weeks (183 days) per year, in return for a capitation fee of €64.50 per week. However, where for good reason a sessional service is unable to operate over 5 days, consideration will be given to allowing it to participate in the scheme on the basis of providing the pre-school year for 3 hours 30 minutes per day for 4 days per week. In such cases, a service will be required to provide the pre-school year over 41 weeks (157 days). Further flexibility is provided for in that, a full or part-time service may choose to provide a sessional service over 38 weeks of a year (or 2 sessional services each day) while a sessional service may choose to provide 2 hours 15 minutes per day over 50 weeks.

As a free pre-school year, participating services must agree to provide the service in return for the capitation grant. This does not preclude a service from charging for additional services provided these are clearly optional to parents. Optional services can include additional hours, over and above the free pre-school year requirement, and additional services in the form of various one-off, or on-going, activities or services such as outings, birthday parties, specific teaching resources such as dance or music or food. By their nature, full or part-time services will offer additional hours to the pre-school provision and sessional playschools can offer an additional 30 minutes per day. However, services must ensure that all such additional services are offered and charged for on an optional basis and are not compulsory. A parent's agreement cannot be a condition of initial or continued enrolment. It is also essential that appropriate programme based activities must be provided to children not participating in an optional activity where this takes place during the required period of pre-school provision.

The large majority of services contacting my Office since the announcement of the scheme have expressed their support for the scheme in strong terms. With regard to the question of price-fixing, I am satisfied that this does not arise, however it is open to individuals to seek legal advice should they consider this appropriate. I understand that a number of individuals have raised this issue with the Competition Authority but, to date, no grounds for action or concern have been identified.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

151 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the ECCE scheme, in its attempt to extend the preschool year by two weeks beyond that required by primary schools, is unacceptable for two reasons, namely as discrimination to require preschool Montessori teachers to work a longer school year than that which is required by national school teachers, at a reduced rate of pay, as well as the fact that under these proposals children of a very young age would then have a longer school year than they ought to have; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21380/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which was announced recently by the Minister for Finance.

The scheme, which is being introduced from January 2010, will be open to almost 5,000 private and voluntary pre-school services, including Montessori schools. Services such as Montessori schools, which are likely to participate in the scheme as a sessional playschool service open for 38 weeks of the year, will be expected to operate for 183 days, the same number as that required for national primary schools.

Pre-school services in Ireland are provided in the private and voluntary sector and the terms and conditions of staff working in these services are a matter for their employer.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 149.

Mary Upton

Question:

153 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the qualifications that will be required of teachers and carers in the schools operating the new preschool child care scheme; the location at which a person (details supplied) can obtain the necessary qualifications and information on suitable courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21403/09]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) which was announced recently by the Minister of Finance.

The ECCE is being introduced from January 2010 as a free scheme to benefit children in the key developmental period prior to commencing school. The scheme will allow eligible children to avail of a free pre-school place in the year before they commence school, generally either for 3 hours per day, 5 days per week over 38 weeks or for 2 hours 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week over 50 weeks. As the new scheme will be introduced from January next, the first full year will be from September 2010.

With the introduction of the pre-school year, the required qualifications are that the pre-school year Leader should hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland (NFQ) or an equivalent recognised qualification in the childcare/early education field. In recognition of the complex nature of educational attainment of staff within the early childhood care and education workforce in Ireland, during the first two full years of the scheme, where the pre-school year Leader has an award in early childhood care and education that includes significant content relating to early childhood education/early learning and child development and has at least two years experience of working in a position of responsibility with children in the 0-6 age range, this will be accepted as meeting the requirement.

For people who intend to make a career in this area, there are a number of options. The VECs are the major providers of accredited courses in childcare at NFQ level 5. By contacting the local VEC provider or by looking at their website, it should be possible to find a listing of accredited courses. The Institutes of Technology and some Universities also offer courses in childcare/early education and again, by contacting the IOTs or by looking at their websites, it will be possible to determine what courses are on offer. There are, as well, a number of courses offering Montessori qualifications but the most important factor in determining what course to do is that the course is recognised, accredited and will give the student an award that is on or aligned to the National Framework of Qualifications.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

154 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 203 of 6 May 2009, if there has been further progress in resolving the issue of inter-country adoption with Vietnam; if she remains committed to her Minister of State for Children travelling to Vietnam to resolve and conclude a further bilateral agreement; and when this will occur. [21744/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

189 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if in view of the trauma caused to people arising from the indefinite postponement of adoptions of Vietnamese children and further in view of the issues arising in regard to the Hague Convention, she will arrange to put in place a further interim two-year agreement pending the resolution of issues in relation to the convention by both Ireland and Vietnam; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21306/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 189 together.

My office is working to create the appropriate legislative, policy and administrative frameworks that will ensure a well regulated regime of adoption. Our aim is to support and protect the children for whom adoption services are devised and provided as well as prospective parents.

The Government is working towards securing a strengthened agreement with Vietnam. In light of concerns raised by other countries and which emerged during 2008, the Government decided that it was necessary to seek a strengthening of the existing agreement with Vietnam. With the publication of the Adoption Bill, 2009, it was also considered necessary to ensure that both the content of a new agreement and its implementation would meet the minimum standards set out in that Bill and under the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.

There has been on-going dialogue with the Vietnamese authorities, with the focus on achieving the requisite strengthening of procedures for the protection of children. All options, including an interim agreement, are actively being pursued to allow for the conclusion of discussions on a strengthened bi-lateral agreement and to facilitate continuity of the strong and positive relationship between both jurisdictions.

I am anxious to conclude discussions on the text of the bi-lateral agreement already under consideration. However, that is not to say that any guarantee can be provided in relation to the outcome of that process. In addition, it must be pointed out that the wider policy agenda priority is the enactment of the Adoption Bill and subsequent ratification of the Hague Convention. The agreement must have regard to this forthcoming change in adoption legislation.

I do not wish to speculate on the timeframe for or the outcome of these negotiations. There has been a high level of engagement on both sides and it is clear from progress so far that there is a willingness on both sides to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.

The need for a further visit will be guided by the developments in the coming days and weeks. I am committed to travelling to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at any time to facilitate the successful conclusion of these discussions, as and when appropriate.

Overall, it must be acknowledged that another sovereign government is party to all negotiations on inter-country adoptions and, consequently, it would be unwise and inappropriate to attempt to air the issues or negotiate these very sensitive matters in the public domain. This may, in fact, jeopardise the prospects of concluding any new agreements. For that reason, further details on negotiations are not being made available at this time. Furthermore, it is also the case that speculation on either the nature of the issues or the degree of progress being made is unhelpful and indeed may prove misleading and distressing to those applicants who are currently waiting to adopt.

Medical Cards.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

155 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason full medical cards were refused to persons (details supplied) in County Cork on income grounds when the cards were originally provided on health grounds and when their asthmatic condition persists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20915/09]

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

Hospital Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

156 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she is suppressing a nursing post (details supplied) at Killarney Community Hospital, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20919/09]

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

Joe McHugh

Question:

157 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding temporary health workers at a hospital (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20926/09]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

158 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children her Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20957/09]

In relation to tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use the provision of treatment and related services is a service matter primarily for the Health Service Executive. In relation to alcohol my Department has incurred some expenditure in the last three years as follows: €0.219 million in 2006; €0.063 million in 2007 and; €0.083 million in 2008.

The expenditure in 2006 refers mainly to final payments in respect of social marketing and awareness campaigns on alcohol, responsibility for which transferred to the Health Service Executive during 2006. Expenditure in 2006, 2007 and 2008 includes costs associated with the monitoring of adherence to the Codes on Alcohol Advertising and Marketing.

My Department has spent the following amounts directly attributable to drugs for each of the past three years: €0.978 million in 2006; €0.984 million in 2007 and; €1.033 million in 2008.

The above funding for drugs was primarily for the Alcohol and Drug Research Unit of the Health Research Board.

As the Deputy will be aware the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has policy responsibility for the co-ordination of the National Drugs Strategy while the Department of Health and Children has policy responsibility for drug treatment issues and for some aspects of prevention.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

159 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the Health Service Executive’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20962/09]

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

Food Safety.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

160 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if bottled water is being tested for fluoride. [20977/09]

I have been informed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland that the three types of bottled water namely, natural mineral water, spring water and other waters are tested for fluoride content.

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

161 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be provided for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 on the grounds of undue financial hardship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20982/09]

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

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

162 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the therapeutic programmes and supervision arrangements in place and the staffing level at Grove Lodge, Portrane, County Dublin; the arrangements currently in place for the supervision of clients there; the age grouping; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20988/09]

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

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

163 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the personnel among the 113,000 or so employees on the management administrative side who are responsible for paediatric care, that is the person who is in charge of paediatric care in the Health Service Executive; their title and the assistance they have; the other roles they occupy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20989/09]

I wish to advise that the Health Service Personnel Census indicates that, as at March 2009, there were 111,770 wholetime equivalents employed in the public health service, of which 17,954 were in the Management/Administrative grade category.

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

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael McGrath

Question:

164 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a piece of medical equipment is provided for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [20998/09]

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.

Medicinal Products.

Joe Carey

Question:

165 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if there has been guidance issued to the Health Service Executive in relation to the provision of the drug Tysabri to multiple sclerosis sufferers here; if the cost of provision of this drug has been established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21000/09]

The Summary of Product Characteristics for Tysabri, which was approved as part of the procedure for its product authorisation, contains specific information regarding the safe and effective use of the product. In addition, specific "Physician Information and Management Guidelines" have been issued for the use of Tysabri and all physicians who prescribe Tysabri should be familiar with these guidelines.

Tysabri is indicated for two specific categories of Multiple Sclerosis patients, i.e. patients with high disease activity despite treatment with beta-interferon and patients with rapidly evolving severe relapsing remitting form of the condition. In the past 12 months the manufacturer has sent two letters to health care professionals in Ireland, following approval by the Irish Medicines Board, outlining specifically the risk of liver toxicity and the risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (progressive damage of the white matter in the brain).

The provision of this drug to patients is currently a matter for decision by the hospital concerned. The issue of access to the drug in question is also under consideration by the Health Service Executive. 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 this drug and other agents used to treat this particular condition, taking account of clinical need, benefits and cost. The group is to include patient representation.

The current maximum ex-factory price of Tysabri is €1636.85 per 300mg infusion. However, individual hospitals can negotiate revised arrangements with pharmaceutical manufacturers. I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy with regard to the cost of the provision of this drug to patients in Ireland.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

166 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 has been told they have to pay for their own orthodontic braces despite the fact that they qualify and fulfil all the criteria for free ones. [21002/09]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

167 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 130 of 7 April 2009, when a reply will be furnished from the Primary, Community and Continuing Care outside the southern areas; the reason a simple answer cannot be provided by the Health Service Executive to this question; if she will clarify that each PCCC is making the payment in the southern area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21008/09]

I understand that a full response to the Deputy's question issued yesterday and that supplementary information will be sent to him today.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Joe Costello

Question:

168 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21053/09]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

169 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be supported. [21057/09]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

170 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the recently announced free pre-school year; when the scheme will commence; if it will be open to all pre-schools to apply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21061/09]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which will commence in January 2010.

It is open to all voluntary and commercial pre-school services, which are notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or registered with the Irish Montessori Education Board.(IMEB), to apply to participate in the scheme. All services will be required to provide an educational programme consistent with the principles of Síolta and appropriate to the age of participating children. A national team of Síolta co-ordinators and the City and County Childcare Committees will assist services in meeting these standards. Details of the application process will be issued very shortly by my Office to the almost 5,000 services concerned.

To be eligible, children must be aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on the 1st September each year, however, exceptions will be allowed where children have special needs or it is necessary to accept children at an older age due to the enrolment policy of the local primary school. Eligible children will avail of a free pre-school place provided for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week over 38 weeks or, alternatively, for 2 hours 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week over 50 weeks. In certain cases, services will be allowed to participate on the basis of providing 3 hours 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week over 41 weeks. As the new scheme will be introduced from January next, the first full year will be from September 2010 and children availing of the scheme in January 2010 will have a reduced period of free pre-school provision.

In return for providing a free pre-school place, services will receive a weekly capitation fee of €64.50, where children attend for 38 weeks, and of €48.50 where children attend for 50 weeks of the year. The grant will be paid to services at the start of each term, or quarter, as applicable. While it is a condition of the scheme that the pre-school year is provided free of charge, services may charge for additional services (e.g. additional hours or activities) provided these are offered to parents on an optional basis and provided children not availing of an additional service continue to receive appropriate pre-school provision.

Pre-School leaders will be expected to hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland (NFQ) or an equivalent recognised qualification in the childcare/early education field. In the first two full years of the scheme, a person holding an award in early childhood care and education that includes significant content relating to early childhood education/early learning and child development, and who has at least two years experience of working in a position of responsibility with children in the 0-6 age range, will be considered to meet the qualification requirement.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

171 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an application for capital grant aid to build a pre-school facility by a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan was unsuccessful; the financial supports that may be available to this business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21062/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006 -2010 under which capital grant funding is made available to community and commercial childcare providers for the development of childcare facilities.

With the economic downturn Government expenditure, particularly in the area of new capital commitments, has been subject to review and a decision was taken in April of this year not to approve additional grant applications under the NCIP capital programme at this time. All capital grants applicants, including the applicant referred to by the Deputy have been advised of the position. Existing capital commitments will continue to be processed during 2009 and 2010.

The City and County Childcare Committees will be advised by my Office if and when additional capital funding becomes available to my Office in 2011 and 2012.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

172 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if persons (details supplied) will be supported. [21085/09]

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

Organ Retention.

Tom Kitt

Question:

173 Deputy Tom Kitt asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regarding the report by a person (details supplied) of the independent review of the national audit of human organs stored in hospitals and institutions here; when this report will be published; and if it will be published in full and not redacted. [21089/09]

Dr Deirdre Madden's report on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures recommended that "an independent audit must be carried out of currently retained organs in all hospitals in the State". To implement this recommendation, the Health Service Executive (HSE) commissioned Ms Michaela Willis, former Member of the UK Human Tissue Authority and founder member and Chair of the UK National Committee relating to Organ Retention, to undertake an independent audit.

The HSE has advised that field work for Ms Willis's independent audit, which included site-visits to all hospitals that carry out post-mortem examinations in the State, has been completed. This data is being compiled and a report based on the audit is currently being prepared by the author. When this report of the independent audit is completed, the HSE will make preparations for the publication of the full and final report. I understand that this process will be completed later this year.

Hospital Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

174 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will receive an appointment for an assessment in respect of a hip replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21090/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

175 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on a medical card application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21091/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

176 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be called for an assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21101/09]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

177 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of treatments and operations carried out in the soon to be closed theatre in Crumlin children’s hospital, Dublin; the type of procedure for each year since it was opened in 2004 and the systems put in place to ensure that other theatres in the hospital or in other children’s hospitals can cater for the demand for operating space, due to the reduced capacity with the proposed closure in July 2009. [21106/09]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

178 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of operations or procedures on children which were sub-contracted out to private hospitals directly or via the National Treatment Purchase Fund scheme in each of the past five years; and the cost annually of these procedures. [21107/09]

My Department has requested material in respect of the information sought by the Deputy from both the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund. I will be in contact with the Deputy in this regard as soon as possible.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

179 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the closure of wards in Crumlin children’s hospital, Dublin; if, in view of the consequences that this closure will cause, the distress that the prospective closure is causing and will continue to cause, the wards will be kept open; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21113/09]

Joe Carey

Question:

196 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will instruct the Health Service Executive not to close any services provided at Crumlin children’s hospital as part of their response to budgetary changes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21360/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 196 together.

In common with all hospitals, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin is addressing the challenge of delivering a high quality service to its patients, while remaining within budget. The Hospital is committed to providing the full level of services that it promised in its service plan for 2009. The top priority will be to protect patient care.

So far this year, Crumlin Hospital has delivered more treatments to patients than for the same period last year. In the first three months of 2009 there were 2,745 treatments for children as in-patients and 3,841 as day cases– up by 244 over 2008. Crumlin also had 21,252 attendances at the out-patient department — up by 1,041 from the first quarter of last year.

The allocation to Crumlin for 2009 is €139.6m, an increase of some 39% over the last five years. This includes a reduction of 3% this year over 2008, in line with the budgetary constraints facing the entire public sector and the wider economy. A particular challenge for the Hospital is that it is operating at some 100 posts above its employment ceiling — it employed 1,650 people (wholetime equivalents) at the end of March compared with its ceiling of 1,550. This is contributing to its current financial difficulties.

The HSE is working closely with Crumlin Hospital to achieve an agreed programme of savings, totalling €6.5m this year. The focus of these savings will be on non-pay areas of expenditure and on protecting front-line services. On this basis, the HSE believes that the Hospital will achieve a break-even position this year.

I believe that we need to look more strategically at the way in which we provide paediatric services in Dublin. In 2009 the Government will provide over €250m for the running of three paediatric hospitals in Dublin — Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght. We can achieve significant cost savings if services and practices are more closely integrated across the three hospital sites, even before the new National Paediatric Hospital has been completed. With this in mind, the HSE is pursuing ways in which services across the three hospitals can best be co-ordinated, to avoid unnecessary duplication and to achieve savings that can be put back into patient care.

Michael Ring

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will not to allow closure of beds in a hospital (details supplied) in County Galway. [21125/09]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

181 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the type, cost and commissioning date of a CAT scanner for Ennis General Hospital, County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21126/09]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

182 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has submitted an appeal in respect of the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21127/09]

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006.

Two Appeals Officers have been appointed to consider appeals.  The Appeals Officers must investigate each appeal independently, these investigations can require additional reviews by the Health Service Executive and the Scheme Administrator and certain appeals present a high level of complexity.  In addition a very high percentage of appellants have requested an Oral Hearing.  Up to the 22 May 2009 the Appeals Officers have carefully and thoroughly considered and assessed 3,415 appeals and have issued decisions to each of these appellants.

The claimant referred to by the Deputy lodged an Appeal Form with the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office on 14 April 2008 and the Appeals Officer is currently awaiting additional information from the Scheme Administrator.  When the Appeals Officer has made a determination on this appeal he/she will write to the claimant and will provide the claimant with the reasons for the decision.

Hospital Services.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

183 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence in relation to surgical intervention in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21128/09]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

184 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Dublin will be given access to services at Cheeverstown. [21214/09]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Dan Neville

Question:

185 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the construction of the replacement of the Central Mental Hospital. [21222/09]

The Project Team established to progress the redevelopment of the hospital has completed an Outline Development Brief. Shortlisting for the appointment of a Project Manager has taken place; shortlisting for the design team is almost complete. Work is ongoing on the preparation of a design brief for the new hospital but none of the work undertaken to date has been site specific.

It should be noted that the redevelopment of the Central Mental Hospital constitutes a separate capital development project, independent of the Thornton Hall prison complex. However, the implications, if any, of the decision of the Irish Prison Service to end negotiations with the preferred bidder for the prison project, will be considered by the Project Team.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

186 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a section of the Health Service Executive (details supplied) will not respond to queries which this Deputy has sent to them. [21285/09]

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

Joe Costello

Question:

187 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) has spent 18 months in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, after their treatment was complete; her proposals for providing care for them in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21297/09]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

188 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a laundry service provided by the Health Service Executive for the past 19 years for vulnerable elderly people in the Manorcunningham area in County Donegal ceased in November 2008; if her further attention has been drawn to the effect that removal of this service has had on those most in need of it; when this service will be reintroduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21305/09]

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

Question No. 189 answered with Question No. 154.

Jack Wall

Question:

190 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for a primary certificate by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21308/09]

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.

Billy Timmins

Question:

191 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied); if she will have this matter examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21326/09]

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

Deirdre Clune

Question:

192 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding to an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork to provide day services for new individuals in 2009. [21329/09]

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 Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

193 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the reduction of payments to health professionals as outlined in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21333/09]

On 29 April 2009, I announced reductions in fees payable to certain health professionals in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. The professionals involved include general practitioners, dentists, pharmacists, ophthalmologists, optometrists and dispensing opticians who hold contracts with the HSE. Professionals who render services on behalf of the National Cancer Screening Service Board under a contract for the provision of smear taking as part of the National Cervical Screening Programme and consultant psychiatrists who participate in the Mental Health Tribunal process are also included. My decisions had regard to the outcome of a public consultation process undertaken by my Department including consideration of written and oral submissions made by the main representative bodies for the professionals involved.

I have made Regulations under the Act, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to give effect to the fee reductions in the case of dentists, ophthalmologists, optometrists, dispensing opticians, smeartakers and psychiatrists. The Regulations relating to general practitioners and pharmacists are being prepared and I expect them to be made shortly.

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

194 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made in putting together a plan for the provision of additional cystic fibrosis beds; the timelines for this development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21349/09]

Refurbishment work took place last year in St Vincent's University Hospital to provide eight single en-suite rooms for the exclusive use of people with cystic fibrosis.

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 ward block will include accommodation for cystic fibrosis patients.

I am anxious to ensure that the project is delivered without delay. The HSE, in partnership with St. Vincent's Hospital, have structured the tender for this development in such a way that payments for the works can be deferred towards the end of the construction period.

The design team have been instructed to proceed on this basis. They have now signed off on the design and will shortly be going to tender for the construction of the new building. It is intended that the construction, equipping and commissioning of this block will be completed as early as possible in 2011.

Health Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

195 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation on children awaiting orthodontic treatment here; if she will introduce a waiting list initiative for orthodontics similar to that provided in 2001 and 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21359/09]

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

Question No. 196 answered with Question No. 179.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

197 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of crutches or pairs of crutches purchased by the Health Service Executive in the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; the cost to the HSE for such crutches over the four year period; the number of crutches returned or accepted by the HSE during that same period; the policy of the HSE in respect of re-using or re-cycling crutches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21365/09]

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.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

198 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that funding for an organisation (details supplied) in Dublin 8 has been cut; the amount by which it was cut; if this will result in services, including a bus service for adults and children, being withdrawn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21366/09]

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 Connaughton

Question:

199 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the cutbacks that are imminent in the services of an organisation (details supplied), particularly in relation to respite care services and the anxiety expressed by many parents regarding the future of their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21374/09]

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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

200 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an over 70 years medical card review in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21376/09]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has had their medical card renewed; and the reason no response to this query was forthcoming. [21377/09]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Creed

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be called for surgery for a knee replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21398/09]

The management of waiting lists generally 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.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund arranges treatment for patients who have been on a surgical waiting list for more than three months. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Health Service Allowances.

Michael Creed

Question:

203 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in dealing with an issue of arrears of domiciliary care allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21400/09]

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.

Joe Costello

Question:

204 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the strategy and timetable for the implementation of the new national policy framework for mental health, A Vision for Change; the way she proposes to ensure that all Government Departments will be involved in the implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21404/09]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

209 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the way she plans to ensure that their policy on mental health as expressed in A Vision for Change is fully implemented; the way she will ensure that all Departments implement the recommendations relevant to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21425/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 209 together.

'A Vision for Change' provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year period. Implementation of the recommendations in the Report is primarily the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE). In February 2008, the HSE adopted an interim implementation plan which set out six key priorities for 2008 and 2009. An implementation plan for implementing ‘A Vision for Change' over the five year period 2009-2013was approved by the HSE in April 2009 and is currently being considered by the Department.

The HSE recently confirmed that a national lead dedicated to mental health will be appointed. The person assigned to the position will work closely with the National Clinical Director to drive the modernisation of mental health services.

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' the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention take place within this context.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

205 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the annual cost to the health services of the five most prescribed drugs including their individual annual cost; her plans to reduce such costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21405/09]

I am advised by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that the five products/product categories of highest cost under the GMS scheme in 2008 are as follows:

€m

Atorvastatin

62.2

Clinical Nutritional Products

41.2

Salmeterol and other drugs for obstructive airway diseases

26.9

Esomeprazole

25.3

Omeprazole

24.8

Public expenditure on prescribed drugs was €2.26 billion in 2008, consisting of €1.96 billion on drugs dispensed in the community and €300 million on drugs provided in hospitals. A number of initiatives have been implemented to obtain greater value for money from this area of expenditure and to control spending.

Agreements were concluded by the HSE with the proprietary and generic manufacturers, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Ireland, in June and September 2006 respectively. Over the period of the agreements, which run to 2010, the HSE estimates savings of the order of €260 million through off-patent price cuts of 35% for drugs with substitutable alternatives in two stages, 20% in March 2007 and a further 15% in January 2009.

Other measures initiated by the HSE to improve value for money in the drugs schemes include reducing wastage and inappropriate prescribing of oral nutritional products, moving selected products to the High Tech Drugs Scheme where appropriate (products supplied under this scheme do not incur a retail mark-up) and the planned establishment of joint formularies for drugs and non-drug items for community and hospital settings.

The report on Economies in Drug Usage in the Irish Healthcare Sector, submitted to me in December 2008 by a group chaired by Dr Michael Barry of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, made a number of recommendations in regard to efficiencies in the prescribing and reimbursement status of certain drugs and medicines, including a recommendation that generic prescribing by GPs should be encouraged and facilitated. Arising from this report, I established an implementation group, chaired by Dr Barry, and comprising of representatives of my Department, the HSE and the IMO, to identify and oversee the implementation of specific measures that would deliver more cost effective prescribing by GPs, greater use of generic preparations and quality prescribing indicators. The work of the group is ongoing.

I am firmly of the view that the costs of pharmacy services under the GMS and community drugs schemes are not sustainable, a view that is reinforced by the current budgetary challenges. It is clear that significant savings must be made for taxpayers, and I have instructed my Department to pursue this in consultation with the HSE.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

206 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that funding will be in place after December 2009 for a person (details supplied) in County Sligo who is in their final year of rehabilitative training in order that they can complete their training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21410/09]

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.

Ambulance Service.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

207 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason, when an ambulance is called to a town (details supplied) in County Carlow, the patient does not have a choice as to which of two hospitals that are taken to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21423/09]

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

Health Service Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

208 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a doctor against whom a claim of negligence has been made is allowed to continue to practice while that complaint is under investigation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21424/09]

If the case referred to by the Deputy relates to a civil action I would have no involvement in the matter.

The procedure for making a complaint to the Medical Council concerning a registered medical practitioner is set out in the Medical Practitioners Act 2007. A person may make a complaint to the Council's Preliminary Proceedings Committee on specified grounds. If, following examination of the complaint, the Preliminary Proceedings Committee considers that a prima facie case exists, it is referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee for an inquiry. Following an inquiry, if relevant allegations are considered proven by the Fitness to Practise Committee the Medical Council decides on what sanction should be imposed.

The Medical Council, however, may make an application to the High Court for an order to suspend the registration of a registered medical practitioner, whether or not the practitioner is the subject of a complaint, if the Council considers that the suspension is necessary to protect the public. Under the Act it is unlawful for any unregistered medical practitioner to practise medicine.

Question No. 209 answered with Question No. 204.

Care of the Elderly.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

210 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will set out the actual bed complement that will exist within the Killarney area for the care of the elderly services in the context of the proposed amalgamation of St. Columbanus Home and Killarney Community Hospital; if she will give the breakdown of long stay beds, step down beds, respite and palliative care facilities that will be available to the public following this amalgamation; if the proposed changes in Killarney are indicative of a policy shift that may lead to the closure of community hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21426/09]

As the Deputy is aware Government policy in relation to older people is to support them to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, the health service supports access to quality long-term residential care. The current long stay residential care needs for older people in the Kerry area are met by the provision of continuing care beds in public facilities and contracted beds in private registered nursing homes.

St. Columbanus Home, Killarney is a long stay residential unit, Killarney Community Hospital is a step down facility which does not have long stay beds but a range of respite, convalescent and palliative care beds. Both hospitals are adjacent to one another. Following the retirement of the Director of Nursing of Killarney Community Hospital, the matron of St Columbanus Home assumed responsibility for the management and governance of service provision across the two sites. The HSE has advised that this amalgamation will bring greater efficiencies, better integration of services and an enhanced governance structure. It will also enhance the continuum of care for older people and support where possible those that reside in the community through respite and convalescence, as well as providing continuing care facilities for those with an assessed need.

The HSE is preparing for the introduction of the National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland. These will be introduced in July 2009 and the HSE sees the new nursing management structure of the two hospitals as the appropriate direction to take in readiness for the introduction of these standards.

The priority capital developments for long stay care which have been approved for Co. Kerry are the new community hospital in Dingle, and the new community nursing unit at Killerisk, Tralee. In Dingle construction has just been completed at the community hospital and the unit is currently being commissioned. It replaces the existing 43 bedded unit and will also provide an additional 25 beds for the catchment area. The new 50 bed unit at Tralee, is also currently being commissioned.

The overall capital cost of these developments is in excess of €25m and with revenue costs of €7.6m. This represents a major commitment to support the development of Services for Older People in the Kerry area.

The breakdown of long stay beds, step down beds, respite and palliative care facilities that will be available to the public following this amalgamation, is a service matter and accordingly it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

211 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that, due to cutbacks, a phlebotomy service will no longer be available in a hospital (details supplied) in County Limerick; if she will ensure that this service is maintained in view of the fact that it makes a positive contribution to providing a service in cooperation with general practitioners in a community context in accordance her policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21428/09]

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

General Medical Services Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

212 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will include haemochromatosis as a life long chronic illness to be covered by the GMS; the reason for not including this to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21438/09]

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of general practitioner services. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. In June 2006, I agreed with the HSE to raise the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards. For medical card and GP visit card applications, the HSE now considers an applicant's income after tax and PRSI are deducted, rather than total income. Allowances are also made for expenses on childcare, rent and mortgage costs and the cost of travel to work.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing the eligibility criteria for medical cards with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible, taking into account financial and medical need.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

213 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 169 of 13 May 2009, if she will furnish the facility from which each child has disappeared in each year in question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21439/09]

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

Medicinal Products.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

214 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the drug sodium amytal was withdrawn from the market here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21450/09]

The Irish Medicines Board is the competent authority for the regulation of medicinal products in Ireland. I am advised by the Board that the drug sodium amytal was licenced in 1977. There are a number of different formulations (oral and injection) and doses (50mg, 100mg etc) available. The manufacturer ceased to distribute some formulations in the early 1990s. The licence was not renewed by the manufacturer in 1997 for commercial reasons.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

215 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in putting in place a plan for the care of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if an early appointment either public or private will be arranged for them with the appropriate professional; the steps she is taking to provide proper services in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21461/09]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

216 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if orthodontic treatment will be arranged as a matter of urgency for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will investigate the matter and expedite a positive response. [21463/09]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Noel Ahern

Question:

217 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation in relation to funding for persons with an intellectual disability; if all existing funding schemes are being maintained; the reason persons (details supplied) in Dublin 9 are being told there will be no service for them from September 2009 unless additional funds are provided by her. [21465/09]

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.

Noel Ahern

Question:

218 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the entitlements to a medical card, dental and optical benefits and so on for a 26 year old full-time university student living at home; the regulations regarding same; if family income is still the overriding measure; if at 25 years they are treated on their own income, which is nil; if a medical card is linked to provision of education grants; and if social welfare entitlements to dental and optical would be automatic if their parents have an entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21468/09]

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is a statutory function of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and eligibility is determined following the examination of the means of the applicant and of his/her dependants. Under Section 45 of the Health Act 1970 medical cards are provided to persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

Under the Health Services (No. 3) Regulations, 1983 (S.I. No. 381 of 1983) persons aged between 16 and 25 years, who are financially dependent on their parents qualify for a medical card and associated benefits if their parents are medical card holders.

Students aged 26 years and above are assessed independently and the determination of eligibility for a medical card is based on their own income. The assessment is carried out in accordance with the general medical card / GP visit card income guidelines and in this regard, third-level education maintenance grants are disregarded when assessing income.

Persons with a medical card 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. They are also exempt from paying the health levy and the income levy.

The range of dental services for adult medical card holders available under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme from participating dentists holding contracts with the HSE, includes examinations, fillings, extractions, dentures, x-rays and certain root canal treatment.

The range of optical services for adult medical card holders available under the Community Optometric Services Scheme and the Community Spectacle Dispensing Services Scheme from participating ophthalmologists, optometrists and dispensing opticians holding contracts with the HSE, includes eye examinations and the dispensing of spectacles where necessary.

My Department is informed by the Department of Social and Family Affairs that Treatment Benefits consist of three separate benefit types:

(i) Dental Benefit

(ii) Optical Benefit

(iii) Medical Appliance (Hearing Aid) Benefit

These schemes are PRSI based and offer assistance to persons who satisfy certain qualifying conditions and to their dependent spouses under certain qualifying conditions. These schemes do not cover children of parents who are qualified.

Michael Creed

Question:

219 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; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21520/09]

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

Cancer Treatment Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in regard to the future of St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin 6; the extent of negotiations that have taken place with any body or bodies expected to have a bearing on the future use of the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21523/09]

Radiotherapy services will transfer from St. Luke's to St James's as part of the implementation of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology. The decision is based on expert advice and is designed to ensure that radiation oncology is integrated with all other aspects of cancer care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in relation to the development of radiation oncology and a Transition Team has been established to oversee developments.

No decisions have yet been taken in relation to the future use of the site and facilities at St. Luke's. However, I am anxious to ensure that these resources are utilised in the best interest of the health services. I understand that the Friends of St. Luke's are preparing a report on possible future uses of the site and facilities and I hope to receive a copy within the next few months.

It is important to note that the transfer of services from St. Luke's Hospital to new facilities at St. James's Hospital is not due to take place for a number of years. In the meantime, two additional and two replacement linear accelerators were commissioned at St. Luke's earlier this year in order to provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology.

Care of the Elderly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a permanent public bed will be made available to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 in a nursing care facility of their family’s choice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21524/09]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 will be transferred from the Mater Private Hospital Dublin to St. Mary’s; when the person will be transferred to new wing or section of St. Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park Dublin pending assessment of their case in view of the family’s anxiety and concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21525/09]

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

Fishing Fleet Regulations.

Joe McHugh

Question:

223 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the reason there is such a high cost for surveying fishing boats; the way this figure compares with Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20925/09]

The survey of fishing vessels of 15 metres length and over is a process that generally involves inspection of the vessel's structure, machinery and safety equipment to ensure compliance with the safety regulations. The vessel will be surveyed while she is in a dry-dock or on a slipway and again when back in the water. An initial survey will involve the carrying out of an inclining experiment to establish the elements of a vessel's stability and an office based analysis of the stability data.

In Ireland for vessels of 15 metres length and over, the Fishing Vessel (Fees) Regulations 2007 as amended is the applicable legislation. These prescribed fees take into account the size of a vessel and the nature of the survey required. There is a reduced scale of fees for vessels that are maintained in classification with a Recognised Organisation. No additional fees apply in relation to the travel and subsistence of the attending surveyor if the survey is carried out within the island of Ireland.

The fees applicable to vessels registered in Northern Ireland are set out in the United Kingdom's Merchant Shipping (Fees) Regulations 2006, as amended. The fee payable for a survey is charged on the basis of an hourly rate of £94 per hour. Additional fees apply where the travelling time of the surveyor is above 4 hours and where the survey location is outside the United Kingdom.

To give an example, the expected time required for an initial survey of a 24 metre vessel would be approximately 40 hours with a fee of €2400 applying for such a survey to be carried out within Ireland. The cost of a survey of the same duration for a fishing vessel in the United Kingdom would be £3760. The Marine Survey Office's experience to date, since the introduction of the various fishing vessel survey regimes in Ireland, is that up to 60 hours may be required to complete the survey of vessels that are not in class with a Recognised Organisation and no extra cost is incurred by the owners under the existing arrangements for such an extended survey.

For fishing vessels of less than 15 metres, there are no comparable survey regimes in operation in the two jurisdictions. In Ireland, a panel of private surveyors who have been approved by my Department carry out the surveys. Fees are not prescribed in legislation and normal commercial practices prevail in respect of the fees that these surveyors charge their customers.

Departmental Agencies.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

224 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if he has given consent to employ a chief executive officer for the Dublin Transport Authority; and to employ additional personnel to work in the Dublin Transport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21010/09]

I refer to my reply to Question No. 254 on 12 May last.

The process to recruit a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) designate for the Dublin Transport Authority has now been concluded and I expect to be in a position to announce the CEO designate in the near future.

With regard to the staffing of the Authority the position is that the Authority must determine its needs with the approval of the Ministers for Transport and Finance. Accordingly, that process will begin in earnest once a CEO designate has been appointed.

Travel Trade Regulation.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

225 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport the reason for retaining the travel agents bond at 4%; if he has reviewed the impact on the future economic viability of travel agents of this high rate for a bond; his views on reducing the bond to 2% in view of the changing level of competition within the sector due to low cost airlines; his further views on the impact of applying VAT on the travel agency sector and the unfair competition in the travel sector if the travel agency is singled out alone for VAT payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21350/09]

Statutory responsibility for regulation of the travel trade rests with the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

As the existing legislative framework for the regulation of the travel trade has been in existence since 1982, I asked the Commission for Aviation Regulation to undertake a comprehensive review of the travel trade legislation. The purpose of the review was to assess the operation of the current regulatory arrangements and to recommend any reforms that may be warranted.

Following an extensive consultation process, the Commission submitted their report to me on 30 December 2008 which I have published on my Department's website www.transport.ie.

I have consulted with my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, on the report's findings from the general consumer protection policy perspective and I expect to finalise my consideration of the report shortly.

In relation to VAT, I am advised that the Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 introduced a new VAT margin scheme from 1 January 2010 for tour operators. I understand that the requirement to introduce a margin scheme arose from a decision of the Revenue Appeal Commissioner in 2007 and is the system applied in most EU Member States. VAT will be chargeable only on the profit margin realised by tour operators and entitlement to VAT deduction will be allowed on overheads.

As a consequence to this change, it is also provided that travel agents be made subject to VAT in order to avoid tax planning on the part of tour operators who could arrange to have some or all of their economic activity classified as exempt travel agent services. However, travel agents will only be liable to pay VAT on their commission and, as in the case of tour operators, they will also have the right to deduct VAT in respect of their overheads.

With regard to unfair competition, as already stated, both tour operators and travel agents are being made subject to VAT. With regard to airlines who supply air transport, these continue to be exempt from VAT under the general VAT exemption in respect of the transport of passengers, under paragraph (xiv) of the First Schedule to the VAT Act 1972. It is not considered that airlines supplying transport offer the same service as that of a travel agency.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

226 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport his views on the recent criticism by the chairman of the Road Safety Authority of the Government and himself in terms of the recent cutting of the RSA’s campaign and advertising budgets, the failure to rollout the national speed camera programme and the reduced level of enforcement of critical road traffic law due to budgetary constraints on An Garda Síochána; if he has met the chairman and the CEO of the RSA on these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21334/09]

Road safety remains a key priority for Government, and this commitment is underpinned by the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 which has set the framework for reducing deaths and injuries on our roads through a series of 126 Actions, each with a responsible agency and target date. The primary aim of the Strategy is to reduce road deaths to no greater than 60 fatalities per million of population by the end of 2012 which equates 252 deaths per year.

Fatalities on our roads have fallen in recent years, and the number of fatalities in 2008 at 279 is the lowest since records began. We are well on target to meet the overall Strategy objective.

While road safety advertising campaigns are particularly effective in keeping the road safety message to the fore, difficult Exchequer funding decisions have had to be made this year, nevertheless the Exchequer is providing €32.8m to the Authority in 2009.

The RSA will continue to implement its programme of road safety awareness, education and research, with a budget of €4m in 2009.

These remain important elements of the Authority's statutory functions and key to getting the road safety message to all road users (pedestrians, cyclists, car and commercial vehicle drivers), and to changing road user behaviour.

I can understand the concerns of the Chairman of the RSA, but as I have said, these are difficult times and difficult decisions have been made. Road safety in Ireland has benefited immensely from the involvement and drive of the RSA since its establishment in late 2006, and I anticipate that the agency will continue to maximise the road safety agenda, even in the context of limited resources.

Haulage Licences.

Joe McHugh

Question:

227 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport his views on facilitating an arrangement for persons (details supplied) to train a lorry driver in acquiring a haulage licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20927/09]

A Road Haulage Operator's Licence is granted under Section 2 of the Road Traffic and Transport Act 2006, and entitles the holder to carry on a road haulage business for hire or reward.

The criteria for the grant of a Road Haulage Operator's Licence are set out in Irish and EU legislation. The three criteria that must be met by every applicant are:

1. Good Repute,

2. Professional Competence, and

3. Financial Standing.

A road haulage operator's licence is not transferable from one individual to another, nor from one business to another.

To satisfy the criteria in relation to professional competence one person in the business must hold a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and that individual must be nominated as a Transport Manager to continuously and effectively manage the business. A CPC can be obtained by individuals who have followed a specified course and successfully sat an exam that is overseen by the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics and Transport in Ireland.

Planning Issues.

Pat Breen

Question:

228 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport further to his confirmation by way of reply to Parliamentary Question No. 294 of 6 May 2009 that the two dimensional red safety areas formerly established in 1997 by the Irish Aviation Authority at ground level at the State airports no longer apply, if the IAA has informed each of the many landowners so affected by such earlier 1997 decision of the volte face in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20929/09]

As I set out in reply to Dáil Question 294 of 6 May, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has advised me that they will object to proposed developments anywhere in the State, which may affect the safe navigation of aircraft.

The issue referred to by the Deputy is an operational matter for the IAA and one in which I have no function.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

229 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20961/09]

The Department of Transport does not provide specific funding for tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use. It is however part of the overall service provided by Human Resources and the Employee Assistance Service.

Public Transport.

Seán Barrett

Question:

230 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the protracted delay in the development of an integrated ticketing system for Dublin’s public transport network since it was first mooted in the late 1990s; the further reason the Railway Procurement Agency was entrusted with this task; the expenditure to date on the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20981/09]

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA), currently has responsibility for procuring an integrated ticketing system. The RPA was given this responsibility as it has no responsibility for providing transport services directly to the public and thus any concerns about the project being captured by an existing operator and causing difficulties as regards competition issues was thereby avoided.

The integrated ticketing system in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) is being introduced on a phased basis, based on smart card technology, with the phasing out of magnetic strip technology. A progressive approach is being adopted to allow customers to familiarise themselves with using the new system and to allow transport operators to undertake the necessary testing associated with the integration of the various technologies involved.

A smart card for public transport services in the GDA is now available on Luas and Dublin Bus services. All buses in the Dublin Bus fleet have been fitted with smart card validators. Smart cards are now in use on these buses in respect of a number of ticket products such as annual and monthly bus tickets, as well as integrated annual and monthly bus and rail tickets, bus and Luas tickets and 5-day Rambler tickets. Irish Rail will also introduce an interim smart card scheme in the coming month These interim systems, will then migrate to a single integrated smart card with electronic purse capability over the period to end-2010.

This system will also be extended to Bus Éireann on a pilot basis on a number of its commuter routes. It is also envisaged that private bus operators will join the scheme over this timeframe.

€18.3 million has been paid out by the Exchequer on integrated ticketing since the inception of the project in 2002. This expenditure encompasses project management, design and development costs and operator contributions.

Cycle Facilities.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

231 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport when he will revoke the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Amendment Regulations, S.I. No. 274 of 1998 with regard to the requirement of cyclists to use cycle tracks, as outlined in the national cycle policy framework; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21105/09]

In the National Cycle Policy all the recommendations, including the legislative recommendations, are being actively considered by my Department for early implementation.

Fisheries Protection.

Denis Naughten

Question:

232 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to ensure that ballast water does not transport alien species to estuaries here and, as a result, inland waterways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21134/09]

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 (BWM Convention) was adopted by the International Maritime Organization in February 2004. The Convention is to apply internationally. Its purpose is to prevent, minimize and ultimately eliminate the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments. The Convention has not yet entered into force; it has not yet been ratified by the required number of states.

Work is proceeding to ensure that the legislation necessary to give effect to the convention in the State when the Convention enters into force. The Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 included amendments to the Sea Pollution Act 1991 which allowed, for regulations to be made to give effect to the Convention. Preparation of these regulations is at an advanced stage.

The Marine Institute continues to monitor developments in certain sectors in relation to the potential introduction, presence and effect of harmful aquatic species.

Rail Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

233 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the traffic volumes of rail freight carried in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21292/09]

The volumes of rail freight carried in millions of tonnes for the last ten years are as follows:

Year

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Tonnes

2.9m

2.7m

2.6m

2.3m

2.3m

2.1m

1.8m

1.3m

0.8m

0.7m

The reduction in Iarnród Éireann's freight traffic volumes over the past 10 years reflects the discontinuation of the production of certain commodities formerly conveyed by rail such as sugar beet and the discontinuation of certain loss-making rail freight activities such as the conveyance of unit load containers and palletised traffic.

Iarnród Éireann continues to pursue a policy of developing its rail freight business where opportunities are available and returning the rail freight business to profitability.

Rail Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

234 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the access and other charges which are or will be paid by operators, since the opening up of railways to competing operators in 2007, for using the network, the terminals and for the hire of rolling stock for any prospective freight service; and the location at which these charges are documented and available to possible service users. [21294/09]

The charging regime to which the Deputy refers, and which is a requirement under EU law relating to access by rail freight operators to the railway network, is currently under development.

Iarnród Eireann has carried out work on chargeable costs for the use of the infrastructure, and my Department has engaged consultancy assistance to examine these costs with a view to ensuring a transparent and equitable charging regime is put in place and made available as soon as possible to any prospective applicants for track access.

It should be noted that although the market for rail freight services has been open since 2007, no expressions of interest in running rail freight services have been received. Any such interest would be welcome notwithstanding the work to be completed in finalising the access charging regime.

Traffic Management.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

235 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport if it is his policy to provide funding to local authorities in the greater Dublin area, via the Dublin Transportation Office, for traffic management and road design purposes in circumstances in which such local authorities engage external consultants; if it is the case that similar funding is not forthcoming in situations in which the required planning and design work is carried out by the local authority’s staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21354/09]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for the Dublin Transportation Office.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which it is intended to enhance commuter rail services to each of the towns throughout north Kildare in the context of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21528/09]

The operation of train services, including commuter services, is an operational matter for Iarnród Eireann and I have no function in the matter.

In relation to the provision of additional capacity, Transport 21 provides for the electrification of the Maynooth line to Maynooth, the re-signalling of the Maynooth line and also the removal of Level Crossings on the Maynooth line.

This will enable the extension of the DART network to Maynooth as part of the DART Underground Project. The DART Underground Project will also include the acquisition of electric railcars for use on the newly electrified line to Maynooth.

The start and completion dates of projects which are yet to commence construction will be determined as appropriate by the outcome of public consultation, the statutory planning process, the public process and the funding available to my Department during the current economic climate.

Question No. 237 answered with Question No. 71.

Health and Safety Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that all heath and safety issues identified in the past ten years in the public transport area such as bus, rail, ferry and air services have been addressed and resolved satisfactorily; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21531/09]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded as soon as possible.

Public Transport Accidents.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of accidents that have occurred throughout the public rail and bus services in the past 10 years; the degree to which the issues arising have been addressed; the issues still outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21532/09]

Information on accidents that have occurred on the Irish Rail and Luas networks is published in the annual report of the Railway Safety Commission. The 2008 report is available on the Railway Safety Commission's website at www.rsc.ie.

Railway accidents are investigated by the Railway Accident Investigation Unit of the Railway Safety Commission and the reports of these investigations include recommendations for the avoidance of incidents in the future or for the improvement of railway safety. The implementation of these recommendations by rail operators is monitored by the Railway Safety Commission and followed up as appropriate.

Information on road collisions, including information on collisions involving public service vehicles, is contained in Road Collision Facts 2007, published by the Road Safety Authority and is available on their website www.rsa.ie.

Airport Development Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if Dublin Airport has reached maximum capacity; his plans to provide extra capacity at other or existing airports or new facilities at existing or new locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21533/09]

I am confident that the current levels of airport infrastructure capacity at the three State airports, including the airport infrastructure projects currently under construction, are sufficient to meet Ireland's short to medium term aviation needs.

Over the last 5 years the DAA has invested in a significant capital development programme at Dublin airport that has seen major capacity enhancements to the airfield, terminals and piers. There has also been significant improvements to the airport access and to airport utilities. The delivery of Terminal 2 and Pier E in 2010 will see the completion of the immediate major terminal and pier capacity enhancements at Dublin airport.

In recent years there has also been significant infrastructure capacity improvements at Cork and Shannon airports. The new pre-clearance facility at Shannon airport, which is a very significant capital investment, is due to be completed in July this year. This will provide for the full preclearance of U.S. bound passengers from Shannon.

The current decline in the aviation markets has affected traffic at all airports and in this context DAA has deferred some elements of its proposed capital programme for Dublin airport for the period 2010-2014 including the construction of a second runway. It is currently planned to build a second runway at Dublin Airport when the demand dictates.

Question No. 241 answered with Question No. 73.

Public Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the concerns expressed at the cessation of a number of already established bus services; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is a contradiction in terms of creating improved public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21536/09]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Question Nos. 64 and 88 regarding Bus Éireann and Question Nos. 79 and 90 regarding Dublin Bus which I answered earlier.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the daily traffic volumes on the M50, M1, M7, M3, and the Port Tunnel; the way these figures compare with daily usage in each of the past five years to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21538/09]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads projects, including the collection of statistics in relation to them, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act, 1993, as amended by the Roads Act 2007, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the daily revenue accruing from tolls on the M50, M1, M4 and the Port Tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21539/09]

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007). Accordingly, the matter raised by the Deputy falls entirely within the responsibility of the NRA.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he will increase the funding to Kildare County Council for road restoration in the aftermath of severe weather conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21540/09]

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. The funding available to my Department for 2009 has already been fully allocated to local authorities.

The funds available to local authorities for improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads are intended to cover contingencies arising from severe weather conditions. The "Memorandum on Grants for Non-National Roads" provides that the cost of remedial works necessitated by such conditions must be met from these resources and that local authorities should set aside contingency sums to finance these works.

My Department is also prepared to consider sympathetically any request from local authorities to adjust their multi-annual restoration programmes in order to prioritise work on regional and local roads necessitated by severe weather conditions.

Driving Regulations.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

246 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he will ensure that the revised legislation dealing with driver working hours does not disadvantage Irish tour operators and make them uncompetitive relative to those crossing international borders. [21543/09]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

247 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he will respond positively to the request from Irish tour operators at the next Council of Ministers meeting to promote the reinstatement of the 12-day driver working rule for coach tours as proposed for international coach tours under the revised EU legislation. [21544/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 and 247 together.

The European Parliament proposed in 2008 that current EU rules on drivers hours and rest periods be amended to allow drivers engaged on cross border tours to drive 12 consecutive days, with out a break, commonly known as the ‘12-day rule'.

The proposal was framed as an amendment to the draft Regulation on common rules for access to the international market for coach and bus services. This Regulation is currently being finalised with a view to formal adoption at a Council of Ministers later this year.

The majority of Member States and the European Commission, including Ireland, support this proposal.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

248 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport whether he has received and reviewed the second greenhouse gas study of the International Maritime Organisation; his views on the way maritime emissions should be assessed in the upcoming successor to the Kyoto Protocol to be agreed in Copenhagen in December 2009; if he will report on the level of maritime greenhouse gas emissions here in 2005, 2006 , 2007 and 2008; the measures in place to target the CO2 emissions in the maritime sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21647/09]

The study has recently been received in my Department and its contents are currently being reviewed.

As regards the way maritime emissions should be assessed in the upcoming successor to the Kyoto Protocol to be agreed in Copenhagen in December 2009, Ireland supports the adoption of a mandatory CO2 Design Index for Ships and the development of market-based measures. This has been the subject of ongoing discussion at working group level in the IMO and with our EU partners.

The Environmental Protection Agency figures for marine bunker CO2 emissions for Ireland are as follows:

2005 — 330.25 kilotonnes;

2006 — 404.11 kt;

2007 — 356.84 kt.

Data in relation to 2008 is provisional. Emissions are provisionally estimated to be 213.77 kt.

There are no measures in place at present to directly target global maritime CO2 emissions. If no agreement is reached in the IMO Ireland will work within the EU on the development of suitable measures for Europe.

Child Abuse.

Jack Wall

Question:

249 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way a person can report abuse on a social networking site (details supplied); his plans to introduce legislation in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21007/09]

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, the Internet is an international and worldwide phenomenon, it has no borders and no single organisation controlling it. Therefore efforts to combat illegal and harmful materials and activities on it can often be hampered by the multiplicity of jurisdictions, differing legal systems and differing societal norms. In this particular instance many of the major Social Networking Sites, including the site referred to by the Deputy, available here in Ireland are hosted outside this jurisdiction, principally in the United States. As such they are subject to the US jurisdiction.

While acknowledging these difficulties, I should emphasis that there is a robust self-regulatory framework for internet service providers (ISPs) in operation here in Ireland which actively encourages the adoption of best practice procedures aimed at limiting the proliferation of illegal and harmful content online. The Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) Code of Practice and Ethics sets out clear guidelines and minimum standards in respect of dealing with complaints regarding suspected illegal or harmful material online.

The first thing someone should do if they are having issues with content on a Social Networking Site is report the matter to the website owners. A person can use the website reporting tools to do this and should also contact the service provider through its Customer Care or Report Abuse facility.

I wish to advise the Deputy that in 2008, the European Commission convened 18 of Europe's major social networking operators, including the operator of the site referred to, as well as researchers and child welfare organisations, to form a European Social Networking Task Force to discuss guidelines for the use of social networking sites by children. These guidelines were to be adopted voluntarily by the European industry. The Safer Social Networking Principles for EU were signed on Safer Internet Day, February 10 2009, in Luxembourg. The Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU have been developed to provide good practice recommendations for the providers of social networking and other user interactive sites, to enhance the safety of children and young people using their services. The Principles provide that social networking providers should, inter alia, provide a mechanism for reporting inappropriate content, respond to notifications of illegal content or conduct and should review their systems for examining reports of inappropriate or illegal content. The European Commission has indicated that it will monitor on an ongoing basis the implementation of the Social Networking Principles.

Voluntary Work.

Michael Creed

Question:

250 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the Government’s commitment to encouraging community endeavour and volunteerism, he has given consideration to the legal impediment to voluntary activities due to fear of legal liability; if, in this regard legislative changes are envisaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21029/09]

The Law Reform Commission published its Consultation Paper on the Civil Liability of "Good Samaritans" and Volunteers in November 2007. The Consultation Paper included provisional recommendations in relation to the standard of conduct to be expected of Good Samaritans, voluntary rescuers and other volunteers and defences against civil liability claims for such people.

I understand that the Law Reform Commission's consultation process has been completed. The Commission's final report will be published later today and I look forward to examining its final recommendations for reform of the law in this area.

Road Traffic Regulations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

251 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recent criticism by the chairman of the Road Safety Authority of the Government and the Minister in terms of the failure to roll out the national speed camera programme and the reduced level of enforcement of critical road traffic law due to budgetary constraints on An Garda Síochána; if he has met the chairman and the CEO of the RSA on these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21334/09]

One of the strategic goals set out in the Garda Síochána Corporate Strategy 2007-2009 is to significantly reduce the incidence of fatal and serious injuries on the roads and improve road safety.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there has been no reduction in the efforts of members of An Garda Síochána in the enforcement of road traffic legislation. While members of the Garda Traffic Corps in every Garda Division are specifically tasked with the enforcement of the road traffic and road transport legislation, all members of An Garda Síochána are tasked with enforcing the provisions of all criminal law, including the relevant provisions of road traffic and road transport legislation. An Garda Síochána continuously conducts awareness and education campaigns and enforcement initiatives to reduce road fatalities and serious injuries, increase driver awareness, prevent and detect breaches of road traffic and transport legislation and promote an improved compliance culture among road-users.

Members of An Garda Síochána conduct planned, unplanned and ad hoc checkpoints, including mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints. Planned multi-agency checkpoints are also conducted on a weekly basis, in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority, the Revenue Commissioners (Customs and Excise Branch) and the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The emphasis of Garda speed enforcement is on the use of mobile speed cameras, and their capacity in this area has been substantially enhanced recently. In September, 2008 the Garda Commissioner and I launched eight new Garda mobile speed detection vehicles. These state of the art vehicles represent a substantial upgrading of the resources available to An Garda Síochána to address the problem of speeding on our roads, particularly in collision prone zones. An Garda Síochána also has over 400 hand held speed detection devices.

The Garda authorities support the action in the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 to implement a safety camera network. Consequently, An Garda Síochána is engaging in a procurement process, in accordance with EU Directives, national public procurement procedures and relevant legislation, for the provision and operation of safety cameras. As a result, a preferred supplier has been selected.

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.

Garda Deployment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

252 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of additional garda assets profilers deployed to Limerick since January 2009; and the number in Limerick at present. [20946/09]

I am advised by An Garda Síochána that there are four Garda Assets Profilers allocated to the Limerick Garda Division. Their remit is to identify assets believed to be the proceeds of crime derived by persons suspected of involvement in crime and organised criminal activity.

While there has been no increase in the number of Asset Profilers allocated to this Division since January 2009, the complement and allocation of Divisional Profilers throughout the State is closely monitored by Divisional Officers in consultation with the Chief Bureau Officer and will be kept under constant review.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

253 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20958/09]

The Deputy will appreciate that it can be difficult to arrive at an accurate estimate of costs within the criminal justice system associated specifically with drug misuse as services such as An Garda Síochána, the Prisons, the Courts and Probation Service all deal with drugs issues as a part of their wider daily remit, as indeed do a number of officials of this Department as a feature of their designated employment.

I have, therefore, confined details of this Department's direct drugs-related expenditure to the following specific programmes and initiatives:

(i) Garda Youth Diversion Programme;

(ii) Community based projects funded through the Probation Service which deal with substance abuse, treatment and aftercare;

(iii) The National Drug Related Death Index;

(iv) Drug Court;

(v) Dial to stop drug dealing initiative The details of the expenditure on these programmes for each of the past three years are shown on the following table.

Programme

2006 Spend

2007 Spend

2008 Spend

€m

€m

€m

(i) Garda Youth Diversion Programme

6.65

9.80

8.40

(ii) Community based projects funded through the Probation Service with deal with substance abuse, treatment, and aftercare

2.44

2.63

2.30

(iii) National Drug Related Index

0.11

0.11

0.11

(iv) Drug Court

0.33

0.35

0.27

(v) Dial to stop drug dealing initiative*

0.00

0.00

0.05

Total

9.53

12.89

11.13

*This programme only began during 2008.

I am advised that my Department has no readily available separate data in relation to its annual spend concerning the tackling of alcohol use.

Finally I should advise the Deputy that recently the Government directed that alcohol will be included in the development of an overall National Substance Misuse Strategy for the period 2010-2016 on which work will begin next Autumn. This Strategy will incorporate the soon to be finalised interim National Drugs Strategy.

As a feature of this I am informed that it is intended to develop an overall performance management framework for this Strategy across all Departments and Agencies to assess and monitor progress. This should, therefore, assist in the future provision of expenditure data relating to the tackling of problematic alcohol and drug misuse.

Witness Intimidation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

254 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people investigated in respect of, and convicted for, witness intimidation each year for the past five years. [20963/09]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

255 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people investigated in respect of, and convicted for, jury intimidation each year for the past five years. [20964/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254 and 255 together.

There is a specific statutory offence of intimidation of witnesses or jurors. Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 makes it an offence to harm or threaten or in any other way intimidate or put in fear another person who is assisting in the investigation by the Garda Síochána of an offence or is a witness or potential witness or a juror or potential juror in proceedings for an offence, or a member of his or her family, with the intention thereby of causing the investigation or the course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that separate records are not maintained of offences under section 41 directed against witnesses and those directed against jurors.

Therefore, the table hereunder shows the present position with regard to the number of proceedings commenced, persons charged/summonsed and convictions for the offences of harming, threatening to harm, menacing, intimidating and putting in fear another person, who was assisting in the investigation by the Garda Síochána of an offence or is a witness/potential witness or juror/potential juror in proceedings for an offence, with the intention of causing the investigation or the course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with, for the years 2004 to 20 May 2009.

Year

Proceedings commenced

Persons charged/summonsed

Convictions

2009

4

4

0

2008

16

16

0

2007

16

16

2

2006

44

30

10

2005

22

16

6

2004

30

22

10

Total

132

104

28

Residency Permits.

Bernard Allen

Question:

256 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a residence card which was approved in 2008. [21019/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that a letter of intention to revoke the permission granted on 17 September 2008 issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on 21 May 2009.

The person concerned has been given 10 days from the date of this letter in which to respond to the issues raised.

Garda Reserve.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

257 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects the next phase of entrants to the Garda Reserve to be recruited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21070/09]

Recruitment to the Garda Reserve is on-going. It is proposed that a new group of Reserve trainees will commence their training next month.

Citizenship Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

258 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in respect of the revelations obtained by RTÉ under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 that staff in the naturalisation section of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service were ordered in July 2008 to stop processing citizenship applications until the higher fees came into effect, he approved this order; the number of applications delayed for this reason; if this delay had a knock-on effect which has contributed to the excessively long processing times as revealed in his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 278 of 12 May 2009; if he will refund the €300 difference to those applicants whose naturalisation was unfairly delayed for this reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21075/09]

Certificates of naturalisation are issued on payment of the prescribed fee at the time of certification as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. Certification fees for Citizenship were last changed in 1993. The regulations that came into force on 1st August 2008 were the result of a review of citizenship fees that began some time prior to that date and merely bring the amounts in line with inflation for the period 1993-2008. While the fees are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing the different categories of applicant, the current certification fees do not recoup the full cost of processing in any category.

As this is a certification fee, it is the date of issue of the certificate rather than the date of application that must be taken into account. Certificates of naturalisation can only be issued on payment of the prescribed fee at the time of certification. In practice, a necessary period of time elapses between when an applicant is informed of my decision and when the certificate is issued, because the applicant must make their declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State in open court and also submit any supporting documentation. This period can range from a minimum of a couple of weeks to several months.

In the knowledge that almost 100% of applicants issued with letters of approval in July 2008 would not be issued certificates until after 1 August, 2008, it was decided not to issue any letters of approval for the weeks leading up to 1 August. This did not result in processing delays as resources were fully utilised on related work.

In order to prevent a scenario where we would require the applicants to submit the difference between the old fee quoted on their letter and the new fee due for all certificates issued after 1 August, 2008, it was decided that any applicant who was issued their letter of approval before that date, yet were liable to the new fees, would nonetheless be charged the old fee.

I am happy that this was the efficient and appropriate action to take. No applications were unfairly delayed and there are no refunds due as it is the prescribed fee at the time of certification that is applicable. In fact many people who received their letters in August and September 2008 did so many months earlier than they could have expected as August 2008 saw the first files processed by the expanded decentralised resources in Tipperary reaching decision stage.

The Deputy will be aware that the increased resources that I have allocated to this area have resulted in a considerable improvement in processing times over the past year even though the number of applications for a certificate of naturalisation has continued to see significant growth. However, 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.

Crime Levels.

Joe Costello

Question:

259 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recorded drug crimes where the suspected offenders were on bail for each year from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2009; the number of those suspected offenders who were subsequently granted continuing bail for the new drug offence for which they were arrested in each year from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21079/09]

I am advised that the information being sought by the Deputy is not recorded by my Department.

As the Deputy will be aware, following the submission of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have therefore requested the CSO to provide any available crime statistics sought by the Deputy in these questions directly to him.

In relation to statistics on the granting of bail, under the Courts Service Act, 1988, the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which include the provision of statistics.

Joe Costello

Question:

260 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes recorded for the possession of drugs for sale or supply for each year from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2009; the number of the suspected offenders who were granted bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21080/09]

I am advised that the information being sought by the Deputy is not recorded by my Department.

As the Deputy will be aware, following the submission of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have therefore requested the CSO to provide any available crime statistics sought by the Deputy in these questions directly to him.

In relation to statistics on the granting of bail, under the Courts Service Act, 1988, the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which include the provision of statistics.

Visa Applications.

Dan Neville

Question:

261 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for a holiday visa will be granted to a person (details supplied). [21094/09]

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Beijing on 27 March 2009. It was refused by the Visa Officer on 11 May 2009 for the following reason:

1. Obligations to return to the home country not shown — e.g. no social, economic or professional ties in home country shown.

The applicant subsequently lodged an appeal and the decision of the Visa Officer was upheld by the Appeals Officer on 20 May 2009. Only one appeal per application is allowed. The only option available to the applicant now is to make a fresh application.

Departmental Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

262 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to cut the number of staff in the naturalisation section of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service; the number of staff to be cut; when these cuts will be made; and the measures he will put in place to minimise further delays occurring in the processing of applications as a result of these cuts. [21118/09]

My Department is required to operate in accordance with Government policy on civil and public service numbers. Having said that, I have no plans to cut the number of staff working on naturalisation in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. In fact, following the decentralisation of the Citizenship Division to Tipperary Town in April 2008, there are now more staff working on naturalisation than before the move.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joe Costello

Question:

263 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that two people (details supplied) have been charged with the same driving offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21138/09]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in January 2007.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department prepared submissions in respect of the applications and it was clear that a driving offence had been recorded by An Gárda Síochána against the second named person only. Having considered the submissions, I decided not to grant the applications. The reasons for refusal were disclosed to the persons concerned in letters dated 2 April 2009.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard Allen

Question:

264 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider his decision not to grant a certificate of naturalisation to a person (details supplied) in County Cork in view of the fact that this person is just under the one year continuous reckonable residency in the State immediately preceding the date of their application and that if he has to reapply he would be waiting a number of years before a decision will be made. [21286/09]

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.

On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person in question did not have one year's continuous reckonable residence in the State immediately preceding the date of application. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 25 July, 2008. This is a statutory requirement as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended.

It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department if and when he is in a position to meet the statutory residency requirements.

Noise Pollution.

Richard Bruton

Question:

265 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the problem of house alarms whose setting is too sensitive, resulting in false alerts to the gardaí and the frequent noise nuisance for neighbours; his views on the introduction of by-laws or guidelines to contain this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21287/09]

The legislation in relation to noise pollution is a matter for my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government and following a public consultation process the Government has recently approved the Minister's proposals for the drafting of a Noise Nuisance Bill.

While there is already a wide range of measures in place to deal with noise from a variety of sources, it is intended that the new legislation will take a more integrated approach to noise pollution. There will be a greater emphasis on codes of practice for construction, commercial and domestic situations. Local authorities will have more effective and speedier enforcement powers to deal with nuisances from particular noise sources, including specific powers of direct intervention in the case of continuously sounding alarms. It is also proposed to extend some of the enhanced powers to An Garda Síochána in certain circumstances. There will, in addition, be measures to increase awareness of noise nuisance and of how it can be remedied.

Under the Bill it will be possible to prescribe time limits for the operation of alarms and to provide for direct intervention to disable alarms from the outside of premises and to issue fixed payment notices for breaches of the time limit.

The Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 governs noise nuisance. Section 108 of the Act, in relation to noise nuisance, provides that a local authority, the Environmental Protection Agency or a member of the public may make a complaint to the District Court.

In circumstances where the noise nuisance relating to neighbours is anti-social within the meaning of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 a member of the Garda Síochána may issue a behaviour warning.

Garda Operations.

Joe Costello

Question:

266 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the garda free telephone service was established; the amount that has been spent on the service in each of the past five years; the number of calls that have been received countrywide in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21295/09]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the Confidential Line Service was established in 1992. The Superintendent, DMR Communications Centre, Harcourt Square, has responsibility for the monitoring and management of the country-wide service.

Based on an extrapolation of data over a 6 month period from August, 2008 to January, 2009, the Freefone line, 1 800 666 111, receives on average over 9 calls per day, equating to approximately 3,400 calls per annum.

The cost of the freefone number including monthly line rental amounts to €480 per annum. The call costs are not readily available and would take a disproportionate amount of Garda resources to quantify same.

Citizenship Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

267 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 who has applied for naturalisation; and when this will issue. [21313/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department on 18 October 2006.

Officials in that section inform me that processing of this application is ongoing and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months.

Visa Applications.

Seán Power

Question:

268 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, following the decision of the British authorities to make changes in its visa requirements for short-term visitors from Taiwan, he is considering making similar changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21344/09]

Matters in relation to all countries which are visa required are reviewed on an ongoing basis. My Department is currently conducting a review of the requirements for Taiwanese nationals to obtain a visa prior to entry into the State. The decision of the British authorities to make changes in relation to Taiwan will be considered as part of this review. A decision in relation to any changes to the visa requirements for Taiwan will issue in due course.

Drugs in Prisons.

Seán Power

Question:

269 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made and his plans to reduce the amount of illegal drug consumption in prisons here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21346/09]

The Irish Prison Service continues to work to implement its Drugs Policy & Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs Out of Prison, which was launched in May 2006. Working to fulfil the commitments contained in the Policy and Strategy involves the implementation of stringent measures to prevent drugs from getting into prisons while, at the same time, continuing to invest in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population as well as meeting prisoners' treatment and rehabilitative needs.

Elimination of Supply

The implementation of the Drugs Policy and Strategy has seen an intensification of efforts to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons including; Tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons; New visiting arrangements in most closed prisons, with visitors required to be pre-approved by the Governor and required to provide identification on each visit; Greater use of screened visits; Greater vigilance in examining mail by prison censors and searching of other items entering the prison; Increased random searching of cells and their occupants; Stricter searching of all persons committed to custody and prisoners returning from court, temporary release, after visits or on receipt of intelligence; Use of modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, under floor boards and other cavities; Use of Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chairs; Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs; Use of phone detectors and phased installation of mobile phone inhibition technology.

The Deputy will be aware that in June 2007 the Government approved the resources necessary to introduce a package of security measures which target the routes whereby contraband such as drugs are trafficked into our prisons. As a result, a number of new security initiatives have been introduced in all closed prisons including: The introduction of enhanced security screening for all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons; The establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 31 handling teams; The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to, and developing expertise in, searching and gathering intelligence in our prisons.

Reducing Demand

The drug treatment programmes currently in place seek to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug addicted prisoners. Particular initiatives include, inter alia , the provision of detoxification, methadone maintenance, education programmes, addiction counselling and drug therapy programmes.

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.

Methadone Treatment Per Person

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

The IPS has committed significant investment in recent years in responding to addiction issues in the prison system. The most significant recent development has been the awarding of a contract for the provision of addiction counselling services to Merchants Quay Ireland. 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, the Medical Unit in Mountjoy Prison has 9 spaces specifically allocated for a therapeutic drug free programme. This 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.

Juvenile Offenders.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

270 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of good behaviour contracts entered into in the juvenile justice system involving children to deal with the number of behaviour orders issued to children by the Courts since 1 January 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21363/09]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

271 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of behaviour warnings issued by the Courts to adults since 1 January 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21364/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 270 and 271 together.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act relating to anti-social behaviour by children was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and to the making of a behaviour order by the Children's Court. With regard to adults, the provisions include a behaviour warning and a civil order issued by the courts.

In setting up the procedures, the intention was that these interventions would address the problem behaviour. It is only if they fail that a court order will be applied for. Consequently, if they succeed, there will be no need to apply to the courts for an order. Where warnings or good behaviour contracts do not succeed in altering a person's behaviour, however, they will culminate in orders being sought by the Garda authorities from the courts.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that in 2009 up to 30 April, 160 behaviour warnings have been issued, no formal good behaviour contracts have been entered into and no behaviour orders have been issued by the courts in respect of children and that 143 behaviour warnings have been issued to adults.

Garda Investigations.

Noel Grealish

Question:

272 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the outcome of the garda investigation into an incident in relation to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21369/09]

An Garda Síochána completed and forwarded a file in this matter to the D.P.P recommending a prosecution against a suspect. While the file was with the office of the D.P.P, the suspect was murdered. Accordingly, no further action can be taken in this matter.

Citizenship Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

273 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of persons (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [21372/09]

Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. These conditions are that the applicant is of full age, or is a minor born in the State; is of good character; has had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, has had a total residence in the State amounting to four years; intends in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation; has made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

"Applicant" means, in relation to an application for a certificate of naturalisation by a minor, the parent or guardian of, or person who is in loco parentisto, the minor. In effect, the parent, guardian or person who is in loco parentis to the minor must submit an application for naturalisation in their own right and, if it is approved, submits a supplementary form on behalf of the minor.

Garda Stations.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

274 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the local opposition to the proposed closure of the Garda station at Kilrickle, Loughrea, County Galway and that this growing area on the periphery of a large town like Loughrea needs a permanent Garda presence; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the policing resources are stretched to the maximum in the area generally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21373/09]

I am aware of the matters raised by the Deputy.

I am advised by the Garda Authorities that, as an interim measure, the Kilrickle station party was temporarily transferred to Loughrea Garda Station on 11th May on Health and Safety grounds. The Garda station will be re-opened when the present building has been made fit for purpose or alternative suitable accommodation has been sourced. This matter is being pursued by the Garda authorities and the Office of Public Works.

I am further advised that local Garda management are satisfied that existing resources are sufficient to meet the policing needs of the District.

Garda Equipment.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

275 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the information technology section of the Immigration Bureau at Dublin Airport has an Internet connection to enable it to operate properly and verify data; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21418/09]

All members of An Garda Síochána involved in immigration duties, including those members at Dublin airport, have access to the Garda National Immigration Bureau Information System (GNIB-IS). This system supports An Garda Síochána and the Garda National Immigration Bureau in executing its responsibilities relating to immigration matters on a national basis and is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Limited web access is also available to members of An Garda Síochána involved in immigration duties (at Dublin airport) to provide internet access as appropriate for business and operational purposes. This includes access to international agencies as required.

Immigration Procedures.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

276 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is a document expert employed by the Immigration Bureau of her Department at Dublin Airport to check forgeries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21419/09]

Document experts in An Garda Síochána are attached to the Document Section, Garda Technical Bureau, Garda Headquarters, Dublin. Members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau have attended training modules on the examination of documents and received on the job training by experienced members.

Members of An Garda Síochána who perform duty at the points of entry have developed significant and valuable experience in the identification of documents that they believe or suspect to be forgeries or may have been altered. This experience allows the member to have reasonable grounds for a suspicion that the document may be false or have been interfered with.

Equipment is available to members who perform Immigration duties at Dublin Airport to check on forgeries or suspect documents. Members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau also have access to the Interpol database of stolen and forged documents worldwide.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

277 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the information technology section of the Immigration Bureau at all Irish ports and airports have sufficient IT networks and Internet connections to enable them to operate properly and verify data; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21420/09]

All members of An Garda Síochána involved in immigration duties, including those members at all registered ports of entry, have access to the Garda National Immigration Bureau Information System (GNIB-IS). This system supports An Garda Síochána and the Garda National Immigration Bureau in executing its responsibilities relating to immigration matters on a national basis and is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Limited web access is also available to members of An Garda Síochána involved in immigration duties to provide internet access as appropriate for business and operational purposes. This includes access to international agencies as required.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

278 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is a document expert employed by the Immigration Bureau or his Department at all Irish ports and airport to check forgeries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21421/09]

Document experts in An Garda Síochána are attached to the Document Section, Garda Technical Bureau, Garda Headquarters, Dublin. Members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau have attended training modules on the examination of documents and received on the job training by experienced members.

Members of An Garda Síochána who perform duty at the points of entry have developed significant and valuable experience in the identification of documents that they believe or suspect to be forgeries or may have been altered. This experience allows the member to have reasonable grounds for a suspicion that the document may be false or have been interfered with.

Equipment is available to members who perform Immigration duties at Dublin Airport to check on forgeries or suspect documents. Members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau also have access to the Interpol database of stolen and forged documents worldwide.

Garda Recruitment.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

279 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 271 to 273 of 19 May 2009, if he will explain the reason the age restrictions for recruitment to and retirement from An Garda Síochána have been set at 35 and 60 respectively. [21433/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

280 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for and the justification behind the setting of An Garda Síochána recruitment and retirement age limits at 35 and 60 respectively; the considerations taken into account in arriving at these age limits; if they are objectively and reasonably justifiable by a legitimate aim; if so, the legitimate aim in relation to same and the way it is justified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21434/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

281 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason it is justifiable that members of the Garda Reserve, who have to face equally dangerous situations as members of An Garda Síochána, can be recruited at up to age 60 and can continue in service until they are 65 years of age, while at the same time a fully trained member of An Garda Síochána, able, fit, mature and with vast experience, must retire at age 60; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21435/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 to 281, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Questions Nos. 271 to 273, inclusive, of May 19th 2009.

The maximum recruitment age limit for admission as a trainee full time member of An Garda Síochána was set taking into account a number of criteria including the significant training cost which can only be recouped by serving a sufficient period and the operational requirements of the Force in terms of having an age profile appropriate to the demands placed on members in the course of their duty.

Retirement of members of An Garda Síochána is governed by a number of statutory regulations which have the cumulative effect of setting the standard retirement age for members at 60 years of age. This age is objectively and reasonably justifiable taking into account the general operational requirements of the force and is consistent with Equality legislation and EU directives on the matter. Of course members with 30 years service may retire on a full pension at any time once they reach 50 years of age for those who joined prior to 2004 and 55 years of age for those who joined since that date.

The higher recruitment and retirement ages for membership of the Garda Reserve take into account the volunteer nature of that force, the reduced number of hours of duty required of them and the limited nature of the duties assigned to them by the Commissioner.

Citizenship Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

282 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expected date for a decision in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that the file is now submitted for decision; and if he will expedite the matter. [21460/09]

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 2006.

I expect to reach a decision on this application shortly. The person concerned will be informed of that decision in due course.

Garda Deployment.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

283 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will discuss with the Garda Commissioner the question of an area (details supplied) in Dublin 24 being policed entirely by Tallaght Garda station; his views on the difficulties being experienced by the community in respect of anti-social behaviour and other issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21514/09]

I have requested the information sought from the Garda authorities and I will communicate further with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a residency application in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21526/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 16 October, 2002. 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 11 February, 2009, 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:

285 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if particular or specific provision will be made in respect of residency and accommodation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21527/09]

The first and second named persons, a mother and her minor child, were admitted into the State on 20 January, 2005 on foot of a student visa, valid until 6 June, 2007. They have remained in the State since that date without the permission of the Minister.

Consequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the first named person was informed, by letter dated 12 March, 2009, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of her and her child. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she and her child should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Representations have been submitted on behalf of the first and second named persons and these representations will be fully 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, before the file is passed to me for decision.

The third named person, an adult daughter of the first named person, arrived in the State in January 2008 but failed to register with her local Registration Office as required under the Immigration Act 2004 and is therefore illegally resident in the State. She gave birth to a child, the fourth named person, in the State in 2008.

Arising from her position as a person with no valid basis for being in the State, and in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the third named person was informed, by letter dated 12 March, 2009, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of her and her child. She was also given the options referred to above in respect of the first and second named persons.

Representations have been submitted on behalf of the third named person and these representations will be fully 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, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Human Trafficking.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

286 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has investigated the alleged use of ports here for the trafficking or people; if so, the measures being taken to combat this criminal activity in these ports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21646/09]

I am informed by the Garda Síochána that all members of the force are tasked with enforcing the criminal law, with any breaches detected being the subject of investigation and the preparation of an investigation file for the direction of the Law Officers.

I have also been informed by the Garda Síochána that information/intelligence regarding immigration-related criminality is collated, analysed and disseminated by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). This includes such information and intelligence received, on a regular basis, through the Europol and Interpol National Units, based in 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.

To this end a substantial programme of training related to human trafficking has been underway.

Restorative Justice.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

287 Deputy Máire Hoctor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made since the publication of the first report by the Restorative Justice Commission; and the timeframe for when he will publish the final report. [21649/09]

An Interim Report from the National Commission on Restorative Justice was published on the 21st May, 2008. I expect to receive the final report from the National Commission shortly. These two reports will inform future decisions on how we may be able to make greater use of the restorative justice process. The Deputy can be assured that my Department will give careful consideration to the Commission's work in this area.

As the Deputy will be aware the two pilot project schemes currently operating in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary and in Tallaght are funded by my Department, through the Probation Service.

Residency Permits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

288 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [21652/09]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that an application for residence was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on the 18 March 2009.

Applications based on EU Treaty Rights are processed within a six month time frame. A decision will issue to the applicant in due course.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

289 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20956/09]

The Department of Foreign Affairs, through its overseas development programme, Irish Aid, supports the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) through voluntary contributions. UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in their work against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism.

Funding provided over the last three years is as follows:

2008: € 1,000,000;

2007: € 1,400,000;

2006: € 1,140,000.

In addition, under the Emigrant Support Programme, the Government has, over the past three years, allocated funding totalling over €41 million to support Irish communities overseas, including €15.183 million in 2008. The focus of this funding is on supporting voluntary sector organisations engaged in the delivery of key frontline welfare services to Irish communities abroad.

The culturally sensitive outreach, information and advisory services provided are targeted at the most vulnerable members of our overseas communities, including the elderly, the homeless and those suffering from addiction. Many of our most vulnerable emigrants experience a range of interlinked challenges, requiring the Government funded organisations to provide broad outreach services, which can include responses to alcohol or drug abuse. It is not possible, however, to provide specific figures on this programme's annual spend on alcohol and illegal drug use.

The Deputy may also wish to be aware that a new Civil Service Alcohol and Drugs Misuse Policy was published recently by the Department of Finance. The policy sets out guidelines on addressing alcohol and/or drugs misuse and on supporting affected officers. It recognises that officers who disclose that they have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs need to be treated with sensitivity and discretion, and aims to provide guidance and to increase awareness among employees of alcohol and drug problems. In the context of the new policy, my Department will continue to support employees who may have drug and alcohol problems.

In the years specified by the Deputy, there were no instances which gave rise to expenditure specifically allocated to the provision of support to officers in my Department with alcohol and/or drug problems.

Passport Applications.

Damien English

Question:

290 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Carlow cannot attain a passport; the steps this person must follow in order to successfully apply for a passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20984/09]

The applicant in question has informed the Passport Office that her birth was not registered and therefore she was unable to provide a birth certificate. A birth certificate is essential in order to obtain a passport. The Office of the Registrar General has responsibility for records relating to Births, Marriages and Deaths in the State.

The person in question has been requested to contact the General Register's Office which will explain the procedure for the late registration of a birth. Once the birth has been registered, the Passport Office will assist in issuing a passport.

The contact details for the Registrar General's Office are: General Register Office, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon. Tel: 090 6632900, LoCall: 1890 252076.

Overseas Development Aid.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

291 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of Irish Aid given to the USA in relation to natural disasters, for example towards Hurricane Katrina and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21066/09]

On 28 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the southern coast of the United States with devastating effect. Total fatalities were recorded at 1,800 people, while it is estimated that the hurricane caused US$81 billion in damage.

In light of the scale of the humanitarian disaster, and as an act of solidarity with the American people at that most difficult time, the Government provided funding of €1 million through Irish Aid to assist those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Of the total, €700,000 was channelled to the American Red Cross through the Irish Red Cross. The remainder was disbursed by our Embassy in Washington to assist civil society groups in the Gulf Coast area in the local recovery effort.

Irish Aid has not provided any funding to the US for natural disaster response since Hurricane Katrina.

Human Rights Issues.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

292 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action being taken with Ireland’s EU and UN partner states to secure the release of a person (details supplied) from prison in Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21100/09]

I deplore the arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma and esteemed Nobel Peace laureate, her imprisonment in the notorious Insein Prison in Rangoon and the laying of charges and institution of court proceedings against her.

In a statement on 14 May, I condemned her arrest, saying that it represented the latest chapter in an ongoing effort to silence this courageous pro-democracy advocate and opposition leader before, during and after the elections which are due to be held in Burma in 2010. I noted also that her arrest and incarceration were particularly distressing given the very real concerns regarding her state of health. I made clear my view that Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma must be released and a process of dialogue and reconciliation initiated without delay.

The EU Presidency also issued a Declaration on 14 May, deeply regretting the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and strongly urging the Burmese authorities to release her. The Declaration called on the regime to engage in an inclusive process of national reconciliation, which is essential for setting Burma on a genuine path to stability and prosperity, and to initiate a new phase in the development of the country.

At the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting on 22 April, EU Foreign Ministers agreed the renewal of the Common Position on restrictive measures on Burma for an additional year. We also agreed to keep open the possibility of revising the Common Position in the light of developments on the ground. In this context, the situation in Burma was discussed again at the GAERC on 18 May and Ministers agreed that, following the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the EU should look at new steps, including additional restrictive measures, which could be taken against the Burmese regime.

Ministers at the GAERC also discussed the then up-coming EU-Troika meeting with Burma in the margin of the ASEM Ministerial meeting in Hanoi, which took place yesterday. There was also an opportunity at the ASEM Ministerial itself to convey to the representatives of many of Burma's neighbours our very strong concerns and views about Aung San Suu Kyi and the situation in Burma more generally. The EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, which starts tomorrow, will offer further opportunities in this respect. It is essential that we make clear to Burma's neighbours, individually and collectively, how important it is that they use their influence in relation to the situation in Burma, including the position of Aung San Suu Kyi and the elections scheduled for 2010.

I myself have repeatedly made clear the Government's view that the elections will have no credibility unless all political prisoners are released unconditionally and a political process is initiated with the support of the United Nations on the basis of an inclusive, long-term dialogue in which the opposition and ethnic groups can participate fully. I fully support the role of the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy, Dr Ibrahim Gambari, and the personal engagement of the UN Secretary General himself. I spoke to him about the situation in Burma when I was in New York on 8 May. I very much hope that Secretary General Ban will be able to visit Burma shortly, as he plans, and to make concrete progress on the political and humanitarian agenda there.

I welcome the UN Security Council statement of 22 May expressing concern at the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and calling for her release. This action by the Council is an important development, particularly given the difficulties in securing consensus on matters relating to Burma, which have existed in the past. I hope the Council will remain seized of the issue and take further action as is necessary.

I will continue to work in the EU and UN frameworks and with the countries of the region to do all possible to advance our objectives in relation to Burma.

Pat Breen

Question:

293 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the international efforts being made to assist those people who have been displaced in Sri Lanka; his views on recent developments in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21111/09]

As stated on many occasions in this House, most recently on 21 May in reply to a Parliamentary Question, I remain deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka and in particular about the grave humanitarian crisis that is taking place there.

I fully endorse the conclusions of the EU External Relations Council held on 18 May, which stated that "the EU . . . is appalled by the loss of innocent lives as a result of the conflict and by the high number of casualties, including children, following recent intense fighting".

I am also deeply disturbed by the reports of serious breaches of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict and I am firmly of the view that these must be subject to independent review. I note that a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka is taking place in Geneva today. Ireland is making a national statement at this Special Session.

The Government of Sri Lanka has declared that the war is over and that they have won it. The LTTE have admitted defeat. The immediate priority now must be to ensure the safety and welfare of all displaced civilians. This is going to be an enormous undertaking as there are already over 200,000 requiring assistance and at least 50,000 more who will be seeking it in the coming days. The Government of Sri Lanka must fulfil its obligations under international law to protect all people under its jurisdiction. C amps in which displaced people are being assisted must be transferred from army to civilian control, entry to and departure from them must be strictly voluntary, and the camps must be temporary. Humanitarian agencies and independent observers must be given full access to these areas and the people in them.

The second priority is to get a post-conflict strategy underway without delay. This will need to focus on reconstruction, economic and social development, and the restoration of basic services in the Tamil North. Hopefully, plans can be agreed with the Government to enable a comprehensive programme to be mounted.

Thirdly, an inclusive reconciliation and peace process must be initiated. The fact that the war is over will not, of itself, achieve stability in Sri Lanka. It will be essential that arrangements and mechanisms are in place to ensure the representation of the Tamil population and facilitate dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation. I welcome President Rajapakse's stated intention to pursue a negotiated settlement with the Tamil community. The fact that the war is over will not, of itself, achieve stability in Sri Lanka. It will be essential that arrangements and mechanisms are in place to ensure the representation of the Tamil population and facilitate dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation. I welcome President Rajapakse's stated intention to pursue a negotiated settlement with the Tamil community and very much hope that this can begin at an early date. Key to a successful process and sustainable peace will be a dialogue mechanism, based on the principles of parity of esteem, consent, equality and the rule of law.

It will be important that the international community is involved in the peace process. International experience, expertise and support will be invaluable in terms of guiding the process, keeping it on track and serving as an independent facilitator. As I have stated in this House on a number of occasions, should the relevant parties there seek our advice in relation to the peace process, we would be happy to give consideration as to how we could best help.

Ireland would welcome further action by the international community, in particular by the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council, to assist in this process. In this context, I warmly welcome the visit to Sri Lanka made by the Secretary General on 22-23 May.

In view of the serious humanitarian crisis in the affected areas, Irish Aid is now providing funding of €308,000 for emergency response through NGO partners, to include emergency medical and nutrition support, the provision of shelter, and distribution of food and non-food items. In addition, a member of Irish Aid's Rapid Response Corps has been deployed to Sri Lanka to assist in the emergency response effort of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Sports Capital Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

294 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will support a club (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [20934/09]

An unsuccessful application was made by Dublin City Council under the 2008 programme for a facility used by the club in question at Marino Park. No decision has been taken about the timing of future rounds of the Programme.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

295 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20948/09]

The Department does not provide funding for the specific purpose of tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use.

The Department's various funding schemes and programmes, particularly in the sports and arts sectors, may contribute to this goal indirectly by encouraging healthy lifestyles through sport and recreation and promoting personal and social development. For example the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children's Sport, which has been disseminated to sports clubs and in respect of which the Irish Sports Council has organised training courses, discourages the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. However, it is not practicable to estimate that portion of the funding devoted to sports and the arts which achieves positive substance misuse outcomes.

Sports Capital Funding.

Willie Penrose

Question:

296 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that his Department is processing an application from a body (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21063/09]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. Since 1998, over €725 million has been allocated to over 7,400 projects across the country.

Applications for funding under the 2008 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on 13th and 14th of January 2008 and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February 2008 for paper-based applications and 7th March 2008 for online applications. Allocations were announced at the end of July 2008. The Department did not receive an application from the organisation in question.

No decision has been made on the timing of the next round of the Programme.

Seán Power

Question:

297 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a lottery grant will be granted to a club (details supplied). [21345/09]

Grant allocations are subject to the terms and conditions of the Sports Capital Programme, which include, for allocations above certain specified thresholds, the execution of a deed of covenant and charge. This places a charge on the grantee's title to the property and is intended to protect the taxpayer's investment by ensuring that the facility remains in sporting use for at least 15 years. The Department's legal adviser, the Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO), deals with the grantee's solicitor in executing this Deed. My Department was notified by the CSSO on 25 May that certain legal matters are still outstanding. The CSSO wrote to the grantee in question on 21 May outlining the legal items outstanding. Formal approval of the allocation in question is not possible until the CSSO notifies my Department that all the legal issues relating to the allocation are completed.

Michael McGrath

Question:

298 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in relation to the draw-down of a sports capital grant by a club (details supplied) in County Cork. [21358/09]

The organisation in question has been allocated €476,184 under the programme since 1998 — €76,184 in 1999, €200,000 in 2002 and €200,000 in 2006. Both the 1999 and 2002 grants have been drawn down in full.

Grant allocations are subject to the terms and conditions of the Programme, which include, for allocations above certain specified thresholds, the execution of a deed of covenant and charge. This places a charge on the grantee's title to the property and is intended to protect the taxpayer's investment by ensuring that the facility remains in sporting use for at least 15 years. The Department's legal adviser, the Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO), deals with the grantee's solicitor in executing this Deed. My Department was notified by the CSSO on 25 May that certain legal matters in relation to the registration of charges for previous grants are still outstanding. Formal approval of the 2006 allocation is not possible until the CSSO notifies my Department that all issues relating to charges are completed. A priority agreement is also awaited from the club's solicitors.

Tourism Industry.

John O'Mahony

Question:

299 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he expects tourism to grow in 2009 here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21387/09]

After six years of successive growth culminating in a record high in 2007, overseas visitor numbers declined slightly (2.2%) in 2008 to 7,839,000. In revenue terms overseas visitors generated an estimated €4.8 billion in revenue (including carrier receipts and cross-border expenditure) which was a reduction of 2.46% on the record expenditure generated in 2007. This resilient performance was achieved against a background of exceptionally challenging conditions affecting nearly all of our main markets, including volatile financial markets, economic contraction and negative consumer sentiment, as well as sharply fluctuating fuel costs and exchange rates.

Global economic growth is expected to remain weak in 2009. In particular, it is expected that trading conditions in two of our major source markets, Great Britain and the United States, will remain particularly challenging. When preparing its draft Business Plan for 2009, late last year, Tourism Ireland, which has responsibility for the overseas marketing of the island of Ireland as a tourist destination, forecast between 7.1 million and 7.4 million overseas visitors to the Republic of Ireland in 2009. To reflect the volatility of the market environment, Tourism Ireland committed to constantly review these forecasts and adopt a quarterly forecasting approach through 2009. Given the significant deterioration in global conditions, their latest projections are for between 6.8 and 7.2 million overseas visitors this year. The most recent published figures by the CSO show a reduction of 9.1% in overseas visitor numbers for the first three months of 2009 compared to 2008.

On the domestic front Fáilte Ireland has committed to its largest ever campaign to promote home holidays in 2009. The new marketing drive comes on foot of research indicating that more Irish people will consider swapping their overseas trips with breaks in Ireland in the current economic climate.

The relevant tourism agencies are working together to support the marketing of Irish tourism, to improve our product offerings and to help improve business capability. These are being supported by the positive response of the tourism sector at enterprise level to the challenges we face.

While I know that our businesses and tourism agencies are responding constructively to current challenges, it is just as important that the strategic framework for tourism development responds to the changing environment. Accordingly, last year I established the Tourism Renewal Group, which has been tasked with reviewing and, where appropriate, renewing the current tourism strategy, in order to ensure that this strategy is focused for future development and that the tourist industry is well placed to benefit from the upturn. This group is expected to report in the near future.

Ferry Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

300 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly ferries will be in operation in 2009; if he will make an announcement that will bring some closure to this issue in view of the fact that tourism purveyors in the north west are currently unable to plan for the summer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20749/09]

I have no Ministerial responsibility in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy.

Enquiries by my Department indicate that the issue is one for Donegal County Council, in conjunction with Limavady District Council in Northern Ireland, and I understand that Donegal County Council will be in contact with the Deputy to explain the background and current state of play in relation to this issue.

Pension Provisions.

Frank Feighan

Question:

301 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the pension agreed between Waterways Ireland and their agent and a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim can be re-calculated at a lower figure three months after receipt of lumpsum and monthly pension payment. [20991/09]

The person concerned is a pensioner in the North/South Pension Scheme, established for the North/South Implementation Bodies and Tourism Ireland Ltd. Waterways Ireland, which is under the aegis of my Department, is a participating employer in the Scheme.

I have been informed that a complaint has been lodged, on behalf of this individual, with the Pensions Ombudsman on the matter to which the Deputy refers. For that reason, it would be inappropriate to comment further pending a determination by the Pensions Ombudsman.

National Drugs Strategy.

Joe Costello

Question:

302 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of areas at which the dial to stop drug dealing campaign has been launched; the number of areas at which it is yet to be launched; the number of calls that have been received; the number that have been forwarded to the gardaí; the prospects for the future funding of this campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21296/09]

The Dial-to-Stop Drug Dealing Campaign was officially launched on 30 September 2008. The first phase ran across five Local and Regional Drugs Task Forces areas with funding provided by my Department (€100,000) and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (€50,000). The second phase ran across a further five Task Forces and the third phase, which I have launched in the last few weeks, is being run across five additional areas. Both the second and third phases received funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund (€300,000).

The Deputy should note that all of the Task Forces were consulted to assess their interest in rolling out a local campaign. While several opted not to run one, I am satisfied that, with the available funding, the majority of the Task Force areas will be engaged in the process. In this context, I would like to point out that the campaign confidential number is open for all to use, regardless of the area they come from.

Overall, the campaign has proved to be very successful. There has been in excess of 2,600 calls to the phone-line that have generated over 700 information reports to the Gardaí.

In regards to future funding, it must be noted that from the outset the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing Campaign was to run over a discrete period of time. This was based on the findings from the initial pilot project in Blanchardstown which found that the vast majority of calls were received early in the campaign following its launch. Last week I launched the final part of the campaign in Athlone which will cover the Midlands Regional Drugs Task Force area. The line will remain open until approximately September.

Offshore Islands.

Joe McHugh

Question:

303 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the status of Aughnish Isle, Ramelton, County Donegal; his views on whether it meets all criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20923/09]

As Aughnish is not cut off daily by the tide from the mainland, it is not eligible to receive island development funding from my Department.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

304 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20950/09]

At the outset, I would like to advise the Deputy that expenditure on alcohol services rests with my colleague, Mary Harney T.D., Minister for Health and Children.

The table below sets out the expenditure from my Department's Vote on tackling drugs misuse for each of the years 2007, 2008 and the 2009 allocation. The main areas of expenditure covered include current and capital initiatives delivered by the 14 Local and 10 Regional Drugs Task Forces; the research programme and administrative supports for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and administrative costs of the former National Drugs Strategy Team. The funding in 2007 and 2008 also includes expenditure under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund, responsibility for which transferred to the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMYCA) in January 2009.

As the Deputy is aware, the Drugs Strategy is based on a co-ordinated effort across many Government Departments and Agencies and my Department's funding is only part of a much bigger investment programme in drugs services by these other bodies. In 2008, it was estimated that total expenditure on drugs programmes was over €264m. Considerable resources are targeted at problem substance use across Ireland and the challenge over the coming years, given the current financial constraints facing the country, will be to maximise the overall effectiveness of that funding.

Expenditure for 2007, 2008 and 2009 allocation on Tacking Drugs Misuse

2007

2008

2009

€m

€m

€m

51.518

65.207

40.611*

*This figure excludes funding for the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund which transferred to the OMYCA on 1st January 2009.

Grant Payments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

305 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when a grant will be awarded to a group (details supplied) in County Laois which has been due since April 2009; if his attention has been drawn to the importance of this grant being awarded in order that the group can meet its schedule of repayments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21032/09]

The group in question applied to my Department for funding under the Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations. Funding of €60,000 was approved for refurbishment works with a further €7,000 approved for equipment for the community centre. An advance of €36,300 issued to the group on the 19th of May and the balance of the funding will be paid in accordance with the payment guidelines attaching to the Programme. Details of the Programme and the related information is available on my Department's website www.pobail.ie.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

306 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if funding will be continued for both the wages of the staff and the overheads involved in projects (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21302/09]

The Community Services Programme supports a range of community business and social enterprises to deliver a diverse range of local services and employment opportunities. The Programme focuses on employing people who are currently without work or have limited employment opportunities, and delivering services through community and voluntary organisations, where gaps exist.

During 2008, 359 individual projects received funds totalling in excess of €44m to support the delivery of services and employment. The provision in my Department's vote for the CSP in 2009 has increased to almost €51m. By the end of the year, it is anticipated that the number of projects approved under the Programme will rise to around 450, providing an estimated 2,700 people with employment opportunities. Funding of the Programme for 2010 will be considered in the context of the preparation of the Estimates.

Rural Social Scheme.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

307 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if she will continue the embargo on new candidates for employment under the rural social scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21310/09]

In the current economic circumstances, all aspects of the operation of the Rural Social Scheme are kept under ongoing review to ensure that the fullest possible levels of participation are maintained. In this context, the filling of vacancies that arise on an ongoing basis under the Scheme will be undertaken within the Scheme's overall operational budget.

Community Employment Schemes.

David Stanton

Question:

308 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the discussions he has had with local partnerships community and Leader groups regarding the development of initiatives to create employment in local areas and enhance rural employment prospects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21518/09]

I am in ongoing contact with the Integrated Local Development Companies that implement a range of programmes on behalf of my Department. The supports that my Department deliver with the co-operation of these companies include several key actions that focus on enterprise support and job creation.

The LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 — which are currently being implemented by 36 Local Action Groups throughout the country — aim to improve the quality of life in rural areas and promote the diversification of the rural economy. The funding available for the delivery of these LEADER activities amounts to over €425m and includes a number of measures that support enterprise and jobs. For example, under the Support for Business Creation and Development measure, €48.26m will be available over the lifetime of the Programme for a range of rural enterprise activity based on the exploitation of traditional rural resources. Other measures also provide funding that facilitates support for job creation, including:

Diversification into Non-Agricultural Activities (€16.66m);

Encouragement of Tourism Activities (€45.4m);

Basic Services for the Economy and Rural Population (€49.61m);

and Implementing Co-operation Projects (€10.7m).

It is expected that approximately 10,000 new or existing micro-enterprises will be supported, with the potential to create 12,600 full-time equivalent jobs over the lifetime of the Programme.

Funding of some €51.74m is available for the implementation of the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme in 2009. The Companies/Partnerships delivering the Programme provide an area-based response across three sub-measures, one of which relates to services to the unemployed. This sub-measure specifically supports individuals into employment and self-employment through education, training, work experience, job placement, enterprise and the social economy. During 2008, 27,807 adults were supported under the measure and it is anticipated that an equal number will be supported under the measure in 2009.

Other initiatives supported by my Department and delivered in co-operation with the Integrated Local Development Companies also facilitate and enhance rural employment. Such initiatives include the Walks Scheme launched in 2008 to enhance and maintain National Waymarked Ways, Looped Walking Routes and Heritage Routes. The Scheme currently facilitates the participation of approx 600 people in the upkeep and maintenance of approved walks and trails throughout the country. It also supports the employment of 12 Rural Recreation Officers, in association with Fáilte Ireland, who have been appointed to promote walking tourism in areas where there are clusters of suitable accessible walks and to assist in the introduction of the Walks Scheme.

The Rural Social Scheme, launched in May 2004, aims to provide income support for low-income farmers and fisher persons by allowing them to earn a supplementary income while providing certain services of benefit to rural communities. While communities benefit from the skills and talents of local farmers and fisher persons, participants also have the opportunity to improve existing, or develop new skills and perform valuable work in their local communities. Currently, there is provision for 2,600 participants and 130 supervisors on the Scheme.

My Department also works with the Integrated Local Development Companies to deliver the Community Services Programme, which supports a range of community business and social enterprises to deliver a range of local services and employment opportunities. The Programme focuses on employing people who are currently without work and have limited employment opportunities. Funding available under the Programme has increased to almost €51m for 2009 and it is expected that around 450 community and voluntary organisations will receive support this year, resulting in employment for approximately 2,700 people. Moreover, I have encouraged CSP supported organisations to continue to explore ways to use their resources with a view to employing additional staff and, in this context, I have undertaken to consider making additional resources available for where a clear case can be made for the delivery of additional services.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Creed

Question:

309 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will clarify the criteria governing eligibility for domiciliary care allowance and, specifically, the position regarding those children diagnosed with an intellectual disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21116/09]

Michael Creed

Question:

322 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the criteria used by her Department to determine eligibility for domiciliary care allowance when the scheme was administered therein; if she will clarify the definition of disability used in respect of such claims; if persons diagnosed with autism qualified for an allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21115/09]

David Stanton

Question:

323 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications for domiciliary care allowance that have been received in her Department since her Department took over the administration of the payment of the allowance; the number of these applications that have been refused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21220/09]

David Stanton

Question:

324 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the criteria for granting domiciliary care allowance in respect of children with autism has been changed since her Department took over administration of the allowance; if so, the details of such changes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21221/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 322 to 324, inclusive, together.

The transfer of the Domiciliary Care Allowance scheme from the Health Service Executive to my Department arises from a Government decision on 28th February 2006 to reallocate certain functions between Departments and Agencies as part of the health service reform programme.

The Domiciliary Care Allowance scheme is now a statutory scheme with the primary legislation provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2008. As there were no agreed national medical guidelines for the scheme while it was administered in the Health Service Executive, an Expert Medical Group was established in advance of the transfer of functions. This Group was chaired by the Department's Chief Medical Advisor and comprised of senior medical personnel from the HSE as well as eminent professionals in the areas of physical disabilities which affect children, and child psychiatry/psychology. This report was reviewed independently by external medical experts. The primary purpose of this Group was to agree a set of consistent and objective guidelines for use in determining eligibility of children for Domiciliary Care Allowance.

To qualify for Domiciliary Care Allowance a child must have a disability so severe that he or she requires care and attention and / or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. The level of care and attention required to allow the child to deal with the activities of daily living must essentially require the full-time attention of the applicant. The child must be likely to require this level of care and care and attention for at least 12 months.

The Group considered that the most appropriate way for the Department to conduct assessments for medical eligibility was by assessing evidence submitted by the claimant rather than by way of individual examination by the Department's Medical Assessors as they are not involved in advice or treatment of the child. The new process in operation in the department involves the submission of a detailed statement by the parent or guardian of the child; a detailed statement by the child's General practitioner; and any other relevant evidence from qualified experts who have examined the child. The evidence is assessed by designated departmental Medical Assessors who have received special training.

Eligibility for Domiciliary Care Allowance is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted as outlined earlier. In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed by a different Medical Assessor specially designated for this task.

Since the 1st April 2009 the Department has been accepting new claims for Domiciliary Care Allowance. In the period 1st April 2009 to 22nd May 2009 a total of 445 applications have been received in the required format of which 249 cases have been fully processed by the Department's Medical Assessors, 149 of these applications have been deemed not to satisfy the criteria. Where a person is not satisfied with the decision of a Deciding Officer they may appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

310 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20959/09]

The Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme is operated by the Family Support Agency which is under the auspices of my Department. There are currently 107 Family Resource Centres (FRCs) nationwide. The total budget for the Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme in 2009 is over €18m.

FRCs provide support to families tailored to the needs of the local community. Typically, services include provision of education or training opportunities, childcare facilities for those attending courses run by the project and practical assistance to community groups such as training, information and support. While they do not have a specific remit to tackle problematic alcohol or drug use, providing support to families experiencing such problems could be one of the services provided. Funding is provided to a Specialist Support Agency, the Family Support Network, to assist FRCs to respond to the drugs problem. The role of the Family Support Network is to provide technical assistance and expertise to local communities to develop their capacity to respond to the drugs crisis in their areas and work alongside statutory and other agencies in tackling the problem at local level. Funding received by the Family Support Network in recent years is given in the Appendix.

Appendix

The Family Support Network was approved as a Specialist Support Agency for Drugs to projects in the Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme in April 2008. This new group replaced the former Specialist Support Agency, Dublin Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign.

Table 1: Funding Received by the Specialist Support Agency for Drugs, the Family Support Network, in 2009 and 2008

Year

Amount of Funding

2009

123,660

2008

123,660

Table 2: Funding Received by the Specialist Support Agency for Drugs, Dublin Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, in 2007 and 2006

Year

Amount of Funding

2007

116,660

2006

83,840

Social Welfare Programmes.

Joe McHugh

Question:

311 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will address with measured incentives the ever increasing anomaly regarding incentives to work in comparison to the incentive to claim social welfare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20978/09]

General social welfare programmes aim to be responsive to the needs of those who depend on income maintenance support while providing incentives to assist people to become more independent financially, particularly through employment. In addition, Family income supplement (FIS) provides cash support for employees, on low earnings, with families or those seeking to make the transition from welfare to work. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were unemployed and claiming other social welfare payments. Take-up of the scheme has increased significantly in recent years with almost 43,000 new and renewal FIS claims in 2008, compared to almost 37,900 in 2007.

A number of progressive measures have also been introduced in recent years aimed at removing disincentives for people wishing to take employment and to assist in the transition from welfare to work. These measures include the introduction of a tapered withdrawal of means-tested payments for unemployed people and people with disabilities who engage in employment and a tapered withdrawal of certain earnings for people in receipt of the rent and mortgage interest supplements.

The potential for welfare rates to weaken the financial incentive to work are measured by replacement rate values, which compare the ratio between net income when unemployed to income when employed. When social welfare rates are being set a number of factors are taken into consideration, including replacement rates. The levels of social welfare payments are kept under review in light of the changing economic circumstances. Any change to the Social Welfare rates would be for Government to consider in a budgetary context.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Damien English

Question:

312 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) will have an application for the jobseeker’s allowance decided on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20985/09]

The person concerned made an application for Jobseeker's Allowance to the Department on 24 March 2009. Payment of Jobseeker's Allowance is subject to a means test and in this regard, his application was referred to a Social Welfare Inspector for investigation. Arrangements are being made to have the person's means assessed and he will be contacted shortly for interview. A person may apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance from their local Community Welfare Officer while an application for Jobseeker's Allowance is being processed.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

313 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit in Limerick City on 31 December 2006, 31 December 2007, 31 December 2008 and at present; the number of people in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance in Limerick City on the same dates; if she will make the information available in tabular format; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21022/09]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

314 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance in County Limerick on 31 December 2006, 31 December 2007, 31 December 2009 and at present; the number of people in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit in County Limerick on the same dates; if she will make this information available in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21023/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 313 and 314 together.

The figures for Jobseeker's Benefit and Jobseeker's allowance are collated at social welfare local office level and aggregated by county. The details for the offices in county Limerick are set out on this basis in tabular form.

JB and JA by Social Welfare Local Office for Co. Limerick

Local Office

Scheme

Dec 2006

Dec 2007

Dec 2008

April 2009

Limerick

JB

1,876

2,445

4,747

6,654

JA

3,245

3,414

4,980

6,128

Killmallock

JB

475

549

1,023

1,378

JA

376

394

638

848

Newcastlewest

JB

627

639

1,427

1,906

JA

387

452

748

1,040

Total

JB

2,978

3,633

7,197

9,938

JA

4,006

4,260

6,366

8,016

The increase in the numbers on Jobseeker's Benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance from December 2006 to date reflects the increase at national level.

The Government is acutely aware of how the loss of a job impacts on individuals and on families. The Department of Social and Family Affair's first priority for people who are unemployed is to ensure they receive adequate income support. For this reason, despite the economic downturn, the rates of payment have been maintained above the level of inflation. While income support is crucial, we must also do all we can to help get people back to work. The Department, through its Employment Support Services and in conjunction with other agencies, continues to assist people on the live register to make the transition to work, education or training.

The Government is now providing, through FÁS, a total of 128,000 training and activation places for unemployed people this year. This is a substantial increase on the approximate 66,000 places taken up last year. In addition there are 146,700 places in further education programmes in 2009. The recent supplementary budget outlined a joint approach to activation agreed between the Departments of Social and Family Affairs, Enterprise Trade and Employment and Education and Science. A range of additional measures were outlined aimed at maintaining people in employment, reskilling and facilitating better access to allowances while avoiding undue negative impacts on vulnerable individuals. This Government is committed to ensuring that people are best positioned to get back into employment.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

315 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of an appeal for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [21035/09]

The claim for disability allowance, by the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on 04 March 2009 following an examination by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was not medically suitable for the allowance. An appeal was opened on 12 May 2009 and I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department has been asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out. The person concerned will be advised when the arrangements have been completed. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

316 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average waiting time for decisions on appeals of applications for social welfare payments, divided into all categories; the average time on same for the same period in 2008 and for the same period in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21047/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

317 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the increasing number of social welfare applications going to appeal; the additional measures put in place in the Appeals Office by her to address this increasing number; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21048/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 316 and 317 together.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that during 2008 the number of appeals to that Office increased by 27% over the number received in 2007 and, based on receipts so far in 2009, the Social Welfare Appeals Office project a further increase of 18% for 2009. The details required by the Deputy with regard to the average waiting times for decisions on appeals of applications for social welfare payments, divided into all categories are given in tabular form below.

The processing time for appeals covers all phases of the appeal process including the submission by the Department of its comments on the grounds for the appeal, further examination by the Department's Medical Assessors in certain illness related cases and further investigation by Social Welfare Inspectors where required. Circumstances may also arise outside of the control of the Social Welfare Appeals Office which have the effect of unduly prolonging the time taken to process appeals. For example, delays can occur where the appellant submits new information or evidence, often at an advanced stage in the proceedings. In some cases, also, adjournments may be sought by the appellant or his/her representative.

Having said that, however, I am concerned about processing times for appeals being further increased and, having regard to the current level of appeals awaiting determination, two additional Appeals Officers were appointed in January to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Furthermore, in the light of the current situation, I am advised by the Chief Appeals Officer that the processes in his Office are being kept under constant review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals having regard to due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice. While improving processing times remains a major objective of the Social Welfare Appeals Office, it is necessary at all times, given the quasi-judicial nature of the process, to ensure that progress in this regard is achieved in a manner which is not in conflict with the demands of justice and the requirement that every appeal be fully investigated and examined on all its merits.

Average Time Taken (in weeks) To Process Appeals (by scheme)

2007

2008

2009 (to 30/4/2009)

Adoptive Benefit

13.2

12.4

Blind Pension

22.4

31.0

25.7

Carers Allowance

24.4

23.9

25.9

Carers Benefit

18.5

18.5

19.1

Child Benefit

22.7

27.2

31.5

Disability Allowance

23.8

24.8

24.4

Illness Benefit

24.2

24.9

24.5

Deserted Wives Allowance

53.6

28.2

Deserted Wives Benefit

23.7

27.1

31.0

Farm Assist

23.4

26.3

19.6

Bereavement Grant

15.1

18.8

7.7

Family Income Supplement

20.8

22.3

15.4

Invalidity Pension

27.9

24.3

30.6

Liable Relatives

27.1

22.5

23.9

One Parent Family Payment

41.9

30.9

18.3

Maternity Benefit

30.9

15.7

8.1

State Pension (Contributory)

69.0

48.8

38.5

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

24.9

29.5

25.1

State Pension (Transition)

28.4

51.3

56.2

Occupational Injury Benefit

22.6

33.2

52.1

Occupational Injury Benefit (Medical)

34.8

36.3

33.0

Disablement Pension

28.7

43.3

52.4

Incapacity Supplement

28.9

34.7

52.1

Guardian’s Payment (Contributory)

35.5

22.1

22.4

Guardian’s Payment (Non-Contributory)

31.0

15.4

20.9

Pre-Retirement Allowance

32.6

29.1

38.5

Jobseeker’s Allowance (Means)

24.0

21.4

21.6

Jobseeker’s Allowance

14.0

14.5

16.2

Jobseeker’s Benefit

15.1

13.6

16.6

JA/JB Fraud Control

28.9

28.6

64.3

Rent Allowance

21.5

1.3

Respite Care Grant

23.8

22.7

24.4

Insurability of Employment

36.2

55.3

31.2

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

8.0

8.3

12.5

Treatment Benefits

21.9

12.2

16.1

Survivor’s Pension (Contributory)

31.4

15.8

23.0

Survivor’s Pension (Non-Contributory)

29.9

23.7

22.1

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

318 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will ensure that there is an orderly system of queuing in all social welfare offices that respects the dignity of the people in the queues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21064/09]

The Live Register has increased to unprecedented levels as a result of the economic downturn that the country is currently experiencing. This in turn has led to large numbers attending at our offices and the consequent delays that claimants are experiencing.

In order to deal with extensive queuing, we have introduced an appointment system for taking claims in a number of offices with high volumes. Under this initiative, when a person first attends at a local office to claim, they are given details of the supporting documents required together with an appointment to make their claims. The appointment system has been introduced in 16 local offices to date and will be extended to a number of other offices over the coming months having regard to the volume of new claims at particular offices.

The signing arrangements for people who are already on the live register have been reviewed at a number of offices and additional signing days have been introduced where necessary. In addition, at some offices specific signing times have been allocated to claimants to reduce queuing times. The Department has instituted a number of process improvement measures in order to improve the claim taking process. In addition, we are reviewing the processes involved in administering claims for those who are working reduced hours i.e. part-time, casual and systematic short time. The existing arrangements are very labour intensive and it is envisaged that more streamlined arrangements which will benefit both customers and the Department will be introduced in the near future. These improvements are part of a programme of streamlining initiatives being developed by the Department and it is intended that further improvements will be introduced on an on-going basis during 2009.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

319 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to incidents whereby persons receiving jobseeker’s benefit, who have been offered temporary work for a number of weeks and which holds some prospect of possible long-term employment, are unwilling to take the short-term position since the person would then have to, for the sake of a short period of employment, withdraw from jobseeker’s benefit and are reluctant to so due to the difficulties experienced in seeking such payment in the first place and fears that returning to the system following such period of employment would again mean a lengthy period waiting for payment to resume; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21076/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

320 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to incidents whereby employers seeking to offer short-term work to persons receiving jobseeker’s benefit, but who have not been successful in this due to the persons in question being unwilling to withdraw temporarily from the social welfare system, have contacted her Department to seek clarification of difficulties in this regard but have yet to be responded to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21077/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

321 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, particularly in view of the current economic difficulties, it is proposed to simplify and streamline the bureaucratic transition from receiving jobseeker’s allowance to temporary paid employment and back; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21078/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 319 to 321, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware of the huge increase in the number of people applying for jobseeker's payments in recent months. This has placed increased pressure on all of the Department's offices and on branch offices. Staff in these offices are working extremely hard to process claims as quickly as possible.

In order to deal with the unprecedented number of claims, during the past year additional staff have been assigned to local offices throughout the country. Many offices are now at capacity in relation to accommodation and to support these offices the Department has set up four central decision units around the country and a further three are planned.

In addition, since early in 2008 we have been examining all aspects of the work associated with the processing of claims and streamlining them wherever possible with a view to expediting decisions.

For several years, the Department has operated a fast-tracking system for certain categories of claims. For example, where a person supplies all the necessary information and documentation to support their claim at the outset, their claim will be decided ahead of other claimants who have not produced all of the required information. Customers who have already established entitlement on an earlier claim and who then sign off to go to work will, generally speaking, not require significant re-investigation of entitlement if they have to sign-on again and will fall into the fast-tracking arrangements. There should be only minimal delay in deciding this type of claim. Inevitably there will be some claims that may require further examination and delays may arise in such cases. However, these should be the minority of cases. Where there is a delay in processing a jobseeker's claim, the person may apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance from the local Community Welfare Officer.

Questions Nos. 322 to 324, inclusive, answered with Question No. 309.

Richard Bruton

Question:

325 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has taken steps to ensure that the changes to rent supplement announced in the supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009 will not cause undue hardship to tenants whose landlords refuse to lower their rents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21288/09]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

327 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she is taking to assist persons affected by the cut in rent supplement benefit; if she entered into discussion with landlords in receipt of benefit cheques regarding the impact of the reduction of rent supplement benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21309/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 325 and 327 together.

There are currently over 87,000 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 46% since the end of December 2007. The recent Supplementary Budget provided that the weekly minimum contribution payable towards rent be increased from €18 to €24 a week, with effect from 1 June 2009. It also provided that payments currently being made to existing rent supplement tenants be reduced by a further 8% from the same date. While tenants may be contractually obliged to pay the rent agreed to in their lease, it is expected that landlords will decrease the rent in recognition of the fact that rents have fallen generally and that there are now a large number of vacant rental properties nationally.

Data published by the CSO shows that rents fell by almost 7% between November 2008 and February 2009. A leading property website recently reported that rents have fallen by almost 16% in the twelve months to March 2009 with 5% of the fall occurring since the start of 2009. It is essential that state support for tenants who form a substantial section of the rental market, does not give rise to inflated rental prices and overcharging by landlords.

Other changes in the Supplementary Budget provide for new maximum rent limits to be prescribed in regulations to take effect from 1 June 2009 to reflect the general reductions in private sector rent levels.

Existing recipients of rent supplement are being advised by letter this week of the change being made to their rent payment and this communication can be shown to landlords as evidence of the revised rent supplement in payment in individual cases. Landlords have already been advised through advertising in national newspapers of the general reduction in rent supplement payments. There will be further advertisements in provincial newspapers later this week. A number of organisations representing landlords and tenants have also been contacted and advised of the changes to the rent supplement scheme.

In the current climate, where there is a large number of vacant rental properties, it is expected that people will be able to get accommodation at the appropriate rental level.

Community Welfare Officers have discretion to provide assistance where exceptional circumstances exist in any individual case e.g. where homelessness might result due to the inability of a person to meet their rent payment. The Department is also in discussions with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding the role of local authorities who are responsible for providing a wide range of social housing supports for those with a long-term housing need.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

326 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that applicants for jobseeker’s allowance are being told at social welfare offices that they may have to wait up to 14 weeks for their applications to be processed; if she is monitoring these waiting times; if so, the average waiting time; the measures being taken to expedite the processing of applications and the reduction of waiting times, particularly in view of the fact that in the 1980s such waiting times were shorter, despite the absence of computerisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21301/09]

The Live Register has increased to unprecedented levels as a result of the economic downturn that the country is currently experiencing. The length of time it takes to process claims varies depending on the complexity of the claim, the availability of the necessary documentation from the applicant or his/her employer and the need to carry out additional enquires including assessment of means and whether the claimant satisfies the Habitual Residence Condition.

Furthermore, processing times can vary from office to office for a number of reasons including the extent of the increased number of claims, the number of staff vacancies, the duration of such vacancies and the turnover of staff in the office which impacts on the overall level of experience in the office.

The average time for jobseeker's allowance claims decided in April was 7 weeks. During the past year additional staff have been assigned to local offices. In addition, as many local offices are very close to capacity as regards accommodating further staff, we have set up a number of central support units around the country. Four such units are currently set up in Dublin, Sligo, Finglas and Carrick-on-Shannon. Each unit has 10 staff. It is now planned to establish three further units with 10 staff each in Roscommon, Tallaght and Wexford. As well as assigning additional staff to local offices, a further 16 Social Welfare Inspectors have been assigned to various locations throughout the country to undertake means testing and other work associated with processing claims for the jobseeker's allowance.

The Department recognises that the provision of additional staff in itself will not deal with the rising claimload. Since early 2008 we have been examining all aspects of the work associated with the processing of claims and streamlining them wherever possible without, of course, compromising our scheme controls.

The following initiatives have been introduced at all local and branch offices. A new streamlined process has been introduced for people who had a claim in the previous 2 years. The application form has been simplified so that the claimant has only to provide details of circumstances that have changed since the previous claim. A simplified procedure has been introduced for people moving to jobseeker's allowance when their jobseeker's benefit expires. More straight-forward procedures have been introduced for providing evidence of identity and address.

Application forms for jobseeker schemes are now available on the Department's website with comprehensive information on claiming a jobseeker's payment including details of the supporting documents required. This means that a person making a claim for jobseeker's benefit or allowance can download and complete a claim form and bring it to their nearest local office. An appointment system for taking claims is in operation in a number of offices. There are plans to extend this to other offices with high volumes of new claims over the coming months.

In addition, a review of the processes involved in administering claims for those who are working reduced hours i.e. part-time, casual and systematic short time is under way. The existing arrangements are very labour intensive and it is envisaged that more streamlined arrangements, which will benefit both customers and the Department, will be introduced in the near future.

These improvements are part of a programme of initiatives being developed by the Department to streamline processes and procedures in local and branch offices and it is intended that further improvements will be implemented on an ongoing basis during 2009. The Deputy will be aware that anyone who is under financial pressure while awaiting a decision on their claim for a jobseeker's payment can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is subject to a means test and other qualifying conditions.

Question No. 327 answered with Question No. 325.

Immigration Procedures.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

328 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that the information technology section of the Immigration Bureau at Dublin Airport has an internet connection to enable it to operate properly and verify data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21412/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

331 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she is satisfied that the information technology section of the Immigration Bureau at all Irish ports and airports have sufficient IT networks and internet connections to enable them to operate properly and verify data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21415/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 331 together.

The Immigration Bureau in Irish ports and airports is under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform and the provision of IT operational equipment is a matter for him. I note that identical questions have been tabled to him and would refer the Deputy to those replies when received.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

329 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there is a document expert employed by the Immigration Bureau of her Department at Dublin Airport to check forgeries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21413/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

332 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there is a document expert employed by the Immigration Bureau or her Department at all Irish ports and airport to check forgeries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21416/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 and 332 together.

The Immigration Bureau in Irish ports and airports is under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform. I note that identical questions have been tabled to him and would refer the Deputy to those replies when received.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

330 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there is a social welfare inspector or other person from her Department working at Dublin Airport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21414/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

333 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there is a social welfare inspector or other person from her Department working at all Irish ports and airports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21417/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 333 together.

There are currently two Social Welfare Inspectors assigned to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to assist the Department and the Bureau in the investigation of social welfare fraud and breaches of the Immigration Acts, to provide information and intelligence and to promote the benefits of a multi-agency approach to immigration and employment law enforcement. As part of their duties, the Social Welfare Inspectors in the GNIB participate in Operation Gull, a joint control exercise undertaken periodically at Airports and Ports in the Republic, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The operations involve personnel from the GNIB, and the United Kingdom Immigration Service.

I am satisfied that assigning Social Welfare Inspectors to the GNIB has proved beneficial for both organisations and that Operation Gull is an example of the benefits of inter agency and international co-operation. The operation is ongoing and the Department will continue to support such operations in every possible way.

Question No. 331 answered with Question No. 328.
Question No. 332 answered with Question No. 329.
Question No. 333 answered with Question No. 330.

Social Welfare Benefits.

James Bannon

Question:

334 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford was not paid rent in December 2008 and January, February and March 2009 in respect of a tenant who was in receipt of rent allowance and could get no satisfaction from the local welfare office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21429/09]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE) as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

The tenant makes the application for rent supplement and the Department's relationship is with the tenant. Payment is made to the tenant and is specifically for the benefit of the tenant to assist them with their accommodation needs. Where the Executive becomes aware that a person receiving rent supplement is not using that supplement to meet housing costs, payment of the supplement is stopped. Payment of rent supplement can only be made direct to a landlord or landlord's agent at a tenant's request.

Disputes arising between landlords and tenants can be referred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board for either mediation or adjudication as chosen by the parties.

Denis Naughten

Question:

335 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average cost of each unemployment claim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21444/09]

The average weekly payment for those in receipt of Jobseeker's benefit is €240.66 and €238.83 for those in receipt of jobseeker's allowance. Jobseeker's Benefit is based on paid PRSI contributions while jobseeker's allowance is a means tested payment. The figures quoted include increases for qualified adults and children where appropriate. These figures are based on those who are fully unemployed and do not take into account those who are on a reduced working week or those availing of the Back to Education Allowance scheme.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

336 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on a social welfare appeal regarding persons (details supplied) in County Monaghan; if she is satisfied with the length of time it has taken to deal with this appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21453/09]

The claim for jobseeker's allowance, by the person concerned, was refused by a Deciding Officer of the Department on the grounds that he did not satisfy the statutory means test for the allowance. An appeal was opened on 15 April 2008 and I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office, that in accordance with the statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officers comments on the grounds of appeal.

The relevant documentation was received on 17 November 2008 and the case was considered by an Appeals Officer on 6 January 2009 who decided to hold an oral hearing which took place on 31 March 2009. At the hearing both the Department and the Citizens Information Board, who were representing the person concerned, were afforded the opportunity to make further submissions. The Appeals Officer received the last of these submissions on 7 May 2009 and is presently considering the case. The Chief Appeals Officer will write to the Deputy when the appeal has been determined.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that every effort is made to treat all appeals in a fair and equitable manner and within this context to have the appeal dealt with as quickly as possible. Improving processing times remains a major objective of the Social Welfare Appeals Office. However, it is necessary at all times to ensure that progress in this regard is achieved in a manner which is not in conflict with the demands of justice and the requirement that every appeal be fully investigated and examined on all its merits.

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

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

337 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the final bullet point of paragraph 1.1.2 of Annex F of the Budget 2009 document sets out different qualifying criteria for the revised back to work enterprise allowance than was set out in page four of her Budget 2009 press statement in that the former stipulates that a person receiving statutory redundancy can qualify whereas the latter sets down that only someone who received statutory redundancy and is in receipt of jobseeker’s benefit, that is, excluding jobseeker’s allowance, may qualify; the reason two different sets of criteria were published and which one is correct; and the location at which the full and correct qualifying rules are set down and available to the public. [21508/09]

A number of reforms were introduced in the recent supplementary budget to support people on welfare who wish to become self employed. The changes were introduced from May 1st 2009. Someone who wishes to become self employed, if they are in receipt of Jobseeker's Benefit, having either been awarded statutory redundancy or if they have 104 full PRSI contributions paid, can access a new scheme, called the Short Term Enterprise Allowance. This scheme is payable for the duration of their Jobseeker's Benefit. This scheme is not available to someone who does not qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit.

In addition it is now possible to access the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance at 12 months (instead of 24 months) provided a person has an underlying entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance. The duration of payment on the scheme is two years with 100% in year 1 and 75% in year 2. The other qualifying criteria for the BTWEA remain unchanged by the budget.

Other changes to the scheme in the budget allow for someone with a new business idea, who previously availed of the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme and exhausted their entitlement, to participate a second time after a period of at least 5 years has elapsed. These changes are currently available on the Department's website under press releases and the full qualifying conditions will be available on the website shortly.

Defence Forces Property.

Pat Breen

Question:

338 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Defence if he has lodged an aerodrome safeguarding map in respect of Baldonnel Aerodrome with both South Dublin County Council and An Bord Pleanála with the dates such maps were lodged with the said bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20928/09]

The current safeguarding policy for Casement Aerodrome was instigated in 2000. A colour-coded map was provided to South Dublin County Council at that time for use as an informal reference guide only.

A copy of the safeguarding policy, included maps, was provided to An Bord Pleanála on 2nd March 2009.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

339 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20951/09]

While my Department has incurred no direct expenditure in relation to civil servants and civilian employees during the last three years, support is provided to staff through the work of the Employee Assistance Officer and Social Workers respectively.

Furthermore, I am advised by the military authorities that alcoholism is dealt with in the Defence Forces by either the Personnel Support Service (PSS)/Social Workers or the Medical Corps. Notwithstanding the fact that the costs associated with the treatment of alcoholism are absorbed in the overall running of the PSS and the Medical Corps, the latter have advised that year to date expenditure on specific alcohol abuse medication amounts to €107.56. This expenditure relates to the restocking of supplies purchased in 2005. No expenditure in this regard was incurred between 2006 and 2008.

The Irish Defence Forces policy on drug and substance abuse or misuse is based on the premise that unlawful possession, supply or use of a controlled drug is incompatible with membership of the Defence Forces. Any member who tests positive is liable to be removed from the Defence Forces. A Compulsory Random Drug Testing programme aimed at deterrence was introduced in October 2002. The detailed cost of running this programme over the last three years is contained in the following table:

Year

Testing Costs

Military Costs

Transport

Total

2006

103,252

20,700

2,770

126,722

2007

78,648

27,500

3,570

109,718

2008

160,492

43,500

4,070

208,062

Naval Service Operations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

340 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the number of boats boarded by the Navy on suspicion of drug smuggling each year for the past three years. [20965/09]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

341 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the number of boats boarded by the Navy on suspicion of breaching fishing quotas each year for the past three years. [20966/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 340 and 341 together.

Responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking rests primarily with the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for the Naval Service to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. Government measures to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs, including the establishment in 1993 of a Joint Task Force involving the Garda, the Customs Service and the Naval Service, have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking.

The Naval Service as part of the Joint Task Force, in conjunction with either the Gardaí or the Customs Service or both, was involved in 3 operations to counter drug trafficking during 2006, 5 in 2007 and 5 in 2008.

The Naval Service was involved in the detention of one vessel in 2008 which resulted in the conviction of three individuals on drug smuggling charges.

The main day to day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. The Service is tasked with patrolling all Irish waters from the shoreline to the outer limits of the Exclusive Fishery Limit, which covers 132,000 square miles. Boardings of fishing vessels are carried out in order to verify compliance with a wide range of fisheries legislation, and in order to monitor fishing activity. These boardings are not carried out solely for the purpose of identifying breaches in fishing quotas.

The following table sets out details of fishery protection activity by the Naval Service for the past three years.

2006

2007

2008

Sightings

2,452

2,559

2,405

Boardings

1,897

1,846

1,920

Detentions

19

18

27

Defence Force Representative Associations.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

342 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 222 of 13 May 2009, if he will respond to points raised by PDFORRA in regard to the reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21442/09]

In my response to the Deputy on 13th May I outlined the position in relation to this issue including the legislative position and the issues around the industrial relations aspect. I also outlined the mechanisms that have been put in place through the Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme to compensate for the prohibition on affiliation to ICTU and highlighted the framework that exists which facilitates the Association engaging with the official side in talks parallel to those taking place between the Social Partners at National level.

Whilst I am fully aware of views put forward by the Association I am also satisfied with the current arrangements in place.

Special Protection Areas.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

343 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a hen harrier payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20933/09]

The person in question appealed to have part of his land included in, and part of his land excluded from, the Special Protection Area (SPA) for the Hen Harrier in Co. Kerry.

My Department will shortly be writing to the applicant informing him of the outcome of this appeal. On receipt of this, he will be able to have an individual farm plan drawn up by a qualified farm planner and submitted to my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) for approval.

When the farm plan has been approved any compensation due will be paid to the applicant.

Water Quality.

Phil Hogan

Question:

344 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the level of safety in fluoride dosing at water supplies both for public and public group water supplies having regard to the Environmental Protection Agency’s, Drinking Water Report 2007 to 2008, in which fluoride exceedances were 8.9% of reported samples for public water supplies and 12.4% for public group water schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20971/09]

The EPA's latest report on Drinking Water Quality, The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland 2007-2008 notes that non-compliances with the fluoride standard are almost entirely due to excessive dosing of fluoride by water services authorities. The EPA has attributed the compliance rates of 91.1% and 87.6%, for public water supplies and public group schemes respectively, to confusion regarding adherence to the fluoride parametric value in the Drinking Water Regulations 2007 and the Fluoridation of Water Supplies Regulations 2007. The Drinking Water Regulations set a standard of 0.8mg/litre which could not be exceeded from 1 July 2007. Prior to 1 July 2007, a standard of 1.0mg/litre applied. The Fluoridation of Water Supplies Regulations 2007 require that the minimum dose of fluoride be at least 0.8mg/litre and no more than 1.0mg/litre. The EPA report that the majority of fluoride non compliances were marginally above the parametric value (0.8mg/litre). Following the harmonisation of both standards in July 2007, compliance with the fluoride standard increased to 96.9% for the second six months of 2007.

The Drinking Water Regulations 2007 require a water services authority to ensure that any failure to meet quality standards in any water supply in its functional area is investigated immediately to determine the cause. Where there is a failure to meet the chemical standards set out in the Regulations, or where there is a risk to human health, the water services authority must inform the EPA, which is responsible for the supervision of public water supplies.

UN Climate Change Summit.

Liz McManus

Question:

345 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his position on the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen; if he will confirm the persons who will be attending these talks; if he has pushed for higher EU targets in the run-up to Copenhagen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21046/09]

The Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security recently met on 29 April last.

The next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security has not been scheduled but is likely to take place before the Summer with further meetings as required during the remainder of 2009.

Housing Grants.

Tom Hayes

Question:

346 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason capital assistance scheme funding administered by the Health Service Executive through his Department has been cancelled; when funding for a group (details supplied) for a further 20 accommodation units under this fund will be granted having previously been approved; the number of other projects in his Department that were cancelled under this scheme; if the fact that legal contracts were made, and commitments to those wishing to move into the units were made will be taken into account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21395/09]

The Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) provides funding to approved housing bodies of up to 100% of the approved cost of accommodation for the elderly, the homeless and persons with special housing needs, including those with an intellectual or physical disability.

Currently, projects to the value of €160 million are being advanced through construction stage under the CAS and further projects will be progressed in light of the available funding and competing demands. Funding approval has not been cancelled for any project approved to commence construction under the Capital Assistance Scheme.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

347 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20954/09]

Expenditure by my Department in respect of the issues concerned relates to the funding of 5 Local Drug Task Force mainstreamed projects in respect of estate management and community safety. The projects funded are as follows:

Dublin City Council

(1) Ballyfermot Star Project (provides support for people using drugs or with a history of using drugs, their families, parents and community to cope with and overcome the effect of addiction in their everyday lives);

(2) Canal Communities — Development Workers for Flats Complexes South Dublin County Council;

(3) Tallaght — Fettercairn Estate Management Group;

(4) Tallaght — Killinarden Estate Management Group;

(5) Clondalkin — Community Forum Expenditure by my Department in respect of these projects for each of the past three years is as follows:

Year

Expenditure

2006

461,000

2007

481,000

2008

496,000

An allocation of €461,000 has been provided for the funding of these projects in 2009.

Animal Welfare.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

348 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps being taken following reports regarding the suspected presence of brucella canis in a suspected case (details supplied); when he plans to bring in the necessary legislation to safeguard against the breeding conditions that cause diseases such as this to manifest themselves; the action he plans to take between the present time and then to ensure further outbreaks or virulent disease does not happen in the canine population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20970/09]

Matters relating generally to animal health and welfare are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

As indicated in previous replies on this matter, work has been ongoing for some time in my Department in drafting measures to provide for statutory regulation of dog breeding establishments within the dog control legislative regime. This process has included discussions with a number of organisations, bodies, public agencies and interests active in this area. The issues involved are complex and required detailed consideration. Following advice, it is my intention to introduce amending legislation in this area. My proposals in this regard are at an advanced stage and will be published as soon as possible.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Seán Connick

Question:

349 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding an application by Wexford County Council for funding in respect of a strategic land initiative in Taghmon, Piercestown and Castlebridge; when a decision will be made on this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20975/09]

Further to the reply to Question No. 498 of 6 May 2009, Wexford County Council has recently made application to my Department for the continued funding of the Taghmon, Piercestown and Castlebridge Sewerage Schemes. This application is currently under consideration and a decision will be notified to the Council as soon as possible.

Building Regulations.

James Reilly

Question:

350 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the difficulties that homeowners are experiencing in north Dublin and environs with regard to the pyrite issue which has left those homeowners with defective homes; the measures he has taken to help homeowners resolve this issue in a timely manner; the measures or regulations he has put in place to ensure that this does not occur again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20986/09]

The position on this matter was most recently set out in reply to Questions Nos. 285 and 286 of 18 December 2008.

The difficulties being experienced by homeowners whose homes have been affected by pyrite in certain developments in and around County Dublin are fully recognized. However, the resolution of problems arising between building owners and builders are matters between the parties concerned, namely, the building owner, the relevant developer and the builder's insurers. Where the construction of a building is the subject of a contract between the client and the builder, enforcement is a civil matter.

When the issue of pyrite arose, and following an intervention from my Department, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) proceeded to publish a new amended Standard Recommendation on the use of aggregates as infill for civil engineering and road construction work. The new Standard Recommendation came into effect on 7 December 2007 and it is intended to address the quality standards of new homes and buildings insofar as problems relating to pyrite are concerned. My Department incorporated this NSAI Standard Recommendation into the relevant Technical Guidance Document (TGD-C) of the Building Regulations. A copy of the relevant amendment to TGD-C is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. My Department has also notified Local Authorities, the Construction Industry Federation, the Irish Home Builders' Association and other key stakeholders of the provisions of the amended TGD-C. In addition, I am aware that HomeBond has included the amended NSAI Standard Recommendation in their published 6th edition of the House Building Manual.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Finian McGrath

Question:

351 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount each local authority sought in 2009 in housing adaptation mobility aids and essential repairs grants; the amount allocated to each local authority; the amount each local authority had to provide in matching funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20994/09]

My Department's involvement with the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability relates primarily to the recoupment of a proportion of local authority expenditure on the payment of individual grants. These schemes, introduced in November 2007, are funded by 80% recoupments available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. In the case of the old Disabled Persons' and Essential Repairs Grant Schemes, these are funded by 67% recoupments together with a 33% contribution from the resources of the local authority. The detailed administration of these schemes, including the assessment and approval of individual applications, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

The total estimated demand by local authorities for the operation of the new Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability and the old Disabled Persons Grant and Essential Repairs Grant Schemes in 2009 is approximately €147 million. This estimate includes applications that have been received as eligible, as well as applications not yet assessed and the projected intake of new applications during the year.

Details of the total estimated demand, the combined exchequer/local authority allocations and local authority own-resources contributions for 2009 are set out in the following table:

Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, Disabled Persons and Emergency Repairs Grant Schemes.

Local Authority

Total Estimated Demand in 2009

Combined Exchequer/Local Authority Allocations 2009

Local Authority Contribution 2009

Carlow County Council

2,701,403

1,357,500

311,500

Cavan County Council

2,147,616

1,312,500

282,500

Clare County Council

2,487,092

1,490,000

369,000

Cork County Council

16,722,000

2,235,000

505,000

Donegal County Council

5,050,000

4,820,000

1,140,667

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council

3,040,000

2,160,000

452,000

Fingal County Council

2,500,000

1,795,000

359,000

Galway County Council

14,200,000

2,074,000

553,067

Kerry County Council

3,200,000

2,950,000

723,333

Kildare County Council

5,037,471

1,870,000

399,333

Kilkenny County Council

1,660,000

930,000

201,333

Laois County Council

1,815,000

1,910,000

446,000

Leitrim County Council

1,200,000

1,790,000

477,433

Limerick County Council

5,204,969

1,640,000

415,467

Longford County Council

5,275,000

727,500

176,833

Louth County Council

3,550,000

2,067,500

453,500

Mayo County Council

3,950,000

2,775,834

581,834

Meath County Council

1,000,000

1,000,000

200,000

Monaghan County Council

2,713,814

2,177,500

513,500

North Tipperary County Council

1,930,000

1,790,000

448,667

Offaly County Council

1,880,000

1,465,000

300,333

Roscommon County Council

2,222,000

1,910,000

436,667

Sligo County Council

1,407,343

560,000

116,000

South Dublin County Council

5,268,226

4,545,000

994,330

South Tipperary County Council

2,631,785

1,530,000

344,667

Waterford County Council

1,800,000

1,707,500

345,500

Westmeath County Council

2,490,000

1,660,000

344,000

Wexford County Council

5,366,214

2,325,000

495,667

Wicklow County Council

4,820,992

1,230,000

328,000

Cork City Council

6,359,000

2,112,500

477,167

Dublin City Council

12,500,000

14,400,000

4,133,333

Galway City Council

3,650,000

1,270,000

288,667

Limerick City Council

1,760,000

940,000

196,000

Waterford City Council

8,122,812

512,500

132,500

Sligo Borough Council

1,560,000

472,750

94,550

TOTAL

147,222,737

79,562,584

18,954,014

Social and Affordable Housing.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

352 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will clarify the position in respect of when owners of properties purchased under local government affordable housing schemes would have to pay their local authority a clawback if they were to remortgage their properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21006/09]

Legislative provision to facilitate arrangements under which a local authority could agree to its clawback charge ranking in second place behind a new or topped-up mortgage charge, thereby facilitating persons in affordable housing wishing to re-mortgage with a private lender, is included in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 which is currently before the Oireachtas and is targeted for enactment by the Summer recess. This provision is designed to operate so as to facilitate remortgaging of affordable housing without the clawback becoming payable.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

353 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of fully automated water treatment plants here; the number of water treatment plants that it is proposed to fully automate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21011/09]

The information requested is not available in my Department. As management of water treatment plants falls to water services authorities and the Group Water Sector, as appropriate, the information requested can be sought locally.

Frank Fahey

Question:

354 Deputy Frank Fahey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when, in view of the fact that contract documents for the collection networks and the design build operate contract documents for the waste water treatment plant for Claregalway, County Galway were submitted to his Department and in view of the fact that Claregalway has been identified as a likely source of the cryptosporidium problem in Galway, he will approve the contract documents as approval for funding has been allocated under the serviced land initiative; and the timescale and commencement date for the scheme. [21014/09]

The Claregalway Sewerage Scheme is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 with one element included for funding under the Serviced Land Initiative component of the Programme.

Galway County Council's contract documents for the scheme are being examined in my Department and are being dealt with as quickly as possible.

Last month, my Department, following a review of the Serviced Land Initiative in light of developments in the economy at large, and in the housing market in particular during 2008, and having regard to the oversupply of housing in some areas, informed all local authorities that all existing approvals under the initiative, for which contracts have not been signed or letters of intent have issued, were being withdrawn.

I understand that, in this case, no letter of intent has issued and that a contract has not been signed. However, authorities were also informed that where a water services authority is of the opinion that the continuation of an approved scheme for which contracts have not been signed is necessary for the proper development of the area, it is open to the authority to make a case to my Department, by the 29 May 2009, for the scheme to progress. My Department will consider any case, which Galway County Council may make in respect of this scheme within the specified time limit, as quickly as possible.

Local Authority Housing.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

355 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the percentage of local authority housing each county council dedicated to people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21020/09]

It is a matter for individual housing authorities to plan the composition of their housing programmes having regard to the specific social housing priorities in their areas and to the Exchequer funding allocated to them, based on the housing needs identified in their 2008 statutory assessment. The allocation of a dwelling to a household is also a matter for each individual local authority in accordance with its scheme of letting priorities, the making of which is a reserved function of the authority under section 11 of the Housing Act 1988. Data on the proportion of housing allocated by local authorities to people with disabilities are not gathered by my Department.

Local Authority Funding.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

356 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will approve funding for an eight bed unit for an organisation (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21033/09]

An application for post-tender approval for this project, costing an estimated €1.613 million, has been received in my Department from Kilkenny County Council who are responsible for the administration of the Capital Funding Schemes in their area. The application is being considered in light of the available funding and competing demands.

Local Government Ethics.

Michael Ring

Question:

357 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the rules and regulations for local authorities in respect of outings (details supplied); the legal position in relation to same; and his views on whether a conflict of interest may exist in a situation such as this. [21034/09]

The ethical framework that applies to local authority councillors and employees is contained in the Local Government Act 2001 and Codes of Conduct that have been issued under that Act. The Act requires such councillors and employees to maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest. It also provides that they may not accept any reward or favour for anything done or not done by virtue of their office or employment. The issue of the acceptance of hospitality is also dealt with in the Codes of Conduct which, inter alia, specify that every care must be taken by councillors and employees to ensure that any acceptance of hospitality does not influence them in discharging their official functions.

Where a possible contravention of the framework arises, it is the responsibility of the locally-appointed Ethics Registrar to bring the issue to the attention of the Cathaoirleach and/or the manager who in the first instance, have responsibility for considering such matters under the Act. The Act provides for offences and penalties for breaches of the framework. I have no function in considering such matters.

Polling Stations.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

358 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of polling stations, on a county basis, which are wheelchair accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21060/09]

Under electoral law, returning officers are responsible for all matters in relation to the conduct of elections, including the provision of polling stations. The information requested is not available in my Department.

The law provides that local authorities, in making polling schemes, shall endeavour to appoint polling places which allow the returning officer to provide at each place at least one polling station that is accessible to wheelchair users and requires that the returning officer shall, where practicable, provide polling stations which are accessible to wheelchair users. The returning officer must also, where practicable, give public notice of all polling stations which are inaccessible to wheelchair users not later than the eighth day before polling day. If an elector will have difficulty gaining access to his or her polling station, he or she may apply in writing to the returning officer for authorisation to vote at another polling station in the same constituency/local electoral area. My Department has advertised the availability of this facility in the context of the elections on 5 June.

If a person has a physical illness or physical disability which prevents him or her from going to the polling station, the person can vote by post if he or she applies to be included in the postal voters list which is drawn up each year as part of the register of electors. In order to be entered on the postal voters list, the person must apply to the appropriate local authority by 25 November each year. After that date, an application for inclusion on the supplement to the postal voters list may be made. The closing date for receipt of such supplement applications in respect of the elections to be held on 5 June was 15 May.

Local Authority Archives.

Denis Naughten

Question:

359 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 503 of 6 May 2009, the funding provided to each local authority in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21114/09]

Local authorities are required by Section 80 of the Local Government Act 2001 to make proper arrangements for the management, custody, care and conservation of their records and archives and to provide public access to their archives.

In order to support and encourage local authorities, my Department established a subsidy scheme whereby local authorities may recoup 50% of the salary of an archivist employed by them, for up to 2 years, subject to certain conditions. They may also qualify for short term assistance in respect of leasing accommodation for the purposes of processing archives. The following table shows the local authorities that availed of the scheme in the last five years and the amounts paid to each.

Local Authority

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Cork City

30,069.55

7,082.89

1,396.89

Donegal

3,015.63

Monaghan

21,121.59

Roscommon

30,799.00

42,969.50

14,037.95

Wexford

7,954.04

3,977.04

Total

30,069.55

18,052.23

57,294.52

42,969.50

14,037.95

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Michael Ring

Question:

360 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position with regard to a scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo. [21122/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

361 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when an application was submitted for a scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo. [21123/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

362 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when funding will be provided for a scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo. [21124/09]

I propose to take Question Nos. 360 to 362, inclusive, together.

A scheme to extend the Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme from Shrah to Westport is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009. My Department is awaiting Mayo County Council's application for sanction to progress the scheme to construction on the basis of the tenders received by the Council.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

363 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on correspondence in relation to an infrastructural project (details supplied) in County Kildare; if approval from his Department for this project to proceed to construction is imminent; if he is satisfied that there will be no further delays with the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21129/09]

The Kildare Town Sewerage Scheme is included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 at an estimated cost of €21.4 million. My Department is currently examining Kildare County Council's tender report and recommendation, recently received, for the wastewater treatment plant element of this scheme. I understand that the Council expects to submit the contract documents for the collection networks shortly.

Traveller Accommodation.

James Reilly

Question:

364 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has made a decision to fund the construction of 10 units of Traveller accommodation at Milverton, Skerries, County Dublin; when he expects the project will commence; the expected completion date; the projected cost per unit of this accommodation; the projected cost of the development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21132/09]

My Department recently approved the proposal by Fingal County Council to construct 10 new Traveller group houses at Ardla, Skerries. The approved all-in budget cost is €2,188,937, giving a unit cost per house of €218,893. I understand the Council intend to award the contract to the successful tenderer very shortly with a view to commencing construction as soon as possible.

Habitats Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

365 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure the proper regulation of exotic pond plants in shops and gardening outlets; the implications that this may have for biodiversity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21136/09]

The threat to biodiversity and habitats by non-native invasive plant and animal species is widely recognised. My Department is currently preparing new Habitats Regulations, which I expect to make later this year, and which will include provision to prohibit the sale and distribution of non-native plants and animals that are known to pose a threat to native species and habitats.

Official Engagements.

John O'Mahony

Question:

366 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will meet a delegation (details supplied) from County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21217/09]

I will be responding to the Deputy's request to meet the delegation in question shortly.

Tax Code.

Brian Hayes

Question:

367 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if there is a possibility of securing an exemption from the emissions tax for cars based on being elderly, disabled or a means test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21307/09]

Under motor tax law, exemptions from motor tax relate primarily to State-owned and emergency vehicles and there are no proposals to change the current position. However, relevant concessions for disabled drivers, including exemption from motor tax, are contained in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 made by the Minister for Finance and administered by the Revenue Commissioners.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Billy Timmins

Question:

368 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in relation to grants in respect of improvements for the elderly in view of the fact that funding has not been available from Wicklow County Council for some time (details supplied); if funding will be made available as funding is not available in Wicklow County Council for new applications; when new applications will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21314/09]

Allocations totalling €79.562 million for 2009 were notified to local authorities in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability and the old Disabled Persons and Essential Repairs Grant Schemes on 7 May 2009. These allocations represent an increase of 11.4% on the initial allocations for 2008. The 2009 allocation to Wicklow County Council amounts to €1,230,000 compared to an initial allocation of €1,079,910 in 2008, an increase of almost 14%. The administration of the grant schemes and decisions on individual applications are the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Planning Issues.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

369 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied with the operation of Class 5, Part 2, Exempted Development Advertisement, of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, which allows the display of a professional name plate not exceeding 0.3 square metres in the area outside a premises at which any practice of the profession by the person named is illegal due to the named person not being registered with the professional body as required by law; his views on whether without amendment, this law could permit illegal activity to be advertised under planning laws; if so, if he plans to propose amendments; his further views on whether Section 157 (4)(a)(i) of the Planning and Development Acts, 2000 to 2006 which statute bars enforcement action after a period of time is appropriate in cases in which the purporting of a professional practice is illegal under other legislation; if he does not consider it appropriate, if he will bring forward amendments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21328/09]

Under Article 6 and Schedule 2, Part 2, Class 5 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, advertisements exhibited at the entrance to any premises, relating to any person, partnership or company carrying on a public service or a profession, business or trade at the premises are, subject to certain conditions, exempted development. It is a matter for a person carrying on a relevant activity to which such an advertisement relates to comply with any other legal requirements or obligations imposed under other legislation, including regarding the conduct of a professional practice. Enforcement under the Planning Acts arises only in respect of alleged breaches of planning legislation, and is a matter for the relevant planning authority. Enforcement of other legislation, for instance in relation to the conduct of a professional practice, is a matter for the relevant authorities.

Local Authority Staff.

Finian McGrath

Question:

370 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will support a person (details supplied). [21361/09]

The provisions governing local authority membership and local authority employment are set out in sections 13 and 161 of the Local Government Act 2001. Under section 13 of the Act, a person employed by a local authority who is not the holder of a class, description, or grade of employment designated by order under section 161 is disqualified from being elected or co-opted to, or from being a member of, a local authority. For the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (Section 161) Order 2004, designated employments are employments whose maximum salary does not exceed the maximum salary for the post of Clerical Officer in a local authority. It is the responsibility of the returning officer to rule on the validity of each nomination based on the information provided.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Noel Grealish

Question:

371 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has made a decision regarding the provision of grant aid for the replacement of lead pipes in peoples homes in Mervue, County Galway; when a decision is expected to be made on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21370/09]

Noel Grealish

Question:

372 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will direct Galway City Council to use a portion of the €12 million leak eradication scheme for the replacement of lead pipes in peoples homes in Old Mervue, Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21371/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 371 and 372 together.

Substantial funding towards local authorities' water conservation programmes, including the replacement of old pipework in the public network, is provided under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme. It is open to each authority to prioritise any necessary pipe replacement in its own area from their grant allocation. Galway City Council has written to my Department regarding grant assistance to householders and inquiring if the Council would be permitted to use €1 million from the Council's water conservation allocation for a grant scheme to replace lead pipes in the domestic household network. Water services legislation provides that the owner of a premises is responsible for ensuring that the internal water distribution system is capable of delivering drinking water that complies with drinking water standards. My Department's Water Services Investment Programme does not extend to funding or providing grants for replacement of individual service connections or other measures relating to single households or premises. This is similar to the provision of an electricity supply to a house where the internal wiring is the responsibility of the owner or occupants, not the supplier. Carefully focused prioritisation under other grant schemes, namely the Disabled Persons and Essential Repairs Grants and the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, may facilitate necessary grant assistance being provided in appropriate cases. It is a matter for individual local authorities, including Galway City Council in this case, to determine what works, including the replacement of lead supply pipes, are eligible and to prioritise these in line with their systems of prioritisation.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John O'Mahony

Question:

373 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will allocate extra funding to pay grants under the housing aid for older people, the housing adaptation grant for people with a disability and the essential repairs grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21386/09]

Allocations totalling €79.562 million for 2009 were notified to local authorities under the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability and the old Disabled Persons and Essential Repairs Grant Schemes on 7 May 2009. These allocations represent an 11.4% increase on the initial allocations for 2008. At this stage, I do not envisage making further allocations to local authorities in respect of the operation of these schemes in 2009. However, I will review the funding position later in the year, in the event of any under-spend by local authorities of their allocations for the grant schemes or other allocations under the wider social housing investment programme.

Waste Management.

Simon Coveney

Question:

374 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress of his report to Cabinet on the waste stored at Haulbowline Island, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21391/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

375 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will publish the safety file on Haulbowline Island, County Cork on his Department’s website (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21392/09]

Simon Coveney

Question:

376 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to concerns by the European Commission regarding the storage of waste at Haulbowline Island, County Cork; his views on whether any measure must be taken by the Irish authorities to satisfy waste legislation under EU Directives 75/442/EEC, now codified as Directive 2006/12/EC, and Directive 91/659/EEC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21393/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 374 to 376, inclusive, together.

The Government is considering the position in relation to Haulbowline having regard to works and investigations undertaken since 2003 under the aegis of my Department. My Department does not intend to publish the documentation referred to in the question on its website. However, I would be happy to furnish a hard copy of the file to the Deputy if that would be of assistance to him. The European Commission has recently communicated to Ireland a complaint concerning the site at Haulbowline. My Department is currently formulating Ireland's response. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this juncture.

Serviced Land Initiative.

Denis Naughten

Question:

377 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the serviced land initiative has been shelved; the implications this will have on planned developments; when local authorities were informed of the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21440/09]

Last month, my Department, following a review of the Serviced Land Initiative in light of developments in the economy at large, and in the housing market in particular during 2008, and having regard to the oversupply of housing in some areas, informed all local authorities that the Initiative was being discontinued. All existing scheme approvals under the Initiative, for which contracts had not been signed or letters of intent had not issued, were withdrawn. However, water services authorities were also informed that where they are of the opinion that the continuation of a scheme is necessary for the proper development of an area, it is open to the relevant authority to make a case to my Department by 29 May 2009 for the scheme to progress. My Department will consider any case that a water services authority may make within the specified time limit.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

378 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of recent studies highlighting the problems with septic tanks, he will introduce a grant for their upgrade and revise the level of grant aid available for group sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21441/09]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment in regard to a scheme of support for the replacement and upgrade of septic tanks older than 15 years with newer systems. While my Department has been examining the conditions which might attach to such a scheme, the timeframe for pursuing this commitment will remain under ongoing review, having regard to current budgetary constraints. My Department has funded a pilot programme to test a range of new, small-scale wastewater collection and treatment systems under Irish conditions, to evaluate new approaches to meeting the wastewater collection and treatment needs of rural communities and to examine the potential role for group sewerage schemes in extending collection systems to households outside the catchment of new or existing public sewerage networks. The performance of new infrastructure provided under the pilot programme is being monitored and evaluated. The National Rural Water Services Committee will report to me on the results as they become available. I will review the future role of group sewerage schemes in the provision of wastewater collection systems and the grants for such schemes in the light of the outcome.

Capital Assistance Scheme.

John McGuinness

Question:

379 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if payment due to a project (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be issued shortly; the amount involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21462/09]

Funding of €878,472 was approved for this project under my Department's Capital Assistance Scheme. To date, €853,385 has been paid to Kilkenny County Council, which is responsible for the administration of the scheme in its area. An application from the Council for supplementary funding of €21,528 is under consideration in my Department and a decision will be made as soon as possible.

Architectural Heritage.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

380 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the grant allocation for restoration works in respect of houses of historical value and interest was increased in Budget 2009 or otherwise changed; the current allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21509/09]

As set out in the Revised Estimates for the Public Service 2009, the 2009 allocation for the built heritage capital programme is €12.5 million, compared to a 2008 provisional outturn of €26.034 million.

Departmental Properties.

James Bannon

Question:

381 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has not received payment under the designated bog compensation scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21513/09]

I understand that the person in question applied to sell some bog to my Department in October 2004. However, the documentation received was incomplete, as it did not contain a Land Registry folio or maps. My Department wrote to the applicant in November 2004 requesting the missing documents. The applicant did not respond to this letter, nor to a reminder, until September 2008, when the required documents were received. The land on offer has since been surveyed and recommended for purchase, but it is necessary this year to give priority to applications relating to 32 raised bog Special Areas of Conservation originally designated in 1999. This application is not in respect of one of those areas and my Department will be writing to the applicant shortly to this effect.

Local Authority Housing.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

382 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has written to local authorities in respect of the way local authorities deal with local authority mortgagers that are having difficulties making repayments at present due to changes in their income as a result of the economic recession; if local authorities have been given instructions in relation to requests by mortgagers to pay interest only on a temporary basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21517/09]

Local authority borrowers have benefited from very significant easing of mortgage costs in recent months. The effective rate for local authority borrowers from 1 June 2009 will be 2.25% — a cumulative rate decrease since October 2008 of 3%.

To date there is no evidence to suggest that wider economic circumstances are creating problems specifically for local authority borrowers in meeting mortgage repayments. Rates charged to local authority borrowers offer very good value by comparison to rates charged by commercial lenders; as of 1 June, the local authority rate will be 0.85% lower than the average market variable rate.

Where any borrower, either from a local authority or from a financial institution, is facing difficulties in meeting mortgage repayments, they should engage proactively and constructively with the lender to seek to achieve an agreed solution. The services of the Money Advice and Budgetary Service are also available to such borrowers and support is also available through the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.

Departmental Expenditure.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

383 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his Department’s annual spend on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use respectively for each of the past three years. [20949/09]

Since the formation of my Department in June 2007 no moneys have been expended on tackling problematic alcohol and illegal drug use among staff. It is not the policy of the Civil Service to contribute to the cost of rehabilitative treatment for staff members who undergo such treatment, other than to continue salary payment in accordance with Department of Finance sick leave regulations.

Energy Resources.

Mary Upton

Question:

384 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has studied a proposal (details supplied); his views on the feasibility of this project; if he will support same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20983/09]

I welcome all private sector endeavours seeking to promote and deploy renewable energy to the benefit of the economy and consumers.

The promoters of the Spirit of Ireland project have presented their proposal in a recent meeting with my Department and in meetings with other Departments as well as with the ESB, EirGrid and the Commission for Energy Regulation. I have also met the promoters in recent days. These initial meetings have given me and my Department good preliminary insight into this highly ambitious and complex proposal to meet Ireland's energy needs. There are clearly very many elements to the project which need to be further explored and evaluated through appropriate evidence based engagement. That engagement will continue in the coming months.

Telecommunications Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

385 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made by a company (details supplied) since it secured the contract for the roll-out of broadband nationally; the company’s liaison for the north west; the person with whom people can engage regarding progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21009/09]

In December 2008, my Department entered into a contract with "3", a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). 3 will be required to provide services to all residences and businesses that are located within the NBS area and who seek a service.

Challenging roll-out targets have been agreed with 3 and NBS services have already been launched in a small number of rural areas at the end of April 2009. The first programme milestone of 15% of the Electoral Divisions (EDs) in the NBS coverage area will be met by end June 2009, with monthly coverage increments thereafter. The EDs to be covered by end June have been identified and are now highlighted on 3's NBS coverage map available at http://www.three.ie/nbs/index.htm. 3 has commenced its marketing campaign in these areas to announce the forthcoming service availability.

Almost half of the entire NBS coverage area will be broadband enabled by end 2009 while all residential and business premises within the NBS coverage area will have broadband connectivity by end September 2010. Further information regarding the NBS and the most up-to-date rollout information can be found by contacting 3's dedicated NBS customer service team on 1913 or by accessing 3's website at http://three.ie/nbs/. Details of the availability of broadband services in the specific areas not covered by the NBS are available at www.broadband.gov.ie.