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 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 38, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 39 to 46, inclusive, answered orally.

Arts Funding.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

47 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the planned potential investment in the area of the arts in the forthcoming years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23604/09]

Government Policy on the Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and further elaborated in my Department's Statement of Strategy.

My policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life.

In forthcoming years, it is my aim to continue to implement this policy directly through my own Department and to support the Arts Council in its role, working within the financial and other resources available to me.

As the Deputy is aware, under the Arts Act, 2003, the Arts Council is the principal agency through which Exchequer funding is channelled to the arts. It is a statutorily independent body and autonomous in its day-to-day operations.

In addressing the issue of future arts investment, it is necessary to be aware of the transformation over recent years of the increases in the arts funding base and in arts infrastructure which has been provided by way of consistent Exchequer funding.

For instance, since 2002, funding for the Arts Council has increased by 54% from €47.67 million in 2002 to €73.35 million in 2009. Over the period, these investments have helped to transform the profile and appreciation of the arts, to bring them centre stage and make them alive for everyone to enjoy. This expenditure has allowed the Arts Council to fulfil significant elements of its functions, namely, of stimulating public interest in the arts; promoting knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts, and assisting in improving standards in the arts. The Council has also been facilitated in re-organising itself so as to able to deliver a focused, comprehensive, efficient and strategic service to its clients, audiences and partners nationwide.

My Department has a direct role in the provision of capital grants for arts infrastructure. The Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme (ACCESS) is designed to assist in the provision of high standard arts and culture infrastructural projects. These projects enhance access to all aspects of the arts throughout the country. The programme has been widely acknowledged as a significant intervention in the provision of high quality arts and culture infrastructure. Since 2004 amounts to the value of almost €109m have been paid in respect of arts infrastructure.

Facilities funded to date include integrated arts centres, theatres, galleries, studios and creative and performance spaces. In this manner the Department provides the bulk of capital funding for building and refurbishing arts facilities around the country, while the Arts Council provides the ongoing revenue support for many of the facilities.

Taken together, the expenditure and facilities outlined stand as testament to the Government's commitment to this vital sector for society.

Sports Capital Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

48 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the timeframe for the completion and publication of the review of the sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23692/09]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

63 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of persons in his Department employed in processing sports capital grants; the status of these employees; when he expects the review of the sports capital programme to be completed; if he will confirm that no external consultants are employed on this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23609/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 63 together.

The number of staff in the sports capital grants section of the Department is 14. These are all established civil servants.

Two expenditure reviews of the Sports Capital Programme have been carried out to date. The first covered the period 1988-1998 while the second covered the period 1999-2002. Copies of these reviews are available on the Department's website www.dast.gov.ie.

Work on the National Sports Facilities Strategy, which will provide an improved policy platform for any future rounds of the Programme, is at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department. It is my intention to publish the strategy once it has been completed and considered by the Government.

Following a competitive tendering process external consultants were employed, in 2007 and 2008, to provide advice in relation to the preparation of the facilities strategy referred to above.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 46.
Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 45.

Ministerial Appointments.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

51 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has ratified the reappointment of the chief executive officer of the Irish Sports Council for the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23690/09]

Liz McManus

Question:

57 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that there are seven vacancies arising on the Irish Sports Council as of 1 July 2009; the steps being taken to fill these vacancies; the criteria being laid down in respect of these appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23689/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 57 together.

I would like to refer the Deputy to priority question number 39 of today.

Tax Code.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

52 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the recommendations he has made to the Department of Finance with regard to the artists’ tax exemption scheme in view of the fact this scheme covers artists, for which he has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23606/09]

The operation of the Artists Exemption scheme is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners under the terms of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

The original intention of the legislation was, inter alia, to create an environment in which the Arts could flourish and to encourage Irish artists to remain here rather than going abroad to earn their living.

I fully support this scheme, which is in operation now for 40 years, and will facilitate such reviews as are necessary to improve its efficiency and streamline its operation so as to maintain the legislation's original intentions for the benefit of artists and their work.

The Scheme marks Ireland out as unique in Europe in the context of its support for its artists.

Arts Funding.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

53 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will provide a commitment that funding to the Arts Council will not be further reduced in view of the cuts suffered by that organisation during the past nine months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23602/09]

As Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism I am committed to securing the best possible funding for the Arts Council and the arts sector generally. Future funding for the Arts Council will be addressed in the context of future Estimates processes. The Deputy will be aware that the Government must balance competing demands from every part of our economy and society.

My policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life.

By any standards the Arts Council has seen sizeable increases in its funding from the Exchequer in recent years. Since 2002, its allocation increased by 54% from €47.67 million to €73.35 million in 2009. These significant amounts have transformed the arts landscape, by facilitating increased access to and participation in the full spectrum of art forms throughout the country. It is of vital importance that the Arts Council, which administers this funding, do so in a manner that maintains participation and access to all art forms. This level of support affirms my commitment and that of the Governments to the important work carried out by the Arts Council.

The Government also recognises the importance of the Arts sector's contribution to the economy especially in the area of employment. In 2005, there were 48,000 employed in the cultural sector in Ireland. This number represented 2.5% of the total workforce in 2005. I believe that the Government's sustained support has resulted in a firm foundation to the arts sector that I believe will assist it in facing future challenges.

In relation to further funding for the Arts sector and the Arts Council in particular I will be endeavouring to ensure that adequate funding is provided for this very important sector. However, in that context it must be recognised that the Government is facing severe challenges in relation to public expenditure levels.

Departmental Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

54 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, in view of the reduction in funding to his Department, he will reduce the numbers employed in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23608/09]

In keeping with its corporate objective to allocate resources in line with key objectives, as set out in its Statement of Strategy 2009-2011, the Department keeps its staffing requirements under constant review. The recent incentivised Early Retirement, Career Break and Shorter Working Year Schemes, aimed at reducing public service numbers, are currently being implemented in the Department. The core sanctioned staff of the Department, including the National Archives, is 174. At 31 May 2009 the number of staff working was 163. The staffing situation will be monitored in light of the uptake of these schemes.

Sports and Recreational Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

55 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he, by way of policy, encouragement or direction can influence the preparation in terms of investment, training or coaching with the focus on international events such as the 2012 Olympics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23601/09]

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, has statutory responsibility for encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive sport and the achievement of excellence in competitive sport. In this regard the ISC works in partnership with the Irish Institute of Sport, the Olympic Council of Ireland, the Paralympic Council of Ireland and the relevant national governing bodies of sport in the preparation of Irish athletes for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and other International events.

The ISC established a review group to examine the preparations and performances at the 2008 Beijing Games in order to prepare for the 2012 London Games. The overall aim of the review was to make recommendations to the ISC in respect of structures, programmes and investment policy that should be pursued based on the outcomes of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) have also carried out a review of the performance of Irish Athletes at the Beijing Games.

Since the completion of the 2008 Beijing Games I have completed a series of meetings with a number of the key stakeholders involved in the support of our elite athletes to discuss how we can best build on the success we had in Beijing and the supports required in terms of coaching, programmes, facilities and funding to ensure the optimum performance of Irish athletes at the London 2012 and other international events. I have also met with representatives of the Irish Sports Council and the Olympic Council of Ireland to discuss their views on the existing high performance structure and I have suggested improvements for the London 2012 Olympics including the targeting of a small number of Olympic sports in an effort to win more medals.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 46.
Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 51.

Tourism Promotion.

Bernard Allen

Question:

58 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on whether the structure of the organisations leading the tourism industry are best designed to deliver the strategic direction required during the current economic downturn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23613/09]

The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism's role in relation to tourism lies primarily in the area of national policy providing the strategic direction required. Its remit is to support the growth of a competitive and sustainable tourism industry, enhancing its contribution to national economic and social goals, through the development, implementation and influencing of a range of policy actions and programmes by the Department, its Agencies and other Government Departments, in consultation with industry partners.

The tourism agencies, operating under the aegis of the Department, have been established to deal with the administration of that policy.

There has been a major reform of Irish tourism structures in the last decade with the setting up of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. Reform of the function, role and operational aspects of regional structures was the most recent element of that reform process.

Fáilte Ireland was established under the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003, following the amalgamation of Bord Fáilte Éireann and CERT, to encourage, promote and support tourism as a leading indigenous component of the Irish economy. Its primary functions are the development of quality tourism product, domestic tourism marketing, tourism standards, enterprise support, capability building and human resource development for the tourism industry. Fáilte Ireland makes a vital contribution to the tourism industry in Ireland in delivering on its various functions. The period from 2003 to 2008 has seen an 80% rise in domestic holiday expenditure, from €575 million to €1.028 billion. In addition, substantial new tourism product has been rolled out, the grading and classification systems for all categories of accommodation, including hotels, has been updated and many trainees have been skilled to a high standard to enable them to deliver a quality customer service to holidaymakers in Ireland.

As part of the Good Friday Agreement, tourism was designated an area for cooperation under the North-South Ministerial Council. In December 1998, the parties to the Agreement decided that a publicly owned limited company would be established by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the then Bord Fáilte Éireann to carry out functions related to the promotion of tourism to the island of Ireland. The company, Tourism Ireland Limited, was formally incorporated on 11 December 2000.

The Company is accountable to the North South Ministerial Council with funding for its operations being provided by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland and by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in the South. The primary remit of the company is to promote the island of Ireland as a tourist destination in overseas markets.

Tourism Ireland is generally regarded as being highly effective, by its international peers as well as the tourism industry on the island. The company works closely with Fáilte Ireland, NITB, and the tourism industry in delivering its remit.

In summary, Tourism Ireland's role is to maximise the number of visitors coming to the island of Ireland from overseas while Fáilte Ireland's role is to ensure that the tourism experience in the South is to the highest possible standard. I am satisfied that both organisations have key complementary roles to play in sustaining the valuable contribution of tourism to Ireland's economy.

Turning to the regional level, five Regional Tourism Authorities passed resolutions during the summer of 2006 to dissolve. The staff, property and responsibilities of these authorities were subsumed into Fáilte Ireland with new Regional Tourism Development Boards being established in each area.

The five Regional Tourism Development Boards published their Regional Development Plans for the years 2008-2010 in late 2007. The plans provide a road map so that all key players can effectively contribute to the further development of sustainable and economically beneficial tourism in their region. They also define the priorities for each region's product and service development, destination marketing, and enterprise development in the period 2008-2010.

In the case of Dublin, an autonomous body — Dublin Tourism — remains in place. This is in recognition of Dublin's position as a capital city competing with other European cities for city break visitors. Within the context of the wider changes at regional level, the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Dublin Tourism were substantially altered to address corporate governance issues, to clarify its future role and its relationships with Fáilte Ireland. It is now a subsidiary of Fáilte Ireland.

Shannon Development is the Regional Tourism Authority for the Shannon Region which includes Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary and South Offaly. However, the Region, as is the case with other regions, has a Regional Tourism Development Board. This Board works closely with the executive of Shannon Development and the main Board of Shannon Development on tourism matters. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism provides funding to Shannon Development to fund promotional and tourism related activities throughout the Shannon Region, although the bulk of its funding is provided through its own resources income.

Dublin Tourism and Shannon Development also published Regional Development Plans for the years 2008-2010 during 2008. I am satisfied that the seven Regional Boards are delivering on their remit to develop regional tourism and that their plans are providing the framework to enable them to do so.

All of these organisations are aware of the need to ensure maximum value for the money received from the Exchequer and this is reflected in the close cooperation between the agencies in their operations as well as in their business planning.

Given the performance of the tourism industry in recent years I am satisfied that the institutional framework for delivering services to the industry has served us well. At the same time, it is important that the strategic framework for tourism development is flexible enough to respond, if necessary, to the changing economic environment and in this regard the tourism framework is the subject of regular review to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Departmental Programmes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

59 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the status of the ACCESS programme; when the roll-out of the ACCESS 2 programme will be completed; if he will launch a new round of this programme as announced by his predecessor 12 months ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23610/09]

The Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme (ACCESS) is a key element in the Government's regional arts strategy and has greatly improved access to and participation in the arts for large numbers of people nationwide. The scheme has been widely acknowledged as a significant intervention in the provision of quality cultural spaces. In this regard, my Department has taken a direct role in relation to the provision of capital grant-aid for the arts and culture infrastructure throughout the country in recent years.

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

Under the first round of ACCESS, announced in 2001, funding of €43m was provided to the promoters of 40 arts and culture projects. The majority of these projects were for the provision of new art centres and most are now open and operational.

In April 2007 a second round of ACCESS funding was announced and a total of €32m was offered to the promoters of 67 projects nationwide. The primary focus of the second round of the scheme is the refurbishment and enhancement of existing arts and cultural facilities.

In May 2008 a further 13 projects were allocated €10.2m in funding under the ACCESS II scheme bringing the total allocations under ACCESS II to €42m.

Given the current economic climate it is not possible to say when further funding schemes will be announced in respect of Arts Capital projects during 2009. Almost €20m is allocated for arts capital investment in 2009, all of which will be expended on existing commitments under earlier rounds of the ACCESS schemes.

Tourism Promotion.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

60 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if dedicated funding is being provided from his Department towards promoting cultural tourism in 2009 and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23605/09]

As I informed the Dáil on 3 March, I met with the heads of fifteen State tourism agencies, State arts bodies, and the cultural institutions, on 11 February, to begin the work of further developing the cultural tourism market. This was the first step in putting in place an initiative to further develop the potential of cultural tourism.

This initiative will build, in the first instance, on cooperation and synergy between the bodies and institutions under the aegis of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. I wish to set in train a programme of specific actions, by these bodies, that will enable Ireland to more effectively market cultural tourism and address the needs of overseas and domestic tourists who wish to experience Ireland's cultural and artistic resources. It is not envisaged that such actions will necessarily require additional funding as existing general resources and programmes are likely to be capable of being employed to support the objectives of this initiative.

A high level Steering Group has been established to identify actions that will benefit Ireland's attractiveness as a destination for cultural tourism, and set in place the steps necessary to achieve these actions, by the end of 2009. I am informed that, to date, the Steering Group has encouraged and facilitated a closer level of co-operation between the National Cultural Institutions and Dublin Tourism, that will provide practical benefits in the future marketing of those Cultural Institutions that are based in Dublin. The Steering Group is also working to assist and facilitate a promising new cultural event, that will combine the existing resources of numerous artistic groups to create an event of scale which will be a tourism attraction in its own right.

In 2009, the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and its agencies are providing funding from within their existing general resources and programmes for the promotion of cultural tourism under a number of headings.

Fáilte Ireland continues to operate the Festivals and Cultural Events Initiative, the objective of which is to expand regional tourism through festivals and cultural events. The management of this Initiative is a day-to-day matter for Fáilte Ireland. In addition the Arts Council has been asked to continue to prioritize its support for festivals.

The Department is providing substantial funding towards Culture Night, which is being extended this year to a number of additional centres around the country. In addition, the funding for the Regional Museums Scheme is being focused on cultural tourism.

Departmental Reports.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

61 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress that has been made since the publication of the Art and Education report on achieving the goals as stated by the report; the cost of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23611/09]

I refer the Deputy to previous replies on this issue. This matter was also addressed in a debate held on 26 May last in the Seanad where it was raised as an adjournment matter.

As outlined in the course of that debate, when the Art and Education Report "Points of Alignment" was finalised, the Department held a number of meetings with the Arts Council and the Department of Education and Science to examine how best the recommendations in the report could be progressed, taking account of the public expenditure constraints at that time. A range of proposals was considered but it was not possible to reach agreement on the scale of the vision enshrined in the report. Since then the budgetary difficulties have become acute and it is evident that new cost-increasing measures must be deferred for the foreseeable future.

The Points of Alignment Report was undertaken under the auspices of the Arts Council and therefore the cost of the Report is a matter for the Council.

Visa Applications.

James Bannon

Question:

62 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on whether visa costs and arrangements are acting as a disincentive to tourists extending their travel itinerary to Ireland; if he has had discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in relation to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23612/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, immigration policy is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and its implementation is a matter for the relevant authorities, including the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is currently responsible for setting visa fees. However, the Deputies will be aware that, under the terms of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill currently before the Oireachtas, this responsibility would move to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I am advised that the cost of visas for Ireland is broadly in line with costs internationally and is a necessary charge to cover the cost of processing the visa application.

New and Developing Markets, such as India and China, are potentially of significant importance to Irish tourism. Visitors from these markets stay twice as long as the average holidaymaker, have the highest spend per visit, have a higher propensity to travel throughout the island of Ireland, and make significant economic contributions to many elements of the tourism sector. Indeed, I understand that Tourism Ireland is currently in the process of establishing a new Asian hub office, which will be based in the UAE, to manage the Middle East and Asian markets.

Obviously, to fully exploit the opportunities presented, Ireland needs to be competitive on all fronts. Visitors from these countries typically require visas to enter Ireland. I am advised that the ability of potential visitors to secure the necessary visas in an efficient and cost-effective manner, when compared with our competitor destinations, is an important element of our competitiveness.

Tourism Ireland, which is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas, conducted a review of New and Developing Markets, including India, China and 17 other markets. This review, completed in late 2007, highlighted the potential for increased tourism from Asia and the Middle East and set significant targets — to attract a total of 475,000 visitors from New and Developing Markets by 2013.

Tourism Ireland has been in communication with my Department with some ideas for discussion in respect of the implementation of immigration policy and issuing of visas, insofar as this impacts on the promotion of inbound tourism. My Department in turn has engaged with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in relation to these issues.

The Deputy will appreciate that migration and border controls are complex and sensitive, affecting not only tourism of various kinds but also labour market policies and inward investment within the overall context of sovereignty. However, I am confident that, working in partnership, the immigration authorities and the tourism bodies can ensure that the visitor experiences of Ireland compare with any of our competitors.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 48.

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

64 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he expects to bring legislation before Dáil Éireann regarding the amalgamation of bodies under his remit as announced in budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23607/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 92, 109 and 316 on 28th of April 2009. I can assure the Deputy that progress commensurate with the complexity of this issue and the efflux ion of time since that very recent question is being made.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

65 Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23591/09]

Taxi companies used by this Department and State Agencies under the aegis have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users. The table contains details of the amount expended by the Department and by agencies under the aegis of the department on taxi hire from 2008 to end May 2009.

Taxi Hire Cost

2008

2009 (Jan-May)

Department of the Taoiseach

74,929

23,081

Organisational Review Programme

476

368

NESDO

10,629

1,415

National Forum on Europe

5,852

959

Ireland Newfoundland Partnership

826

225

Taskforce on Active Citizenship

17

0.00

Tribunal of Inquiry (Moriarty)

65

0.00

Central Statistics Office

19,895

7,297

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

66 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the grants awarded to companies (details supplied) in County Kilkenny by her Department over the past five years. [23484/09]

Grants are not provided by my Department. Provision of grants is made by the Industrial Development agencies under the aegis of my Department and is a day-to-day operational matter for those agencies. I do not have any role in the day-to-day operational matters of the agencies.

Redundancy Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

67 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a redundancy payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [23490/09]

My Department have examined the matter and I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the redundancy payment has been processed and payment of the claim is expected to issue this week.

Work Permits.

Billy Timmins

Question:

68 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to a person (details supplied); if the decision will be re-examined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23509/09]

This application was refused on the grounds it is current Government policy to issue new work permits for highly skilled, highly paid positions or for non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or where there is an officially recognised scarcity of workers of a particular type or qualification. Furthermore, newspaper advertisements for 3 days in both local and national newspapers were not submitted in support of the application. Having examined an appeal, the Appeals Officer upheld the original decision in this case and the fees were refunded to the applicant. In these circumstances it is not possible to re-visit this application.

However, should the prospective employer or employee wish to submit a new application following all the relevant procedures it will be considered on its merits.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Mary Upton

Question:

69 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will review the decision to withdraw the return to education funding provided by FÁS; the reason this funding was withdrawn in the first instance; if her attention has been drawn to the impact that this will have on community employment scheme participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23517/09]

I am advised by FÁS that the funding arrangements for CE participants in education is under review.

Job Protection.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

70 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the job protection measures she will introduce; and the proposed changes to social welfare entitlements that will result. [23300/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

71 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to use social welfare funds to support people in employment who are at risk of losing their job. [23277/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 71 together.

The Government is, with the Social Partners, currently exploring possible measures in order to support people in employment who are at risk of losing their jobs.

Redundancy Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

72 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position of workers at a company (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [23564/09]

Under the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967-2007, employees who have two years continuous service with an employer, are aged 16 years or over and are in employment which is insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts, have a statutory entitlement to a redundancy payment from their employer in the event of being made redundant.

Redundancy payment entitlement is two weeks wages for each year of service plus one bonus week. For the purposes of redundancy calculation the current statutory ceiling on the weekly wage is €600. A redundancy calculator is available on the website of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment at:

http://www.entemp.ie/employment/redundancy/calculator.htm

Where an employer proposes to create collective redundancies s/he must, under the Protection of Employment Act 1977 (as amended), give the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment written notice of his proposals at the earliest opportunity and at least 30 days before the first dismissal takes effect. The Act also provides that an employer contemplating collective redundancies must, with a view to reaching an agreement, consult the representatives of the employees affected.

A collective redundancy means the dismissal for redundancy reasons over any period of 30 consecutive days of at least: (a) five persons in an establishment normally employing more than 20 and less than 50 employees. (b) ten persons in an establishment normally employing at least 50 but less than 100 employees. (c) ten percent of the number of employees in an establishment normally employing at least 100 but less than 300 employees. (d) thirty persons in an establishment normally employing 300 or more employees.

Employees are also entitled to minimum notice in accordance with the provisions of the Minimum Notice Act 1973 to 2001. This provides that every employee who has been in the employment of his/her employer for at least 13 weeks is entitled to a minimum period of notice before that employer may dismiss him or her. The minimum notice period varies from one to eight weeks according to length of service as set out in the table. An employer who is unable to provide the appropriate notice may pay notice in lieu to employees.

Employees who are unable to obtain their correct redundancy payment and/or minimum notice entitlement may refer a complaint to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the relevant complaint form is available to download from their website at www.eatribunal.ie or on request from the National Employment Rights Authority on 1890 80 80 90.

Minimum Notice

Length of Service

Minimum notice

Thirteen weeks to two years

One Week

Two to five years

Two Weeks

Five to ten years

Four Weeks

Ten to fifteen years

Six Weeks

More than fifteen years

Eight Weeks

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

73 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the taxi companies used by her Department and State agencies under the aegis of her Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by her Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23584/09]

My Department operates a taxi account with National Radio Cabs for the transport of officials of the Department/Offices of the Department on official business. This taxi account was set up as a result of a public tendering process in accordance with Public Procurement Guidelines.

National Radio Cabs has a fleet of 982 taxis. 88 of their taxis are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users, which is 8.96% of their fleet.

The amounts expended on taxi hire by the Department and the Offices of the Department in 2008 and to date in 2009 are as follows:

2008 — €56,238;

2009 (to date) — €9,082.

The above figures do not include expenditure where taxis other than National Radio Cabs are used by officials of the Department/Offices of the Department while on official business in Ireland or abroad; it would be impossible to supply this information in the time available.

The use of taxis by officials of my Department/Offices of my Department is constantly kept under review by the Department and in light of the current economic situation officials of the Department/Offices of the Department have been urged to curtail where possible their use of taxis for official purposes and to use public transport facilities whenever possible.

I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy in relation to the State Agencies under the control of my Department as such information falls within the day-to-day administration of the State Agencies concerned.

Proposed Legislation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

74 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will change the law in order that separate accounts for Ireland would be produced by overseas multiples whose operations here exceed a certain minimum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23719/09]

Companies in Ireland are free to establish and organise themselves in the most suitable form to promote and run their businesses, provided that they comply fully with relevant national and EU legislation.

The requirements regarding the preparation and publication of the accounts of limited companies and groups are determined by the First, Fourth and Seventh EU Company Law Directives and by the EU IFRS Regulation. These requirements are largely reflected in the Companies Act 1963, the Companies (Amendment) Act 1986 and the European Communities (Companies: Group Accounts) Regulations 1992, as amended. The EU Eleventh Company Law Directive, implemented as the European Communities (Branch Disclosures) Regulations, 1993, addresses the requirements applicable to branches of EEA companies. Irish subsidiaries of EEA companies can submit the audited group accounts of their parent to the Registrar of Companies instead of their own individual accounts provided certain conditions are met. EEA companies that have an Irish branch are required to submit only the company accounts to the Registrar of Companies. Irish companies that are subsidiaries of EEA companies and which are themselves parent companies need not produce consolidated accounts provided certain conditions are met. There are similar provisions for subsidiaries of non-EEA companies. In such cases the consolidated accounts of the EEA or non-EEA group must be submitted to the Registrar of Companies.

I think that a sector-specific disclosure regime such as that suggested in the question would be open to accusations of discrimination and, were it to be required generally in the economy, it could have unforeseen consequences in terms of business costs and attracting foreign direct investment. I have no plans to change the law in this regard.

Company Buy-outs.

Finian McGrath

Question:

75 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason she and the Industrial Development Authority did not support the proposed management buy out at a company (details supplied). [23762/09]

The provision of financial support to individuals or companies is a matter for which the Enterprise Agencies have direct statutory responsibility. It would not therefore be appropriate for me to comment directly on individual cases such as the one raised in the question.

In the meantime, I have kept in close touch with the developing situation at SRT, with a view to maximising employment opportunities at the plant, and following a series of contacts with both the company and Government interests in the United Arab Emirates. I am pleased to record that on Thurs 4th June, SR Technics indicated they had now in fact agreed in principle to sell the bulk of its aircraft maintenance operations at Dublin Airport to Dublin Aerospace Ltd. an Irish company. I am hopeful that this company's proposal will result in the recommencement of an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) business at Dublin Airport. The full support of the State development agencies has been made available to all interested parties including Dublin Aerospace Ltd with a view to providing every possible assistance.

State Agencies.

James Reilly

Question:

76 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the staffing levels at an organisation (details supplied) in County Dublin at 30 April 2007; the current staffing levels at this branch; the proposals she has to increase resources there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23771/09]

The staffing of FAS offices is a day-to-day management matter for FAS.

Redundancy Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

77 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive the redundancy rebate payment. [23772/09]

My Department has received by post an application for statutory redundancy in respect of one of the individuals in question. I understand that the second individual has just recently been made redundant and the company has been advised to complete this application online.

I must advise the Deputy however that there is currently a significant backlog in dealing with redundancy rebate applications. The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently dealing with rebate claims submitted online in December and those submitted manually in November. All correctly completed Redundancy claims filed online are given priority and claims are processed in order of receipt.

Community Employment Schemes.

Michael McGrath

Question:

78 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding a query in relation to eligibility to participate in a community employment scheme (details supplied). [23785/09]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. The purpose of CE is to help unemployed people to re-enter the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills.

The current eligibility criteria set by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for entry onto the Community Employment programme allows for the combination of periods on different social welfare payments provided they add up to at least 12 consecutive months and the person is currently in receipt of the payment at the time of application. Persons in receipt of Jobseeker's Benefit can normally apply for Jobseeker's Allowance when their contribution-based payment is exhausted. This would maintain the continuity to make up the 12-month eligibility period.

State Agencies.

Michael McGrath

Question:

79 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on providing a public forum, through a website or other means, for new and emerging businesses to act as a shop window for new, innovative product and service ideas. [23790/09]

The enterprise support agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards, provide assistance and support for new and emerging businesses which are developing new, innovative product and services ideas. Such assistance would include advice on the promotion and development of the business, including web-based promotion and trading.

In promoting Ireland's enterprise culture at home and abroad, I and my agencies will continue to cite individual companies as best examples of innovative product manufacturers or service providers.

Work Permits.

Billy Timmins

Question:

80 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to the case of a person (details supplied); if this application can be re-examined; the options that are available now; if the person may for a new work permit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23810/09]

Having examined an appeal, the Appeals Officer overturned the original decision in this case and a Work Permit has issued on the 15 June 2009.

Tax Code.

Michael McGrath

Question:

81 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the gain made on a financial product (details supplied) is treated as income for the purposes of the income levy. [23471/09]

The position is that the income levy does not apply to tracker bonds. These products are currently subject to Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) at 28% on the interest paid on the date of the maturity payment.

Customs and Excise Seizures.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

82 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of cigarettes and tobacco products seized by customs and excise at Dublin Airport for the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23476/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the amounts of cigarettes and tobacco products seized by Customs at Dublin Airport for the years 2005 to 2008 and 2009 to date are as set out in the following tables. Table 1 relates to cigarettes and Table 2 to other tobacco products. The data for 2009 in Table 2 include a seizure at Dublin Airport cargo terminal of 1.47 kilograms of chewing tobacco.

Table 1: Cigarettes

Year

Number of detections

Quantity (sticks)

Estimated Retail Value

Total Dutiesevaded

2005

1,531

18,339,229

6,299,525

5,043,288

2006

1,957

22,775,662

7,823,440

6,263,307

2007

2,542

38,796,520

13,326,605

10,669,043

2008

3,197

37,923,877

13,804,291

11,073,772

2009 (to 31 May)

1,337

14,458,571

6,090,673

4,847,236

Table 2: Other Tobacco Products

Year

Number of detections

Quantity Seized (Kg)

Estimated Retail Value

Total Duties evaded

2005

72

429

122,694

92,394

2006

64

254

72,644

54,704

2007

113

785

244,510

169,065

2008

201

1,685

543,918

418,217

2009 (to 31 May)

99

2,155

773,128

609,779

Departmental Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

83 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his plans to extend the recently announced career break scheme for civil servants to staff employed in the public service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23538/09]

In the Supplementary Budget 2009, I said that consideration would be given to the early extension of the incentivised career break scheme and the shorter working year scheme to other appropriate areas of the public service, as part of the Government's efforts to achieve a reduction in spending on the paybill. My Department wrote to the Personnel Officers in all Government Departments on 5th May 2009 informing them they should arrange for the implementation of these or similar arrangements by bodies under the aegis of their Department, where appropriate, in consultation with the relevant Vote section of my Department.

In this context, I understand that it is proposed to extend the schemes to the local government and education sectors, where appropriate, shortly. In relation to the health sector I understand that processing of applications under the incentivised career break scheme and the incentivised early retirement scheme in that sector has been temporarily suspended because of a directive from health sector unions to their members not to co-operate with various necessary flexibility measures.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

84 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23586/09]

The amount spent on taxis by my Department and the State agencies under its aegis in the years 2008 and 2009 year to date are set out in the following tables. Officers of my Department who find it necessary to use taxis in the course of their work are not restricted to any firm or individual and consequently the Department does not have the information requested by the Deputy in respect of taxis and accessibility for people with disabilities. In relation to the bodies under the aegis of my Department where contracts are in place with taxi companies, the percentage of their fleet catering for people with disabilities ranges from 5% in relation to the company used by the Special EU Programmes Body to 40% in relation to he company used by the State Laboratory.

Spend by the Department of Finance on taxis for 2008 and to date in 2009

2008

2009 to Date

€80,690

€16,109

I am informed by the various agencies under the remit of my Department that the following amounts were spent on taxis in the years 2008 and to date in 2009.

Office

2008

2009 to date

Valuation Office

1,103

423

Commission for Public Service Appointments

537

46

Public Appointments Service

2,906

737

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

80,988

25,189

State Laboratory

3,721

919

Office of Public Works*

6,485

1.063

National Treasury Management Agency

34,138

14,333

Special EU Programmes Body**

£459

£682

*The Office of Public Works have advised that in addition to these payments, taxi fares claimed through the travel system are included in a "Public Transport" category. While the figures include taxi fares it also includes payments such as train and bus fares. Taxi fares are not easily identifiable in isolation. The total amounts for public transport are as follows:

2008 — €171,332;

2009 — €29,347.

**These figures are in pound sterling and the amounts do not all relate to funding from the Department of Finance, as costs are either split 50/50 with the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel, or funded by EU Programmes.

Pension Provisions.

Joan Burton

Question:

85 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the cases whereby former public servants, in particular those at University College Dublin or other institutions of higher education, could have their pension subject to the pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23694/09]

The pension-related deduction is calculated by reference to remuneration. Remuneration is defined at section 1 of the Act as emoluments to which Chapter 4 of Part 42 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 applies or is applied and payable by or on behalf of a public service body to a public servant for his or her services as a public servant. This definition includes non-pensionable pay, including overtime, acting-up allowances and benefit-in-kind. The deduction is not chargeable on pension income received by an individual. Any individual whose pension income is subject to the deduction should take the matter to the body paying the pension in the first instance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

86 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on allowing owners and managers to tap into their own personal pension funds as security for loan to support the survival of their business through the present crisis. [23716/09]

The rationale for giving tax relief for contributions to various types of retirement savings products is to encourage and promote savings over the long term in order that individuals will have an adequate replacement income in old age. A pension fund is not a "rainy day" fund in the normal sense of that term. Emerging demographic indicators point to increasing numbers of people living longer, with a longer period spent in retirement than previously. Any proposal, however well intentioned, that would allow pre-retirement access to retirement savings could significantly reduce the quantum of pension savings available to those individuals in old age.

Revenue approval of pension schemes is given on the basis that a scheme can only provide "relevant benefits" as defined by Section 770 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. This means, essentially, that benefits may only be paid at the point of retirement (usually from age 60) or on earlier death. In addition, the legislative provisions under which the Revenue Commissioners may approve a retirement benefits scheme would appear to prohibit the assignment of the benefits of a pension scheme for the purpose set out in the Deputy's question. I have no plans to amend these various provisions.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

87 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if there has been a change in the practice of monthly collection of PAYE and PRSI by the Revenue Commissioners; and if this has implications for the timing of monthly flows into the Exchequer. [23717/09]

With the exception of small and medium businesses authorised by Revenue to make their PAYE/PRSI payments quarterly, the due date for the payment, by employers, of PAYE/PRSI covering the PAYE/PRSI for any given month is the 14th of the following month; for example the PAYE/PRSI for the month of June is due for payment to Revenue by an employer by July 14th.

The Deputy will be aware that in my Budget Statement on 14 October last I announced that I would be providing a general extension to the then existing deadlines for filing returns and paying tax where those returns and payments are made via the online systems. A general extension where a customer both pays and files electronically has been implemented by Revenue. In the case of monthly payments of PAYE/PRSI the time limit of the 14th of the month following a given month referred to, has been extended to the 23rd. This change has been effective since January 2009.

There are no implications from these changes for the timing of monthly flows into the Exchequer.

Richard Bruton

Question:

88 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if she will make provision that married one income pensioners can arrange that they will be able to receive relief at source from the new levy if their income is less than €40,000 and not have to seek a refund at the end of the year. [23721/09]

The position is that the income levy legislation provides for an exemption for individuals aged 65 or over where their income does not exceed €20,000. Married couples, where one or both are aged 65 years or over and whose combined income does not exceed €40,000, are also entitled (notwithstanding that one spouse may have income in excess of €20,000) to make a claim to Revenue after the end of the tax year for a refund of any income levy deducted.

This combined €40,000 married couple exemption can only be given after the end of the tax year as it would not be possible for an employer or pension provider to know during the course of the year whether or not all of the requirements necessary for the exemption to apply have been met. This would include knowing, for example, if the person or their spouse had turned 65 in the tax year, if they had other income sources and the aggregate income from these sources, if there had been a change in employment circumstances or if there had been a change in martial status during the year.

Income levy is deducted on a non-cumulative basis and the basic unit of taxation for the levy is the individual; it does not allow the same flexibility as the cumulative PAYE system in dealing with aggregate income from different sources or the income of married couples. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it would not be possible to put in place a reliable structure (i.e., one that would not leave open the possibility of significant underpayments) that would allow employers or pension providers to grant the combined €40,000 exemption at source, during the tax year, to married individuals aged 65 or over.

I am assured that the Revenue Commissioners will process income levy refund claims as quickly as possible when they are received after the end of the tax year and will conduct a targeted publicity campaign aimed at encouraging pensioners to claim a refund if they consider they may have overpaid the income levy.

Consumer Debt.

Joan Burton

Question:

89 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the launch of the Irish Banking Federation and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service operational protocol on consumer debt settlement; his views on whether this may require, or could be improved by, a legislative footing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23739/09]

I welcome the agreement between the Irish Banking Federation and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service Operational Protocol on consumer debt. The Operational Protocol will enable MABS and the IBF continue to work together effectively when dealing with debt problems of personal debtors who approach the MABS Service for assistance.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs provides a non-profit public service counselling service through the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) at her Department. MABS is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt or in danger of getting into debt. In 2009, almost €18 million has been provided to assist MABS with its workload.

The Deputy may wish to note that there are a number of important initiatives in place at this time to assist consumers who have fallen into debt or are in danger of falling into debt.

The Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code (CPC), was a major step in promoting the interests of consumers. It obliges the regulated entities that it covers to act in the customer's best interests, to seek appropriate information about the customer, to ensure that the products and services provided are suitable for the consumer, to treat their customers fairly and have adequate procedures in place to handle complaints. The CPC also sets out requirements that a regulated entity must contact the consumer as soon as it becomes aware that a mortgage account is in arrears and that it must have in place a procedure for handling accounts in arrears. It is best practice for lenders to agree a remedial action plan with a borrower where it detects arrears starting to emerge and to try and assist the borrower to manage his or her financial commitments and not allow the situation to worsen. These obligations are additional to the statutory prior information and warnings required under the Consumer Credit Act 1995.

In addition, the Recapitalisation Programme announced on 11 February 2009 includes a new Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears, which has been issued by the Financial Regulator and came into force on the 27 February 2009. The new Code applies to mortgage lending activities to consumers in respect of their principal private residence in the State and is mandatory for all mortgage lenders registered with the Financial Regulator including so-called "sub-prime lenders". Under the mortgage arrears code where 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 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.

Furthermore, as part of their recapitalisation scheme, A.I.B. and Bank of Ireland 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.

The Financial Regulator has prioritised the provision of information for consumers about the potential risk of excessive debt and has also drawn attention to the need for consumers to choose the right type of loan for their needs. It has also developed a number of specific initiatives to help consumers make informed choices in terms of the financial products they choose, the amount of risk they take on and the cost of financial products.

I believe that the above initiatives provide substantial safeguards and assistance to consumers who experience difficulty in meeting their loan commitments.

Government Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which payment has issued to main contractors in respect of Government contracts; if delays have occurred which have resulted in failure by such contractors to meet their commitments to sub contractors; if any assessment has been due to determine the number of such who have gone into liquidation as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23824/09]

Responsibility for payments under public works contracts rests with the individual contracting authority. It is a matter for each contracting authority to ensure that all payments are made in a timely manner in compliance with the Late Payment in Commercial Transactions Regulations, 2002 or as may be specified in the contract. Enquiries regarding specific payments should be directed in the first instance to the contracting authority concerned and, if necessary, to its parent Department.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

91 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Health Service Executive to review the cut in home help hours for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [23469/09]

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

Michael McGrath

Question:

92 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Health Service Executive to reverse the cut in home help hours in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork in view of the circumstances that apply. [23470/09]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

93 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when physiotherapy will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [23472/09]

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

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Martin Ferris

Question:

94 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received recent communication from the Vietnamese Government regarding the interim arrangement on adopted children. [23479/09]

Dan Neville

Question:

105 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on a matter (details supplied). [23519/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

110 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if, regarding the ongoing delays with the renewal of the bilateral agreement on adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam, she will provide an assurance that a new bilateral agreement will be in place with the Vietnamese authorities ahead of the summer 2009 recess; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23546/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

113 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the bilateral adoption agreement between Ireland and Vietnam; and if, in view of the expiration of the existing agreement and the risk it poses to parents seeking to adopt in Vietnam, she will ensure that steps are taken to renew this agreement. [23554/09]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

114 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 189 of 26 May 2009, if there has been progress on the interim agreement requested by the Department of Foreign Affairs on 22 May 2009. [23556/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam; the progress on same in the past four to six weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23569/09]

Michael Creed

Question:

120 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made with regard the implementation of an interim inter-country adoption agreement with Vietnam; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23698/09]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

127 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children when a new bilateral agreement with Vietnam will be signed to allow for adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam to proceed; her views on the position prospective parents are in as a result of the fact that the previous agreement was not renewed on time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23730/09]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

128 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm whether the Vietnamese authorities have been in contact with her since her request regarding an interim agreement between Ireland and Vietnam; if she has been in contact with the Vietnamese authorities seeking a response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23732/09]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

129 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the interim bilateral agreement with Vietnam as requested by Ireland on 22 May 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23733/09]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

130 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the negotiations regarding an adoption agreement with Vietnam; the stage these negotiations are currently at; the staff involved in these negotiations; when it is hoped to conclude this agreement; when adoptions will be allowed to proceed between these two countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23734/09]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

131 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in conducting a bilateral adoption agreement with Vietnam; the steps that will be taken to resolve these difficulties; when this agreement will be concluded; if this agreement will be concluded before the Dáil summer recess; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23754/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

149 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed new agreement with Vietnam in relation to adoption regulations; if she has contracted the Vietnamese Government in regard to this matter; if so, the result of negotiations; her views on correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23930/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 105, 110, 113, 114, 118, 120, 127 to 131, inclusive, and 149 together.

The process on this matter has been on-going for many months now and the dialogue with the Vietnamese Authorities is continuing. Many deputies have sought guarantees and specific timeframes for the conclusion of a new agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I must reiterate my previous remarks on this point.

At this juncture, all options, including an interim inter-country adoption agreement, are actively being pursued by the Government 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. It is not possible for me to either give a timetable or anticipate when discussions on the agreement will be finalised.

Discussions on a new bilateral agreement remain live and the request regarding the negotiation of an interim arrangement has been made. It is now a matter for the Vietnamese authorities and, as such, it would be improper for the Government to seek to influence or interfere with this decision-making process. My officials are in constant contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and with the Embassy on the ground in Hanoi. As late as last Friday, my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs was in direct contact with the Vietnamese authorities regarding the matter.

I was informed by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday last that Helping Hands Mediation Agency's mediation licence has been revoked. The Government had requested that the mediation licence for Helping Hands be suspended rather than revoked in light of ongoing discussions on a bilateral agreement. In the absence of an intercountry adoption agreement, the Vietnamese Government was not in a position to make any exception to the granting of a licence to Helping Hands. As a consequence, 20 applications, which are currently in Hanoi, will be returned to the applicants. These applicants were not given referrals before the May 1st deadline. This is obviously disappointing news for all concerned. I advised the representative groups on this development on Friday last. The families involved have also been contacted by the Helping Hands Mediation Agency. The reinstatement of the Helping Hands licence is necessary to facilitate adoptions from Vietnam. The Irish Government is actively trying to establish the status of the request for an interim agreement and the associated licensing requirements.

Despite this development, I must emphasise that all families who have already received a referral in respect of a child from Vietnam will continue to have their application processed to conclusion and will be supported by the Helping Hands Meditation Agency in that process.

I realise that the pending Dáil summer recess is causing concern with fears being expressed that Government business will be suspended until the Dáil reconvenes in late September. This is not the case. I have already advised all of the interested parties of my willingness to travel to Hanoi to support the successful conclusion of these discussions, if that is deemed appropriate. That remains the position. The uncertainty surrounding this process has caused stress and anxiety to applicants/prospective adoptive parents. This is something I am acutely aware of and any information that comes to hand continues to be shared without delay.

I remain completely committed to concluding discussions on the text of the bi-lateral inter-country adoption agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I have explained the reasons for the renegotiation of the existing agreement. My policy objective is the protection of children. I want to provide the best possible assurances around international adoption and to improve standards for children and the families who apply to adopt from abroad. This is in line with the Government's commitment to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Mary Upton

Question:

95 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take regarding concerns of a person (details supplied) in relation to nursing home subvention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23489/09]

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

Vaccination Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

96 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the total and individual cost of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations administered to fourth, fifth and sixth year students in April and May 2009 in response to a mumps epidemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23491/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

97 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of doctors, nurses and clerical staff assigned to all measles, mumps and rubella vaccination teams here during the recent vaccination programme; the number of days work involved for each team; the number of man hours required to complete the vaccination programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23492/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

98 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of mileage and subsistence incurred by staff assigned to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination teams for the duration of the recent vaccination programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23493/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

99 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if other vaccination programmes had to be delayed or suspended as a result of the roll out of the recent measles, mumps and rubella vaccination programme for second level students arising from the mumps outbreak; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23494/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

100 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the research that was carried out before the decision was taken to administer the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to students during the recent mumps epidemic; if a study was carried out to determine if the epidemic had peaked or was continuing to rise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23495/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

101 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was not administered in September 2008 to second level students in response to the mumps outbreak, and as recommended by the World Health Organisation; her views on whether the timing of the administration of the vaccine was the most appropriate and effective; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23496/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 to 101, inclusive, together.

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

Mental Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

102 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the location and number of primary care teams that have been established; the location and number of community mental health teams that have been set up; if the current employment embargo is affecting the composition of those teams established; the way this compares with the commitments made in Towards 2016 and A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23497/09]

The Government commitment under Towards 2016 was for the establishment of 300 Primary Care Teams by 2008; 400 by 2009; and 500 by 2011. The HSE has identified a requirement for 530 Primary Care Teams and 134 Health and Social Care Networks to be developed by 2011 as part of its four year Transformation Programme.

The roll out of Primary Care Teams and Networks will be achieved by assigning existing staff working in primary, continuing and community care services to Teams and Networks, and the employment of new staff through funding allocated for this purpose. Additional funding of €52m in total has been provided to the HSE since 2002 for team development.

In relation to the development of community mental health teams, Towards 2016 included a commitment to the development of high-quality community-based mental health services in accordance with the recommendations of the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, A Vision for Change. The Report estimates that 332 community mental health teams are required to deliver the proposed community-based mental health service. Each multidisciplinary team will include the core skills of psychiatry, nursing, social work, clinical psychology and occupational therapy. To implement this, substantial change is required in the organisation and delivery of mental health services and current resources need to be reallocated and remodelled to fund the new structure.

The moratorium on recruitment and promotion does not apply to allied health professionals such as speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers or to medical consultants, clinical radiologists, behavioural therapists or counsellors. In fact, these will be increased in order to support the delivery of integrated services to groups like the elderly, children at risk and people with a disability. The HSE also intends, as part of its overall Transformation Programme, to redeploy into community services a significant number of staff from acute hospitals and corporate functions. The steps necessary to give effect to this are currently being finalised.

Details relating to the location and number of Primary Care Teams and Community Mental Health Teams, is a service matter and has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Adoption Services.

Seán Barrett

Question:

103 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason potential adoptive parents who have completed the Health Service Executive preparatory adoption courses are compelled to wait for in excess of six months without a social worker being assigned to their cases to assess their applications and written homework; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23501/09]

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

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

104 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the actions she will take regarding the concerns of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23516/09]

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

Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 94.

Health Service Funding.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

106 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made to release the funding required to allow commencement of the building of a primary, community and continuing care centre (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23533/09]

The Health Service Executive is currently adjusting its Capital Plan to take account of the revised capital funding envelope available following the Supplementary Budget in April. Details of the individual projects being included in the Capital Plan will be made available when the plan is approved.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

107 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 will have an operation; if the National Treatment Purchase Fund will pay for the procedure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23540/09]

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 Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

108 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the support services available to people with severe intellectual, emotional or behavioural difficulties once they reach the age of 18 years; her plans to review, improve or provide additional funding to these services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23544/09]

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.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

109 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the support services that will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has reached the age of 18 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23545/09]

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

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 94.

Health Service Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

111 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to ensure that there are enough community welfare officers recruited to deal with the increase in the demand for this service. [23286/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

112 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the impact the proposed centralisation of processing of medical cards will have on applicants in County Louth and the staff who are currently employed doing this work including community welfare officers and clerical staff; the way the service will be improved by removing local knowledge and local expertise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23551/09]

Up to the start of this year, medical card and GP visit card applications were processed in the 32 local health areas. However, under the Health Service Executive's 2009 Service Plan, the processing of all medical card and GP visit card applications will transfer to the Executive's Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin. The change is being implemented on a phased basis and has commenced with the PCRS processing all medical card applications for persons aged 70 or over.

The HSE has advised my Department that there are no plans to close any of the local health offices and these offices will continue to deal with queries of a general nature about the medical card scheme and will provide any assistance needed with the application process. However, the process will involve a reassignment of existing human resources within the HSE.

Under the new arrangements, the HSE will be aiming for a turnaround time of 15 days or less for all medical card applications. Emergency applications will be dealt with immediately with a card issuing within 24 hours. People whose income exceeds the income guidelines but have a case to be considered on medical or hardship grounds will continue to have their application considered by the PCRS.

Since medical card applications will all be processed centrally, this will result in a more consistent and transparent approach being applied.

This is an example of the type of innovation signalled in the Transforming Public Services Programme announced by the Taoiseach last November. It demonstrates how improved services can be delivered within the more limited resources available in a way which meets the needs of citizens in a modern society.

As the Deputy's question refers specifically to the position in County Louth, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter, and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 113 and 114 answered with Question No. 94.

Departmental Funding.

Michael McGrath

Question:

115 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of funding being provided to an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork; the details of the funding provided for suicide prevention programmes in Cork City and County. [23563/09]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Deasy

Question:

116 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the delays at a hospital (details supplied) in Dublin 12 regarding operations for children who suffer from scoliosis; if she will investigate the case of a child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23565/09]

Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin has reiterated that no child has been denied access to emergency life saving surgery due to the hospital's financial breakeven programme. The hospital continues to prioritise each patient on the basis of clinical need. As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

117 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the commitment received by this Deputy during an Adjournment debate of 29 April 2009 regarding the roll out of BreastCheck to County Clare that the indicative date was June 2009, the specific date in June 2009 the service will be operational in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23567/09]

I am very pleased to say that the process of extending BreastCheck to County Clare has commenced. The necessary consent letters were issued to eligible women in the first screening areas within the past week and invitations/appointments for screening are expected to be issued from early July.

The Programme will ultimately offer screening to the approximately 8,000 women aged between 50 and 64 in the county. I welcome the progress that has been made in this regard.

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 94.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

119 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the taxi companies used by her Department and State agencies under the aegis of her Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by her Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23588/09]

My Department does not have a contract with any particular taxi company. Taxi services are obtained by departmental staff as required. If a wheelchair accessible taxi is required, this will be requested when a taxi is being called for.

The amounts spent by the Department of Health and Children on taxis for the years 2008 and to date in 2009 are €15,238 and €5,425 respectively. The expenditure on taxis by bodies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for the bodies in question and my Department does not routinely compile or hold this information.

Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 94.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

121 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [23699/09]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

122 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [23700/09]

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

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

123 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23705/09]

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

Influenza Incidence.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

124 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the international increase in swineflu cases; the progress in preparing for the possibility of a pandemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23708/09]

A public health alert was received from the World Health Organisation on 24th April 2009 indicating that human cases of influenza type A(H1N1) had been identified in the USA and Mexico. At that time the WHO pandemic alert level was at phase 3. On 11 June the WHO raised this alert level to phase 6 which in effect declares an influenza pandemic. Pandemic means that an influenza virus, new to humans, has appeared, is spreading and is causing disease in many parts of the world. Level 6 means that there is increased and sustained transmission in human population. The WHO assessed the severity of the current pandemic as moderate.

My Department and the Health Service Executive have been preparing for some years for the possibility of a pandemic being declared. On receipt of the alert from WHO my Department activated the National Plan for pandemic influenza which was put in place in January 2007. The plan was accompanied by a Guidance Report developed by the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group which was further updated in April 2009 and this guidance is currently being followed. In line with the plan the following governance structures were put in place:

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), which manages the health system response to a public health emergency continues to meet as required.

The Pandemic Influenza Expert Group is continuing to provide public health and scientific advice on preparedness and control measures to the NPHET.

The Inter-Departmental Committee on Pandemic Planning which coordinates the intersectoral response to a potential pandemic meets as required.

HSE national and regional crisis management teams are meeting regularly to coordinate HSE preparedness and response measures.

My Department and the HSE participate in regular teleconference meetings with the European Centre for Disease Control, public health officials in other European Member States and the WHO.

The following measures have also been taken:

Enhanced surveillance in hospitals and in the community.

Regular updates for healthcare professionals and the public.

Provision of antiviral drugs to cover 47% of the population, some of which has been distributed through public health departments to facilitate treatment of initial cases.

The HSE, in association with the Department, has finalised advance purchase agreements to procure 7.7m doses of pandemic vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions are updated daily on my Department's website and that of the HSE.

Travel advise is updated daily on the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Foreign Affairs websites.

A coordinated communications strategy is in place which includes regular press briefings.

I am satisfied that we in Ireland are well prepared to deal with the current threat from this virus.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

125 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for the delivery of her commitment announced in July 2008 on the retention of services at Roscommon County Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23712/09]

It is essential that we prioritise patient safety and quality and that we organise and manage services accordingly. The priority is to provide safe services as close as possible to where people live. Ensuring patient safety is of paramount importance, so that people can have confidence in the services and that the best possible patient outcomes can be achieved.

In the past, Roscommon County Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe have operated independently, with two consultant general surgeons in each hospital. The difficulties faced by Roscommon and Portiuncula in maintaining surgical services independently, and the need for closer co-operation between them, were highlighted by the former Comhairle na nOspidéal in March 2006. Advances in clinical care and ever-increasing levels of specialisation mean that the present model of care faces important practical difficulties, which must be addressed.

In the light of these factors, the best way of retaining and developing services at Roscommon and Portiuncula hospitals is for these hospitals to work closely together and for both to work with University Hospital, Galway. The HSE has advised that it is proceeding with the proposal for a Joint Department of surgery and Anaesthesia at Roscommon County Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe.

The HSE has advised that interviews have taken place for two Consultant Surgeons to be based at Portiuncula Hospital with sessional commitments to Roscommon County Hospital. The first post is being filled with effect from 1 July 2009. A candidate has been recommended for the second post and the necessary documentation is currently being processed. A third Consultant Physician with a special interest in respiratory medicine is to be appointed at Roscommon County Hospital. This post will have sessional commitments at Portiuncula Hospital and University Hospital, Galway. Interviews have been held and a candidate has been recommended.

Interviews have recently been held for a replacement post of Consultant Physician with a special interest in endocrinology at Roscommon County Hospital and with sessional commitments to Portiuncula and University Hospital, Galway.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

126 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 16 December 2008, the progress made regarding this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23713/09]

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

Questions Nos. 127 to 131, inclusive, answered with Question No. 94.

John McGuinness

Question:

132 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements the Health Service Executive has put in place to provide ongoing care in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23766/09]

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

Departmental Funding.

John McGuinness

Question:

133 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if approval will be given to funding on the basis of their application in respect of the meningitis trust for 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23768/09]

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

Adoption Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

134 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she suggests in order to update and improve the process of adoption here. [23777/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

135 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she proposes, notwithstanding the importance of properly vetting all potential adoptive parents, and her plans to speed this process up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23778/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

136 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will suggest improvements to the system of adoption here in which, as is currently the case, persons seeking to make a complaint against the adoption process in which they are involved have to do so with those who have the final say over the eventual success or failure of the person’s application for adoption having full knowledge of the complaint leading to a situation whereby the person who has a complaint remaining silent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23779/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

137 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm reports that persons charged with assessing couples or individuals who have applied to adopt children on average make 12 such assessments annually despite recommendations that 20 such assessments be conducted per social worker; if there is scope to improve same; her views on whether such a move would shorten the average time it takes for an adoption to be finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23780/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 to 137, inclusive, together.

Requests for assessment for inter-country adoption are continuously increasing. The "Study on Inter-country Adoption Outcomes in Ireland", undertaken by the Children's Research Centre, Trinity College, between December, 2004, and April, 2007, and commissioned by the Adoption Board, revealed that Ireland has one of the highest rates for inter-country adoption in Europe. It is against this background that the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is continuing to work to create the appropriate legislative, policy and administrative frameworks that will ensure a well regulated regime of adoption. Its aim is to support the children for whom adoption services are devised and provided and to protect prospective parents. A family that wishes to adopt should be recognised beforehand as being able to promote, safeguard and support the development and well-being of a child in need of adoption in a lasting manner.

The Deputy refers specifically to the numbers of assessments that might be conducted annually by individual social workers. The figures he refers to were estimated in 1999 having regard to practices at that time. It must be acknowledged that the increasing numbers of children adopted from abroad create additional pressures on intercountry adoption teams within the Health Service Executive. This is because these same teams provide post-adoption reports to sending countries, at the request of those countries, and with the agreement of the adoptive parents. This is an important component in the willingness of countries to consider Irish applicants for adoption. It is estimated that, on average, over 25% of social workers time is now taken up with the preparation of such reports.

The development of standards for the assessment of applicants for inter-country adoption has been advanced through the conjoint working of the Adoption Board, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Health Service Executive. This work was based on a report commissioned by the Department of Health and Children and submitted to Government in June, 1999, entitled "Towards a Standardised Framework for Inter-country Adoption Assessment Procedures". The standardised framework which emerged from that process in 2000 was founded on evidence-based practice and developed with the assistance of international agencies in the field. The implementation of this framework is continually under review by all parties as intercountry adoption practice and experience continues to evolve and with particular regard to the new statutory framework likely to emerge from the recently published Adoption Bill, 2009.

The Deputy suggests that there is an inadequate opportunity for persons who have complaints about the adoption assessment process to have their complaint considered fairly. I must reiterate that any person has the opportunity make complaints at a number of levels including, firstly at local level with the assessing social worker and manager as well as through the HSE standardised complaints procedure. As regards, the application itself, the decisions made by social workers are reviewed by a supervising social worker and thereafter by a local adoption committee. Following that all cases fall to be considered by the Adoption Board. In cases where an application is not recommended by the local adoption committee, the applicant(s) will always be offered a hearing by the Board when it considers their application.

The Adoption Board is an independent statutory authority with quasi-judicial functions relating to the making of adoption orders and the issuing of declarations of eligibility and suitability in respect of applications to adopt from abroad. I am satisfied that there is an opportunity for any person to have their case heard in a fair and impartial manner by the Board under the law. I would advise the Deputy to encourage any person who has concerns about the process to make those concerns known through one of the channels I have referred to above.

I acknowledge that persons applying for inter-country adoption are experiencing delays as regards waiting times for assessment and that there are also concerns regarding the standardisation of the service across the country. The Adoption Bill, which has now passed all stages in the Seanad, provides for a new regime for the accreditation of a range of agencies providing adoption services. This modernised regime more fully recognises the phenomenon of intercountry adoption and makes provision for the accreditation of agencies to provide both assessment services or mediation services. The Bill also proposes changes to the regulation of the activities, management and financial arrangements of such agencies. If enacted, there will be opportunity for the development of new agencies to assist in the reduction of waiting times in those areas where the waiting times are longest.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Michael McGrath

Question:

138 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a product (details supplied) is provided under the general medical scheme. [23784/09]

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

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

139 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the 200 locations of proposed new primary care centres; the location of the 80 due to open by the end of 2010; the nine locations to open by the end of 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23786/09]

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

Hospital Staff.

Joe Costello

Question:

140 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will explain the embargo on staff in two hospitals (details supplied); the number of staff in each institution that are affected by the embargo; the effect of the embargo on admissions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23788/09]

In order to implement savings measures on public service numbers, the Government introduced a moratorium on recruitment, promotion, or payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade with effect from 27 March 2009 to end 2010. A HSE circular has issued which gives effect to the Government decision in the public health services and other specific aspects of the employment control framework for the health services.

The HSE will be focussing on the scope that exists within the health services for reorganising and restructuring of work in order to minimise the impact on essential service delivery. The redeployment and reassignment of existing staff will also support the reorientation of care from hospitals to the community and to facilitate the development of integrated care. It is seeking a high level of flexibility from staff and unions to achieve this.

The Government decision has been modulated to ensure that key services are maintained insofar as possible in the health services, particularly in respect of children at risk, older people and persons with a disability.

In addition, the employment control framework specifically exempts the following front line grades in the health sector from the moratorium: Medical Consultants, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Clinical Psychologists, Behaviour Therapists, Counsellors, Social Workers, and Emergency Medical Technicians. The framework actually allows for a growth in the number of those posts within the overall approved employment ceiling (111,800 wtes) for the health sector. The framework also includes provision for the creation of 225 new development posts this year for cancer and disability services. In addition, special provisions apply in relation to Clinical Engineering Technicians, Dosimetrists, Physicists, and Radiation Therapists, which are specialist grades under the National Cancer Control Programme.

The focus on these key grades is in line with existing Government policy on the prioritisation of certain development areas, for which significant funding has already been provided. The overall result will be to assist in the reorientation of health employment to services delivered in primary and community care.

The issue of the effect of the moratorium on staffing and administration in the two hospitals in question has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

141 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied). [23789/09]

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

Denis Naughten

Question:

142 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will publish the Prospectus report on critical care services; the reason for the delay in publishing the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23792/09]

The Review in question was commissioned by the Health Service Executive in order to inform plans for the organisation and delivery of adult critical care services within the acute hospital system. I understand that the report is being finalised at present. A decision on publication will be made when the report is completed.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

143 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the current no show rates for outpatient appointments at each hospital; the reasons for no shows; if the time delay between the issuing of the appointment and the date of the appointment itself is a contributory factor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23793/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

144 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the current outpatient waiting list for each speciality at each acute hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23794/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 144 together.

The HSE is taking a number of steps to improve the delivery of hospital out-patient services. The Executive is engaged in a significant exercise with the objective of validating public out-patient lists and streamlining the processes for access to and management of appointments. The Executive's 2009 National Service Plan specifies targets which include increasing the number of new patients seen by every consultant each month and achieving a reduction in the ratio of new to return attendances at out-patient departments.

I have referred the particular issues raised by the Deputy to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

145 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [23799/09]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

146 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the consultation that she has had with the Department with responsibility for disabilities regarding persons with disabilities who have reached the age of 18 years and have no education or training places assigned to them; if provision will be made for the needs of these people as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23801/09]

The provision of rehabilitative training to persons with a disability who have reached 18 years of age is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive.

With regard to the specific issue of availability of day places, the Department of Health and Children and the HSE are aware of the particular needs of school leavers in September 2009. The HSE, through its occupational guidance service, has been working with schools, service providers, service users and families to identify the needs of young people with disabilities who are approaching completion of their second level education. The needs of these individuals may be addressed through one or more of the following services: health funded rehabilitative training, health funded day services, FÁS funded rehabilitative training, FÁS funded vocational training and approval to extend education placement for a specified period of time. Plans are being finalised by the HSE in each local health office with service providers to address identified needs for health funded day services or rehabilitative training. Some funding may be available within the context of the HSE's service plan to provide additional capacity in the event that existing services are not in a position to accommodate an individual's service requirements. The HSE and the Department of Health and Children will monitor the outcome of this process to ensure that, in as far as possible, the needs of each individual young person with a disability leaving school in 2009 will be addressed.

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons awaiting eye tests in the Cork City and Cork County area; the average waiting period and the number of persons awaiting sanction for spectacles; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some people have been waiting since at least January 2009 to receive a decision on their application. [23802/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Willie Penrose

Question:

148 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who is awaiting an angiogram at St. James’ Hospital, Dublin admitted for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23828/09]

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

Question No. 149 answered with question No. 94.

State Airports.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

150 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has been fully briefed by the Dublin Airport Authority on their proposals of cutbacks of up to €55 million at the DAA; his views on proposals by the DAA to offer staff €20,000 to take a career break of up to five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23502/09]

As I indicated in my reply to Question No. 75 of 26 May 2009 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.

As also indicated in my previous reply, 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. As part of this process, I am aware that discussions have commenced between the DAA and the unions representing DAA staff on a major cost recovery programme. I understand that the programme is to be company wide applying to Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports.

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 with a significant decline in traffic at the three State Airports.

Cycle Facilities.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

151 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the key objectives of the national cycling policy framework will be rolled out; when the Sutton to Sandycove cycle track will be finished; his views on reports that the 22 km cycle track may cost €7 million per kilometre to build; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23503/09]

The key objectives under Ireland's first National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF) are to create a culture of cycling in Ireland and to achieve a 10% share of the travel market for cycling by 2020. I have already commenced delivery of actions under the NCPF, including National Bike Week, which is taking place this week, and through approval of demonstration projects such as the delivery of premium cycling infrastructure in Galway City. I currently have a number of worthwhile proposals in other local authority areas under active consideration.

Insofar as the Sutton to Sandycove route (S2S) is concerned, my Department has been meeting Dublin City Council specifically on this issue and in relation to a number of other premium cycle routes which I am anxious to progress.

I have previously expressed my concern to Dublin City Council about the potential cost of proposals that are emerging in relation to the S2S. I am particularly concerned in relation to any expectation that the provision of premium cycling infrastructure along this route must necessarily involve very substantial costs associated with design approaches which are not appropriate to the current economic circumstances or are primarily related to coastal protection works, as may be evident from figures such as are referred to in the Question.

Both the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I have pledged funding of €5 million for this route and other infrastructure between now and the end of 2010 but this is dependent on a cost effective solution focused on the cycle route itself.

State Airports.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

152 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of slots available at Heathrow Airport, London, available to Aer Lingus at the time of the Aer Lingus sale; the number that are available and in use at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23511/09]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

153 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of Heathrow slots owned by Aer Lingus at the time of its sale by the Government which have been the subject of a disposal transaction in the period to date; if, in each case, shareholders were informed as required by legislation; if he was required under the legislation to make a recommendation to the Department of Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23512/09]

I propose to take questions 152 and 153 together.

At the time of the Aer Lingus IPO the company had rights to 23 daily slot pairs at Heathrow and this remains the case. Arrangements to safeguard against any disposal of Heathrow slots were built into the Company's Memorandum and Articles of Association at the time of the IPO and any change to the Memorandum and Articles would require a special resolution. There has been no such resolution proposed since the IPO.

Decisions in relation to the utilisation of slots at Heathrow, including the leasing of slots, are a commercial matter for Aer Lingus.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

154 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if the Aer Lingus decision to open a second base outside of the Republic of Ireland has impacted on its ability to meet the criteria for connectivity of Dublin, Cork or Shannon with Heathrow Airport, London, as outlined in his statement laid before the Dáil Eireann at the time of the Aer Lingus sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23513/09]

Aer Lingus has opened two new bases outside the Republic of Ireland since the IPO in 2006. A base at Belfast was opened in early 2008 and a new base at Gatwick opened in spring 2009. The development of new bases outside Ireland by Aer Lingus is entirely a commercial matter for the Board of the company. The exploitation of new business opportunities by Aer Lingus is to be encouraged, particularly where it helps ensure the future viability of the Company.

The level of connectivity of Dublin, Shannon or Cork to Heathrow has not been significantly affected by the development of bases outside Ireland. While the Shannon-Heathrow route was temporarily suspended in 2008, it was reinstated earlier this year and the Company recently announced plans to acquire additional slots and base an A320 aircraft at Shannon, which will facilitate an increase in Shannon Heathrow services from 2 flights per day to 3 flights per day. It is understood that Aer Lingus is seeking to improve timings to facilitate enhanced connectivity to and from Heathrow.

Public Transport.

Seán Barrett

Question:

155 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport if, arising from his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 324 of 9 June 2009, he will explain the terms on which a licence could be granted to a company (details supplied) to operate bus passenger services between Dalkey and Dublin Airport; the reason the company appealed such terms; the company’s submission to his Department and its proposed significant changes to its service; the new terms for the grant of a licence presented by his Department to the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23550/09]

As I advised the Deputy in my previous reply of 9th June 2009, the company to which the Deputy refers was advised by my Department on 26th May 2009 of the new terms on which a licence could be granted in respect of the operation of the services in question, following an appeal by the applicant concerned in which the applicant amended its original application. A response to my Department's letter is still awaited.

In accordance with long standing practice, details of all applications received in my Department remain confidential between the applicant and my Department until a final decision has been made.

My Department is waiting to hear from the applicant. If the applicant declines the offer, my Department will move to consider an application from another operator to provide similar services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

156 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport his views on the commitment in the programme for Government to move existing Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann fleets to a 5% bio-diesel blend and a 30% bio-diesel blend in their new buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23552/09]

A number of pilot initiatives have taken place both in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann in relation to more sustainable fuels for its fleet.

The commitment in the Programme for Government relating to biofuels has been superseded by the more ambitious targets for transport as set out in the Government's Smarter Travel policy, launched by me in February, 2009. Specifically, in relation to public transport fleets Smarter Travel proposes that all public transport providers will prepare a plan for fleet replacement based on the most sustainable vehicle and fuel type. The actions in Smarter Travel are to be implemented over a twelve-year period. In relation to new technology the immediate focus of Government policy at the moment is to prepare a plan to deliver the 10% target for electric vehicles by 2020. Nevertheless, progress is also being made on sustainable technology in relation to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. Last year I provided significant funding for the purchase of a hybrid electric double-deck bus, which is being trialled by Dublin Bus at the moment. In addition, my Department is carrying out research of international practice relating to sustainable bus fleets. I would envisage progress on fleet replacement plans in 2010.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

157 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23592/09]

I understand from the firm that provides taxi services to my Department that 10% of its fleet is wheelchair accessible. The cost of taxi services provided to my Department was €23,737 in 2008 and €6,487 in 2009 (to date). Insofar as the agencies under the aegis of my Department are concerned, the arrangements for the procurement of required taxi services are matters to be dealt with directly by the agencies concerned.

Rail Network.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

158 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport his plans to re-open the Youghal to Midleton railway line in County Cork; if so, the cost and the timescale for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23714/09]

Proposals for the reopening of closed railway lines are a matter for Iarnród Éireann to consider in the first instance. There is no plan to reopen the line from Midleton to Youghal in the short to medium term, and the project is not included in Transport 21. However, I understand that the Cork County planners have preserved the existing railway line for the potential reopening of the railway at some point in the future.

Marine Safety.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

159 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport when the new ICCS equipment will be installed at Valentia coast guard station, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23763/09]

Irish Coast Guard officials are in discussion with the Office of Public Works concerning planning arrangements for the commissioning and installation of an Integrated Communications System (ICS) at Valentia and Malin Head Marine Rescue Coordination Sub-Centres.

Garda Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

160 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [23531/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the incident referred to by the Deputy was fully investigated and an investigation file submitted to the law officers who directed no prosecution. I am further informed that investigating Gardaí contacted the person concerned and informed him of the outcome of the investigation.

Jack Wall

Question:

161 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23557/09]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the matters referred to by the Deputy were the subject of a full investigation by An Garda Síochána and an investigation file was submitted to the DPP who directed there should be no prosecution in the case.

Since being informed of this decision the person referred to has indicated he wishes to make a further statement which is currently being taken by investigating Gardaí. When the statement and any ancillary enquiries are completed a further file will be submitted to the DPP for directions.

As you are aware I have no role in the investigation, prosecution or trial of alleged offences. This is a long standing principle of our system of justice. The role of the Gardaí is to investigate alleged offences, to gather whatever evidence may be available and to submit a report to the DPP. The question of whether or not a particular person should be prosecuted and for what criminal offence is the responsibility of the DPP.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; who submitted further documentation to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23570/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 320 of Tuesday, 31 March 2009, and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 31 January 2008. 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 9 March 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.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a naturalisation application will be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23571/09]

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 December 2006.

The Minister has the power to grant certificates of naturalisation to applicants who comply with certain conditions under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended. Section 15A of the Act provides that the Minister may grant a certificate of naturalisation to the non-national spouse of an Irish citizen if, among other things, the applicant has been married to that citizen for a period of not less than three years.

On examination of the application submitted by the person concerned it was determined that she had not been married for three years at the date of application, therefore her application was deemed ineligible. The person in question was informed of this in a letter issued to her on 8 January, 2007. It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23572/09]

I am informed by the INIS (Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service) of my Department that the person in question made an application for Family Reunification in respect of his wife in May 2008.

This application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is complete and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to the INIS. This application will be considered by the INIS and a decision will issue in due course. At present, applications are taking approximately twenty-four months to process.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

165 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23589/09]

Given the large number of agencies and associated bodies attached to my Department, which include the Court Service, An Garda Síochána and the Irish Prisons Service, as well as more than twenty other smaller agencies, it is not possible to provide accurate or comprehensive details in respect of this expenditure for these bodies.

I can also inform the Deputy that approximately 10% of the vehicles available from the taxi companies used by my Department are accessible for people with disabilities.

Residency Permits.

Frank Feighan

Question:

166 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23693/09]

There is currently no application pending in my Department for residency in the case of the person whose details were supplied. If an application for asylum has been made by the person concerned the Deputy will of course be aware that it is not the practice to comment on asylum applications that are pending.

Citizenship Applications.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

167 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if this person has received permission to continue to remain in the State; the position with regard to the naturalisation of this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23782/09]

The person to whom the Deputy refers was granted permission to remain in the State on 13 December 2005 for a period of two years under the IBC/05 Scheme.

Citizens of Romania who were granted permission to remain under the IBC/05 Scheme, such as the person in question, are not required to apply for renewal of that permission. Such persons may continue to work without the need for a work permit and set up a business without seeking the permission of the Minister. Officials in the Citizenship section of my Department have informed me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person mentioned.

Garda Deployment.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

168 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will delegate responsibility for investigating the cause of road traffic accidents where there are fatalities and injuries to the Garda Síochána traffic corps units; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23795/09]

The allocation of Garda resources throughout the country, including personnel, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and senior Garda officers. Such allocation is continually monitored and reviewed and this ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that traffic collisions are investigated in accordance with traffic collision investigation policy. In accordance with the policy, a forensic collision investigator attends the scene of every fatal road traffic collision, as well as other collisions which may prove fatal or result in life-threatening injuries.

Local Garda management has overall responsibility for the investigation of fatal traffic or serious personal injury collisions. In this regard, it is the responsibility of the District Officer to establish a structured investigation team and draw upon the expertise of appropriate personnel, including the traffic corps, uniformed and detective personnel and the Divisional forensic collision investigator, to allow for the investigation of such incidents. In appropriate cases, it may be decided to appoint a senior investigating officer to take charge of the investigation.

I am further informed that An Garda Síochána has a Collision Prevention Programme, the purpose of which is for the relevant stakeholders, including An Garda Síochána, the National Roads Authority, the local authorities and the Road Safety Authority, to proactively contribute to improving road safety, including maintenance and engineering works where appropriate, to reduce the numbers of fatal and serious injury road traffic collisions on Irish roads.

Asylum Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

169 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the application for subsidiary protection by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23798/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 13 October 2003. 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 17 January 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. Representations were received on behalf of the person concerned at that time.

The person concerned also made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of being a parent of an Irish citizen child, born in the State before 1 January 2005, in accordance with the revised arrangements announced by my predecessor on 15 January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. The person concerned did not satisfy the criteria under the revised arrangements and was notified of this decision by letter dated 11 August 2005.

On 15 December 2004, the person concerned made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of his marriage to an Irish national. Following consideration of this application the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 April 2009, that his application was refused for reasons set out in that letter. That letter also informed the person concerned that, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), 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.

Due to the high volume of cases on hands, it is not possible to say when the outstanding application of the person concerned will be finalised. However, the Deputy can be assured that there will be no avoidable delay in having the case of the person concerned processed to completion.

Proposed Legislation.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

170 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make changes to the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in order to allow sports people to practice their sport. [23806/09]

The Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 is scheduled for Committee Stage on 18 June 2009.

The proposals in this Bill relating to the control of firearms are primarily concerned with public safety and the modernising of the licensing system. As I have said previously, my proposals will not impinge adversely on the activities of the vast majority of licensed firearms holders in this country: I recognise that those firearms holders pursue their legitimate interests in a law abiding way.

The Bill does contain, however, a de facto ban on handguns because the Government has made it clear that it does not wish a handgun culture to take hold here. Handguns are inherently different because they are easy to conceal, can often discharge a large number of bullets rapidly and feature so frequently in gun rampages. I also intend to specifically prohibit a form of target shooting known as practical or dynamic shooting. This type of shooting involves firearms being used in simulated combat or combat training and is anathema to most target shooters. In so far as it is akin to police and military tactical training it is an undesirable activity not rooted in any tradition in Ireland and one which should not have any place in our society.

I met with the Firearms Consultative Panel last week. It is clear that there are some medium and longer term strategic and developmental issues for shooting sports in Ireland and I intend to write to the Minister for Arts, Sports & Tourism in relation to a number of the points raised.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if action was taken, further to reply to Parliamentary Question No. 231 of 17 October 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23823/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the matter was the subject of a Garda investigation, but that no offence was disclosed.

Human Rights Issues.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

172 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the series of economic, diplomatic and legal proposals by the European Parliamentary Caucus on Burma for the European Union to address the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23525/09]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

173 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on a global arms embargo against Burma, a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity against ethnic minorities in eastern Burma and the introduction by the EU of targeted financial sanctions including on insurance, financial, transactions, banking and investment and adding the judges and prosecutors involved in Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial case to the EU visa ban list; the steps that he is taking with its partner states in the EU and UN to achieve these objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23526/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

As Deputies will be aware, and as stated previously in this House on many occasions, the Government is deeply concerned about the situation in Burma and plays an active role in international efforts to bring about positive change there. The decision of the Burmese regime to put Aung San Suu Kyi on trial on the most spurious of charges, further compounds the already bleak situation in that country, where repression against members of the opposition, the ethnic groups and the population at large continues unabated and human rights and fundamental freedoms are systematically denied.

The international community has worked hard to assist the delta region to recover from the devastating effects of Cyclone Nargis, which struck in May last year. Much remains to be done and the country's economy continues to decline in the face of mismanagement and corruption. More than 2,100 political prisoners are serving sentences in deplorable conditions, many on questionable charges.

The authorities are pushing ahead with plans to hold elections next year on the basis of a discredited Constitution, elections which, if they are not opened up fully to the opposition and to all ethnic groups, will have no credibility or legitimacy. Efforts by the international community, including those by the UN Secretary General personally and his good offices mission, to secure the release of political prisoners and the launching of a process of national dialogue and reconciliation have been fruitless so far. Ireland has long been in favour of strong international action against the Burmese regime, including sanctions and an arms embargo. We would be strongly supportive of mandatory UN sanctions and regret very much that there remains insufficient consensus among Security Council members to allow formal, enforceable, UN sanctions and an arms embargo to be imposed on the regime. In the absence of UN sanctions, which would be legally binding on all UN members, we favour imposing, maintaining and extending EU sanctions on Burma. We have been proposing a strengthening of EU sanctions in response to the action taken by the regime against Aung San Suu Kyi. As a result of pressure from us, and other like-minded Member States, the EU is currently examining ways in which sanctions could be reinforced. One of the measures being examined is to extend the EU visa/travel ban to include judges who have been responsible for the imposition of extremely severe sentences on pro-democracy advocates. If Aung San Suu Kyi is sentenced for the charges currently facing her, we will also be arguing for similar treatment for any judges involved in her case.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the points raised by the European Parliamentary Caucus on Burma in March this year and other appeals from them. The Caucus has called on EU governments to reiterate that the military dictatorship's planned 2010 elections and Constitution are unacceptable in their current form, and to support the National League for Democracy and other democratic forces' proposals for genuine dialogue and reform. We are already doing this, including, through the provision of support to the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) and other opposition and ethnic groups in their efforts to prepare a common platform for dialogue with the regime.

Regarding the call from the Caucus for the EU to work towards a global consensus for a global arms embargo, I have made clear my wish to see an arms embargo in place against the Burmese regime and my regret that it has not been possible so far to gain UN Security Council or sufficiently broad support for such an initiative.

The Caucus has also called on the EU to consider carefully targeted economic sanctions, including targeted financial sanctions, and sanctions stopping European companies providing insurance in Burma. The EU is currently reviewing ways in which EU sanctions can be strengthened in response to the action which is being taken against Aung San Suu Kyi and I would expect proposals such as those put forward by the Caucus to be examined in that context. I am also supportive of the Caucus call on the EU to continue increasing humanitarian assistance in Burma, and to do more to challenge restrictions on aid delivery imposed by the regime. More recently, following the recent arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Caucus has issued a direct appeal to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to intervene personally to try to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. I fully support this call. I very much hope that the Secretary General will succeed in his efforts to visit Burma soon and that he will be able to achieve progress on the issue of prisoner releases and the broader political agenda, including the elections, while he is there.

Foreign Conflicts.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

174 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action being taken at EU and UN level to address the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23527/09]

The international community is closely following the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as the country recovers from the effects of the brutal 1996-2003 civil war. I very much regret that, while much of the country has achieved a degree of stability, several localised conflicts have continued, in particular in the east of the country. These conflicts have in many cases been characterised by an appalling degree of brutality, with large-scale attacks on the civilian population and widespread sexual violence. The humanitarian situation in eastern DRC, where more than a million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the effects of ongoing conflict, remains a cause of deep concern. The international community is working to promote a negotiated end to the conflicts which persist, to address immediate humanitarian needs, and to develop the capacity of the Congolese state to protect its people.

The United Nations has sought to enhance stability in DRC through the work of MONUC, the UN's largest peacekeeping mission. MONUC is mandated to protect civilians and humanitarian personnel; to carry out disarmament and demobilisation of armed groups; to train the DRC security forces; and to support the strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law. Ireland and our EU partners strongly support MONUC, and have welcomed the UN Security Council's decision to authorise the reinforcement of the mission to allow it to meet more effectively the challenges it currently faces. Ireland contributes three members of the Irish Defence Forces to MONUC as military liaison officers.

At a political level, the UN Secretary-General has appointed the former Nigerian president, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, as his special envoy to address the challenges to peace and security posed by the continued presence and activities of armed groups in eastern DRC. Talks in Nairobi convened by Mr. Obasanjo in cooperation with the facilitator appointed by the African Union, the former Tanzanian president Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, have led to the integration of former rebel fighters into the DRC armed forces.

The EU has also been active in supporting efforts to address ongoing instability in the DRC. The EU's Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Mr. Roeland van de Geer, leads the EU's efforts to assist in stabilising eastern DRC, and has played a key role in supporting the work of the UN and AU facilitators. Two missions are currently active in DRC as part of the European Security and Defence Policy: The EU has also been active in supporting efforts to address ongoing instability in the DRC. The EU's Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Mr. Roeland van de Geer, leads the EU's efforts to assist in stabilising eastern DRC, and has played a key role in supporting the work of the UN and AU facilitators. Two missions are currently active in DRC as part of the European Security and Defence Policy: EUSEC, a Security Sector Reform mission supporting the Congolese authorities in the key task of providing advice and assistance for security sector reform, and EUPOL, a policing mission monitoring, mentoring and advising the Congolese police. These missions underline the EU's commitment to the Congolese people and the importance of consolidating the rule of law, security and stability in the DRC.

The EU is the largest humanitarian donor to the DRC, and in 2009 has allocated €45 million through its humanitarian assistance office (ECHO) to address the needs of vulnerable populations there. Overall, ECHO hopes to provide assistance to 1.5 million people over the course of the year. The UN also plays a major role in addressing humanitarian needs in DRC. Agencies such as UNICEF, UNDP and the WFP have large programmes in DRC and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is playing a vital role in the coordination of the humanitarian response. Funding for these vital humanitarian interventions is provided directly through the agencies as well as via the Pooled Fund operated by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. For our part, Ireland has allocated more than €4 million in humanitarian funding to the DRC in 2009 via the UN administered Pooled Fund and through our NGO partners. Our total humanitarian support to the country since 2006 amounts to over €26 million.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

175 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23587/09]

Following a tender process, the Department currently has contracts with two Dublin taxi firms.

Both companies fully comply with the Taxi Regulator guidelines. While these firms do not have a set minimum percentage of wheelchair accessible vehicles, both have a significant proportion of accessible vehicles, 11 percent in the case of one company and 15 percent in the case of the other.

The information requested by the Deputy on the amount expended by my Department on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009 is as follows:

Location

2008

2009 (Jan-May)

Headquarters

269,750

79,254

Missions Abroad

174,803

56,577

The figures for Headquarters show expenditure on taxis by the Department in both Limerick and Dublin, as well as expenditure incurred by officials of the Department travelling overseas on official business. Therefore not all the amount shown is expended with the two companies under contract. The figures for the Department's 75 missions abroad (Embassies, Consulates and other offices) show expenditure on taxis by officers to these missions.

The Department of Foreign Affairs taxi policy is based on the principle that taxi use by officers should only take place where it is clearly required for the conduct of official business, and only where public transport is not otherwise available or feasible. In view of the particular nature of the Department's work, it will, inevitably, require continued use of taxis. The Department's expenditure on taxi usage is monitored and was recently the subject of an internal review. This has resulted in a reduction in the use of taxis, as reflected in the figures above. I am confident that the Department will continue to make savings over the course of the current year.

EU Treaties.

Joe Costello

Question:

176 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his proposals for a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23704/09]

At its meeting last December, the European Council undertook to address the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon by way of legal guarantees and other assurances.

It was agreed that this work should be finalised by mid-2009. With the agreement of the Czech Presidency and our partners, it is intended to complete this work later this week at the European Council on 18-19 June. If the Government is fully satisfied with the outcome of this work, we have committed to seeking ratification of the Treaty by the end of the term of the current European Commission, which is expected to leave office at the end of October. For Ireland to be in a position to ratify the Treaty, the approval of the people will need to be sought in a referendum.

In the run-up to the European Council, the Government has been taking this work forward in a series of meetings at official and political level with our EU partners and with the EU institutions. The Taoiseach has been in contact with his European colleagues and I had intensive discussions with the 26 other Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday. We will have further engagement with colleagues in the immediate run-up to the European Council, stressing throughout, our need for legally robust guarantees.

Our partners continue to be supportive of our efforts to secure an agreement that will provide necessary reassurance on the issues that arose during last year's referendum campaign. When it is agreed, this important package of guarantees will provide an excellent basis for a referendum later in the year.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

177 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will respond to queries (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23537/09]

Under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is administered by my Department and which has been closed to new applicants since July 2000, grant aid to a maximum of €3.8 million is provided to Local Authorities towards the capital costs of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools, subject in both cases to the total grant not exceeding 80% of the eligible cost of the project or, in the case of projects located in disadvantaged areas, 90% of the eligible cost. Proposals must comply with the standards set out in the Department's "Procedures for the Planning, Approval and Financing of Swimming Pools and Technical Guidelines."

Under the Guidelines there are four principal stages in a swimming pool project following the submission of a feasibility study. These, in order of progress, are: Preliminary Report; Contract Documents; Tender and Construction. Grant-aid is allocated only when tenders have been approved for the project and is capped at the time of allocation. The Department and its technical advisors, the Office of Public Works, evaluate each stage and local authorities cannot proceed to the next stage of a project unless prior approval issues from the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.

Where a project is being undertaken by an organisation other than a local authority, the proposal must be considered, supported and submitted by the relevant local authority. Before supporting a project, the local authority would have to be satisfied that the proposal was viable, that the balance of funding required to complete the project was available and that the project, when completed, would have a satisfactory level of public access. The Local Authority is responsible for making satisfactory arrangements for the management and maintenance of the facility.

My Department has been in discussions now for a number of years with Galway County Council regarding the grant aiding of a swimming pool in Loughrea. The current proposal is that Galway County Council following a procurement process selected a local developer who would construct the pool on a site provided by the County Council and in return would make the pool available to the public in Loughrea for an agreed number of hours per week and at entrance prices comparable to other public pools in Galway. As part of this plan the Council applied for a grant of €1.7m from the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme towards the construction of the pool.

Legal advice provided in the context of the consideration of the proposal from Galway County Council was considered and on the basis that the provision of a pool at Loughrea for a grant of €1.7m under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme constituted good value for money, in that the public will be guaranteed an agreed number of hours at reasonable charges, I decided to approve the grant on 21 May 2009 and Galway County Council has been advised accordingly. Under the current round of the Programme, the question of the location of public swimming pools is essentially a matter for local authorities. Projects are considered on a case-by-case basis and consideration is given to such issues as to whether the area is classified as disadvantaged, the number and geographical spread of projects within and between counties, the viability of the project, particularly in relation to operational and maintenance issues, overall funding package for the project, technical details and the Department's annual estimates provision for the Programme.

There were two proposals for the construction of a swimming pool in North East Dublin. The Skerries project, for which my Department received a Preliminary Report in 2001, was to have been a Public Private Partnership between a private developer and Fingal County Council. On 26 March 2009 my Department received a letter from the County Manager of Fingal County Council stating that this proposal was terminated in late February due to the collapse of the market for the residential element of the proposed scheme. It was also stated that Fingal County Council's priority now was to locate the pool in Balbriggan in preference to the option of building it in the original location in Skerries.

The present proposal is for Balbriggan RFC in conjunction with a private company to build a swimming pool on the club grounds at Balrothery. The private company who would supply most of the funding for the project would operate the pool and thus require a reduced grant under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. Again an agreed number of hours for the public at reasonable charges would be agreed with the Local Authority and guaranteed in a tripartite Deed of Covenant and Charge between, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, the Local Authority and the Private Company.

A Preliminary Report for the proposal was received recently and forwarded to my Department's technical advisers, the Office of Public Works, for technical examination. The OPW replied on 26 May 2009 stating that the proposal was sound but that the Local Authority and the Department would have to be satisfied that the tender process would be transparent and fair. The Local Authority is at present considering this aspect of the proposal.

Once this matter is clarified satisfactorily the Preliminary Report can be approved leaving the way open to Fingal County Council to submit Contract Documents for approval and subsequently the Tender Report, at which stage the grant can be approved.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

178 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23579/09]

I understand that 9% of the cars operated by the main taxi company used by the Department are wheelchair accessible. This company also has a policy of encouraging its drivers when changing their vehicles to take the accessibility issue into consideration. The amount spent by the Department on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009 is set out in the table:

Year

Amount

2008

23,425

2009 (to date)

7,365

Expenditure on taxis is kept under constant review in the Department and under the terms of the Department's Travel and Subsistence Expenses Policy, officials may only avail of taxis in circumstances where no other form of transport is available or suitable. The taxi companies used by the agencies under the aegis of my Department is a day to day matter for the agencies themselves.

Sports Capital Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

179 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if capital sports grants will be available for clubs in RAPID areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23800/09]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department and part funded from the proceeds of the National Lottery, 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. No decision has been made on the timing of future rounds of the Programme.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications for grant aid from the proceeds of the national lottery or otherwise for the construction or operation of sporting, recreational facilities or centres involved in the promotion or development of the arts in County Kildare in each of the past five years to date in 2009; the degree to which previous years expenditure will be matched in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23811/09]

The number of applications for grant aid for the construction or operation of sporting or recreational facilities and/or centres involved in the promotion or development of arts in County Kildare in each of the past five calendar years and to date in 2009 is as set out in tabular form below.

Number of Applications Made and (in brackets) Number of Applications Approved - County Kildare

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009 (to date)

Sports-Recreation

Sports Capital Program

44 (27)

44 (17)

33 (20)

38 (17)

44 (21)

0 (0)

Local Authority Swimming Pool Program

0 (0)

0 (0)

2 (2)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

Arts

Cultural Capital Infrastructure (including ACCESS II)

0 (0)

0 (0)

0 (0)

2 (1)

1 (0)

0 (0)

The funds provided in each of the years in question, including the current year, are as set out in the Estimates and Outturns for the Department's Vote.

Sports Capital Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the expenditure on sporting or recreational facilities, indoor or outdoor, in each of the past five years to date in 2009; the extent to which works were funded from the proceeds of the national lottery or otherwise; the degree to which funding from the national lottery will be available for such works in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23812/09]

The Sports Capital Programme, which is part-funded from the proceeds of the National Lottery and administered by my Department, is the primary vehicle for Government support for the provision of sports facilities and equipment in this country. The table sets out the information requested by the Deputy.

Year

Expenditure

€ (000)

2008

60,137

2007

63,720

2006

60,053

2005

56,782

2004

80,597

€56 million has been provided in my Department's vote in the 2009 Estimates to cover payments to be made from the C1 subhead, out of which grants are paid for the provision of sports and recreation facilities. The distribution of the proceeds of the National Lottery is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will indicate the extent to which he expects to meet the requirements in terms of provision of sporting and recreational facilities, indoor and outdoor, on foot of applications on hand to date in 2009 or previous years; the degree to which he expects to meet in full, withhold or defer the relevant funding in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23813/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent of funding available to his Department for the provision of major or minor sporting and recreational activities and facilities here in 2009 from the proceeds of the national lottery or otherwise; the way this compares with previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23814/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

€56 million has been provided in my Department's vote in the 2009 Estimates to cover payments to be made from the C1 subhead, out of which grants are paid for the provision of sports and recreation facilities. It is expected that all of this funding will be distributed to sports clubs and organisation who have been allocated funding under previous rounds of the Sports Capital Programme.

In 2008, €58m was provided in that year's estimates to cover payments made from the C1 sub-head. In 2007 the corresponding figure was €63.092m. No decision has been made on the timing of the next round of the Sports Capital Programme.

Departmental Bodies.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of bodies, groups or agencies accountable to his Department; the role and function of each in the context of the economic downturn with particular reference to the optimum use of funding for maximum impact on the development and promotion of the arts now and in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23815/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has issued instructions or directions to the Arts Council or similar groups or bodies under the aegis of his Department to ensure adequate development and promotion of the arts in the current economic climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23816/09]

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

Responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved primarily to the Arts Council. Under the Arts Act 2003, the general functions of the Council include the following:

to stimulate public interest in the arts;

to promote knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts;

to assist in improving standards in the arts. The Arts Council is a statutorily independent body, funded by my Department and independent in its day-to-day operations, including in relation to its funding decisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, arising from the economic downturn, he has issued instructions or given direction to groups or bodies under the aegis of his Department with a view to identifying the steps that might be taken to assist in the current climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23817/09]

In response to the current fiscal circumstances the Department has emphasised and will continue to emphasise to agencies under its aegis the importance of making every effort to maximise return on investment while minimising any negative consequences for output delivery. In accordance with Government policy, the Department has issued instructions to agencies with regard to reducing expenditure on consultancy fees by 50 per cent, reducing professional fees (for example, legal, architectural and engineering services) by 8 per cent, and reducing procurement costs generally also by 8 per cent. In addition, the agencies have been asked to implement the moratorium on recruitment and promotion, the incentivised early retirement Scheme and, where appropriate, the incentivised schemes for career breaks and the shorter working year to reduce staff numbers.

Questions Nos. 187 to 190, inclusive, answered with Question No. 46.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

191 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm the body to whom an organisation (details supplied) can apply for grant aid. [23825/09]

The Arts Council is the appropriate body to which this application should be made. Under the Arts Act, 2003, one of the general functions of the Council is to promote knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts.

Security of the Elderly.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

192 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when payment will issue to an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork in respect of the purchase of monitoring alarms for 2008. [23483/09]

An application in respect of 46 alarms was received from this group in 2008 and a payment in full of €13,224 issued on 6 November 2008. This was the only application received from the group in 2008. An application was received from the group on 15 April 2009 after the Scheme had been suspended on 7 April. As with all applications received after this date, the application was returned to the applicant group.

Údarás na Gaeltachta.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

193 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cé mhéad réamh-mhonarchan atá i gceantar na Gaeltachta Láir agus cad é an líon daoine atá fostaithe i ngach ceann acu. [23001/09]

Tuigim ó Údarás na Gaeltachta go bhfuil réamh-mhonarcha amháin ag an eagraíocht i gceantar na Gaeltachta Láir. Dírím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra ar Cheist Dála Uimh. 437 de 9 Meitheamh 2009 maidir leis an líon daoine atá fostaithe sa cheantar.

Bóithre Áise.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

194 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an méid iomlán airgid atá ceadaithe do bhóithre áise i nDún na nGall don bhliain seo, cad iad na bóithre atá le deisiú agus cad é an deontas atá ceadaithe do gach bóthar. [23002/09]

Tá deontas de €34,588 ceadaithe ag mo Roinn i 2009 chun íoc as na costais bhreise a bhain le seacht gcinn déag de bhóithre áise a ceadaíodh faoi Scéim na mBóithre Áise i 2008. Tá sonraí faoi na bóithre sin sa tábla leis seo.

Suíomh

Méid ceadaithe 2008

Deontas breise 2009

Carraic Mac Giolla Choill, Doire Beaga

13,000

1,500

Sráth na Corcra, Doire Beaga

4,800

1,150

Machaire Chlochair, Doire Beaga

20,625

1,875

Dún Lúiche, Gaoth Dobhair

7,237

6,763

Baile Láir, Doire Beaga

10,200

1,800

Luinniagh, Doire Beaga

9,100

4,550

Coitín, Doire Beaga

3,500

900

Bun an Leaca, Doire Beaga

2,730

570

Bun an Leaca, Doire Beaga

3,120

510

Cnoic Mhóra, Clochán Liath

11,760

2,240

Bóthar An Ghleanna, Anagaire

3,200

650

Beal na Cruite, Ceann Caslach

3,000

850

Rann na Feirste, Anagaire

8,330

1,520

An Sruthán, An Fál Carrach

9,600

4,400

Glais Dobharchú, Mín Lárach

13,000

1,900

Mín a’ Chladaigh, Mín Lárach

3,250

1,250

Leac Liath, Na Gleannta

18,000

2,160

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

195 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23581/09]

The percentage of taxis that are accessible for people with disabilities is a matter for the Commission for Taxi Regulation and I have no statutory function in the matter. As I indicated in my response to Parliamentary Question Number 447 of 9 June, the latest information available to me on expenditure by my Department on the use of taxis in 2008 and to date in 2009 is as follows:

2008 — €23,672;

2009 to date — €7,151.

Similarly, details as communicated to my Department, of expenditure during the same periods by agencies funded from my Department's Vote Group are as follows:

Agency

2008

2009 to date

Western Development Commission

1,673

519

Waterways Ireland*

210

173

Oifig Choimisinéir na d’Teangacha Oifigiúla **

286

168

Commissioners for Charitable Donations and Bequests

427

117

Foras na Gaeilge

3,971

1,275

Údarás na Gaeltachta***

4,796

1,219

Tha Boord ò Ulster-Scotch

STG£87

STG£42

*Any associated sterling costs were converted at annual average spot rate.

**An independent statutory office.

***Based on computer printout.

Social Welfare Code.

Chris Andrews

Question:

196 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action she will take to protect vulnerable tenants on rent supplement who are being taken advantage of by their landlords by not granting them a reduction in rent commensurate with the reduced rent supplement and allowance since 1 June 2009. [23518/09]

There are currently over 88,200 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 48% 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. The Supplementary Budget also provided that payments currently being made to existing rent supplement tenants be reduced by 8% from the same date. Other changes in the Supplementary Budget provided for new maximum rent limits to take effect from 1 June 2009, to reflect the general reductions in private sector rent levels.

The most recent data published by the CSO, shows that rents in the private sector have fallen by almost 11% since November 2008 and by almost 20% in the past year. It is essential therefore that state support for tenants who form a substantial section of the rental market, does not give rise to inflated rental prices.

Existing recipients of rent supplement were advised by letter in advance of the change being made to their rent payment from 1 June 2009. Each letter advised of the reductions being applied to that individual's rent supplement payments it also advised that if the recipient wanted to talk to their landlord to seek a reduction in rent, the Department's letter could be shown to a landlord as evidence of the provisions in their rent supplement payment. Landlords were advised through advertising in national and provincial newspapers of the general reduction in rent supplement payments.

Given prevailing rental market trends and availability of rental properties, landlords were asked in the advertising to respond positively to tenants who present the Department's letter seeking a reduction in rent. A number of organisations representing landlords and tenants were contacted and advised of the changes to the rent supplement. Each letter advised of the reductions being applied to that individual's rent supplement payments it also advised that if the recipient wanted to talk to their landlord to seek a reduction in rent, the Department's letter could be shown to a landlord as evidence of the provisions in their rent supplement payment. Landlords were advised through advertising in national and provincial newspapers of the general reduction in rent supplement payments. Given prevailing rental market trends and availability of rental properties, landlords were asked in the advertising to respond positively to tenants who present the Department's letter seeking a reduction in rent. A number of organisations representing landlords and tenants were contacted and advised of the changes to the rent supplement scheme.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, once a tenancy is at least a year old and where the rent has not been reviewed in the previous twelve months, the tenant is entitled to ask a landlord to review the rent payment where the tenant feels that the rent exceeds the market rate for the property. 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. In this climate, it is expected that people should be able to get accommodation at the appropriate rental level if a landlord is unwilling to reduce the rent in any particular case. Disputes between landlords and tenants about any aspect of rent or the return of a deposit may be referred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

Community Welfare Officers have discretion to provide assistance where exceptional circumstances exist in any individual case. Officers have been advised that support, appropriate to the circumstances of the particular case, may be provided to rent supplement tenants for up to two months, while alternative accommodation is being sourced within the existing rent limits.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

197 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded the one parent family payment in view of the fact that all requested information has been submitted. [23530/09]

The application for one-parent family payment from the person concerned is currently with a Social Welfare Inspector, whose investigations are ongoing. On completion of enquiries a decision will be made and she will be notified of the outcome. The Social Welfare Inspector is awaiting additional documentation requested from the applicant. Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

198 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [23547/09]

There are currently over 88,200 people in receipt of rent supplement, an increase of 48% 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. The Supplementary Budget also provided that payments currently being made to existing rent supplement tenants be reduced by 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 is now a large number of vacant rental properties nationally.

Rent supplement for the person concerned was reduced by €13 a week from 1 June 2009. This reduction comprised an increase of €6 a week in the minimum contribution payable towards rent and a reduction of €7 a week in rent supplement payment in line with the 8% reduction announced i n the Supplementary Budget.

The most recent data published by the CSO show that rents in the private sector have fallen by almost 11% since November 2008 and by almost 20% in the past year. It is essential therefore that state support for tenants who form a substantial section of the rental market, does not give rise to inflated rental prices. Other changes in the Supplementary Budget provided for new maximum rent limits to take effect from 1 June 2009, to reflect the general reductions in private sector rent levels.

Each existing recipient of rent supplement, including the person concerned, was advised by letter in advance of the particular change being made to their rent supplement payment from 1 June 2009 and this communication can be shown to landlords as evidence of the revised rent supplement in payment in individual cases. Landlords were advised through advertising in national and provincial newspapers of the general reduction in rent supplement payments. A number of organisations representing landlords and tenants were 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. Officers have been advised that support, appropriate to the circumstances of any individual case, may be provided to rent supplement tenants for up to two months, while alternative accommodation is being sourced within the existing rent limits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when jobseeker’s allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23573/09]

The person concerned applied for Jobseeker's Allowance on 6 April 2009. The application is currently with a Social Welfare Inspector for investigation and he will be notified of the outcome as soon as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23574/09]

The person concerned applied for jobseeker's allowance from 26 January 2009. He had been self-employed and was asked to submit details concerning his self-employment. When his reply was received it was decided to call him for interview which was scheduled for 15 April 2009. He did not attend for interview and did not contact the Department regarding the appointment; consequently his claim was closed on 28 April 2009. The person concerned applied again for jobseeker's allowance on 14 May 2009 and stated that he was self-employed on a part-time basis. Details in relation to his self employment have been sought and his claim will be processed on receipt of this information.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

201 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the taxi companies used by her Department and State agencies under the aegis of her Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by her Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23590/09]

The Department has a contract with National Radio Cabs for the provision of a taxi service in the Dublin area. The company has indicated that it has 960 taxis in its fleet, 88 (9%) of which are wheelchair accessible. I understand this company encourages its drivers when changing vehicles to take accessibility issues into consideration. It operates a waiting list for those wishing to join the company and gives preference to wheelchair accessible vehicles. Expenditure on taxi services by the Department in 2008 amounted to €46,151 and to date in 2009 (to 31 May) is €14,311. Taxi services are availed of by the Department only where it is considered to be absolutely necessary and the use of such services is monitored closely within the Department.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will investigate the way income was calculated for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, and where the means figure came from. [23740/09]

The person concerned was in receipt of farm assist at the weekly rate of €317.90. Her payment was based on a personal rate of €204.30, a qualified adult allowance of €135.60 and a qualified child allowance of €26.00 less weekly means of €48.00, derived from income from a holding. Following a review, a Deciding Officer has assessed her weekly means at €110.00 from 16 June 2009. Her means are derived from an increased income from a holding and capital. This decision will entitle her to a weekly farm assist payment of €255.90. It is open to her to appeal this decision and a form for this purpose has been issued to her. Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Jack Wall

Question:

203 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had their disability allowance stopped; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23757/09]

Disability Allowance is a weekly Allowance paid to people with a specified disability who are aged over 16 and under 66. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to a medical assessment, a means test and a habitual residency test.

The person concerned was awarded Disability Allowance with effect from 21 April 1999. On 22 May 2009 my Department was informed that the claimant had left the State to go to the United Kingdom. Disability Allowance is not payable for any period in respect of which the claimant is resident away from the State except where the person is pursuing approved second or third level courses of education outside the State under the Back to Education Allowance Scheme, while receiving medical treatment or when they go on holidays for a period not exceeding three weeks. Notification of a pending absence must first be given to the Department. As the person concerned had already left the State before notification of her absence was received her payment was stopped on 22 May 2009.

On 9 June 2009 the person concerned informed the Department that she had returned to Ireland and asked for her Disability Allowance payment to be restarted. Her Disability Allowance payment was recommenced on 17 June 2009. A letter issued to the person concerned on 11 June 2009 requesting her to forward details of the length of time that she had spent in the United Kingdom and to date no reply has been received. When these details are received the person will be paid any outstanding monies, if due, having regard to the length of time she was absent from the State.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23822/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered on behalf of the department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Mortgage interest supplement provides short-term support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only.

Where two people enter into a joint mortgage agreement there is an obligation on both parties to meet repayments, as agreed with the financial institution. Where the person seeking assistance is a joint mortgage holder, a mortgage interest supplement payment is generally considered in respect of half of the interest on the mortgage. The Executive has advised that it awarded a mortgage interest supplement to the person concerned based on the full interest payable on the mortgage from May 2008 to March 2009. Following a review of entitlement, it came to light that the loan in question was a joint mortgage. Payment to the person concerned was suspended pending clarification on the details of the mortgage. The Executive has advised that it has now re-instated payment of mortgage interest supplement to the person concerned, based on 50% of the interest payable on the loan and taking account of reduced interest rates. The person concerned was advised of her right to appeal this decision to a designated appeals officer of the Executive. To date no such appeal has been received by the Executive.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

205 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23582/09]

The proportion of taxis accessible by persons with disabilities is a matter for the Taxi Regulator. One of the taxi companies which serves the requirements of my Department is recommended on the website of the National Disability Authority. If a taxi is required by a person with a disability from my Department, this would be stated at the time that the booking is made. The amounts expended by my Department and the Defence Forces on taxi hire in 2008 and from January to May 2009 are set out in the table:

Year

Amount

2008

87,395

Jan-May 2009

26,791

Defence Forces Property.

Seán Power

Question:

206 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Defence his views on the provision of parking bays at various locations on the Curragh, County Kildare, in view of the number of people who use the plains and the benefits of providing proper parking rather than destroying the grasslands. [23744/09]

Section 7 of the Curragh Bye-Laws, 1964(S.I. No. 7 of 1964) states that "a person shall not (unless authorised by the Minister to do so) bring or drive a vehicle over the Curragh other than on a public road or a road open to the public." The issue of providing parking bays has been raised at a meeting between my officials and the Military Authorities and a submission is awaited from the Military Authorities to allow further consideration of this proposal.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

John McGuinness

Question:

207 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the service land initiative for Castlecomer, County Kilkenny, will be approved; the timeframe involved in the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23485/09]

The Castlecomer Sewerage Scheme was approved for funding under the Serviced Land Initiative Sub-Programme of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 — 2009 in December 2008. Following a review of the Serviced Land Initiative, I informed Water Services Authorities in April 2009 that all existing approvals for schemes in the sub-programme, where contractual commitments had not already been entered into, were withdrawn. However, I also informed Water Services Authorities that it was open to them to make a case to my Department for the continuation of any approved scheme where contracts had not already been signed and where the scheme was considered necessary for the proper development of the area it would serve. Kilkenny County Council has made such a case in respect of the Castlecomer scheme, which is currently under examination in my Department.

Water Quality.

Joe Carey

Question:

208 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that in the provision of the new regional water supply for north Clare, all microbiological and chemical parameters as per the EU Drinking Water Directive show improvement from old source to new source; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23499/09]

The provision of new public water supplies and their operation, maintenance and management to ensure compliance with quality standards is the responsibility of each local authority, and of Clare County Council in the case of Clare schemes.

Under the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007, local authority drinking water supplies are subject to supervision by the EPA and I have no direct function in the matter.

Register of Electors.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

209 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the percentage of the number of persons on the register of electors who have indicated that their details can be used for a purpose other than electoral or other statutory use; the reason behind the statutory requirement that electors must provide such an indication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23504/09]

In response to concerns expressed about uses of the register of electors and following consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner, the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 provided for an edited version of the register in addition to the full register.

The relevant provisions are aimed at ensuring that the full register is used solely for electoral or other statutory purposes, while permitting registration details to be used for other purposes, through the edited register, with the consent of the persons concerned. The edited register, therefore, contains only the names of persons who have no objection to their details being used for purposes other than electoral or other statutory purposes.

The edited register provisions came into force on 1 November 2004 and it is an offence, under section 13A of the Electoral Act 1992, to use the full register except for electoral or other statutory purposes.

The percentage of electors on the edited register at 15 February 2009 was 8%.

Maritime Heritage.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

210 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the excavation, recording and recovery of the late intact medieval wreck of international significance discovered in the River Boyne in Drogheda in 2007 (details supplied); if a conservation programme has been put in place; if he will issue a post-excavation report on the vessel; if he will put this vessel on display in Drogheda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23505/09]

Detailed recording of the wreck and its cargo has been completed by my Department and the timbers are being protected. Archaeological analysis and related research is ongoing and a detailed report will be published by my Department on completion.

Arrangements for longer term curation and display of the vessel are a matter for the National Museum of Ireland.

Register of Electors.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

211 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of additions that were made to the voting register in each of the county council areas in the past few weeks before the most recent local and European elections; if he is satisfied that these additions are made in a proper and safe manner; his views on whether there is a need for better scrutiny on whether the newly registered person is a long term resident at the address provided; and his further views whether it is difficult to justify large numbers advising that they are registered in a single bedroom flat; if he has any proposals to safeguard the electoral system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23514/09]

In law, the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register.

Authorities were required to publish the Final Register for 2009/10 by 1 February 2009. Individuals not on the Register can avail of the supplement to the Register up until 15 days before the next polling day. Returns received from registration authorities by my Department indicate that over 72,000 names were included on the supplement to the Register before the recent elections. Details are set out in the following table:

Register Supplement Figures for European, Local and Dáil By-elections 5 June 2009

Number

City Councils

Cork

935

Dublin

9,387

Galway

924

Limerick

1,138

Waterford

838

County Councils

Carlow

782

Cavan

1,622

Clare

2,600

Cork

4,067

Donegal

3,174

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

1,384

Fingal

1,029

Galway

2,563

Kerry

2,410

Kildare

2,165

Kilkenny

1,945

Laois

2,392

Leitrim

1,840

Limerick

3,136

Longford

1,915

Louth

1,031

Mayo

3,934

Meath

1,658

Monaghan

2,247

North Tipperary

2,292

Offaly

1,510

Roscommon

1,746

Sligo

1,688

South Dublin

1,561

South Tipperary

2,205

Waterford

1,190

Westmeath

2,359

Wexford

1,539

Wicklow

1,240

Total

72,446

Electoral law provides that each application for entry to the supplement to the Register must be signed in the applicant's local Garda station in the presence of a member of the Garda Síochána, who must first be satisfied as to the person's identity before signing, dating and stamping the form. The Garda may request photographic or other identification. Where the applicant is unable to go to the local Garda station, and sets out the reason in writing, the form can be signed in the presence of an official of their registration authority. Again, photographic or other identification may be required.

If neither option is viable due to physical illness or physical disability, the application form must be accompanied by a medical certificate.

I consider that the current arrangements strike a reasonable balance between having a flexible supplement facility and, at the same time, ensuring that there are adequate measures in place to counteract any possible abuse.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

212 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if funding will be made available to the Private Residential Tenancies Board in order that the backlog of disputes will be tackled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23542/09]

The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) was established as an independent statutory body in September 2004 and its principal functions are in the areas of:

The registration of private rental tenancies;

The resolution of disputes between tenants and landlords;

The provision of information, assistance and advice to the Minister on the private rental sector.

The Board receives funding from my Department by way of annual grant and it also retains a portion of the fees that it receives for the registration of tenancies under Part 7 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. Four sevenths (4/7) of these fees are retained by the PRTB to assist in funding its operations and three sevenths (3/7) are allocated to local authorities to support the discharge by authorities of their functions in relation to the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, the Housing (Rent Book) Regulations 1993 and 2004 and other provisions of the Housing Acts related to private rented accommodation.

During 2007, the PRTB received almost 1,500 dispute applications for determination, and slightly in excess of that in 2008. Partly as a consequence of the Board's success in ensuring registration compliance, and the resulting large workloads arising, it is acknowledged that the processing times for dispute resolution are not yet optimal. This situation has arisen due to a combination of the huge increase in demands in line with the expansion of the sector and the quasi-judicial process involved which can be time consuming, particularly when it comes to issues such as court actions. It is however important to note that while the PRTB provides dispute resolution services, less than 1% of all registered tenancies seek to avail of the PRTB's dispute resolution mechanisms. This indicates that a healthy and stable landlord-tenant relationship prevails in the vast majority of tenancies.

In response to the large and ongoing volume of work involved, my Department approved a request from the Board of the PRTB for the recruitment of an additional 14 permanent staff in 2008, to bring the permanent staffing complement from 26 to 40. This has been of significant benefit to the Board in dealing with the administrative work associated with the processing of dispute cases.

In addition, the PRTB has taken a number of other initiatives to optimise its throughput of dispute cases, including the introduction of a system of paper based adjudications on a trial basis. Early indications are that these initiatives are helping to speed up the dispute resolution process. In the longer term, an automated document management system will also be introduced by the PRTB as part of their recently adopted ICT strategy, the roll-out of which has now commenced and which, I understand, the PRTB expect to have implemented by the end of 2010. This should also yield staffing and process efficiencies for the organisation in general and expedite the processing of dispute cases in particular.

I am satisfied that the Board has a clear strategic approach to reducing its disputes cases backlog and that sufficient resources are now in place to allow the PRTB to discharge its functions efficiently and effectively.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Simon Coveney

Question:

213 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when funding of the disability extension scheme will be made available to Cork City Council for local authority housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23561/09]

In accordance with the arrangements set out in my Department's Circular Letter N16/06, Housing Management Initiative — Direct Control for Local Authorities over Internal Capital Receipts, responsibility for carrying out works to local authority dwellings to meet the needs of disabled persons resides with individual local authorities. Since 1 January 2007, local authorities have direct control over Internal Capital Receipts received from the sale of local authority dwellings, to be used primarily for planned maintenance programmes and the improvement of housing stock, including the provision of necessary adaptations or extensions for people with a disability.

In the case of grants for adaptations or extensions to private housing, allocations totalling €2,112,500 for 2009 were notified to Cork City Council under the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme and the old Disabled Persons and Essential Repairs Grant Schemes on 7 May 2009.

Residential Tenancy Disputes.

Finian McGrath

Question:

214 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will respond to a query (details supplied). [23562/09]

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 introduced a new regulatory framework governing private rented residential accommodation and it provided for, inter alia, the registration of private rented residential tenancies, the cheap and speedy resolution of disputes between parties to such tenancies and the establishment of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to discharge a range of functions relating to these matters.

The Act specifies the grounds and the standard notice periods relating to the termination of a tenancy and it also specifies the rights of parties to a tenancy, and certain other persons, to refer to the Board for resolution any matter relating to the tenancy in respect of which there is a dispute between them, including a dispute about the proposed termination of a tenancy which is the subject of a written lease.

Information as to how to apply for dispute resolution by the PRTB is available on the Board's website, www.prtb.ie, or can be requested by writing to the Board at O'Connell Bridge House, D'Olier Street, Dublin 2 or by emailing disputes@prtb.ie.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

215 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23585/09]

I understand from the company used by my Department to provide taxi services that 9% of its fleet is wheelchair accessible, which enables the company to provide such taxis when required. Expenditure for the Department on taxis amounted to €73,459 in 2008, and €23,906 to the end of May 2009. Details in relation to expenditure by bodies under the aegis of my Department are an operational matter for the body concerned.

It is my Department's policy that public transport should be used wherever possible for travel in the course of official business. Accordingly, staff have been directed that taxis should only be hired where no suitable public transport is available and expenditure in this area is being closely monitored.

The Department also launched a Workplace Travel Plan in October 2008 to encourage greater use of sustainable transport options in the conduct of official business. The Plan aims to ensure: that use is made of public transport, to the greatest possible extent, in the course of official business; that walking/cycling to meetings within reasonable distance is encouraged and that taxis are used only where absolutely necessary.

Local Authority Procurement.

Richard Bruton

Question:

216 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if local authorities are obliged to tender for legal services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23718/09]

Local authorities employ a variety of approaches in relation to obtaining legal services. Some local authorities employ legal professionals who are recruited in accordance with public sector recruitment rules. Other local authorities retain the services of a solicitor. Decisions in this context are a matter for individual local authorities having regard to their own circumstances and the appropriate public procurement procedures.

Planning Issues.

Richard Bruton

Question:

217 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the legal obligation of a council to set an adequate bond in respect of a developer to be able to ensure the completion of an estate; and the options open to the council when an estate remains unfinished and the bond is inadequate. [23722/09]

Planning authorities are empowered under section 34 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to attach conditions to a planning permission requiring the giving of adequate security for the satisfactory completion of the proposed development.

There is no legal obligation on a planning authority to attach such conditions to a planning permission. However, as stated in the reply to Questions 60 and 63 of 11 June 2009, my Department has consistently advised planning authorities that it is essential that planning permissions for residential development are subject to a condition under which an acceptable security is provided by way of bond, cash deposit or otherwise so as to secure satisfactory completion. The amount of the security, and the terms on which it is required to be given, should enable a planning authority, without cost to itself, to complete the necessary services in a residential estate (including roads, footpaths, water mains, sewers, lighting and open space) to a satisfactory standard in the event of default by the developer.

My Department's advice in relation to bonds was most recently stated in the June 2007 Development Management Guidelines for Planning Authorities and in the February 2008 policy guidance in relation to the Taking in Charge of Estates. This guidance emphasised the desirability of imposing planning conditions in relation to phasing of larger residential developments to the effect that a developer must complete the provision of roads, public lighting, open spaces, etc. which are necessary for, or ancillary to, the completed residential units in a particular phase, before commencing the next phase of an overall development.

If a residential estate has not been finished properly in accordance with the conditions attached to the relevant planning permission, a planning authority should in the first instance take enforcement action under the Planning Acts aimed at compelling the developer to execute the required completion works.

If enforcement action is unsuccessful in compelling the completion of the development, a planning authority should then call in the relevant security and have the works completed.

In the event that security is inadequate to finish the services to the required standard, and the residents request that the estate be taken in charge, the planning authority should, in accordance with policy guidance issued by my Department, complete the outstanding works as and when resources, and priorities in relation to other estates awaiting taking in charge, permit.

Richard Bruton

Question:

218 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the responsibility in law of the Building Control Unit to act against a developer who fails to build to adequate standards; and the options open to councils to take enforcement action to deal with defects in one or a number of houses. [23723/09]

The Building Control Act 1990 assigns primary responsibility for complying with the Building Regulations to the owners and builders of buildings. Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations is vested in the 37 local Building Control Authorities, who are empowered to carry out inspections of buildings, issue enforcement notices for non-compliance with the Regulations and initiate Court proceedings, where appropriate.

The Building Control Act 2007 contains provisions, inter alia, to strengthen the enforcement powers of local Building Control Authorities, which are operative since 1 March 2008. Building Control authorities were given the option to bring summary prosecutions for all building code offences in the District Court, rather than by way of prosecution on indictment by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Circuit Court. Authorities also have wider powers to make application to the High Court or the Circuit Court to secure Orders where buildings do not comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations. The maximum penalties for breaches of the Regulations have been substantially increased under the Act, from £800 (punts) to €5,000 on summary conviction; from £150 (punts) to €500 in respect of each day on which the offence is committed after summary conviction; and from £10,000 (punts) to €50,000 on conviction on indictment.

Moreover, Building Control Authorities are able to recoup costs incurred in taking enforcement action and to obtain the benefit of fines resulting from summary prosecutions brought by them.

Waste Management.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

219 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of waste food produced by supermarkets per year for the past three years; and the percentage of this waste which goes to landfill. [23745/09]

The information requested is not collated by or available in my Department. The Environmental Protection Agency compiles the National Waste Report and the most recent report in respect of 2007 is available on its website, www.epa.ie.

National Parks.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

220 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he is allowing non-competitive practices on the lakes of Killarney, County Kerry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23748/09]

A certain number of boatmen were already operating non-restricted routes on the lakes of Killarney (including Ross Castle to Muckross House) when the State acquired the Kenmare Estate from the McShain family in 1979. In the interest of competition, my Department has since provided for additional licences to operate fixed routes and it is open to any person to compete by public tender to operate on these routes.

Killarney National Park, including its lakes, is managed primarily for nature conservation purposes in accordance with national, EU and international policies and obligations. The number of licences issued to operate commercial boating on the lakes is subject to ongoing review and takes account of these policies and obligations.

Planning Issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

221 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the present planning status of a wind farm (details supplied) in County Galway in view of the findings of the European Court of Justice on 3 July 2008, that Ireland had breached its obligations under European Law in respect of environmental impact assessment which should have been sought from the developer before planning permission was granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23760/09]

In its judgment of 3 July 2008, the European Court of Justice found, inter alia, that development consents given for a wind farm development and associated works at Derrybrien, Co. Galway, were not preceded by environmental impact assessments which conformed to the requirements of Council Directive 85/337/EEC.

My Department has had discussions with the European Commission concerning Ireland's response to this judgment, and appropriate provision will be made in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009 under which the status of developments encompassed by this judgment will be addressed in a manner to be agreed with the Commission.

I have no function in the determination of the current planning status of the wind farm in question.

Recycling Policy.

Liz McManus

Question:

222 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in relation to Bray recycling centre, County Wicklow, he has received a reply from the council following his correspondence earlier in June 2009; the details contained in that reply and his views on same; when the persons will return to work in the recycling centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23761/09]

My Department has been in correspondence with Wicklow County Council over several weeks regarding the recycling facility at Bray.

Wicklow County Council has outlined to the Department the challenging financial position it faces and the need to make savings in all areas of its operations. In light of its particular difficulties, and to assure continuity of the recycling service in Bray, provision of a sum of €1,559,485 for Wicklow County Council has been made under the Waste Recycling Capital Grants Scheme, to be used to fund leasing of the Recycling facility up to December 2013.

The staffing of the facility remain a matter for the local authority.

Water Fluoridation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

223 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether fluoridation of water poses a threat to the environment; the status of the Fluoride (Repeal of Enactments) Bill 2002 introduced by him; if passing of that Bill remains a non-negotiable demand on the part of his party in relation to future service in Government as stated by him on 7 February 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23776/09]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 526 of 20 November, 2007. The commitment in the Programme for Government to a study on total fluoride intake in the population is a matter for the Minister for Health and Children and the HSE.

The Water Quality (Dangerous Substances) Regulations 2001 prescribe water quality standards in relation to certain substances, including fluoride, in surface waters.

In its 2005 report on implementation of the Regulations, the EPA indicated that the potential anthropogenic sources of fluoride include fluoridation of public water supplies, leakage of mains water from drinking water distribution systems and municipal waste water treatment plants. Potential waters at risk include those downstream of drinking water and waste water treatment plants and areas where there is significant leakage from drinking water distribution systems. However, the EPA report indicated that in respect of 415 monitoring stations covering rivers, lakes and tidal waters there were just three exceedances of the standard for fluoride.

Departmental Programmes.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

224 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will report on the national smart meter rollout; when the current pilot phase will end and the national rollout begin; the type of smart meter that is being used in the pilot programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23536/09]

The rollout of a national Smart Metering Programme is progressing in line with the commitment in the Government's Energy Policy Framework and in the Programme for Government. The Smart Metering Programme is a central component of the strategy to significantly enhance management of energy demand and to achieve greater energy efficiency through the use of cutting-edge technology.

The current pilot phase of the programme is critical to informing, from all perspectives, the development of the programme as a whole. This is a highly complex technological project and the trials are essential to ensure that the optimum and most cost effective technology and systems are identified for implementation of a national smart meter programme.

The electricity element of the pilot phase was launched on 15 September 2008. The results of the pilot will inform both the timing of a national roll out and the technology to be adopted. It is important to have a trial that captures seasonal changes in usage for peak demand management purposes. The pilot phase for the electricity element of the smart meter trial is expected to be completed at end December 2010 and the outcome should be a fully informed decision on the most suitable model of smart meter(s)/IT system(s), tariffing structure, communications system and demand stimuli, all of which works effectively and has the capability to deliver the anticipated benefits of smart metering in the Irish market.

The pilot phase encompasses two strands: a technology trial, which is testing a number of advanced metering systems and their associated IT and communications infrastructure, and a customer behaviour trial, which will determine the potential of smart meters to achieve measurable change in consumer behaviour.

The technology trial will examine metering functionality and supporting information and communications systems. There are many challenges involved in developing a metering system for Ireland that will reflect the dispersed nature of our population and, as a result, the electricity network. This trial will involve the installation of up to 8,000 meters. Installation of the first 2,000 meters for technology testing is due to commence in July 2009.

Participants for the customer behaviour trial are being selected to ensure that the sample is representative of Ireland's electricity consumers both in terms of usage profiles and geographical spread. The number of participants needed for the electricity customer behaviour trial is 6,000. To date, the response has been very positive with sufficient numbers recruited to enable the residential element of the trial to proceed. Installation of electricity meters for this strand of the pilot phase is almost complete with 5,364 residential and 595 SME meters installed at 8 June.

Four metering systems are being trialled in electricity element of the pilot phase. These metering systems were selected through a procurement process undertaken by ESB Networks for the pilot — there will be a new tendering process for any national roll out. The successful tenderers were Elster, Sagem, and Trilliant.

The specifications of these metering systems will allow the testing of a range of functions, including, interval metering reading, time of use tariffing and the use of In Home Display devices, which, in turn, can facilitate demand management and increased energy efficiency. They will also provide reliable quality data on actual energy use which will inform better service to consumers through better fault monitoring and outage recording, power quality monitoring, reduced theft and losses and improved network planning.

The gas element of the Smart Metering Pilot Programme is also being progressed. 1,975 customers are expected to participate in Gas Customer Behaviour Trials. A further 750 meters will be installed to facilitate the Gas Technology Trials. Customers for the Gas Customer Behaviour Trial are expected to be recruited by end July 2009. The trial period will begin in June 2010 and is expected to continue until May 2011.

As part of the pilot phase, a cost benefit analysis is being undertaken which will inform the decision as regards the timing of a national roll out. An interim analysis will take place in 2010 with the final analysis, to include the results of the gas trials, to be completed by mid 2011.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

225 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23580/09]

My Department operates an account for the services of a taxi operator that has confirmed that approximately 15 to 20% of its entire fleet is made up of vehicles that are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users. The service provided includes pre-booking of a suitably accessible vehicle.

The issue of taxi use by the State agencies is a day-to-day operational issue for each of the agencies concerned. I have no function in that regard.

The details in relation to the cost to my Department for taxi services in 2008 and 2009 was set out in the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 544 on 9th June 2009.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Phil Hogan

Question:

226 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will introduce a regulatory regime for the development and operation of geothermal energy here; when legislation to give effect to such a regime will be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas; the progress being made in this regard; if his attention has been drawn to the necessity for a clear regulatory structure to facilitate the development of this sector of alternative energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23747/09]

I am conscious of the need to make maximum advantage of the potential of the fast growing geothermal energy sector and encourage investment while also introducing a suitable and proportionate level of Regulation in consultation with industry and other stakeholders.

My Department and the Geothermal Association of Ireland are co-hosting a workshop today, Tuesday 16th June 2009, to examine options for developing a regulatory framework for geothermal energy in Ireland. The proposed legislative approach for enabling development of the sector in Ireland will also be outlined.

Invitees have been selected from a range of public and private sector bodies with experience in the development of geothermal energy, and will include participation from Northern Ireland. Complex legal issues arise in regard to geothermal energy and my officials are actively engaging with the Office of the Attorney General in this regard. I also expect to receive the recommendations of the Geothermal Working Group in the next few weeks.

I can assure the Deputy that it is my intention to bring forward legislative proposals on geothermal energy at the earliest opportunity. I am determined, however, to ensure that such proposals will be appropriate for the purpose.

Salmon Hardship Fund.

Joe McHugh

Question:

227 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will expedite the audit of the Lough’s agency, in order to enable the Agency to make its 2009 salmon hardship fund payments to salmon farmers here; if his attention has been drawn to fact that the salmon fishing season begins on 16 June 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23764/09]

I have no function with regard to the audit of the Loughs Agency which is a matter for the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Northern Ireland Audit Office. I understand that payments will issue in compliance with State Aid Notification rules as soon as both Offices are satisfied.

I am informed that the salmon fishing season in Lough Foyle commenced on 15th June and will run to 31st July, under the Foyle Area (Close Seasons) Regulations 1999 and the fishery will operate in accordance with the suite of Foyle Area salmon fishing regulations made by the Foyle Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission.

Departmental Regulations.

Michael Ring

Question:

228 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide this Deputy with a copy of regulations (details supplied). [23807/09]

Regulations sought by the Deputy are available through the Government Publications Sales Office and relevant bylaws are published in the Iris Oifigiúil. Copies of a these instruments are available on the Department's website at the following address www.dcenr.gov.ie/Natural/Inland+Fisheries+Division.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

229 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the plans concerning the REP scheme application submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary have been investigated; and when payment will issue to the applicant. [23473/09]

The REPS 4 application for the person named was received on 7th April 2009. Under EU Regulations, payment on any individual REPS 4 application for 2009 cannot be made until completion of administrative and area checks on all applications received up to the closing date of 15 May 2009. At that stage 75% of the payment to each individual participant can be released, with the balance being payable when the last of the on-farm inspections for the year has taken place.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

230 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the 2% income levy will be deducted from a forestry payment of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [23481/09]

The Revenue Commissioners have informed my Department that the annual forestry premium is subject to the income levy. The person referred to by the Deputy should contact his local Tax Office for further information on his particular situation.

Aquaculture Licences.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

231 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in issuing an oyster one shellfish licence to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23488/09]

The person in question currently holds an aquaculture licence which is valid to 30 November 2011. He has applied for another aquaculture licence for an area adjacent to his existing licensed site.

The area for which the existing licence was granted and the area for which the additional licence has been now been sought lie within a designated Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 site). As such any applications will require to be considered in the context of ongoing discussions between my Department, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the EU Commission on the issue of aquaculture activities in Natura 2000 sites generally.

My Department, together with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is currently in the process of finalising, with the EU Commission, a plan to deliver compliance of aquaculture activities in Natura 2000 sites with the EU Birds and Habitat Directives. This plan is designed to provide for the continued operation of existing activities while at the same time undertaking a comprehensive data collection programme that will enable all new and renewal applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with these Directives.

Grant Payments.

Billy Timmins

Question:

232 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who has sold entitlements to the single farm payment; if this will be finalised in order that payment will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23508/09]

An application was received on the 15 May 2009 requesting the transfer of 14.32 Standard National Reserve entitlements from the person named to another farmer by way of sale.

The application was processed on the 11 June and the person named was notified in writing of the successful outcome of the application.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

233 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23578/09]

My Department has accounts with a number of taxi companies given its geographic spread. I am informed that for each company engaged, approximately 10% of vehicles are accessible for people with disabilities.

Expenditure for taxis in 2008 was €86,171, while €26,133 has been spent by the Department to date in 2009. These figures comprise payments both to the firms with whom my Department has accounts and taxis used by my officials as part of normal work related travel arrangements in Ireland and abroad.

The use of taxis by agencies under the remit of my Department is an operational matter for the agencies themselves.

Farm Waste Management.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

234 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will have an inspection; when they will be awarded the farm waste management grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23598/09]

The arrangements for payment of grants under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40 per cent will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20 per cent in January 2011. I have also announced that a special ex-gratia payment not exceeding 3.5 per cent of the value of the deferred amount will be made to farmers whose Farm Waste Management grants have been partially deferred. This payment will be made in January 2011 along with the final instalment.

My Department is currently processing the application concerned and a decision will be made as soon as possible.

Michael Creed

Question:

235 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be awarded payment under the farm waste management scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23696/09]

The arrangements for payment of grants under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40 per cent will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20 per cent in January 2011. I have also announced that a special ex-gratia payment not exceeding 3.5 per cent of the value of the deferred amount will be made to farmers whose Farm Waste Management grants have been partially deferred. This payment will be made in January 2011 along with the final instalment.

My Department is currently processing the application concerned and a decision will be made as soon as possible.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

236 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded REP scheme four in view of the hardship being caused. [23742/09]

The REPS 4 application for the person named was received on 11th February 2009. Under EU Regulations, payment on any individual REPS 4 application for 2009 cannot be made until completion of administrative and area checks on all applications received up to the closing date of 15 May 2009. At that stage 75% of the payment to each individual participant can be released, with the balance being payable when the last of the on-farm inspections for the year has taken place.

Dog Breeding Industry.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

237 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on whether a dog breeding business which has at least 700 breeding stock is a farming enterprise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23746/09]

Dogs are not considered farm animals and my Department has no direct responsibility in regulating dog-breeding establishments.

My Department is drafting an Animal Health and Welfare Bill which aims to update existing legislation in the area of health and welfare to ensure that the welfare of all animals, including non-farm animals, is properly protected. The Bill will also provide for the consolidation of responsibility for the welfare of all animals, including dog welfare, within my Department.

Grant Payments.

Michael Creed

Question:

238 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Further to Parliamentary Question No. 386 of 19 May 2009, if he will re-issue the application form to the applicant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23753/09]

The relevant application form has now been reissued to the person in question.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

239 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their suckler cow premium. [23756/09]

The person named has 24 animals for consideration under the 2008 Suckler Welfare Scheme but information required to facilitate payment has not been received in my Department. A pre-weaning form issued on 2 July 2008, and to date, the completed form has not been received for processing. A further pre-weaning form issued on 11 June 2009. In addition on 14 November 2008, a letter issued requesting clarification and information from the person named. In respect of three of the animals on which payment was sought to date, no reply has been received.

Agriculture Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

240 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a meeting will be held for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [23770/09]

My officials have no record of a request for a meeting from either the person named or her planner. A full inspection on her farm was carried out on 20 August 2008. During the course of this inspection, areas of non-compliance with the terms and conditions of the scheme were noted.

A letter detailing the areas of non-compliance and the consequent penalties issued on 22 September 2008. This letter indicated to the person named that she could appeal the decision within 10 working days.

No appeal was received, and consequently a further letter issued to both the person named and her planner on 29 October 2008 confirming that the penalties would be imposed. This letter also notified the participant of her right to appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office. I understand that no such appeal has been received by the Appeals Office.

Grant Payments.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

241 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding suckler payments for farmers whose animals are removed from the herd for disease purposes, particularly tuberculosis; and if he will clarify if the computer software system place in his Department is sufficiently upgraded to facilitate this payment to farmers in these circumstances. [23775/09]

Under the Suckler Welfare Scheme, animals, which are officially removed under permit for disease purposes may qualify for payment, provided they otherwise comply with the Terms and Conditions of the scheme. The computer software system is being upgraded and the changes to facilitate these payments will be in place shortly.

Pigmeat Sector.

Denis Naughten

Question:

242 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the funds paid to pork primary processors, to secondary processors, wholesalers and retailers as a result of the recall of pork and bacon products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23787/09]

The Pigmeat Recall Scheme is only open to primary and secondary processors of pigmeat, incorporated in Ireland. To date, my Department has paid a total of €17 million to primary processors and €34 million to secondary processors. In addition, a sum of €4.2 million has been paid to renderers for destruction of affected product.

Grant Payments.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

243 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who seeks payment under the suckler welfare scheme. [23809/09]

The person named has 20 animals, including one twin birth, for consideration under the 2008 Suckler Welfare Scheme. Payments have issued in respect of 7 animals. My Department issued letters in November 2008 and May 2009 requesting additional information in respect of 12 of the remaining animals. The queries involve the late registration of calves, the non-return of sire details, and missing information for the calving, calf docility and calf quality surveys. An officer from the Suckler Herds Section of my Department has contacted the person named and the case will be reviewed when all the information has been examined.

Farm Waste Management.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

244 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will arrange to have an inspection carried out at the farm of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [23826/09]

The arrangements for payment of grants under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40 per cent will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20 per cent in January 2011. I have also announced that a special ex-gratia payment not exceeding 3.5 per cent of the value of the deferred amount will be made to farmers whose Farm Waste Management grants have been partially deferred. This payment will be made in January 2011 along with the final instalment.

My Department is currently processing the application concerned and a decision will be made as soon as possible.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

245 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has not been awarded their REP scheme payment to date, despite the fact that they have been subject to audit and inspections in this matter; if steps will be taken to award payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23829/09]

Willie Penrose

Question:

246 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who applied for the REP scheme from 1 December 2007 and is due €9,481 has not been awarded same to date; if payment will be awarded without further undue delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23830/09]

The person named submitted an adjusted plan on 9th June 2009 addressing deficiencies in the plan he had previously submitted. This plan will now be subject to administrative checks and if it is found to be satisfactory will be processed for payment.

Willie Penrose

Question:

247 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is eligible and can participate in the REP scheme four programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23832/09]

The person named finished his REPS 3 contract in June 2009 and my Department has no record of an application from him to join REPS 4. It is open to him to apply to participate in REPS 4, but as the closing date of 15 May for receipt of applications in respect of 2009 has passed, any valid application received from him cannot have a start date earlier than 1st January 2010.

Educational Requirements.

John McGuinness

Question:

248 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if an exemption from the requirement to have Irish will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23487/09]

I received representations from the Deputy on 9th June last. The criteria for appointment of Special Needs Assistants specifies that the minimum requirement necessary for appointment is an award of Grade D (or pass) in Irish, English and Mathematics in the Intermediate Certificate/Junior Certificate or Day Vocational Certificate Examination or in an examination of equivalent standard.

Boards of Management of schools are the employers of all staff, including SNAs, employed in schools. State funding of any SNA position is granted on the basis of agreed recruitment policies and guidelines being adhered to by Boards of Management and these being applied in a fair and consistent manner in all cases. The minimum educational standard required for these positions is based on the needs of the SNA post generally across all schools and it is not open to schools to deviate from this standard in individual cases. In such circumstances, the Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to grant an exemption from such a standard requirement in individual cases.

Schools Recognition.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

249 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science when a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be granted permanent recognition by his Department; the requirements this school needs to fulfil in order to gain permanent recognition; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the failure to grant recognition has resulted in the denial of retention planning permission by Kildare County Council; his policies regarding the creation of a new gaelscoil in the Curragh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23506/09]

The school to which the Deputy refers is recognised by my Department. In common with all schools, when initially established, the school was granted temporary recognition to allow it to demonstrate its viability and this temporary recognition remains in place. During its period of temporary recognition, accommodation remains the responsibility of the Patron. My Department has recently written to the school confirming its status to assist it with its appeal to An Bord Pleanála for retention on its current premises.

With regard to the criteria for permanent recognition, my Department is guided by a Commission on School Accommodation (CSA) Report produced in 2004 on the "Criteria and Procedures for establishing and maintaining provision through the medium of Irish in second level schools". The report recommends that for an Irish Medium school to be recognised, it must have:

An initial first year projected enrolment of 30 pupils;

A projected average first year enrolment of 40 pupils over six years;

A projected total enrolment of 250-300, six years after opening;

Suitable accommodation; and

Compliance with Section 10 of the Education Act, 1998.

The school to which the Deputy refers has a current enrolment of 105 pupils which falls short of that needed for permanent recognition. In the circumstances, earlier this year, my Department extended the school's temporary recognition for a further three years to allow it the opportunity to develop further.

Departmental Correspondence.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

250 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make a decision on the appeal submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Galway and supported by this Deputy in a letter to him dated 29 April 2009 and acknowledged by his Department; if he will expedite a decision on this appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23528/09]

A reply has issued to the candidate referred to by the Deputy in respect of his appeal from the Higher Education- Equity Of Access Unit of my Department.

Special Educational Needs.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

251 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm that the required funding has been provided for the National Braille Production Unit in order to produce specialised books and other essential materials for students at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9; if he will further confirm that there will be no reduction in critical teaching staff at this school from September 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23535/09]

My Department has advised the National Braille Production Centre (NBPC) that an allocation of €1,150,000 has been made available to the Centre in 2009. The NBPC has written to my Department seeking additional funding and my officials will be in further contact with the Centre in this regard.

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs including those with a visual impairment can have access to an education appropriate to their needs. Special schools and special classes for pupils with a visual impairment have a reduced pupil teacher ratio of 8:1 and enhanced levels of capitation are payable. There are no proposals at this point to amend the pupil teacher ratio of 8:1 at present.

Schools Accommodation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

252 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 453 of 26 May 2009 if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a crisis exists in relation to places for September 2009; the action he will take to resolve this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23555/09]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has given sanction to the school to which he refers for the provision of 4 extra classrooms to cater for its needs for next September. The school has been informed of this decision.

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

Any further accommodation needs for the area in question will be fully considered in this context.

Special Educational Needs.

Joe Carey

Question:

253 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will approve the application of the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23559/09]

In light of the Budget 2009 decision my Department has now published a circular for schools which sets out how the new arrangements will operate for the allocation of language support teachers from September 2009. The circular sets out a structured and transparent approach for the operation of the alleviation measures that were announced in the budget for schools that have a significant concentration of newcomer pupils. The alleviation measures mean that these schools can qualify for up to 4 language support posts with the possibility of additional posts also being approved through the independent staffing appeals mechanism.

Schools can now apply to my Department in the normal way for language support posts. These posts are approved on a provisional basis initially and will be confirmed in September 2009 following receipt from the schools of actual enrolments of pupils requiring language support. It is estimated that notwithstanding the budget measures there will be approximately 1,500 language support teaching posts in our primary and post-primary schools in September 2009. By any standards this is a very significant resource and the challenge will be to ensure that it is used to maximum effect.

Additional supports are provided for children in primary schools who do not meet the qualifying criteria for the appointment of full-time teachers in the form of grant aids for the employment of part-time English language support teachers. 443 schools have benefited from this type of financial support in the current school year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a review or increase in home tuition grant will be arranged in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23568/09]

The Deputy will be aware that the home tuition scheme provides a grant to parents to facilitate the provision of education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting an educational placement and to provide early intervention for pre-school children with autism.

The maximum allocation of 20 hours per week has been sanctioned for the child in question.

Oideachas Trí Ghaeilge.

Brian Hayes

Question:

255 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Brian Hayes den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta cén beartas atá ag an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta maidir le scoileanna a bhíonn ag múineadh trí Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [23576/09]

Brian Hayes

Question:

256 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Brian Hayes den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta an dtacaíonn sé le scoileanna lánGhaeilge sa Ghaeltacht, nó an é mian agus polasaí na Roinne go mbeadh sruthanna Béarla ag feidhmiú iontu; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [23577/09]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna 255 agus 256 le chéile.

Faoi théarmaí Alt 6 den Acht Oideachais, 1998 tá oibleagáid shainiúil ar an earnáil oideachais cuidiú leis an nGaeilge a choinneáil mar phríomhtheanga an phobail i limistéir Ghaeltachta. Éilíonn an tAcht chomh maith go gcuirfí chun cinn riachtanais teanga agus chultúrtha mac léinn ag féachaint do roghanna a dtuismitheoirí. Chuige sin is é beartas mo Roinne gur trí Ghaeilge sa mhéid is féidir é a sholáthrófaí oideachas i limistéir Ghaeltachta.

Is amhlaidh, de bharr riachtanas agus cúinsí daltaí aonair agus mianta ráite na dtuismitheoirí, nach mbíonn ar chumas scoileanna áirithe feidhmiú de réir an chaighdeáin bharrmhaith is inmhianta agus go mbíonn orthu cur chuige níos solúbtha a ghlacadh chucu féin. Le blianta beaga anuas ach go háirithe, tá sruthanna imirce tar éis dul i bhfeidhm ar scoileanna Gaeltachta le heisimircigh ag filleadh ar ais agus le daoine as lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht ag teacht chun cónaithe inti. Os mar seo atá, féadann sé bheith riachtanach cur chuige dátheangach a chleachtadh i gcomhair ranganna áirithe nó i gcomhair mac léinn áirithe i ranganna ar leith le tréimhse ama. Nuair a tharlaíonn sé seo is í an aidhm atá leis ná feabhas a chur ar chumas teangeolaíoch an mhic léinn teagasc a fháil trí Ghaeilge agus í a úsáid.

Is mian le mo Roinnse leanúint le tacaíocht a thabhairt do scoileanna dá leithéid agus iad ag déileáil leis an athrú deimeagrafach trí na deontais breisithe agus na liúntais múinteora a íoctar do scoileanna sa Ghaeltacht a choinneáil.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

257 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if the taxi companies used by his Department and State agencies under the aegis of his Department have a minimum percentage of taxis which are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users; the amount expended by his Department and State agencies on taxi hire in 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23583/09]

My Department has accounts with three taxi companies. On average approximately 12% of the companies' fleets are accessible for people with disabilities and wheelchair users.

The amount spent on taxis by my Department in 2008 was €26,996.34. The amount spent to date in 2009 is €9,482.81. Taxis used by my Department's officials are strictly for business purposes and staff are required to ensure that every effort is made to minimise the use of taxis.

Use of taxis and expenditure on taxis by agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the individual agencies.

Higher Education Grants.

David Stanton

Question:

258 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science when the new reckonable income figures and grant rates for higher education grants will be published, whether reckonable income includes the amounts payable under the income levy, public service pension levy and other levies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23599/09]

Criteria for the 2009 maintenance grant schemes are under review at present. Decisions on the 2009 schemes will be announced as soon as the process is completed.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Joan Burton

Question:

259 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the disposal of documents relating to the Ryan commission’s recent report into child abuse at institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23695/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that, as stated by me in this House on Friday last that under the Act, decisions on the Commission's records are a matter for the Commission. However, my Department has received assurances from the Commission that no action will be taken on these documents for some time. The Government supports the desirability of preserving, in so far as possible, these records for posterity.

Special Educational Needs.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

260 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science if approval will be given to an application for a full time special needs assistant in respect of a pupil (details supplied) in County Carlow. [23702/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports including special needs assistants. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the information provided by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

School Staffing.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

261 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reverse the decision made to reduce the number of special needs teachers from five to two at a national school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23703/09]

I understand that the Deputy's office has confirmed that his question refers to special need assistant support in the school. As she will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants to primary and post primary schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the information provided by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Irish Language.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

262 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to revise the circular governing pupil exemptions from participating in Irish in schools; if there was consideration in recent years to reduce the age of exemption from 11 years to ten years of age; if this proposal will be implemented in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23706/09]

There are two circulars issued by my Department which provide for exemptions from the study of Irish as a subject for limited specific circumstances. As part of the primary school curriculum Irish is a compulsory subject. Department Circular 12/96 applies to primary schools funded by my Department and sets out the conditions under which exemption from the study of Irish may be granted to primary students.

The same criteria apply to granting of exemptions at post-primary level, under Departmental Circular M10/94. Exemptions granted within the stated criteria to a student in a State funded primary school will be carried forward to their post-primary school.

In recent years, my Department has given some consideration to consolidating and updating these circulars. All aspects of the current arrangements are under consideration including the element raised by the Deputy and the intention is to consider the matter on a comprehensive basis rather than isolate any one aspect of the existing arrangements. Therefore revised circulars are unlikely to issue until consideration is complete including consideration of applicability to Gaeltacht schools that has arisen in the context of a case due to be heard in the High Court early next month.

Early Retirement Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

263 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if the incentivised scheme of early retirement, announced in the supplementary budget of 7 April 2009, will apply to teachers in the primary and secondary school sectors; the number of expressions of interest or applications for this scheme which have been received by both civil servants within his Department and by teachers working in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23710/09]

The Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement for public servants over 50 years of age was announced in the Budget in April this year. It does not apply to teachers for two reasons.

Firstly, primary and post-primary teachers are not subject to the recent moratorium on recruitment which applies to most other parts of the public service. Instead, the number of teacher and Special Needs Assistant (SNA)posts will be capped at the overall aggregate number of such posts actually in place in schools after the new school year has begun in September 2009, based on the agreed Staffing Schedule for 2009/10 and other existing policies for determining teacher and SNA numbers. If the posts were not filled, it would be detrimental to the educational interests of students and the exception to the moratorium reflects this.

Secondly, The Early Retirement Scheme is aimed at civil and public servants who retire before the age of 60 and whose superannuation options are limited to receiving their entitlements at preserved pension age or, for people aged over 50, immediate payment of pension benefits subject to an actuarial reduction. It is not being applied to sectors who have fast accrual of service (eg An Garda Síochána, Prison Officers and the Army) or for those who have other preferential pension benefits such as the 55/35 year rule for teachers. Under the 55/35 year rule a teacher, other than a new entrant appointed after 1 April 2004, who has reached the age of 55 years and has at least 35 years of actual pensionable service, may retire voluntarily. There is no actuarial reduction in benefits and credit for certain pre-service training is given in order to assist teachers to reach the 35-year threshold for retirement. To date, my Department has received 15 applications under the new incentivised retirement scheme.

Home-School Liaison Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

264 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will take steps to ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Longford is retained and employed in their current position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23728/09]

Home School Community Liaison coordinator posts are provided on a full time or shared basis between schools. Due to the nature of the work of HSCL coordinators, which focuses directly on the salient adults in children's educational lives, coordinators must be deployed to do full-time liaison duties only to avoid any potential conflict of interest. The role also requires the flexibility to be available to families, for home visitation, attending meetings and inservice and undertaking school staff development without having the restrictions of a timetable.

Following a full review of the allocation of HSCL posts and clustering arrangements under DEIS ( Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools), the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion in 2008, HSCL posts are allocated to schools on the basis of their levels of disadvantage and enrolment, having regard to geographic proximity or ‘association' (where children from the same family attend different schools. ie boys and girls or primary and post primary aged siblings). In a small number of cases, coordinators may be shared between schools that do not have family links, however, this is to ensure that the coordinators are deployed to do home school community liaison duties only.

The coordinator to which the Deputy refers is employed as a permanent whole time teacher by a Vocational Education Committee as a full time HSCL coordinator. Following the 2008 HSCL review, this school is no longer entitled to a full HSCL post, based on its size and level of disadvantage. The VEC have been advised that the HSCL post should now be shared between two of its schools and it is a matter for the VEC to deploy this teacher in accordance with the terms of her contract with the VEC.

Institutes of Technology.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

265 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application of Waterford Institute of Technology for upgrading to the university of the south east; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23729/09]

The position is that applications have been received from three higher education institutions for designation as Universities; Waterford Institute of Technology, Dublin Institute of Technology and Cork Institute of Technology. The issue of university designation does not just affect the institutions and the regions from which applications have been received; it also impacts on the future structure of the higher education system throughout the country. The Government wants to build on our strengths and to provide an environment where all our higher education institutions can develop in a way that best serves the country as a whole as well as the regions where they are based. I have asked the strategy group on higher education to report to me before the end of the year with a two-decade roadmap for the development of the sector.

That group is now critically examining the roles and relationships of higher education institutions so that the system can deliver the levels of efficiency, performance, innovation and growth that will optimise Ireland's ‘smart' economic recovery and social development. There are no plans to advance any of the current applications for university status before the strategy group completes its work.

Schools Building Projects.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

266 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position on the new permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23735/09]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, following a review of the tender report, it is expected that a Design and Build contract will be placed by County Dublin Vocational Education Committee, as patron of the school in question, with the preferred bidder in the near future.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

267 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position on the new permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23736/09]

As the Deputy may be aware, I announced last February that the school in question was to progress to architectural planning. Officials from my Department will be touch with the patron of the school shortly, in relation to progression of the project.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

268 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position on the new permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23737/09]

As the Deputy may be aware, I announced last February that the school in question was to progress to architectural planning for the provision of a new permanent school building. Officials from my Department will be touch with the school authority shortly, in relation to progression of the project.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

269 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position on the new permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23738/09]

As the Deputy may be aware, I announced last February that the school in question was to progress to architectural planning for the provision of a new permanent school building. Officials from my Department will be touch with the school authority shortly, in relation to progression of the project.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Ring

Question:

270 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the position on a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if this special needs assistant will not be withdrawn. [23741/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports including special needs assistants. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the information provided by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Schools Building Projects.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

271 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the review of the application for grant aid for major capital works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and the expected date of decision on the application. [23743/09]

The school to which the Deputy refers applied to my Department for large scale capital funding in August 2008. This application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and has been assigned a Band 2 rating. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Special Educational Needs.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

272 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if, following the appeal by the principal in letters to him on 22 February 2009 and on 1 May 2009, he will reconsider the decision to remove a mild general learning disability class at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23749/09]

My Department has considered the additional information submitted by the school in question in support of its request to retain the special class for mild general learning disability. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department has permitted the school to retain the special class for the 2009/2010 school year.

Schools Refurbishment.

Joe McHugh

Question:

273 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be available for schools for complete attic and wall insulation during the summer months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23752/09]

As I indicated previously I have introduced a new €20 million scheme to improve roof and cavity wall insulation levels in school buildings across the country. The devolved energy efficiency scheme, which is being implemented with the help of Sustainable Energy Ireland, allows schools to apply for funding on a once-off basis to upgrade the fabric insulation in attics and the external cavity walls of their buildings. My Department is providing 100pc grant-aid for these projects which can be carried out over the quiet summer months. The new scheme for schools is an extension to the €80 million Summer Works Scheme I announced on the 7th May last.

The purpose of the scheme is to improve the energy efficiency of our older schools. These measures will make buildings more comfortable, cut energy costs and contribute to the Government's national targets of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The scheme is significant considering that close to 75pc of a school's energy consumption is on heating and hot water, with the remainder on lighting and other small-power appliances. New schools built in recent times are now over twice as energy efficient as best international practice.

To expedite claims and streamline the application process for the scheme, an on-line application form, frequently asked questions and other guidance documents for schools are on www.energyeducation.ie. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in the region of 400 schools have applied for funding to date. It is expected that approval letters will issue in respect of valid applications in the near future.

John McGuinness

Question:

274 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application for a capital grant under the emergency works scheme will be approved in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will expedite the positive decision. [23765/09]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that an application from the school in question for heating works has been approved by my Department and the school management has been informed of the decision.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

275 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 14 for the summer works scheme was rejected ; if this school will be accommodated for building works under any other available building scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23773/09]

The application for Summer Works Scheme funding from the school to which the Deputy refers was not successful because the works were deemed by my Department not to be absolutely necessary at this point in time. The school may appeal this decision if it wishes. Alternatively, it is open to the school authority to use its annual Minor Works Grant to carry out the works, provided this funding is not needed for more urgent works. It will also be open to the school to apply for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2010. I will be announcing details of this Scheme later this year.

Special Educational Needs.

Mary Wallace

Question:

276 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Science if consideration has been given to the provision of an autism unit in a town (details supplied) in County Meath; if he will verify the reason that there is no autism unit or autism class. [23774/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports including the approval of special classes for autism. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the information provided by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

277 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if he is satisfied with the manner and pace at which the second bundle of public private partnership schools is progressing; if he would agree with this Deputy that the process has proven to be unacceptably slow; his plans to streamline the process for future PPP bundles; if the final tenders for the second bundle of schools have been received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23783/09]

As the Deputy is aware all projects undertaken by my Department must be offered to the market in accordance with EU and National procurement guidelines and are subject to the local authority planning process. In relation to projects being procured via the public private partnership process additional negotiations are required post tender stage to ensure that all aspects of the 25 year contract are agreed. The current challenging financial environment has also impacted on the timeframe for completing the PPP process. Taking all these matters into consideration I am generally satisfied with the progress of the 2nd Schools Bundle.

In order to ensure that projects are delivered as soon as possible I have met with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) and discussed how the process could be streamlined. A meeting has been arranged between officials in my Department and the NDFA to consider this matter further. In relation to the 2nd Bundle of schools I am pleased to inform the Deputy that tenders for this bundle are due to be returned to the NDFA on 1st July 2009.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

278 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 650 of 9 June 2009, the reason his Department is unable to furnish a copy of the requested information immediately; if this information has ever been compiled since the indemnity deal was first agreed; if it will be possible to complete the conveyances without, inter alia, summaries of the discount achieved by the State and the values of each site. [23796/09]

Following receipt of the Deputy's question on 9 June my Department examined how pursuant to the agreement and relevant protocols, account was taken of grants or other payments in arriving at final valuations for the purpose of property transfers under the agreement. This initial examination has raised questions as to whether such adjustments to market valuation were made in the case of properties where they might have been applicable. A full review is being undertaken of the valuation process applied for each property involved including the application of protocols relating to grants paid. This review will be overseen by the external Chairperson of the Department's Internal Audit Committee, Mr Bill Cunningham former senior partner, PWC. I will inform the Deputy of the outcome of the review.

School Staffing.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

279 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 654 of 9 June 2009, if he will provide details of the outcome of the appeals hearings involved once they become available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23797/09]

The information which the Deputy has requested in relation to the outcome of appeals considered by the Primary Staffing Appeal Board for staffing in the 2009-2010 school year is set out in the table. Four of the unsuccessful applicant schools were subsequently allocated a post by my Department based on their projected enrolment for September 2009. It is open to any Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0002/2009 and Circular 0015/2009 — Meeting the needs of pupils learning English as an Additional Language. Both circulars are available on my Department's website.

The Appeal Board meets in May, June and October each year to consider cases submitted. Appeals must be submitted to Primary Allocations Section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, on the standard application form, clearly stating the criterion under which the appeal is being made. The standard application form is available from Primary Allocations Section or on my Department's website. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Number of Appeals Considered by the Primary Staffing Appeal Board for posts in the 2009-2010 School Year

County

Number of Appeals Heard

Number of Appeals Upheld

Number of Appeals for which Additional Information is being sought

Carlow

1

1

0

Cavan

1

0

0

Clare

7

1

0

Cork

14

5

2

Donegal

5

1

1

Dublin

45

29

3

Galway

14

3

1

Kerry

10

4

2

Kildare

4

2

0

Kilkenny

0

0

0

Laois

1

1

0

Leitrim

2

0

0

Limerick

4

1

0

Longford

0

0

0

Louth

5

5

0

Mayo

5

0

1

Meath

2

0

1

Monaghan

2

2

0

Offaly

3

0

0

Roscommon

2

0

0

Sligo

3

1

0

Tipperary

5

2

1

Waterford

3

1

0

Westmeath

4

3

0

Wexford

5

1

0

Wicklow

1

0

0

Total

148

63

12

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Question:

280 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools at primary and secondary level which are currently at each stage of the school building programme; the breakdown by band of the number of schools waiting for buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23803/09]

Brian Hayes

Question:

281 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools at primary and secondary level which were at each stage or band of the school building programme in 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23804/09]

Brian Hayes

Question:

282 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the proportion of his capital budget which will be spent at primary and secondary levels on band one projects in 2009; the breakdown of the budget expended on same in 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23805/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 to 282, inclusive, together.

The numbers of school projects at each respective stage of architectural planning in June 2008 and June 2009 and their allocated band ratings are contained in the tabular statement. In the time available to answer these questions it was not possible to compile and verify similar information for June 2007.

The proportion of the 2009 capital allocation which will be expended on band one projects in 2009 will depend on the progress of individual projects to tender and construction and the speed of construction for projects on-site. However, I can inform the Deputy that my Department has profiled an expected spend of €165m on major primary school projects for 2009 and a further €80m on major post-primary projects. A further €80m has been allocated to the 2009 Summer Works Scheme.

To date in 2009, expenditure on band 1 projects at primary level has amounted to €19.38m and at post-primary level expenditure on band 1 projects has amounted to €13.29m. In 2008, my Department spent €230.65m on major primary projects of which €118.34m was on projects completed in 2008 which had a band 1 rating.

In 2008, my Department spent €81.73m on major post-primary projects of which €4.2m was on projects completed in 2008 which had a band 1 rating. In 2007, my Department spent €144.23m on major primary projects of which €54.81m was on projects completed in 2007 which had a band 1 rating. In 2007, my Department spent €111.67m on major post-primary projects of which €18.55m was on projects completed in 2007 with a band 1 rating.

Projects in Programme by stage and band rating

Primary June 2009

Band 1

Band 2

Band 3

Band 4

Stage 1

31

37

1

1

Stage 2a

27

30

0

1

Stage 2b

6

12

0

0

Stages 3 and 4 (Tender & Construction)

22

12

0

0

Post-Primary June 2009

Band 1

Band 2

Band 3

Band 4

Stage 1

3

26

0

2

Stage 2a

3

22

0

1

Stage 2b

2

2

0

1

Stages 3 and 4 (Tender & Construction)

5

1

0

0

Primary June 2008

Band 1

Band 2

Band 3

Band 4

Stage 1

72

21

0

0

Stage 2a

20

30

1

0

Stage 2b

11

20

0

1

Stages 3 and 4 (Tender & Construction)

43

33

0

0