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 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 108, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 109 to 111, inclusive, answered orally.

Primary Schools Inventory.

Joan Burton

Question:

112 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has completed the inventory of the 3,200 primary school buildings; when he will publish a report providing full details of the inventory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37090/09]

In order to improve the information systems available to my Department in relation to primary and post-primary schools, my Department's Forward Planning Section uses Geographical Information System technology which contains a certain level of information on all schools in the country, at both primary and post primary level.

To further expand and improve the capabilities of the system, arrangements are being made to conduct a survey of accommodation at primary and post-primary level that will be linked to other information held in the GIS including information on demographic trends across the country.

Work on the development of an online facility for the compilation of the inventory of school accommodation referred to by the Deputy is well advanced. The detailed functional specification for the Inventory has been completed and work is currently underway on building the online interface and database to hold the information.

The online facility will enable schools to provide information about their accommodation, including its composition in terms of permanent and temporary structures, electronically to the Department. The Department will also be collecting information on the age of existing school accommodation including both purchased and rented prefabs. The inventory will also include information on size of school sites.

Schools will be able to access the online facility through the Department's Esinet portal. Initially it is planned that a small number of schools will be given access to the facility for testing. This is scheduled to take place in November. It is expected that the facility will be made available to all schools to start uploading information before the end of 2009.

When all the information has been received from schools, the Inventory will provide key data and statistics on the existing school building stock throughout the country at both primary and post-primary levels. It will enable the Department to more accurately calculate capacity in existing school accommodation and therefore identify where additional accommodation is required.

When the information has been compiled and analysed, it is intended to publish it and this is likely to happen before the end of the current school year

Programme for Government.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in the context of the discussions in the revised programme for Government, consideration was given to the resultant costs for his Department; if such costs have been identified; if he received confirmation from the Department of Finance regarding the availability of the necessary funds to meet these proposals; if he will confirm if he has had discussions with the interested parties as to the feasibility of meeting such commitments within the lifetime of this Dáil within existing budgetary intentions and the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes report; if it intends that these proposals will be self-financing or if other means have been identified as a source of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37045/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

152 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science when the new commitments in the revised programme for Government will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37078/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 152 together.

In drawing up the Revised Programme for Government all relevant issues including costs formed part of the consideration. With regard to their specific identification the Deputy will appreciate that while some costs can be identified with a degree of certainty the costs of other elements will depend on their precise implementation.

The specific education measures include a commitment to no further increase in the pupil teacher ratio for the lifetime of the Government, 500 teaching posts over the next three years, funding for 28 additional psychologist posts, standard capitation grants to schools being maintained and an extra allocation being made available to schools for needs such as book rental schemes and curricular activities.

The commitment to maintain the standard capitation grants to schools will not give rise to additional costs except insofar as it relates to increases in the school going population, the costing of which would form part of the annual estimates and budgetary process. While the precise costs of the additional teaching posts cannot be determined until the actual appointments are made it is anticipated that every teacher appointed will give rise to an initial annual pay cost of approx. €46,000 on appointment rising to an average of €64,000 over time. We plan to start allocating the first tranche of 200 posts early in the new year, with a further 150 posts to be allocated in September 2010, with the remainder in September 2011. Assuming 200 extra teachers from the beginning of next year and a further 150 teachers next September the extra pay costs next year will be in the order of €11 million and the ongoing full year pay cost when all 500 teachers are employed at average salary will be in the order of €32 million.

The funding of the additional 28 psychological posts is expected to give rise to an additional full year cost of approx €2.3m. I can inform the Deputy that my Department and the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is currently actively engaging with some 13 prospective recruits to the National Educational Psychological Service for assignment in the immediate future (four by the end of October). Discussions are now underway between my Department and the Public Appointments Service with a view to establishing a new recruitment competition to produce a panel of qualified personnel to continue the planned ongoing expansion of the Service.

The exact level of additional funding for schools for the consolidated grants will be considered in the context of the estimates and budgetary process. I can confirm that my Department is currently engaged in discussions with the Department of Finance in relation to the precise quantum of funding needed to implement this commitment in 2010. It is also my intention to have my Department engage with the school management bodies on the most efficient method of delivering this funding into the schools.

The Revised Programme also provides for other measures which have the potential to give rise to additional costs for the education sector. These include for example delivery of 100 MBs Broadband for all second level schools by 2012 and roll out of new digital access devices for teachers and students. In addition it provides for the development of a costed multi-annual plan to implement some priority aspects of the EPSEN Act focusing on measurable, practical progress in education and health services for children with special needs. However it is not possible to give an exact costing at this early stage until the implementation arrangements are worked out.

The Revised Programme for Government, which is for delivery over the period to 2012, is based on the broad macro economic framework set out in the April Budget taking account of the latest fiscal trends. The framework recognises the need to achieve stabilisation of the public finances over the next three years involving significant adjustments in current expenditure in each year. This correction of the public finances will take account of the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes and the Commission on Taxation while creating room for targeted spending and taxation initiatives that can be demonstrated to promote economic renewal. Funding for all aspects of the revised Programme, including the education measures, will be considered over the coming weeks in the context of the estimate and budgetary process.

Schools Building Projects.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

114 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the design team to initiate the architectural planning of an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cork has not been appointed; and if he will confirm that there will be no further delay. [37114/09]

My Department has received an application from the school to which the Deputy refers for large scale capital funding for an extension and refurbishment to provide accommodation for a projected long term enrolment of 550 pupils. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and assigned a 2.4 band rating.

The prioritisation criteria were drawn up following consultation with the Education Partners. There are four band ratings under these criteria, each of which describes the extent of accommodation required and the urgency attaching to it. Band 1 is the highest priority rating and Band 4 is the lowest.

This band rating assigned to this school reflects the fact that there is a deficit of mainstream accommodation. However, this deficit does not represent a substantial or significant proportion of the school's overall accommodation needs. The band rating also takes into account the fact that a refurbishment is required which is not extensive in scope. The next step with this project is for a design team to be appointed. I will consider the project, together with all other large scale building projects, in the context of the projects to be progressed in 2010 taking into account its band rating and the level of demand on my Departments capital budget.

However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Higher Education Grants.

Willie Penrose

Question:

115 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 1105 of 6 October 2009, his views on making changes governing the use of affidavits for the purposes of proving independent residency for a student grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37083/09]

For student grants purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances either as students dependent on parents or guardians, dependent mature students or as independent mature students. An independent mature student is defined as a mature student who was not ordinarily resident with his or her parents from the October preceding entry to an approved course.

When assessing the means of students other than independent mature students, the schemes specify that parental income must be taken into account. Independent mature students, on the other hand, are assessed without reference to their parents' income. The reckonable income of an independent mature student is that of the candidate only and of his or her spouse where appropriate.

In order to establish a candidate's status as an independent mature student, documentary evidence is required as proof of a candidate's address from 1st October of the year preceding entry to college. In considering whether a mature student meets the conditions to be assessed independently of his or her parents, awarding authorities are obliged to satisfy themselves beyond doubt that an acceptable degree of proof of independent living in the relevant period has been submitted by the grant applicant.

The documentary evidence normally required by a local authority or VEC to establish independent residence includes utility bills, such as telephone, gas or ESB bill, evidence of registration with the Private Residential Tenancies Board or official documentation received at the address, for example, from a Government Department. In exceptional circumstances, where it is not possible to produce such proofs of residence in the relevant period for demonstrable reasons, the awarding authority may, at its discretion, agree to accept other documentary proofs. While an affidavit, if accompanied by other supporting documentation, may be considered as evidence of independent living, an affidavit in isolation is not considered acceptable as sole proof of residency.

The Deputy will be aware that, in witnessing an affidavit, the role of a Commissioner for Oaths or practising solicitor is to witness the signature of the person making the affidavit. They do not verify the contents of the affidavit. An affidavit is generally confined to such facts as the person swearing it is able of his or her own knowledge to prove. It is considered that it is likely to be of little value where a candidate is unable to provide any form of documentary evidence to support his or her assertions in this regard.

My Department has reviewed the use of affidavits in the context of proof of independent living and is satisfied that the current practice in this regard is both reasonable and appropriate.

Disadvantaged Status.

Denis Naughten

Question:

116 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps he is taking to support disadvantaged children in the classroom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37110/09]

The majority of schools include among their pupils, children with disadvantaged backgrounds. In general most schools address the individual needs of these children without recourse to additional targeted resources. Evidence has shown that disadvantage associated with poverty and social exclusion assumes a multiplier effect where the levels are highly concentrated in schools.

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and an integrated School Support Programme (SSP). As a result of the identification and review processes, 881 schools have been included in the School Support Programme (SSP) under DEIS. These comprise 679 primary schools (urban and rural) and 202 second-level schools.

The plan commenced in 2006 and is being rolled out on a phased basis over the period to 2010.

DEIS provides various supports for both primary and post primary schools. These include:

reduced pupil teacher ratio in primary schools in urban areas with most disadvantage.

allocation of administrative principal on lower figures than generally apply in primary schools in urban areas.

additional capitation funding based on level of disadvantage. — additional funding for schools books.

access to the School Meals Programme

access to numeracy/literacy supports and measures at primary level.

access to Home School Community Liaison services.

access to the School Completion Programme.

enhanced guidance counselling provision at post primary level.

access to planning supports.

provision for school library and librarian support in post primary schools with most disadvantage

access to the Junior Certificate School Programme and Leaving Certificate Applied

access to a range of professional development supports.

The renewed programme for Government reinforces my commitment to support children in DEIS schools. In particular the renewed commitment the Junior Certificate Schools programme and the Leaving Certificate Applied will ensure that children attending the most disadvantaged Post Primary schools will continue to benefit from enhanced curricular relevance and choice as well as access to specific literacy and numeracy measures.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 111.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

118 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the budget and expenditure of the Special Education Appeals Board each year since it became operational in April 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37115/09]

The Special Education Appeals Board (SEAB) was established under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 to hear and determine appeals under the Act.

SEAB comprises a Chairperson, Ms Fionnuala Kilfeather, and two ordinary members, Mr Páid McGee and Mr Patrick O'Keeffe, all of whom have a special interest in, or knowledge of, education and in particular the education of persons with special educational needs. Appointments were made to this inaugural board in April 2007 for an initial three year term.

SEAB will be independent in the performance of its functions. None of the sections in EPSEN which would allow an appeal to be lodged have been commenced as yet.

However, since its establishment, the Board has developed draft procedures which it proposes to use to consider appeals once the relevant sections of the EPSEN Act are commenced. In considering the requirements of the appeals process which will be required under EPSEN, the Board members have examined the range of legal issues associated with such a process. The Board members have also reviewed the outcome of judicial reviews of education decisions and looked at the structures and procedures in other Tribunal fora such as the Equality Tribunal and the Employment Equality Tribunal.

The Board has also held ongoing meetings with individuals and organisations whose experience would inform the work of the Board or whose work was linked with the work of the Board including my own Department, the National Council for Special Education and the National Educational Welfare Board. The Board has also considered the requirements for mediation as provided for under EPSEN.

SEAB does not have a separate budget. My Department spent €9,691 in 2007 and €184,243 in 2008 on funding the operation of the SEAB. In the current year, a provision of €100,000 was set aside to fund its operations. €54,145 has been spent to end of September 2009.

David Stanton

Question:

119 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 1220 of 6 October 2009, his plans to establish an independent appeals process which can be used by parents to appeal the decisions of special educational needs organisers when they are not in a position to provide additional information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37116/09]

I have previously advised the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has its own appeal mechanism. I understand that the NCSE is currently finalising a new set of procedures for appeal of SENO decisions in relation to the allocation of teaching/SNA resources. Under the proposed procedures appeals may be lodged by schools or parents. The appeal will need to set out the grounds for the appeal. The key grounds for appeal will be that the SENO (i) Misinterpreted or ignored my Department's policy or (ii) Failed to take due account of the evidence of the child's educational and/or care needs or the resourcing available within the school when applying my Department's policy.

Where appeals are lodged the decision will be examined by a Senior SENO who was not involved in the previous decision and a finding communicated to the school or parent. It is expected that the new procedures will be fully operational by the end of the year.

I am also informed that, in 2010, the NCSE intends establishing an independent Appeal Advisory Committee, comprising an independent chair, a parents' representative and a school management representative. This will consider cases where schools consider that the appeals process was inadequate/inappropriate in addressing the concerns raised or represents an irrational interpretation of the facts and application of the policy criteria.

School Staffing.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

120 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to introduce a scheme whereby recently qualified unemployed primary school teachers could participate in a work placement experience programme in the primary school system in view of the need for additional teaching resources in the school system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37092/09]

The proposal put forward by the Deputy will be considered in the context of the commitment in the renewed Programme for Government to take on 1,000 Third and Fourth level graduates to provide additional capacity and skills across the public service and in Government Departments and provide valuable work experience.

Any such proposals will also require consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

I have separately urged school authorities to give priority, wherever possible, to newly or recently qualified teachers when making appointments for periods of substitution cover in schools.

Institutes of Technology.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

121 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he will take in relation to Dublin Institute of Technology whereby due to the staff embargo, classes, lectures, library hours and science laboratories have been cut to the detriment of the students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37108/09]

George Lee

Question:

582 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the quality of education at Dublin Institute of Technology is being affected by cutbacks (details supplied); his plans to rectify this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36769/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

632 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are substantial difficulties evident in Dublin Institute of Technology since the start of the 2009-10 academic year; the steps he will take to address these difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37405/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 582 and 632 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the purpose of the Government decision to implement a recruitment and promotion moratorium in the public sector is to facilitate a permanent, structural reduction in the numbers of staff serving in the public sector and is intended to contribute significant and ongoing savings to the Exchequer. In applying this moratorium generally, teaching and research activities in the education sector have been afforded significant exemptions relative to other areas of public expenditure. Nonetheless, the Deputy will appreciate that the sector has to contribute towards overall public sector numbers reductions.

In the area of higher education, the Government agreed that an employment control framework be developed to provide for the application of the moratorium arrangements to higher education institutions, subject to the continued oversight and review by the HEA and both my Department and the Department of Finance. This framework allows flexibility around recruitment into posts that are considered essential to maintaining core teaching and research activities, subject to an overall ceiling on numbers employed. The Government is anxious to work with the publicly funded higher education institutions in achieving necessary reductions in public expenditure within the sector as an essential part of overall budgetary strategy. The employment control framework aims to enable this while providing sufficient flexibility for the protection of frontline teaching and research activities.

It is a matter for the individual higher education institutions, including Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), to manage their staffing resources in the context of implementing the framework. I understand that, within the terms of the employment control framework, the HEA are currently in discussions with DIT in relation to options for addressing some specific operational issues that have arisen there.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

122 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the appeals process will begin for providing 200 teaching posts to those schools most seriously affected by the increase in the pupil-teacher ratio as per the revised programme for Government; and the criteria being considered. [37102/09]

My Department proposes to structure a consultation process through meetings with the education partners in the coming weeks in accordance with the commitment to consultation as set out in the renewed Programme. In advance of such discussions it has written to the education partners to seek any observations or suggestions they may have in relation to the implementation of the commitment. This will assist my Department in identifying issues for discussion and to set a detailed agenda for the discussions.

In that regard the views of the education partners have been sought on:

The division of posts between the primary and post-primary sectors

The best way to identify those schools that are "most seriously affected by the recent increase in the PTR" and the criteria that might be applied in such identification?

The desirability of implementing the commitment in a manner through an allocation process that keeps the administrative burden at a minimum for both schools and the Department.

The education partners have been given until Thursday 29 October 2009 to forward their views to my Department. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the issues raised by the Deputy pending the outcome of the consultation process.

Special Educational Needs.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

123 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the aspects of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 which are expected to be implemented in view of the revised programme for Government; the cost envisaged under this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37081/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

128 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science the timeframe for the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, as per the revised programme for Government. [37106/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 128 together.

As the Deputies are aware, the commitment in the renewed Programme for Government is to develop, in consultation with stakeholders, a costed multi-annual plan to implement some priority aspects of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, focussing on measurable, practical progress in education and health services for children with special needs.

It is not possible to give a timeframe or costs at present, given that the processes involved will require discussions with the education partners as well as the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health and Children.

I want to take this opportunity to emphasise that children with special educational needs will continue to receive an education appropriate to their needs. The NCSE will continue to allocate teaching and special needs assistant resources in line with my Department's policy to enable schools support pupils with special educational needs.

Institutes of Technology.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

124 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made regarding the move of the Dublin Institute of Technology to Grangegorman; his proposals to ensure that buildings such as the DIT building in Rathmines remain fully utilised both currently and after the final move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37101/09]

The Grangegorman Development Agency was established under Section 8 of the Grangegorman Development Agency Act 2005. The general aim of the Agency is to oversee the development of the lands at Grangegorman on behalf of the Departments of Education and Science, Health and Children, Dublin Institute of Technology and the Health Services Executive.

Section 12 of the Act provides that the Agency following its establishment must prepare a Strategic plan consisting of a written statement and a plan indicating the objectives for the development of the Grangegorman site, including the setting of a budget for the strategic plan subject to the approval of the Minister for Education and Science together with a strategy for its delivery within the set budget.

The draft Strategic plan and budget has been received by my Department and I intend bringing proposals to Government for consideration as quickly as possible.

In relation to the DIT building in Rathmines the strategic plan proposes to dispose of this building in a manner that will maximise its disposal value as soon as alternative accommodation has been provided on the Grangegorman site. It is proposed that the proceeds from the disposal of all DIT properties will be used to part fund the Grangegorman project.

Teacher Training Colleges.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

125 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the proposals of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes that the Froebel College of Education in Blackrock, the Church of Ireland Training College in Rathmines and the Marino Institute, Dublin, should be abolished to provide a saving in nominal terms of €2.9 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37098/09]

As the Deputy is aware, the Report of the Special Group recommended that my Department should decide on how to manage the supply of teachers, i.e whether the 5 teacher training colleges should continue to be funded to a lesser extent or whether to concentrate resources on a smaller number of colleges.

This proposal, like other proposals made by the Special Group, is currently being considered in the context of the estimates and budget process.

Schools Amalgamation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

126 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to encourage or propose voluntary clustering of rural primary schools having regard to the fact that 75% of the network of the 3,200 primary schools cater for nearly 25% of the 500,000 primary school population; if his attention has been drawn to the positive outcome this would create in terms of resources and an efficient deployment of personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37093/09]

Clustering arrangements exist within the primary system for the sharing, in certain instances, of specific resources such as resource teaching posts and also rural coordinator support.

While there are currently no formal arrangements for the sharing of general resources or facilities it is open to schools to enter into local arrangements themselves e.g. in relation to pooling of existing ancillary grants so as to improve their level of secretarial or caretaker provision.

My Department remains open, of course, to considering any proposal from patrons or schools on other types of school clustering arrangements or inter-school co-operation that would result in improving the efficiency or effectiveness of existing levels of resources. Ensuring we get value for money for the taxpayer is obviously a priority for me. We're continuing to find efficiencies where possible. It is incumbent on all of us that given the financial situation we deploy staff and other resources in the most effective way across the education sector.

Community National Schools.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

127 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the cost of the two pilot community national school projects to date; the reason the pilot project has been extended before the completion and publication of an evaluation report; if he will clarify the areas of the country expected to see the establishment of the additional pilot schools; the consultation processes with parents in these areas which have taken place; if he will provide a copy of the circular or Government memorandum which determined that the policy of faith formation classes would take place during the compulsory school day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37099/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

133 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if he circulated a memorandum to Cabinet in 2007 which dealt with the matter of religious instruction in the two pilot community national schools; if he will release a copy of this memorandum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37077/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 133 together.

It is important that the decision endorsed by the Government to implement a new model of primary school patronage is adequately supported both in financial and policy terms. In general, the opening of the two new community national schools has not given rise to any expenditure over and above that normally associated with the establishment of a primary school.

A Steering Group has been established to oversee the project. This Group is composed of officials of the Department of Education and Science and of County Dublin VEC. Officials of both bodies serve on the Steering Group as part of their normal duties. Start-up grants and other payments to which the schools are entitled under the Education Act 1998 have been duly paid by the Department. Principals and teaching staff have been appointed in accordance with normal practice in a start-up situation.

In relation to accommodation, both schools are located in premises provided by the Department through the new Developing Areas building programme. Scoil Ghráinne is located in a temporary building provided by County Dublin VEC pending the construction of a first and second level VEC campus on the same site. Recent advances in school planning and building construction within the Department have led to considerable efficiencies and savings and consequent value for money.

The development of the religious education programme being delivered in the schools is being achieved through an Action Research project assisted by a Reference Group made up of representatives of the main faiths and beliefs and of others with expertise and experience in this area.

The pilot phase of the new community national school model is, by its nature, a learning exercise. It will allow us to test approaches and to learn from and draw on experience over time. The joint Department/VEC Steering Group is now focusing its attention on the evaluation process.

In order to fully evaluate the model in different settings, I want to extend the community national school pilot to a number of new locations in 2010. The addition of what is likely to be a limited number of further schools to the pilot will enhance the potential for identifying possible practical issues and trying out new solutions and will enable informed decisions to be made on the further roll-out of this new model of patronage in other locations in the future.

The Forward Planning Section of my Department has carried out a study of the country to identify the areas where, due to demographic changes, there may be a requirement for significant additional school provision at both primary and post-primary levels over the coming years. This study has been conducted using data from the Central Statistics Office, the General Register Office and the Department of Social & Family Affairs in addition to recent schools' enrolment data.

The study indicates that the requirement for additional primary provision in years 2010, 2011 and 2012 is likely to be greatest in more than 40 identified locations across the country based on significant changes to the demographics of those areas. This information has been circulated to all existing school Patrons who have been invited to bring forward proposals for the expansion of existing schools or indeed to put themselves forward as Patron for any new primary school, should it be required. The extension of the community national school model will be considered in that context.

In December 2007, the Government agreed proposals in relation to the development of an additional model of school patronage at primary level which covered the key elements of the new model, including the proposed approach to the religious education of children. The Government noted that, under the pilot model, in as far as possible, provision would be made within the school setting during the school day for the religious education of children in conformity with the wishes of parents, and that the model would also cater for parents who do not wish their children to receive religious education in any one particular faith. The Government further noted that the schools would operate through an ethos of inclusiveness and respect for all beliefs, both religious and non-religious and that the practical issues arising in respect of this element of the pilot model, and the lessons that might be drawn for future-roll out of the model, would be developed during the pilot phase.

It is not my intention to release a copy of the Memorandum to Government in this instance, in accordance with the provisions governing confidentiality of Government papers contained in Section 1.5 ‘Access to Records' of the Cabinet Handbook produced by the Department of the Taoiseach.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 123.

Schools Patronage.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

129 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has had separate meetings with representatives of the Most Reverend Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin; if there are draft proposals for the transfer of patronage of Roman Catholic schools in the Dublin archdiocese to other patronage bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37072/09]

Joe Costello

Question:

130 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has met with representatives of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to discuss their role as patrons of 92% of primary schools; when the meetings took place; the content of these discussions; the outcome of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37087/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 130 together.

Senior officials of my Department met with Archbishop Martin and other representatives of the Roman Catholic hierarchy separately in late 2007 to discuss a number of issues relating to patronage of primary schools. They discussed the different issues that might arise where one or more schools under Roman Catholic patronage might transfer to another patron. Clearly, any such changes would need to be planned and managed and it would be important in individual school cases for consultation with all stakeholders — parents, teachers and local communities.

My Department has recently been in contact with the Archbishop and other representatives of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and religious to arrange further and more detailed discussions. These discussions are to determine how best to agree a framework by which the issues of school patronage, ownership of school property, the demand for denominational education and other associated matters can be addressed. That joint meeting is scheduled to take place next month.

As the Deputies will be aware, a review of the procedures for the establishment of new primary schools is currently being undertaken by the Commission on School Accommodation. Among the issues being considered as part of this review is the question of patronage and the circumstances where changes to patronage may be warranted.

Information and Telecommunications Technology.

Liz McManus

Question:

131 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science his involvement in an advisory group established to examine information and communications technology which was recently reported to have advised that under-investment in the smart economy has resulted in students here being left behind; the recommendations of this report; if he will implement these recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35506/09]

The ICT Strategy Group Report, "Investing Effectively in ICT in Schools" .which was published in July 2008, provides a clear direction to inform actions to further the integration of ICT into teaching and learning in our schools. The Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal, Building Ireland's Smart Economy, reiterates Government policy to enhance the role of ICT in the education system, working in partnership with industry, to invest further in the provision of equipment and connectivity.

Earlier this year, I set up the Joint Advisory Group, comprising members of ICT Ireland, the Telecommunications and Internet Federation, the Irish Software Association, the Department of Education and Science and the National Centre for Technology in Education, to explore how best to do this having regard to the recommendations set out in the Strategy Group Report. The main recommendations of the Strategy Group Report focus on the provision of up-to-date teaching and learning in sufficient quantity in all schools, access to an appropriately specified, cost-efficient broadband service to all learning areas within the school, and a functional and dependable ICT infrastructure with access to appropriate technical support and maintenance to sustain this quality of service.

This Joint Advisory Group, which commenced its work in March this year, signifies a strong partnership between industry and the education sector, with the shared objective of supporting children's development potential by enhancing the role of ICT in the education system.

The Group's report is being finalised at the moment and I will be considering the recommendations made by the Group in the context of existing policy and available funding.

Programme for Government.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

132 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Education and Science if the increase in teacher numbers in the revised programme for Government has been costed; the net cost to the Exchequer in each of the next three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37100/09]

The renewed Programme for Government commits the Government to no further increase in the pupil teacher ratio in primary and second level schools for the lifetime of this Government. It also states that we will provide 500 teaching posts between primary and second levels over the next three years.

While the precise costs of the additional teaching posts cannot be determined until the actual appointments are made it is anticipated that every teacher appointed will give rise to an initial annual pay cost of approx. €46,000 on appointment rising to an average of €64,000 over time. Accordingly assuming 200 extra teachers from the beginning of the next year and a further 150 teachers next September the extra pay costs next year will be in the order of €11 million and the ongoing full year pay cost when all 500 teachers are employed at average salary will be in the order of €32 million.

As the Deputy is aware the Revised Programme for Government is for delivery over the period to 2012.

Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 127.

University Rankings.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

134 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the Times Education-QS World University Rankings Report publication in which University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin have moved into the top 100 of the 500 universities surveyed and that other universities here have improved their ranking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37096/09]

I am aware of the world university rankings that were widely published in the media last week and I am pleased to note the positive progress of a number of Irish institutions on the basis of the measures involved. The institutions concerned are to be commended on their achievements.

While any single ranking system needs to be carefully interpreted and the use of ranking systems of this nature can be a source of contention, it is the case that international rankings can be an important influence of institutional reputation in developing international collaborations and attracting overseas students and staff. It is important however to bear in mind that different ranking systems use different performance metrics to gauge what are often quite qualitative outcomes with quantitative data. Outcome evaluation and performance metrics for both institutions and higher education systems is an evolving field. The European Commission is currently looking into the feasibility of a developing a new European ranking system for universities. This initiative builds on earlier EU-funded work on mapping the different strengths and missions of universities. The first results of the envisaged pilot project will be available in the first half of 2011. I also await with interest the findings of the current OECD Feasibility Study for the International Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) which is due to report next year. This study is addressing concerns that too narrow a range of measures may overly influence or distort institutional behaviour or government policy when taken in the context of the wider remit held by higher education systems.

Our higher education institutions play a central valuable role in culture, society and the economy and must serve a whole range of regional and national needs as well as enhancing Ireland's international profile in terms of attracting talent and overseas students. We expect the system to pursue excellence in all of these ambitions and furthermore to respond to the needs of a wide range of students and to drive an agenda of equality of opportunity for all. It would not be feasible in this context to expect one measurement or ranking system to be able to fully compare what are extremely complex institutions with diverse missions and roles.

As Minister for Education and Science, my primary concern is to ensure that these multiple roles, which are all extremely important, receive appropriate attention. As the Deputy will be aware I have established a high level Strategy Group to consider the sector in its entirety and to develop a vision for its future direction taking all of these considerations into account.

Schools Recognition.

Joan Burton

Question:

135 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason he has refused to grant permanent status, by way of recognition, to an organisation in its role as patron of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the application is under active consideration; when a decision will be available to grant permanent recognition status to this school in order that it can apply for capital grants in order that it can meet demand for places, in permanent accommodation, in that school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37089/09]

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.

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 had an enrolment of 105 pupils for the 2008/2009 school year, which falls short of that needed for permanent recognition. In the circumstances, earlier this year, the Department extended the school's temporary recognition for a further three years to allow it the opportunity to develop further.

Languages Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

136 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the findings by Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, which revealed that almost one in five secondary school pupils does not learn a foreign language; his views on whether this is a barrier to Ireland achieving its goal of becoming a knowledge based economy in view of the importance of international marketing and communication with other countries; the steps he proposes to take to improve this position with regard to the learning of modern foreign languages in the primary and secondary school system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37097/09]

81.2% of second level pupils study three languages, Irish, English and a continental language, to completion of upper second level, and over 70% of schools offer two foreign languages or more. The languages available as part of the post primary curriculum in schools include French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Arabic. The post primary language initiative provides supports to encourage a diversification of language provision in schools and to encourage the take up of languages other than French.

It is important that students experience a broad and balanced education which prepares them for economic and social participation, for democratic citizenship and lifelong learning. Of necessity this requires that students have to juggle priorities in making decisions on subject choice. Curricular choice is important in ensuring that young people are offered a balanced range of subjects in keeping with their interests and abilities, and that they are motivated to achieve success in learning and remain in school to completion of upper second level education.

The study shows that English is the most widely studied language in upper second level education across the EU other than their mother tongue. The fact that all Irish people speak English, often referred to as the new lingua franca, can be a disincentive to the learning of other languages, just as in other European Member States it is often difficult to promote the learning of languages other than English.

The 2005 Report of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs "Languages and Enterprise – The Demand and Supply of Foreign Language Skills in the Enterprise Sector" shows little evidence of unsatisfied demand for workers in Ireland with language skills. It highlights that 80% of the demand for languages in the Foreign Direct Investment Sector in Ireland is for native speakers, and this rises to 90% in some sectors. This need is met predominantly through recruiting native speakers from the diverse population now living in Ireland, and the report does not envisage that needs at this level would be met by Irish workers. However, a key area for development and expansion which could be met by Irish workers is in relation to back office supports where a lower level of fluency in a language allied with a higher end professional or technical qualification is required.

The Report suggested that while Irish firms do not appear to place a high value on language skills, they may be losing export opportunities due to a lack of languages and cultural awareness, and that there is considerable untapped latent demand in this area. It recommends that the Modern Languages Initiatives in primary and post primary schools should be expanded and mainstreamed. However, my Department is not in a position to progress this at present, and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has recommended against the introduction of a modern language at primary level at this time due to issues relating to curriculum overload and the replicability of the current model.

The fact that over 80% of students study a modern language, in addition to Irish and English, to completion of upper second level education provides a firm foundation for further developments in this area within further and higher education and training.

Schools Patronage.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

137 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science when the education (patronage) Bill will be published in order to empower the vocational education committees to act as patrons of community national schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37080/09]

The Government approved the scheme of the Education (Patronage) Bill 2009 on 23rd June 2009. The scheme of Bill has been referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government for drafting and it is expected that the Bill will be published during the current session.

Pending enactment of the Bill, I as Minister for Education and Science, am acting as Patron of Scoil Choilm and Scoil Ghráinne.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

138 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made with regard to the renegotiation of the indemnity agreement 2001 signed between the State and the 18 religious teaching orders to cover the expenses accrued by the Residential Institutions Redress Board; if he will publish the findings of the audit into the assets of the 18 religious teaching orders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37086/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

156 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Education and Science the offers made to date of an additional contribution by way of reparation which has been received by the Exchequer from all or any of the 18 religious orders and congregations who signed the 2002 indemnity agreement with regard to compensation payable to victims of institutional abuse; and his views on the progress made since the publication of the Ryan report in addressing this issue and putting in place new arrangements. [37112/09]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

559 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the methodology whereby funds provided by religious orders for compensation to survivors of child abuse are to be disbursed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36661/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 156 and 559 together.

The Deputies will be aware that following publication of the Ryan Report, this House passed a unanimous motion on 28th May, 2009 calling on the congregations to commit to making further substantial contributions by way of reparation, in the context of discussions with the State, including to a Trust to be set up and managed by the State for the support of victims and to other education and welfare purposes.

The Taoiseach and relevant Ministers, including myself, met representatives of the religious congregations on 4th and 24th June last. At the meeting on 4th June, the Taoiseach conveyed the views of the Government and this House, that further substantial contributions are required by way of reparation and that these contributions need to be capable of being assessed by the public for their significance by reference to the full resources available to the congregations and in the context of the costs of well over a billion euro incurred by the State. At the meeting and subsequently in a press release, the congregations indicated their willingness to make further contributions. Any such contributions will be separate to those associated with the 2002 Indemnity Agreement. The current engagement with the religious congregations does not involve a re-negotiation of that agreement.

At the subsequent meeting on 24th June, the congregations reported on the progress they had made in compiling reports on their financial positions. The Taoiseach indicated that the Government would appoint a panel of three independent persons to assess the material submitted by the congregations and report to Government as to the adequacy of these statements as a basis for assessing the resources of the congregations.

The appointment of the three person panel by the Government to examine these statements was announced on 28th July. In this announcement, the Government indicated that while the Panel is carrying out its work, it expected that the congregations would be working to produce an offer of a substantial contribution by way of reparation for the suffering of children in residential institutions. The statement was circulated to the leaders of all the congregations and their attention was specifically drawn to this aspect of it.

All of the congregations have submitted their statements and I understand that the Panel is well advanced in its work and expects to be in a position to report before the end of October. It is intended that the conclusions of the panel will be made public.

The Taoiseach wrote to the congregations in September requesting that the offer be forwarded to me as soon as possible. The offer from the congregations is awaited.

On the question of the uses to which the contribution will be put, the House has noted that both in the meetings with former residents and the congregations, support was expressed for the proposal that the use of a further substantial contribution from the congregations should include a form of independent trust to be set up by the State which would be available to support the needs of survivors for general education and welfare purposes. The Government will consider the matter, in consultation with the representatives of the survivors and the congregations, following receipt of the offer from the congregations and the report of the Panel on the adequacy of the financial statements provided by the congregations as a basis for assessing the resources of the congregations.

Proposed Legislation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

139 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding his negotiations with the US Ireland Alliance regarding the funding and administration of the George Mitchell scholarship scheme; when the legislation to provide a statutory basis will be introduced; when the US Ireland Alliance will receive the promised funds to operate this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37095/09]

In 2007, a decision was taken to secure the long term viability of this programme by increasing Ireland's contribution to the Fund for the programme by €20 million to be paid over a number of years conditional on matching funding being raised by the US-Ireland Alliance. Implementation of this decision requires, inter alia, amendment of the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act, 1998 and a new management and funding agreement between the US-Ireland Alliance and my Department.

Following protracted negotiations with the US-Ireland Alliance, agreement was reached on a draft new funding and management agreement in March 2009.

In July 2009, following Government approval of the general scheme of the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (Amendment) Bill 2009, I sent the Bill to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for formal drafting. Drafting of the Bill is currently in progress and the Bill is scheduled to be published in the current session.

My Department's funding allocation in respect of the George Mitchell Scholarship Programme will be decided in the context of decisions on the Estimates for 2010 and subsequent years and the matching funding raised by the US-Ireland Alliance.

Special Educational Needs.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

140 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if the commitment in the programme for Government to review the allocation of special needs assistants will necessitate a new review of their role; if the findings of the review currently being conducted by the National Council for Special Education will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37082/09]

The commitment in the Renewed Programme for Government to review the allocation of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) is intended to ensure that the policy of allocating SNAs to support children with special educational needs is working and to provide a basis on which more informed policy decisions can be made.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is at present carrying out a review of SNA allocations in all schools with a view to ensuring that the criteria as outlined in my Department's Circular 07/02 governing the allocation of such posts are properly met. This review is intended to ensure a consistent application of the criteria in all schools. The SENOs convey the outcome of the reviews directly to schools.

The Deputy will also be aware that my Department is separately carrying out a Value for Money and Policy Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme. This is a comprehensive review of the rationale for the scheme, including the role of the SNA and will provide a basis on which more informed policy decisions can be made in relation to the scheme. It is expected that this review will be completed by the end of 2009. A final report will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

School Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

141 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the timeframe for his proposed survey of school accommodation in primary and secondary level; and when it is proposed that this work will commence. [37103/09]

In order to improve the information systems available to my Department in relation to primary and post-primary schools, my Department's Forward Planning Section uses Geographical Information System technology which contains a certain level of information on all schools in the country, at both primary and post primary level.

To further expand and improve the capabilities of the system, arrangements are being made to conduct a survey of accommodation at primary and post-primary level that will be linked to other information held in the GIS including information on demographic trends across the country.

Work on the development of an online facility for the compilation of the inventory of school accommodation referred to by the Deputy is well advanced. The detailed functional specification for the Inventory has been completed and work is currently underway on building the online interface and database to hold the information.

The online facility will enable schools to provide information about their accommodation, including its composition in terms of permanent and temporary structures, electronically to the Department. The Department will also be collecting information on the age of existing school accommodation including both purchased and rented prefabs. The inventory will also include information on size of school sites.

Schools will be able to access the online facility through the Department's Esinet portal. Initially it is planned that a small number of schools will be given access to the facility for testing. This is scheduled to take place in November. It is expected that the facility will be made available to all schools to start uploading information before the end of 2009.

When all the information has been received from schools, the Inventory will provide key data and statistics on the existing school building stock throughout the country at both primary and post-primary levels. It will enable the Department to more accurately calculate capacity in existing school accommodation and therefore identify where additional accommodation is required.

When the information has been compiled and analysed, it is intended to publish it and this is likely to happen before the end of the current school year.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

142 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the implications for primary school forward planning in view of recent data from the Central Statistics Office which indicated that the birth rate here is the highest in Europe and the highest birth rate since 1896; the arrangements that have been and will be put in place to ensure that there are adequate primary school places in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37094/09]

As the number of births in this country continues to rise, my Department is faced with the challenge of providing accommodation to cater for a ten percent increase in school-aged children, and to establish where, throughout the country, this accommodation will be required. In 2000 there were 54,789 births in Ireland, while the 2008 figure is 75,065, a 37% increase over the period. The 2008 figure is the highest number recorded since 1896 and means that the total enrolments in primary schools may grow from 498,914 pupils in the 2008/09 year to in excess of 590,000 by year 2020.

While these figures indicate the situation at the national level, the challenge is to establish in which locations the school going cohort will increase most significantly, so that sufficient school accommodation can be put in place to meet demand. To this end the Department is utilising a Geographical Information System (GIS). The Department's GIS utilises data from the Central Statistics Office, Ordinance Survey Ireland, the General Registers Office and the Department of Social Welfare and Family Affairs, in addition to data from local authorities.

GIS allows the Department to conduct detailed analysis on the demographics of each part of the country, and enables the Department to model a range of forecast scenarios for each area for the coming years and assess the likely changes to the school going population in those areas.

The accommodation needs of each area will be considered in this context and addressed under the school building and modernisation programme consistent with the priority attaching to individual projects and the availability of funding.

Schools Patronage.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

143 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 1159 of 16 September 2009, if he has completed the requested list of patrons with regard to Catholic and Protestant schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37091/09]

Officials in my Department are currently updating the register of Patrons provided for under Section 8 of the Education Act and will be verifying the Register details directly with all school Patrons very shortly. A substantial amount of work has already been done on this exercise and I expect that the list will be completed and made available to the Deputy in the very near future.

Parent Teacher Meetings.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

144 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has met recently with representatives of an association (details supplied); the progress he has made with regard to resolving the dispute which has led to the cancellation of out of hours parent teacher meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37076/09]

While I have not met with the association concerned in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy, I am aware that this and related matters have been raised by my officials in discussions under the auspices of the Teachers Conciliation Council.

While I acknowledge that there has been upset and anger at some of the measures introduced to stabilise the public finances, I would re-iterate that these are essential to deal with the budgetary problems we face. In these difficult times, we have to work together to ensure that the resources available to us are used to ensure the best possible outcomes for our learners. I hope that the association will reflect on these concerns, and will reconsider its stance in relation to parent teacher meetings in the public interest.

Grant Payments.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

145 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if the commitment in the revised programme for Government to restore the grants for books and certain subjects in second level schools will apply immediately; when schools can apply for these grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37079/09]

Brian Hayes

Question:

569 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding that will be made available at primary and secondary levels to allow schools to provide grant assistance for books; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36719/09]

Brian Hayes

Question:

570 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding that will be made available for transition year, leaving certificate applied, the leaving certificate vocational programme, physics, chemistry, home economics, music activities and the junior certificate programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36720/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145, 569 and 570 together.

The precise level of additional grant support will be considered in the context of the estimates and budgetary process for 2010.

Higher Education Grants.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

146 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the requirements for establishing independent residence in respect of mature students under clause four of the higher education grants scheme; his views on such a review in view of the current economic situation and the need for many young graduates to return to college to upskill for the workforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37113/09]

Mattie McGrath

Question:

589 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria that are used by vocational education committees when determining the bill type which is acceptable as a utility bill when assessing candidates as independent mature candidates; the utility bills that are acceptable when assessing such applications to local VECs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36790/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 589 together.

For student grants purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances either as students dependent on parents or guardians, dependent mature students or as independent mature students. An independent mature student is defined as a mature student who was not ordinarily resident with his or her parents from the October preceding entry to an approved course.

When assessing the means of students other than independent mature students, the schemes specify that parental income must be taken into account. Independent mature students, on the other hand, are assessed without reference to their parents' income. The reckonable income of an independent mature student is that of the candidate only and of his or her spouse where appropriate.

In order to establish a candidate's status as an independent mature student, documentary evidence is required as proof of a candidate's address from 1st October of the year preceding entry to college. In considering whether a mature student meets the conditions to be assessed independently of his or her parents, awarding authorities are obliged to satisfy themselves beyond doubt that an acceptable degree of proof of independent living in the relevant period has been submitted by the grant applicant.

The documentary evidence normally required by a local authority or VEC to establish independent residence includes utility bills, such as telephone, gas or ESB bill, evidence of registration with the Private Residential Tenancies Board or official documentation received at the address, for example, from a Government Department. In exceptional circumstances, where it is not possible to produce such proofs of residence in the relevant period for demonstrable reasons, the awarding authority may, at its discretion, agree to accept other documentary proofs.

My Department has reviewed the requirements for establishing independent residency and is satisfied that the current practice in this regard is both reasonable and appropriate.

Schools Recognition.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

147 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding calls by Educate Together for recognition as second level patrons. [37107/09]

Joe Costello

Question:

153 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has completed his review of the legal and related issues surrounding the application by Educate Together to be recognised, effectively and practically, as a patron for a post-primary school; if he is satisfied that Educate Together, with its experience in providing education at primary level for over 30 years, is qualified to provide the same level of professional expertise at post-primary level; when he expects to make a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37088/09]

John Deasy

Question:

577 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application by Educate Together to be registered as a patron of second level schools will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36739/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147, 153 and 577 together.

My Department is currently considering a number of broad policy issues relating to the recognition process for second level schools. The application from Educate Together to be recognised as a patron body at second level is being fully examined within the context of legal, financial and other factors that I must consider.

Third Level Fees.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

148 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the revised programme for Government decision not to reintroduce third level fees, he will guarantee that there will be no further increase to the €1,500 student registration fee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37109/09]

As the Deputy will be aware the student services charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and students services. These services may include on-campus medical and counselling facilities for students, access and disability services, careers office, student facilities, student clubs and societies etc. Currently, the student services charge is decided annually by third-level institutions in consultation with the Higher Education Authority and my Department. I do not propose to change this arrangement. Any change in the level of this charge would only be considered where the increase is intended to bring the amount contributed by students into line with the costs of the range of students services provided.

Higher Education Grants.

Liz McManus

Question:

149 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the date Committee Stage of the Student Support Bill 2008 will be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37075/09]

The Deputy will be aware that a number of amendments to the Student Support Bill in relation to legal and policy issues which have arisen since Second Stage are being advanced by my Department in close consultation with the Office of the Attorney General.

The Bill makes provision for the transfer of responsibility for student grants to the VEC sector. In the existing budgetary situation, resources are not currently available to advance transition to new administrative arrangements in the immediate future. However, it is not possible to say definitively at this point when new administrative arrangements can be put in place and I am anxious, in light of the commitment to put all student grants on a statutory footing, to provide a statutory basis for all student grants for the intervening period.

Therefore, I am endeavouring to progress to a single scheme of grants as provided for in the Bill at the earliest possible date, while further exploring the options for administrative streamlining in the context of budgetary considerations and the Government's overall programme of public service reform, Transforming Public Services.

This will require further amendments to the Bill and my Department has been working closely with the Office of the Attorney General in that regard. Subject to any technical, drafting and legal considerations arising, I hope to be in a position to have these amendments advanced sufficiently in order to progress to Committee Stage in the autumn session.

School Curriculum.

Denis Naughten

Question:

150 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the report of the expert group on future skills needs regarding the level of achievement in maths among students; if he will implement the recommendations of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37111/09]

The OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2006 survey of 15 years olds across 57 countries showed that Ireland's mean score in mathematics was not significantly different from the OECD average. We ranked 16th of 30 OECD countries and 22nd of 57 countries. There were fewer lower achievers and higher achievers than the OECD average, with the majority of pupils scoring in the mid range of achievement. When performance levels for mathematics in 2006 are compared with those in 2000 and 2003, there are no changes for Irish students. Ireland showed a high level of equity in achievement outcomes. This is evidenced by relatively small levels of "between school" variation and comparatively good standards among lower achievers.

The Report of the Expert Group calls for the introduction of bonus points for Higher Level Mathematics in the Leaving Certificate. Decisions on the award of points and admission criteria for entry to higher education programmes are, under legislation, a matter for the higher education institutions. My Department asked the Higher Education Authority to initiate a discussion across higher education institutions regarding the desirability or otherwise of awarding bonus points. The overall view emerging was that the introduction of bonus points was unlikely to dramatically increase uptake of Higher Level Maths. The Report of the Points Commission in 1999 considered the issue of bonus points and recommended against such an approach. Providing bonus points could reinforce the perception that Maths is a difficult subject. It should be noted that when bonus points were removed in 1994 on foot of curricular reform, participation in Higher Level Maths increased.

My Department is addressing the issues highlighted in the Report through the Project Maths initiative, which began in 24 second level schools at both junior and senior cycle in 2008. Implementation is beginning in all schools in 2010. Starting in the Project schools allows the opportunity to trial the changes and to develop lesson plans and exemplars for teachers at the same time.

The Project Maths initiative is designed to encourage better understanding of Maths, to reinforce the practical relevance of maths to everyday life, and to ensure better continuity between primary and second level, and junior and senior cycle. The curriculum changes are being phased in over three years focusing on different aspects of mathematics. Phase 3 will have begun in all schools in 2012, and will be fully implemented in all class groups by 2015.

Project Maths is being supported by intensive investment in professional development for teachers. Some €3m has been provided for the programme in 2009, and a rolling programme of investment will continue in this area to at least 2013. Nationwide professional development for all mathematics teachers has started this month, preparatory to beginning implementation in all schools from 2010.

Third Level Fees.

Mary Upton

Question:

151 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will publish the report he submitted to the Government which discussed the possible options for the reintroduction of third level fees in view of the fact that the proposal is no longer proceeding and the document no longer requires to be confidential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37074/09]

As the Deputy is aware, I had previously signalled my intention to bring the technical report that my officials prepared, at my request, on ‘Policy Options for New Student Contributions in Higher Education', to Government for consideration and decision. However, in light of the changed economic circumstances that have given rise to the commitment contained in the new Programme for Government, I will not now be proceeding on this basis.

While it is agreed that a new form of student contribution should not be introduced in the current economic circumstances, the longer term question of future funding arrangements for the sector is clearly relevant to the work of the Higher Education Strategy Group in framing a vision and strategy for higher education over the next twenty years. Accordingly, I now propose to refer the technical report to the Strategy Group as an input to its broader deliberations on how any additional resource requirements for delivering on a new vision and related set of policy objectives for the sector can be met over the timeframe of the new strategy. I intend to publish the technical report in the near future.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 113.
Question No. 153 answered with Question No. 147.
Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 111.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Question:

155 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will safeguard the required funding to ensure that children who are visually impaired or blind will be able to receive adequate numbers of Braille books in order that their education will not be disadvantaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37084/09]

The National Braille Production Centre (NBPC) is a national service which provides access to educational materials by transcriptions through a range of formats, accessible for children with a visual impairment. The formats currently catered for are: Braille, tactile diagrams, Large Print and text-only files on computer disk. The NBPC is funded by the Department of Education and Science and in 2009 a grant of €1,150,000 was allocated to the centre.

The NBPC's current policy is to make one print copy of brailled books available in hard copy format to the client and provide an alternative electronic copy that schools/parents can arrange to braille. In exceptional circumstances, the NBPC will provide a second copy of the braille books.

I can assure the Deputy that funding for special educational needs remains a key priority within my Department.

Question No. 156 answered with Question No. 138.

School Staffing.

Mary Upton

Question:

157 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if the commitment in the revised programme for Government to hire 500 new teachers will be the result of a reconfigured staffing schedule at both primary and secondary level; if so, when it will be introduced; the number of the 500 teachers who will be hired at primary level; the number of the 500 teachers who will be hired at second level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37073/09]

In relation to the Programme for Government commitment to provide 500 teaching posts over the next three years, my Department proposes to structure a consultation process through meetings with the education partners in the coming weeks in accordance with the commitment to consultation as set out in the renewed Programme. In advance of such discussions it has written to the education partners to seek any observations or suggestions they may have in relation to the implementation of the commitment. This will assist my Department in identifying issues for discussion and to set a detailed agenda for the discussions.

In that regard the views of the education partners have been sought on:

The division of posts between the primary and post-primary sectors

The best way to identify those schools that are "most seriously affected by the recent increase in the PTR" and the criteria that might be applied in such identification?

The desirability of implementing the commitment in a manner through an allocation process that keeps the administrative burden at a minimum for both schools and the Department.

The education partners have been given until Thursday 29 October 2009 to forward their views to my Department. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the issues raised by the Deputy pending the outcome of the consultation process.

Census of Population.

Michael Creed

Question:

158 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Taoiseach the number of young carers identified in the most recent census of population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36786/09]

The most recent information in respect of Carers is from the 2006 Census, which only asked the question of those aged 15 years or over.

The following table provides data on the total number of carers aged 15 to 19 years by single year of age, and by 5 year age group for persons aged 20 years and over.

Number of Carers by Age, 2006

Age

Total Carers

Total over 15 years Year of Age

160,917

15 years

874

16 years

1,171

17 years

1,121

18 years

1,098

19 years

1,169

20-24 years

6,853

25-29 years

8,377

30-34 years

10,986

35-39 years

16,047

40-44 years

22,189

45-49 years

24,327

50-54 years

21,470

55-59 years

16,419

60-64 years

10,664

65 years and over

18,152

Tourist Statistics.

Mary Upton

Question:

159 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Taoiseach the number of tourists from European Union countries over the age of 66 years who have visited here in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36794/09]

The CSO's monthly Overseas Travel release contains data on the number of visitors to Ireland classified by their country of residence. The results are obtained from the CSO's Country of Residence Survey which is carried out continuously at the airports and ports in the Republic of Ireland. The following table shows the results classified by country of residence of visitors to Ireland, from 2004 to 2008. The survey was redesigned in 2005 to give a more detailed breakdown by country. A breakdown by age of visitors is not available from this survey.

Fáilte Ireland's Survey of Travellers does give an age breakdown. This is a survey of departing passengers who have spent at least one night in the Republic of Ireland. The Fáilte Ireland survey estimated in 2008 that 3% of visitors from Mainland Europe (including non-EU countries) were aged 65 or over; and that 14% of visitors from Great Britain were aged 65 or over.

Overseas Visitors to Ireland classified by Country of Residence

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Total Overseas

6,574,000

6,977,000

7,709,000

8,012,000

7,839,000

EU Total

5,616,300

6,206,300

6,455,100

6,314,800

Austria

33,700

38,400

50,300

40,800

52,700

Belgium

93,000

86,000

97,100

82,800

88,600

Bulgaria

4,700

5,700

Cyprus

3,200

3,800

4,100

Czech Republic

35,400

41,600

43,000

46,800

Denmark

30,800

38,800

42,500

55,400

60,000

Estonia

9,700

10,500

7,500

Finland

19,400

28,400

38,600

35,300

France

300,800

306,100

357,800

397,300

414,700

Great Britain

3,680,600

3,824,700

4,059,800

4,031,900

3,872,400

Germany

303,300

404,300

422,300

446,200

467,700

Greece

6,800

9,100

11,500

8,900

Hungary

26,900

30,600

35,300

Italy

189,100

192,000

249,900

263,800

235,500

Latvia

32,100

37,200

37,100

Lithuania

29,900

49,200

37,600

Luxembourg

7,900

8,500

6,200

13,300

Malta

3,800

4,500

6,200

Netherlands

150,700

157,700

158,100

153,900

150,100

Poland

127,100

235,600

311,800

295,600

Portugal

19,900

29,600

28,700

33,800

Romania

25,800

25,800

Slovak Republic

31,000

35,800

47,100

Slovenia

2,900

4,200

7,600

Spain

158,900

169,900

200,200

239,400

238,100

Sweden

42,100

59,600

75,900

97,500

83,500

Baltic Countries*

62,400

Other EU 25**

114,200

Source: CSO Country of Residence Survey.

*Includes Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

**Includes Cyprus, Malta, Finland, Portugal, Greece, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia , Luxembourg.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

160 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the number of occasions in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 that travel authorised under section 1.17 of the Cabinet Handbook took place and was charged to public funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36631/09]

The Taoiseach was consulted on 19 occasions in 2007, on 15 in 2008 and on 6 to date in 2009 further to Section 1.17 of the Cabinet Handbook. All requests indicated the appropriateness of the Minister being accompanied by his/her spouse/partner and on that basis were not refused. The Deputy will appreciate that Departments would not be likely to submit requests unless they considered them appropriate.

Weekly Earning Statistics.

Richard Bruton

Question:

161 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach the quarterly findings on weekly earnings from the earning hours and employment costs survey since Q1 2008 in respect of the sectors newly introduced, distinguishing the contributions of regular earnings, overtime earnings and irregular earnings, and showing the hours worked. [36672/09]

The quarterly Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey (EHECS) is a new quarterly survey which is being phased in to replace all other existing CSO short-term earnings inquiries.

The survey was rolled out to the Industrial and Financial sectors from Q4 2005 onwards and was extended to other sectors in Q1 2008. The next EHECS quarterly publication (for Q2 2009) will be extended to provide economy-wide coverage of earnings and labour cost data when the information requested will be available.

The current data for the Industrial and Financial sectors (up to Q1 2009) is set out as follows:

Hourly earnings by NACE Principal Activity

NACE sector

Earnings

2007Q1

2007Q2

2007Q3

2007Q4

2008Q1

2008Q2

2008Q3

2008Q4

2009Q1*

Industry (B-E)

Regular

17.24

17.61

17.60

18.13

18.15

18.21

18.40

19.08

19.63

Overtime

1.16

1.22

1.19

1.21

1.12

1.18

1.12

1.09

0.91

Irregular

1.10

0.73

0.46

0.99

1.55

0.96

0.74

1.28

1.51

Total

19.51

19.56

19.25

20.34

20.82

20.35

20.26

21.44

22.05

Financial and insurance activities (K)

Regular

24.58

24.88

24.67

25.58

25.72

26.60

26.33

26.95

27.25

Overtime

0.55

0.60

0.47

0.50

0.45

0.46

0.39

0.44

0.32

Irregular

6.68

6.39

1.28

2.88

8.00

5.90

1.25

2.80

2.79

Total

31.82

31.86

26.42

28.96

34.17

32.96

27.98

30.18

30.37

*Provisional.

Labour Force Statistics.

Richard Bruton

Question:

162 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach the details for the latest quarter of 2009 and the corresponding quarter of 2007 of persons aged 15 to 19 years, 20 to 24 years and 25 to 29 years showing the number in employment, in the labour force and unemployed; the participating rate in the labour force and the unemployment rate in each respective age category; if he will provide the same data for the age group 30 to 64 years, and in each case distinguish by education level achieved. [36673/09]

The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is the official source of estimates for the information requested.

The data requested by the Deputy are presented in the table in respect of the first quarters of 2007 and 2009. Data for the second quarter of 2009 are also supplied but due to the introduction of a new classification of educational attainment level they cannot be directly compared to the data for previous quarters. (See table footnote).

Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 1 2007

Highest education level attained

Number in employment

Number in labour force

Unemployed

Participation rate

Unemployment rate

’000

’000

’000

%

%

Primary or below

2.9

4.2

1.2

6.2

28.6

Lower secondary

27.4

31.9

4.5

22.0

14.1

Higher secondary

35.1

39.1

4.0

58.4

10.2

Post leaving cert

1.3

1.5

*

71.4

*

Third level non degree

*

1.0

*

66.7

*

Third level degree or above

*

*

*

*

*

Other

1.5

1.7

*

58.6

*

Total persons aged 15 to 19

69.3

79.5

10.2

27.7

12.8

Primary or below

4.8

6.2

1.4

50.4

22.6

Lower secondary

19.0

22.8

3.8

76.0

16.7

Higher secondary

111.5

118.4

6.9

70.0

5.8

Post leaving cert

29.4

30.8

1.4

88.8

4.5

Third level non-honours degree

22.2

23.2

1.0

81.7

4.3

Third level honours degree or above

45.4

47.5

2.1

83.5

4.4

Other

12.3

13.4

1.1

82.7

8.2

Total persons aged 20 to 24

244.6

262.3

17.7

75.4

6.7

Primary or below

7.8

9.6

1.8

60.4

18.8

Lower secondary

22.9

26.2

3.3

76.2

12.6

Higher secondary

86.3

91.5

5.2

84.6

5.7

Post leaving cert

40.4

42.2

1.8

92.3

4.3

Third level non degree

46.4

48.2

1.8

92.9

3.7

Third level degree or above

104.1

106.8

2.7

91.4

2.5

Other

22.8

24.2

1.3

86.4

5.4

Total persons aged 25 to 29

330.7

348.8

18.1

87.0

5.2

Primary or below

157.2

169.4

12.2

51.9

7.2

Lower secondary

234.1

246.3

12.2

70.4

5.0

Higher secondary

335.3

345.0

9.6

76.6

2.8

Post leaving cert

156.4

161.2

4.7

81.6

2.9

Third level non-honours degree

162.9

167.5

4.6

84.5

2.7

Third level honours degree or above

312.1

318.5

6.5

89.2

2.0

Other

43.5

45.4

2.0

77.1

4.4

Total persons aged 30 to 64

1,401.6

1,453.4

51.8

75.0

3.6

Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 1 2009

Highest education level attained

Number in employment

Number in labour force

Unemployed

Participation rate

Unemployment rate

’000

’000

’000

%

%

Primary or below

1.2

2.1

*

3.2

*

Lower secondary

14.5

20.3

5.7

14.2

28.1

Higher secondary

22.9

29.8

6.9

43.8

23.2

Post leaving cert

1.3

1.8

*

75.0

*

Third level non degree

*

*

*

*

*

Third level degree or above

*

*

*

*

*

Other

*

1.0

*

37.0

*

Total persons aged 15 to 19

41.4

55.7

14.3

19.7

25.6

Primary or below

2.7

4.3

1.5

53.1

34.9

Lower secondary

12.2

18.8

6.6

69.9

35.1

Higher secondary

89.0

107.0

18.0

65.6

16.8

Post leaving cert

15.3

19.8

4.5

84.3

22.7

Third level non degree

18.9

21.9

3.0

81.7

13.7

Third level degree or above

37.8

42.6

4.8

80.2

11.3

Other

7.0

8.3

1.3

63.8

15.7

Total persons aged 20 to 24

182.9

222.6

39.7

70.8

17.8

Primary or below

5.4

7.3

1.9

49.0

26.0

Lower secondary

18.3

25.8

7.5

73.5

29.1

Higher secondary

79.8

93.8

14.0

83.1

14.9

Post leaving cert

35.2

43.5

8.3

86.7

19.1

Third level non degree

43.3

47.3

4.0

87.8

8.5

Third level degree or above

108.6

117.6

8.9

91.5

7.6

Other

14.5

17.5

3.0

81.4

17.1

Total persons aged 25 to 29

305.2

352.8

47.6

84.6

13.5

Primary or below

123.9

141.4

17.6

49.3

12.4

Lower secondary

208.5

236.2

27.7

68.5

11.7

Higher secondary

334.8

361.1

26.3

75.9

7.3

Post leaving cert

141.4

158.5

17.1

80.1

10.8

Third level non degree

187.6

199.0

11.4

84.1

5.7

Third level degree or above

353.5

368.3

14.8

88.2

4.0

Other

42.1

48.0

5.9

73.6

12.3

Total persons aged 30 to 64

1,391.8

1,512.6

120.8

74.7

8.0

Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 2 2009

Highest education level attained

Number in employment

Number in labour force

Unemployed

Participation rate

Unemployment rate

’000

’000

’000

%

%

Primary or below

*

1.6

*

2.7

*

Lower secondary

13.9

23.7

9.8

16.0

41.4

Higher secondary

21.8

31.9

10.1

49.2

31.7

Post leaving cert

1.8

3.0

1.2

76.9

40.0

Third level non-honours degree1

*

*

*

*

*

Third level honours degree or above1

*

*

*

*

*

Other

*

*

*

*

*

Total persons aged 15 to 19

39.1

61.5

22.4

22.1

36.4

Primary or below

2.5

4.3

1.8

46.2

41.9

Lower secondary

10.3

19.0

8.7

72.2

45.8

Higher secondary

79.6

100.9

21.2

68.9

21.0

Post leaving cert

19.9

27.4

7.4

83.8

27.0

Third level non-honours degree1

22.7

28.5

5.7

84.1

20.0

Third level honours degree or above1

31.4

36.7

5.3

81.4

14.4

Other

6.2

7.7

1.4

68.8

18.2

Total persons aged 20 to 24

172.8

224.5

51.7

73.6

23.0

Primary or below

4.8

8.4

3.6

53.8

42.9

Lower secondary

18.4

26.9

8.5

73.3

31.6

Higher secondary

70.7

84.8

14.0

81.8

16.5

Post leaving cert

43.4

53.3

10.0

88.1

18.8

Third level non-honours degree1

59.3

65.5

6.2

89.8

9.5

Third level honours degree or above1

90.4

98.6

8.2

92.6

8.3

Other

12.7

14.5

1.8

82.9

12.4

Total persons aged 25 to 29

299.7

352.1

52.3

85.2

14.9

Primary or below

117.3

136.4

19.0

48.2

13.9

Lower secondary

199.8

230.6

30.8

68.4

13.4

Higher secondary

320.2

348.7

28.6

76.1

8.2

Post leaving cert

172.0

194.1

22.2

80.3

11.4

Third level non-honours degree1

235.9

253.6

17.7

84.9

7.0

Third level honours degree or above1

304.8

318.6

13.8

88.7

4.3

Other

32.4

37.9

5.5

70.4

14.5

Total persons aged 30 to 64

1,382.3

1,520.0

137.7

74.8

9.1

1A break in continuity has occurred in the Educational Attainment series and, therefore, data from Q2 2009 is not directly comparable with previous quarters. The classification of educational levels has been revised in order to facilitate the linking of education categories to the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), while also retaining links with the international education classification, ISCED97. This affects the classification in a number of ways. One key difference is the distinction between ordinary and honours level degrees.

Figures marked with a * refer to estimates of below 1,000 persons. Such estimates are considered to be unreliable and as such are not presented.

Data may be subject to sampling or other survey errors, which are greater in respect of smaller values or estimates of change.

Reference period: q1=Jan-Mar, q2=Apr-Jun, q3=Jul-Sep, q4=Oct-Dec.

Source: Quarterly National Houehold Survey, Central Statistics Office.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

163 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the cost of official domestic travel including all transport costs, accommodation, meals and other incidentals incurred by himself and the Ministers of State at his Department in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36674/09]

The cost to my Department of official domestic travel, including all transport costs, accommodation, meals and other incidentals incurred by myself, the former Taoiseach and the Ministers of State in 2007, 2008 and to end of September 2009 is detailed in the following table:

Taoiseach

Minister of State for European Affairs

Chief Whip

2007

186.84

235.45

0.00

2008

1,067.50

222.80

21.45

YTD 2009

250.94

0.00

0.00

This excludes (i) the cost of travel using official vehicles, which is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, (ii) the cost of travel using the Ministerial air transport service, which is a matter for the Department of Defence, and (iii) the costs of transport of the Minister of State for European Affairs, which is charged to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

My Department's travel policy adheres to the guidelines laid down by the Department of Finance. It is applicable to all staff and sets out the policy regarding the appropriate level of expenditure in relation to the requirements of official travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

164 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the cost of foreign travel, including flights, accommodation, food, subsistence, travel and other incidental costs, incurred by himself and Ministers of State at his Department in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36675/09]

The cost of foreign travel, including flights, accommodation, food, subsistence and other incidental costs, incurred by myself, the former Taoiseach and Ministers of State at my Department, and including Private Office Staff (normally 2-3 officials), and Security who travelled on these occasions in 2007, 2008 and to the end of September 2009 is detailed in the following table:

Taoiseach & Officials from Private Office

Minister of State for European Affairs & Officials from Private Office

Chief Whip & Officials from Private Office

2007

118,889.84

32,342.54

13,476.28

2008

261,562.32

4,965.79

2,238.24

YTD 2009

121,985.22

5,589.39

11,660.85

Typically the costs include the following:

foreign subsistence,

hotel costs,

air fares,

taxi expenses,

car hire,

telecommunication expenses,

carbon emission charges and

other receipted expenses.

It should be noted that the majority of costs in relation to the Minister of European Affairs are in respect of Private Office staff, as the Minister's expenses are paid by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

165 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the costs incurred by his constituency office, and the constituency offices of the Ministers of State at his Department, of leaflet design, production, delivery and other related costs in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36676/09]

My Department has not incurred any costs relating to leaflet design, production or delivery for either my constituency office nor the constituency office of the Minister of State (Chief Whip) in 2007, 2008 to the end of September 2009. The Minister of State for European Affair's constituency office is based in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

166 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Taoiseach the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in his Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36867/09]

My Department currently has 21.60 staff at the grade of Principal Officer level or higher. This represents 13 % of the total staff of my Department. Following the full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme, my Department expects to have 20.60 staff at the grade of Principal Officer level or higher.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

167 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with his Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37216/09]

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) which includes the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP) comes under the aegis of my Department.

The normal civil service rules for travel and subsistence expenses apply to all staff of NESDO travelling on official business. Staff claim travel and overnight expenses in accordance with the rules and rates appropriate to the relevant destination. Accommodation and flights are booked by NESDO on behalf of staff travelling abroad on official business. NESDO uses a centralised flight booking service with a single point of access within NESDO. NESDO places emphasis on obtaining value for money and the vast majority of flights booked are economy class. The prior approval of the Chief Officer for all travel and associated expenses, both domestic and foreign, must be obtained before any travel is undertaken.

Expenditure on official entertainment is kept to an absolute minimum and is in accordance with the guidelines set by Department of Finance.

Computer Games Industry.

Mary Upton

Question:

168 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the support she provides to the development and protection of indigenous computer game companies and employment; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that computer games are worth more globally then the film industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37392/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

200 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the support she provides, within her sector, to the computer game industry; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this industry is globally economically bigger than the film industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37394/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 200 together.

Enterprise Ireland has primary responsibility for Irish companies in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It supports companies employing 10 or more people and start-up companies which have the potential to employ 10 or more people and reach or exceed €1m in exports over three years. Enterprise Ireland offers a comprehensive range of services, including both financial and non-financial supports, to companies with a business strategy that encompasses the elements required for business success.

At present, the games industry in Ireland has significant potential and there is a solid presence here with the majority of companies having been established within the past eight years.

Enterprise Ireland is actively involved in the Games and related Entertainment and Technology sectors. During the past four years, Enterprise Ireland has invested €2m in games companies. Employment in the gaming companies currently stands at 500, and is worth circa €10m-€15m to the Irish economy.

The Irish Games sector has attracted a lot of acquisition interests from major overseas players. Over the last 36 months a number of Enterprise Ireland companies have been acquired Havoc (Intel), Demonware (Activision) and Upstart (Sun 3C).

In addition, a number of multi-national gaming companies have a presence in Ireland also, such as Vivendi Universal Games, PopCap Games and Microsoft Games. GOA, part of France Telecom, which deals with games distribution and publishing, employs around 250 staff here. Gala, a Japanese company, has established its European base in Ireland producing and rolling out games; and US casual games pioneer PopCap International, also has its European Headquarters here.

A new emerging trend is online gaming, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), casual games and funware gaming. Enterprise Ireland is working closely with start-ups in these areas. This area has an estimated worth of €33bn worldwide and is constantly growing.

Enterprise Ireland continues to support the games sector in Ireland and actively engages with the companies in regard to clustering and sectoral development.

Departmental Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

169 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the form of assessment which has been undertaken by her of the cost and benefits of the proposed Irish stand at Expo 2010 in Shanghai; the number of companies which have agreed to participate to date; if she has set targets in relation to spin-off activities from the Irish stand against which the success of the project could be judged in terms of inquiries, trade commitments entered into, joint ventures agreed and so on; and the extent to which matching funding from companies participating is being planned. [36623/09]

The development and expansion of Ireland's trade is a key economic objective and my Department strives to seize all opportunities to enhance our trade footprint. We are especially conscious of the necessity to secure new and emerging markets, including the fast growing Asian economies. In particular, trade with China has developed rapidly in recent years, as a result of the Government'sAsia Strategy. Any potential trade benefits for Ireland, which could flow from our involvement in Expo 2010 in Shanghai, will, of course, be pursued. My Department has no responsibility for the arrangements relating to Ireland’s pavilion at Expo 2010.

Employment Rights.

Phil Hogan

Question:

170 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she is taking against a company (details supplied) in County Kilkenny which has breached the Protection of Employment Act 1977, and has failed to avail of the labour relations services; and if she will make a statement on the matter particularly taking account of the company’s failure to comply with a Labour Court decision in 2007. [36638/09]

In reply to a previous question put down by the Deputy on 8 October about the company, an indication was given that notice of a collective redundancy had not been received in the Department. Following a further search through the unprecedented large number of claims on hand, it is now clear that this information was incorrect. In fact, notice of a collective redundancy was submitted by the Company and received in my Department but was misfiled in the system for categorising claims. I apologise sincerely for the incorrect information given to the Deputy in this regard, which was due to an administrative error.

Given that the company did file the notice as required under the Protection of Employment Act, 1977, I can now confirm that no issue arises in relation to a breach of that Act.

As regards the Labour Relations Commission, I understand that conciliation talks between the company and the union were held, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, on Friday last 16 October 2009. Arising from these talks, I understand that the workers decided not to proceed with proposed strike action and are currently considering their position. The services of the LRC and the Labour Court remain available to the parties, if required.

In relation to the Labour Court decision in 2007 to which the Deputy refers, my understanding is that this related to a restructuring arrangement at the company at that time and that, in that context, the company did in fact comply with the Labour Court decision.

Redundancy Payments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

171 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if interest will be awarded in respect of the amount outstanding in relation to a redundancy refund of €44,041 due to a company (details supplied) in County Cork in view of continuing delays in dealing with this claim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36679/09]

My reply to the Deputy on 7 October '09 set out the status in relation to the outstanding redundancy rebate claims for the company in question. The delay in processing the claims arises due to the unprecedented levels of redundancy claims which await processing in my Department.

Redundancy Payments are paid out of the Social Insurance Fund which is funded from contributions by Employers and Employees in active employment. Monies from the Fund go to meet social insurance payments but the Fund does not make interest payments.

Arising from concerns expressed to both the Tánaiste and myself by businesses experiencing particular difficulties in meeting tax payment obligations because of a delay in receiving rebate repayments from the Redundancy Payments Section of the Department, we have agreed an arrangement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate such situations. This allows employers to have the redundancy rebate payments owing to them offset against the same amount of outstanding tax liability.

In order for a company to arrange for payment of an outstanding tax liability to Revenue via their redundancy rebate payment they must request and agree this arrangement in writing with Revenue, authorizing my Department to make the company's redundancy rebate payable to Revenue. When agreement with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners is in place, Revenue contact my Department referring to the company's request, attaching a copy of such request, and instructing my Department to forward the payment directly to Revenue.

On receipt of this correspondence from Revenue, my Department follows up with the Revenue official dealing with the case informing him/her of the approximate value of claims on hand for that Company so that appropriate action can be taken in relation to the tax liability.

This arrangement is proving to be extremely useful to businesses and is being availed of in a number of situations.

Job Protection.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

172 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has met with the employees of a company (details supplied) in County Louth; the progress made to date by the Industrial Development Authority on saving jobs in this company; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36692/09]

On the 14th October, I held a meeting with a group of workers from IFF, during which I assured them of my full support for the efforts being made by IDA Ireland to save as many jobs as possible, following the proposal by the company to close its facility in Drogheda.

IDA had met with local management of IFF in June while the operation was on a three day week. At the time, it was genuinely felt locally that while there was a downturn in demand for its products, the Drogheda site could potentially win more added value activity which would increase its capacity to survive the current crisis. IDA is continuing to negotiate with management at the company on possible initiatives to avert the closure of the Drogheda facility.

Work Permits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

173 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the case of a person (details supplied) will be supported. [36701/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that an application in respect of the above named was received on the 13/10/2009. The Section is currently processing applications received in the third week of July 2009 and therefore a decision on the above will issue in due course.

Trade Union Regulation.

John McGuinness

Question:

174 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the role of her Department exercised through the friendly societies relative to trade union regulation and governance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36728/09]

I understand this question to refer to the role of the Registrar of Friendly societies in relation to trade union regulation and governance. The Registrar of Friendly Societies has a range of functions relating to friendly societies, industrial and provident societies and trade unions, dating back to the late nineteenth century. The relevant legislation concerning trade unions is set down in the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1990. Under that legislation trade unions may register with the Registrar of Friendly Societies, subject to a range of obligations in relation to such registration. Principally, these include the following obligations:

to register their rules and the titles and names of officers,

to submit an annual return to the Registrar before the first day of June each year, specifying the receipts, funds, effects and expenditure of the trade union (which return to be accompanied by a copy of the audited accounts and a copy of the current rules),

to submit annually a copy of all alterations of rules, new rules, and change of officers made during the previous year, and

to maintain a registered office and to notify the Registrar of any change in the registered office.

In addition to maintaining a file on each registered trade union and making it available for inspection, for his part the Registrar must

issue a certificate of registration to trade unions

register the returns mentioned above

cancel/restore registered trade unions as appropriate, and

approve and register amalgamations and transfer of engagements.

The Registrar also has a number of specific powers in the area of investigation/dispute resolution:

to investigate complaints of discriminatory treatment against a non-contributor to a political fund. The Registrar may make an order to remedy the breach, which is binding and conclusive, and not subject to appeal (section 3(2) of the Trade Union Act 1913).

to investigate complaints under section 16(5) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 concerning the operation of secret ballots, following which the Registrar may instruct a trade union to comply with the secret ballot provisions of the Act (section 14(2)). Where such instruction is disregarded the Registrar must inform the Minister, who may revoke the union's negotiating licence.

to hear disputes referred to the Registrar under section 10 of the Trade Union Act, 1975 concerning the passing of resolutions approving amalgamations of trade unions. Under this section, the Registrar may, at the request of the complainant or of the trade union, state a case for the opinion of the High Court on a question of law arising in the proceedings.

The powers of the Registrar in relation to such matters have rarely been exercised. The Registrar has no independent powers of investigation, and can only act where requested to do so on the specific areas mentioned above, or to refer a matter to the court in relation to wilful or fraudulent withholding of money. This latter option is also available to "any person" acting on behalf of a trade union. The Registrar reports annually to the Minister in respect of the principal matters transacted in the Registry in respect of registered trade unions. This report is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

State Agencies.

Mary Upton

Question:

175 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will appoint a jobseeker to the board of FÁS in order that the viewpoint of the people whom FÁS is there to help is accurately represented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36799/09]

I recently published the Labour Services (Amendment) Bill, 2009, which sets out the criteria for the selection of members to the Board of FÁS. It is proposed, following enactment of the Bill, that appointments to the Board of FÁS will be based on a person's individual talents and experience as described in the Bill.

Mary Upton

Question:

176 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if FÁS has carried out a customer satisfaction survey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36800/09]

FÁS regularly conducts surveys to establish how effective the Agency's services are to its customers. For example, each year FÁS commissions independent external consultants to conduct a follow-up survey of a representative sample of former trainees who completed their training with FÁS eighteen months previously. The purpose of this study is to monitor the post programme experience of trainees in terms of their view of the training they received, their employment experience subsequent to their training, and the extent to which they have utilised their newly acquired skills. FÁS also regularly commissions customer satisfaction surveys of both job seekers and employers who have availed of its services. The results of all published follow-up surveys since the year 2000 are available on the FÁS website.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Joe McHugh

Question:

177 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of unfinished apprenticeships; her plans for these persons who find themselves redundant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36819/09]

There are currently 5,763 apprentices who have been notified to FÁS by their employers as being redundant. A further 1,116 apprentices are registered with FÁS and are not currently pursuing their apprenticeship. My Department through the auspices of FÁS has responded to the increased level of redundant apprentices, especially in construction and related sectors, by putting in place a number of measures to assist redundant apprentices who wish to complete their apprenticeship.

In addition to the immediate referral to FÁS of redundant apprentices through the social welfare system and the provision of appropriate guidance by FÁS in relation to preparation for a re-sit of any outstanding off-the-job modular assessments, the rules for off-the-job training have been amended by FÁS to permit redundant apprentices to progress to their next off-the-job training at phases 2, 4 and 6. The number of redundant apprentices who can be expected to be scheduled for off-the-job training in 2009 is 2400.

Redundant apprentices may also avail of existing specific skills training courses, which are trade-related to enhance their employable skills, and trade-related night courses available in FÁS Training Centres. FÁS will provide redundant apprentices with an opportunity to undertake phase 7 assessments where an on-the-job assessment opportunity is not currently available. FÁS will also be providing a facility for redundant apprentices who have reached the minimum qualifying standard in all phases 1-7 inclusive and who have not completed the minimum duration in employment as an apprentice to make an application for consideration under Recognition of Prior Learning for the Award of an Advanced Craft Certificate.

My Department has introduced a temporary Employer Based Redundant Apprentice Rotation Scheme to facilitate and support employers to provide on-the-job training in trades such as Brick & Stone-laying, Carpentry & Joinery, Plastering, Plumbing, Cabinet Making, Painting & Decorating, Wood Machining and Electrical. This scheme assists an employer to take on a redundant apprentice when their own apprentice has been released to go on scheduled phase 4 or phase 6 off-the-job training in an Institute of Technology. It is expected that over 400 apprentices will be provided with on-the-job training with assessments during 2009.

In addition, a number of other organisations have assisted in providing measures aimed at assisting redundant workers. For example, Léargas is providing funding under the EU Leonardo Da Vinci vocational education and training programme to support the placement of almost 100 redundant apprentices with overseas employers to complete their phase 7 on-the-job training with assessments. ESB Networks has agreed a programme with FÁS to provide on-the-job training to eligible redundant electrical and motor apprentices at phase 5 and phase 7. This programme will provide up to 400 places over a period of eighteen months and will be funded by ESB Networks. There are currently 125 previously redundant apprentices in employment with ESB Networks, 25 redundant electrical apprentices have completed their off-the-job training with assessments and a further 100 redundant apprentices will be provided with an opportunity to complete their on-the-job training before the end of December 2009.

In the higher education sector the Institutes of Technology are providing an 11-week certified training programme for those redundant apprentices in the construction, electrical and engineering areas who have completed their phase 4 training but where an on- or off-the-job training opportunity is not currently available to them. This programme commenced in September 2009. FÁS will continue to work with the stakeholders in apprenticeship to explore initiatives to assist redundant apprentices to complete their apprenticeship.

Employment Support Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

178 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost and the number of jobs created in the past 12 months or the latest period for which figures are available; the number of jobs lost and the number of jobs created since the introduction of the employment subsidy scheme in August 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36844/09]

The number of people in employment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey or QNHS and published by the Central Statistics Office on a quarterly basis only. In the second quarter of 2009, the most recent quarter for which data is available, there was an annual decrease in employment of 174,300 or 8.2% while unemployment increased by 137,900 over the same period. Employment data in respect of companies supported by the Enterprise Agencies (Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Shannon Development) is collated by Forfás on an annual basis only, and accordingly monthly or weekly figures cannot be supplied. In 2008 a total of 20,014 full-time jobs were created in companies supported by the Enterprise Agencies, while 28,885 full-time jobs were lost in the same year – a net loss for 2008 of 8,871.

There is no exact measure of the number of jobs lost, however, the Department records the number of redundancies notified to them on a monthly basis. The table sets out the number of redundancy notifications received in 2008 and to end September, 2009, the most recent date for which figures are available. The Employment Subsidy Scheme (Temporary) applies to vulnerable but viable companies in the manufacturing or internationally traded service sectors. It will involve the payment of a subsidy to firms to retain an agreed level of jobs. After the deadline of the 4th September, Enterprise Ireland who are managing the scheme, received 561 eligible applications seeking employment subsidies for 9,130 jobs. Enterprise Ireland are considering these applications.

Actual Redundancies 2008-2009 broken down by month

2008

2009

January

2,764

6,594

February

2,838

6,233

March

2,311

7,738

April

3,114

7,191

May

2,462

7,984

June

2,914

6,785

July

3,852

6,338

August

3,147

5,901

September

3,971

6,021

October

4,623

November

5,261

December

3,350

Arthur Morgan

Question:

179 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs that have been subsidised under the employment subsidy scheme; the number of jobs that have been saved under the employment subsidy scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36845/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

180 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to extend the employment subsidy scheme to indigenous small and medium enterprises that fall outside the remit of Enterprise Ireland; her further plans to change eligibility criteria in order that non-export orientated companies can avail of this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36846/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

181 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of applications received for the employment subsidy scheme; the breakdown of applications into the number of people employed by the company; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36847/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 to 181, inclusive, together.

The Employment Subsidy Scheme (Temporary) applies to vulnerable but viable companies in the manufacturing or internationally traded service sectors. It will involve the payment of a subsidy to firms to retain an agreed level of jobs. The principal aim of the Scheme is to maximise full-time employment in the first place by securing a multiple of jobs being subsidised. After the deadline of the 4th September, Enterprise Ireland who are managing the scheme, received 561 eligible applications seeking employment subsidies for 9,130 jobs. Enterprise Ireland are currently considering these applications and it is therefore not possible to provide a more detailed breakdown at this time. The scheme and its criteria will be reviewed in the near future and I will then consider whether to broaden the terms of the scheme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

182 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the initiatives being taken by her to upskill workers and managers; the initiatives being taken by her to support skills development in small businesses; the initiatives she is taking to develop an intervention body tasked to pre-empt job losses and offer mentoring and advice to struggling companies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36848/09]

FÁS Services to Business supports skills development in small businesses through the Excellence Through People standard which has been running for several years. FÁS Employment Services recently announced the Work Placement Programme which is designed to offer unemployed people, including unemployed graduates, the opportunity to obtain 6 months quality experience in a work situation. The benefit to employers is that they will, by giving someone the opportunity to gain work experience in their field, ensure the future supply of qualified and experienced people for their business or sector. Additionally, should a position become available within the business, they would have a prospective applicant with relevant work experience.

The Skillnets Training Network Programme is an enterprise-led programme providing training, upskilling and networking supports to persons in employment with a particular emphasis on the low basic skilled and on SMEs. In 2008 the Training Network Programme facilitated over 56,000 trainees in over 20,000 enterprises. It currently operates nationally across 103 separate sectoral and regional networks. In 2009 the Finuas Training Network Programme was launched to provide similar supports in the international financial services sector.

County and City Enterprise Boards provide a source of support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants. All of the CEBs operate to the same criteria in relation to the assistance which they can offer i.e. they can support the establishment and/or the development of enterprises provided that the projects, which should generally be in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector, have the capacity to achieve commercial viability and which over time may develop into strong exporting entities. CEBs also deliver a range of non-financial supports, such as business advice and information services, management development programmes and mentoring initiatives, which are designed to help new and existing micro-enterprises operate more effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow.

The Employment Subsidy Scheme (Temporary) which is being managed by Enterprise Ireland, applies to vulnerable but viable companies in the manufacturing or internationally traded service sectors. It will involve the payment of a subsidy to firms to retain an agreed level of jobs. The principal aim of the Scheme is to maximise full-time employment in the first place by securing a multiple of jobs being subsidised. A further initiative both my colleague Minister Hanafin and I launched on the 27th May is the Short Time Working Training Programme. This new initiative offers individuals the opportunity to receive training that suits their specific requirements. With individuals who are on short time working, this Programme will provide two days training a week for 277 workers over a 52-week period.

National Training Fund.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

183 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans for the surplus in the national training fund; if she will use the surplus in the national training fund to support skills development in small and medium enterprises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36849/09]

Under the terms of the National Training Act, 2000 any surplus remains in the accounts of the National Training Fund for re-investment in eligible training activity. Current NTF funding allocations to FÁS, Skillnets Ltd and Enterprise Ireland, already help to fund a broad spectrum of training initiatives for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) including in-company training as well as a range of tailored industry sector programmes.

Departmental Programmes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

184 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to change the criteria of the work placement programme to include micro-enterprises and those who have had to make staff redundant in the past six months; and the reason the work placement programme has not been mainstreamed already in view of the fact that there is no net cost to the Exchequer. [36850/09]

The aim of the Work Placement Programme is to provide valuable work experience for 6 months to 2,000 unemployed individuals, including graduates. Participants on the programme will retain their existing social welfare entitlements for the duration of their placement. The eligibility criteria for both participants and providers participating in the programme are to be reviewed in the near future. This review will be conducted by officials from my Department, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Education and Science and FÁS. Based on the finding of the review I will consider whether to expand the Work Placement Programme.

Industrial Development.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

185 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the remit of Enterprise Ireland will be expanded to incorporate indigenous companies that are not export-orientated; the initiatives taken by her to support indigenous companies focused on import substitution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36851/09]

Ensuring value for money in terms of government investment is always important but it is particularly critical in times of economic challenge. It has long been established that value for money is achieved through focusing state assistance on exporting companies rather than on those selling to the domestic market. The provision of assistance to indigenous companies that are not export-oriented generates significant levels of displacement, deadweight and market distortion. Ireland's economic success is intrinsically linked to Irish industry achieving sales in international markets. I therefore have no plans to expand the remit of Enterprise Ireland to incorporate indigenous companies that are not export-orientated.

Credit Supply.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

186 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of submissions received by the credit supply clearing group in relation to credit availability to small and medium enterprises; if the credit supply clearing group has identified credit supply solutions; if she will make available a report of the work of the group in relation to the availability of credit to SMEs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36852/09]

In conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan, T.D., I established the Credit Supply Clearing Group in May of this year with the following terms of reference:

To identify specific patterns of events or groups of cases, by sector, geographically, or otherwise, where the flow of credit to viable business appears to be blocked.

To aggregate the details of individual cases brought to the Clearing Group's attention in order to identify patterns.

To seek to identify credit supply solutions relating to these patterns.

On an exceptional basis, to consider significant, individual viable cases where the flow of credit appears to be blocked and which either appear to illustrate a trend or are economically significant in their own right.

To provide a mechanism for lenders to address how their stated credit policies match the current realities of business lending.

To develop an overall view of business credit problems.

To report to Government on a regular basis the issues addressed by the clearing group and any solutions found.

The Credit Supply Clearing Group is chaired by my Department and includes representatives of the banking and business sectors along with Departmental representatives and representatives of the primary support agencies. Three meetings have taken place to date with a fourth one scheduled for later this month. To assist and complement the work of the Credit Supply Clearing Group, Billy Kelleher, T.D., the Minister for Trade and Commerce at my Department held eight regional meetings over a two-week period during June and July to discuss with representatives of business, banks and the State sector, their experience of gaining access to bank credit at local and regional level.

As part of the ongoing work of the Government's Credit Supply Clearing Group, my Department launched an email link on 28 August last calling for submissions from viable businesses that have been refused credit by banks. Such businesses, where the flow of credit appears to be blocked, can now send their details to a dedicated email contact point at the Department, creditsupplyclearinggroup@entemp.ie. To date seven submissions have been received via this dedicated email contact point. In addition, a small number of cases have also been referred to individual banks for follow-up action, following approaches made by business interests represented on the Group. To date, no specific patterns of events or groups of cases, by sector, geographically, or otherwise have become evident where the flow of credit to viable business appears to be blocked. The Credit Supply Clearing Group is providing an opportunity for the business community to engage with financial institutions and provides a mechanism for lenders to address how their stated credit policies match realities on the ground in their branches nationwide.

Following the publication last July of the Independent Review of Bank Lending To SMEs (The Mazars Report), members of the Credit Supply Clearing Group have contributed to the follow up work in relation to the future monitoring of bank lending to SMEs and have given views in relation to other recommendations made in the Mazars Report. This has facilitated the Department of Finance in the carrying out a further Independent Review of bank lending which is currently underway. Final results from this Review are expected next month.

The work of the Credit Supply Clearing Group, together with the outcomes of the Independent Review of Bank Lending to SMEs, has greatly assisted in the development of an overall view of business credit problems. The ongoing availability of credit to business is a critical issue for our small and medium sized enterprises as they trade through the current economic downturn and work to protect jobs in our economy. The actions already taken by this Government to stabilise the banking sector and to ensure that the banks meet their commitments under the recapitalisation package are all focused on getting banks once again to support our broader enterprise economy by extending appropriate credit to viable projects. The Credit Supply Clearing Group will continue to play a key role in this process by addressing the legitimate concerns of both businesses and the lending banks.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

187 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in her Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36860/09]

My Department currently has 48 officers serving at Principal Officer or higher. This is 4.4% of current serving staff numbers of 1093. To date my Department has received 45 applications under the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement. Due to the small number of applications at the higher level I am not prepared to give a breakdown of grades, as it may be possible to identify individual officers or at least cause unhelpful speculation as to the identity of applicants before applicants themselves are ready to announce their retirement.

The Deputy should note that in addition, my Department continues to experience retirements on age grounds (60-65), ill health and on a Cost Neutral basis. Given the current moratorium on the filling of such vacancies, it is not possible to anticipate the number of officials at Principal Officer level and above who are expected to be working in my Department following the full implementation of the Incentivised Early Retirement Scheme.

State Agencies.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

188 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there are plans to abolish Shannon Development and transfer its functions to other State agencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36902/09]

In July this year, the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes was published. Among several recommendations contained within the Report was the proposed discontinuation of Shannon Development. As with all Group recommendations relevant to my Department, I am examining the recommendation in the context of Estimates for 2010 and evaluating its potential impact on the provision of services to enterprise and on my efforts to promote employment.

Job Creation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

189 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs that have been created at a business park (details supplied) in County Clare in the first eight months of 2009; the number of jobs lost at this business park in the same period; the number of jobs excluding those transferred from the existing business centre in Ennis created at the business park since its establishment in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36904/09]

The issue of job creation and retention in enterprise agency supported companies are day-to-day matters for the agencies themselves and not one in which I am directly involved. However, Shannon Development informs me that three new jobs were created in the Information Age Park in Ennis between January and August 2009. Nine jobs were lost at this business park by August 2009, with six of these transferring to other business parks. The number of jobs excluding those transferred from the existing business centre in Ennis, created at the business park since 2005 is 64. Clare County Council also occupied a number of suites in Block A and B from 1 May 2005 to 31 January 2008 with 150 staff approximately.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

190 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the proposed Companies (Transitional Accounting Standards) Bill designed to permit merger accounting for companies here; the broad proposals to be included in this Bill; and the prospective timeframe for its enactment. [36949/09]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009. The Bill provides for, inter alia, the use of US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP) in the preparation of the accounts of a specified category of companies for a limited period of time. Approval was given by Government for the drafting of this Bill on 13th October, 2009. The text of the Bill is subject to Government approval and will be considered by them in due course.

Tariff Nomenclature.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

191 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the possibility of products subject to substantial transformation being distinguished in the tariff nomenclature. [37062/09]

The main elements of tariff nomenclature, which are the first 6 digits of a possible 10, are set internationally, at the World Customs Organisation. The EU then agrees the final digits that it adds to allow for more specific identification. Under the existing international system, it is not possible to distinguish between goods that are wholly made in one country and those that are transformed in the tariff codes. The question of whether or not substantial transformation has taken place is dealt with under rules of origin, and these rules are determined at EU level. Once a good has met the requirements for substantial transformation, it qualifies as a good originating in the country where that substantial transformation has taken place, and is treated in the same way as a good that is wholly made in the same country for the purposes of applying or suspending tariffs.

Work Permits.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

192 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will approve an appeal against her decision to refuse a work permit in the case of a person (details supplied) in view of new information; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37142/09]

The Employment Permits Section informs me that a work permit has issued in this case.

Industrial Disputes.

Joan Burton

Question:

193 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her position with respect to the industrial dispute between a trade union and a bank (details supplied), with respect to the bank’s failure to implement the relevant Labour Court recommendations; if she will take action or give directions to the effect that this State guaranteed bank should comply with the relevant Labour Court recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37158/09]

I understand that the dispute was referred to the Labour Court in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. This provision allows the Court to investigate a trade dispute where the Labour Relations Commission is satisfied that it is unable to further assist the parties and the parties themselves have requested the involvement of the Court. However, the Labour Court's recommendation is not binding on either party to the dispute and the Court cannot compel a company to comply with its recommendations.

Ireland's system of industrial relations is, essentially, voluntary in nature and responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes is a matter for the parties involved. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, rather than imposing a solution on the parties to an industrial dispute. Responsibility for the settlement of this dispute rests, ultimately, with the parties themselves. The obligation lies with the parties to seek to resolve their differences and to carry their efforts through to completion. As the Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to accept the outcome of the process, namely the Labour Court recommendation.

I welcome the decision taken by UNITE members to call off the strike action scheduled for 30 September at the Bank of Ireland in order to seek clarification from the Labour Court on its recent recommendation. I understand that the Labour Court has issued its clarification. In my view, the experience and expertise of the Court continue to provide the best avenue for resolving the issues in dispute. To this end, I would urge the company to reflect carefully on the consequences of not complying with the Court's recommendation and would strongly encourage them to give positive consideration to the recommendation.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

194 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with her Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37209/09]

The arrangements in place in the agencies under my Department's remit for booking accommodation, making travel arrangements and hosting functions at home or abroad is a matter in the first instance for the agencies in question. However, Section 17 of the revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, published in May 2009, states that non-commercial State Bodies should adopt and comply in all respects with the circulars issued from time to time by the Department of Finance regarding travel and subsistence. The Code also states that Boards of State bodies that incur significant annual expenditure on foreign travel by members of the staff or the Board should put appropriate procedures in place to monitor, report, and enforce the relevant rules and requirements. The Code includes, at Appendix VI, a Framework for a Travel Policy.

The Code of Practice also includes a suggested Framework for a Code of Business Conduct for all directors and employees of State bodies. The Framework advocates that the Code of Business Conduct should address fundamental issues of principle, including the preparation of an explanatory booklet providing practical guidance and direction on such areas as gifts and entertainment. My Department has brought the Code of Practice to the attention of the Department's agencies. The main Department of Finance circulars and letters governing domestic and foreign travel arrangements have also been brought to the attention of the agencies by my officials. It is my intention that compliance by the agencies with these guidelines will be monitored by my Department as part of the annual reporting procedures prescribed in the Code of Practice.

EU Funding.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

195 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 80 and 81 of 13 October 2009, if she made interventions to try to have the fund applied retrospectively to the workers in the textile industry in County Donegal; and if not, the reason for same. [37230/09]

The relevant EU Regulation came into force on December 2006. The redundancies referred to took place before 2006 and hence the workers concerned would have been offered assistance under the training and upskilling arrangement in place under national rules.

Industrial Development.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

196 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she is satisfied that her Department officials and agencies of her Department responded satisfactorily to concerns raised by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37239/09]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, including the acquisition and disposal of property is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency, as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas, and it is not a matter in which the Minister of the day has any involvement.

I am informed that the sale of 0.4ha of land to Mr. Malachy Kearns of Roundstone Musical Instruments (RMI) by IDA Ireland was completed in December 2008. I understand that during protracted negotiations a number of issues were raised by Mr. Kearns including the size of the site to be included in the sale, a mapping error, the start and completion dates of a proposed expansion to the factory on that site and VAT. These issues were finally resolved and the sale was completed, as I have said, in December of last year. As far as the IDA is aware, there are no other outstanding issues. Mr. Kearns had already bought two other plots of land on the same site from the IDA in 1998 and 1999 and I understand that he is currently in negotiation with the Agency regarding the purchase of the freehold interest in all three plots.

Redundancy Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

197 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a payment will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [37241/09]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of payment made from the SIF – rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department received a statutory lump sum claim from the individual concerned on 11 September 2009. When an employer claims inability to pay, the onus is on the employer to provide sufficient proof to substantiate the claim. In this case, further information has been requested from the employer to allow a decision to be reached and the claim to be processed. If the former employer does not forward the required information it may be necessary for the employee to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal against the employer. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements and where all of the required supporting documentation has been submitted, the Section is, in general, processing lump sum claims dating from June '09.

Given the unprecedented increase in Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department since late 2008 it has proved impossible to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims with a cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2009 at 60,785 an increase of 122% on the same period last year (27,373). This figure of 60,785 exceeds the claims lodged for the full year 2008 (40,607) and 2008 was, of itself, an exceptional year as compared with earlier years when claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by the Tánaiste and I to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken include:

the reassignment of 26.7 additional staff (full time equivalents) from other areas of the Department to the Redundancy Payments area since early 2009 with ongoing review of trends and demands. The current number of staff serving in the Redundancy Payments Section in terms of full time equivalents is 53.8;

the prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the Redundancy Payments Section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours;

the establishment of a special call handling facility to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses who are naturally concerned about their payments, using the facilities and cooperation of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). This centre has received an average of 12,500 calls per month this year with an estimated 60% relating to redundancy payments;

The provision of better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

Engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against outstanding tax liabilities with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Tánaiste and I continue to monitor closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims and will consider further measures to deal with the situation should current measures prove to be inadequate.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Joe Carey

Question:

198 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to introduce an incentive or grant for the manufacture of wind turbines here in view of the potential to generate wind energy here and the fact that all turbine parts are manufactured abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37293/09]

The issue of wind turbines generally is a matter for Sustainable Energy Ireland which is under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and not one in which I am directly involved. However, Enterprise Ireland inform me that they can support the establishment of a business to make wind turbines subject to the normal commercial requirements of Enterprise Ireland grant aid, in accordance with the provisions of the Industrial Development Acts, 1986-2009. Enterprise Ireland will continue to offer a wide range of services, including financial and non-financial supports to companies with a business strategy that encompasses all elements required for business success. However, if the question relates to the establishment of wind farms, Enterprise Ireland is not in a situation to support such a development.

Job Losses.

Joe Carey

Question:

199 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on making an EU globalisation fund application in respect of the numerous job losses in Shannon and the greater Shannon region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37352/09]

In June 2009 my Department made an application to the European Commission under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) for assistance in co-financing supports for workers made redundant at the DELL computer manufacturing plant in Raheen and ancillary enterprises in the Mid West region. Subject to final approval from the European Council and European Parliament of the Irish application, some of the redundant workers included for assistance in that EGF application are from the Shannon area and will benefit directly from any supports ultimately provided.

My Department is examining all collective redundancies to see whether they may be potentially eligible for EGF assistance subject to meeting the strict eligibility criteria which apply under the EU Regulation governing the Fund. The various job losses in the Shannon region to date are not adjudged to meet the relevant EGF criteria at this time. However, my Department will continue to monitor and review this situation, as it does with all collective redundancies nationally.

Question No. 200 answered with Question No. 168.

Health and Safety Regulations.

David Stanton

Question:

201 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 4 of 15 October 2008, if all the recommendations of the Claritas report on the safe pass and construction skills certification schemes have been implemented; if not, the reason for same; when they will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37543/09]

A sub-group of the Construction Industry Group (CIG) — an advisory group to the Board of FÁS, was established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Claritas Report on the safe pass and construction skills certification schemes. I understand that all but one of the recommendations accepted by the CIG have been fully implemented. The final recommendation relates to the development of an on-line version of Safe Pass. FÁS is in the course of implementing this recommendation and has developed and is piloting an on-line module of the programme.

Flood Relief.

Finian McGrath

Question:

202 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a query (details supplied). [36778/09]

Finian McGrath

Question:

216 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a matter (details supplied) will be supported. [36777/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 216 together.

As I have previously advised, officials from the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Dublin City Council met on 29 July of this year to discuss possible flood alleviation measures following the extreme rainfall in the Dublin 3 and Dublin 5 areas on 2 July. An interim report by Dublin City Council's consultants, presented at that meeting, concluded that a full study of the River Wad Catchment was needed. Dublin City Council has initiated the procurement process to select a consultant to carry out this study, and that appointment is expected before the end of this year. The study is to be completed in the first six months of 2010.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) does not have responsibilities in the area of insurance cover for families. The appropriate regulatory body for the industry is the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority. The question of humanitarian assistance for families affected by flooding has, since 2005, been a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs, through the local Community Welfare Officer.

Departmental Properties.

James Bannon

Question:

203 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the amount his Department is paying per annum for the lease of the new social welfare office at Gracepark Road, Athlone in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36935/09]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs pay €332,032.90 (incl VAT) per annum in respect of rent for the premises at Gracepark Road, Athlone.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

204 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if a study has been carried out to calculate the possible savings that could be made from taxing social welfare payments on the same basis as earned income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36648/09]

The position is that the latest study on the question of the taxation of payments made by the Department of Social and Family Affairs was undertaken by the Commission on Taxation. The Report of the Commission sets out the results of its deliberations in Part 5, Section 3.4. However, the Report did not specify what savings for the Exchequer would be achieved as a result of implementation of their recommendations.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

205 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the cost associated with temporary accommodation that was required to facilitate the decentralisation of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism to Killarney, County Kerry. [36669/09]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) leased premises in Fossa, Killarney from 1 July 2006 to 31 March 2009 as temporary advance accommodation for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, prior to the completion of a permanent building. The cost to the OPW of providing this accommodation was:

Rent

420,000

VAT on rent

81,025

Insurance

9,430

Rates

10,167

Fitout (excl. VAT)

64,000

Departmental Properties.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

206 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the cost of the new building acquired to accommodate the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism’s relocation to Killarney, County Kerry. [36670/09]

In April 2007, following a competitive tendering process, the Commissioners of Public Works awarded a fixed price contract in the sum of €14,992,575.00, inclusive of VAT, to construct new decentralised Headquarter offices for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism at New Road, Killarney. Works were completed in December 2008, and the building was subsequently occupied by the Department. The sum quoted relates to the cost of building construction only and does not include the cost of site acquisition, furniture, kitchen fit-out and the Department's I.T. and telephone installation costs.

Tax Code.

Simon Coveney

Question:

207 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Finance the number of appeals which have been lodged each year against the assessment for vehicle registration tax since the introduction of the tax on 1 January 1993 to date in 2009 for new and used cars; the outcome of the appeal in each case by make, model, age, condition, original market selling price, the original VRT, the revised OMSP, and the revised VRT in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36689/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, given the range of information requested since 1993, they are not in a position to provide a detailed reply within the time available. Accordingly, I will have the information forwarded to the Deputy at an early date.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

208 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the way a person (details supplied) will obtain a P60 for the 2008 tax year when their employer has ceased operating in order for them to claim a refund of tax owed to them in that year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36698/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they will endeavour to obtain details of pay and tax for 2008 from the former employer of the person in question and review the tax position for that year. If the taxpayer is in possession of their final payslip from that employment they should contact their local Revenue District immediately for the purposes of having a review processed.

Simon Coveney

Question:

209 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Finance his views on the way a carbon tax could be introduced in budget 2010; the level which would apply on petrol, diesel, coal, gas and peat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36699/09]

This question relates to potential Budgetary measures. It is the usual practice for the Minister for Finance not to speculate or comment in advance of the Budget on what it will contain and I do not propose to deviate from that practice.

George Lee

Question:

210 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Finance if he will explain section 784(c)(4a) of the Taxes Consolidated Act 2007; if it means that the moneys are locked away until the 75th birthday of the policyholder as the State pension is in excess of €12,700; if so, the reason this is the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36708/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that section 784C of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 relates to Approved Minimum Retirement Funds (AMRFs) which form part of the Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) options introduced by Finance Act 1999. ARFs and ARMFs are not pension schemes per se but rather investment funds into which the proceeds of certain pension arrangements can be invested on retirement. At present, the ARF option is primarily available to personal pension holders (i.e. mainly the self-employed with Retirement Annuity Contracts or PRSAs), employees who have made AVC contributions (in respect of those contributions) and proprietary directors (i.e. 5% directors) who are members of occupational pension schemes.

In order to exercise the ARF option an individual must either be over 75 years of age or have, in his or her own right, a guaranteed pension income for life of a minimum of €12,700 per annum at the point of retirement (this is referred to as specified income in the relevant legislation). In this regard, the pension or pensions must actually be in payment – pensions anticipated at some time in the future cannot be brought into the reckoning. Pensions paid directly to a spouse or pensions/allowances received on behalf of a spouse or dependant may not be included. Where the minimum specified income test is not met, the legislation requires that the first €63,500 of the pension fund (after taking the tax free lump sum), or the entire of the remaining fund, if it is less than this, must either be used to purchase an annuity for the individual or invested in an AMRF. The individual can also satisfy this requirement by using part of the €63,500 to purchase an annuity and by placing the rest in an AMRF.

The purpose of the AMRF is essentially prudential with a view to preserving at least some of the pension assets over the longer term for the individual to guard against the possibility that the ARF would be depleted earlier than expected. To that end, the capital sum invested in an AMRF is "locked away" and is not available to the individual until he or she attains the age of 75, although any income or gains generated by the fund can be drawn down subject to income tax. However, an individual may use the AMRF funds at any time to purchase an annuity. When an individual attains the age of 75 the AMRF automatically becomes an ARF.

Section 784C(4)(a) simply states that, where the individual is in receipt of pension income for life of €12,700 at the time the ARF option is exercised, the AMRF requirement does not arise. The specified income amount of €12,700 (originally £10,000) has been in place since the ARF legislation was enacted in 1999 and is not directly linked to the maximum personal rate of the contributory State pension (for person under 80) – which stood at €5,876 (£4,628) at that time and currently stands at just short of €12,000 annually.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

211 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance his plans to request banks (details supplied) to hand over their substantial art collection to the Arts Council for public display on a permanent basis in view of the guarantees he has put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36732/09]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

212 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the fact that the Anglo Irish Bank is now State controlled, he will take the necessary steps to have their art collection of the bank handed over to the Arts Council with a view to having the various paintings and sculptures handed over to the municipal and country art galleries here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36733/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211 and 212 together.

The terms of the Government's guarantee are laid down in the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008, pursuant to the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008. There is no provision under the terms of the Scheme for the action suggested by the Deputy in relation to art collections of covered institutions. Under the terms of the Scheme, covered institutions pay a quarterly charge to the Exchequer in respect of the guarantee provided under the Scheme.

In the case of Anglo Irish Bank, the bank is being run on an arm's length commercial basis by the Board of Anglo. Consequently, the management of assets of the bank, including the holding or display of art works, is a matter for the Board of the bank. This is in line with the position on such matters for other commercial State companies.

Tax Code.

Noel Ahern

Question:

213 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the tax arrangements that were made for Eircom workers in the recent sale of the company; if they obtained favourable tax handling on the transaction or profits and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36735/09]

I am assuming that the Deputy's query relates to the tax treatment of the Eircom Employee Share Ownership Trust on the proposed sale of Eircom. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that if and when the proposed sale takes place, the transaction will be dealt with in accordance with the legislation governing Employee Share Ownership Trusts in section 519 and Schedule 12 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

Social Partnership Agreement.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

214 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer if the social partnership payment deal agreed in 2008 was paid out in 2009 as planned. [36743/09]

The pay increases under ‘Towards 2016 – Review and Transitional Agreement 2008-2009 were as follows:

An increase of 3.5% from 1 September 2009; and

An increase of 2.5% from 1 June 2010 – except for those earning up to and including €430.49 per week (€ 22,463 per annum) on commencement of the second phase where a 3% increase will apply.

The estimated cost to the Exchequer of implementing the ‘Towards 2016 – Review and Transitional Agreement 2008-2009 in 2009 would have been about €230m. The cost would have been significantly higher in 2010 and 2011.

Financial Services Regulation.

George Lee

Question:

215 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it would be sensible and prudent to introduce legislation promoting independent and impartial financial advice by banning commissions in order to protect investors and savers here from untransparent and unreliable financial advice and the mis-selling of financial and investment products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36773/09]

There are currently no plans to proscribe the use of commissions by financial intermediaries in Ireland. It is considered that the existing legislative protections in place for the consumer sufficiently empowers the Financial Regulator and the Financial Services Ombudsman to investigate and, if necessary, sanction any misbehaviour in relation to mis-selling of financial products or the provision of financial advice which does not serve the best interests of the customer.

The Financial Regulator's July 2006 Minimum Competency Requirements set out minimum standards across all financial service providers which are applicable to individuals who, on a professional basis, as or on behalf of a regulated firm, provide advice to consumers on retail financial products, arrange or offer to arrange retail financial products for consumers or undertake certain specified activities. Retail financial products include shares, bonds and other investment instruments and savings, investment and pension products.

The disclosure of sales remuneration in relation to certain life assurance products is required by the Life Assurance (Provision of Information) Regulations 2001. These Regulations cover life assurance products, personal pension plans and life assurance investment and savings products.

The sale of investment products is covered by the Regulations which transposed the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) into Irish law. Under these Regulations firms are required to ensure that there is clear and prior disclosure to its clients detailing the existence, nature and amount of the commission. The Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code, which came into effect in August 2006, is a legally enforceable statutory code which is applicable to all entities which the Financial Regulator regulates.

Under the General Principles of the Consumer Protection Code (the Code), all regulated firms are required to:

Act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of the customer

Make full disclosure of all relevant material information, including all charges, in a way that seeks to inform the customer; and

Seek to avoid conflicts of interest.

In addition, there are provisions in the Code, for the protection of those persons which are classified as ‘consumers' under the code, which set specific requirements with which the regulated entity must comply in areas such as its terms of business, provision of information to the consumer, knowing the consumer and suitability.

Regulated entities are required to comply with both the Code and Minimum Competency Requirements as a matter of law and the Financial Regulator will investigate any matter brought to its attention where it appears that these, or any other regulatory requirement, may have been breached by an entity. Any allegation of mis-selling of financial products is a serious matter and will be treated as such by the relevant authorities and any complaint regarding the conduct of a regulated entity should be brought to the attention of the Regulator for investigation. Where found by the Financial Regulator to have breached its obligations, a regulated entity may be subject to financial or other sanctions.

The Deputy may wish to note that where a customer has a complaint regarding his/her treatment which has not been resolved through the internal complaint resolutions systems of a regulated entity, the customer may bring the matter to the attention of the Financial Services Ombudsman for investigation. I am therefore satisfied that adequate safeguards are in place to regulate the activities to which the Deputy refers.

Question No. 216 answered with Question No. 202.

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Question:

217 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made identifying ways of securing revenue from on-line gambling which originates here; when he expects to publish his recommendations; his views on whether this could be a new and important form of revenue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36793/09]

As I stated during the Finance Bill process, it has been my intention to widen if possible the tax base on which betting duty would be applied. Bets placed either on-line or over the phone are generally with out-of-State companies so applying betting duty is therefore problematic. My officials, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, are looking at the scope to overcome legal and operational difficulties in this area and will continue to do so, on an ongoing basis.

In addition, my Department is working closely with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which has initiated a review in order to provide the Government with options for a new and comprehensive legal and organisational framework governing gambling architecture in the State. The review, amongst other things, will consider:

the recommendations contained in the Report Gaming in Ireland,

the existing law regulating gaming lotteries and other forms of gambling in the jurisdiction,

international developments, in particular the experience of the UK's Gambling Commission,

developments in relation to remote gambling (e.g. via the internet and mobile phones).

As the Deputy may be aware, due to pressure on the betting sector, I decided to defer the introduction of the increase in the betting duty provided for in Finance (No. 2) Act 2008 pending a review. Accordingly, the Finance Act 2009 contains a provision for continuing the existing betting duty rate of 1% unless and until an order is made bringing the 2% rate into effect, or alternative betting taxation arrangements are enacted. This decision is based on the premise that the betting sector will engage in constructive discussions about putting in place a fair and workable tax base for the sector. Such discussions will, inter alia, touch on issues such as on-line/phone betting, which is largely untaxed, and look at proposals that could potentially bring this area into the tax net, if possible, while also protecting Irish employment in the sector.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

218 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer to introduce refundable tax credits for persons on incomes currently not benefiting from the tax credit system. [36804/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent estimated cost of making the main personal and PAYE tax credits refundable when they are unused would be likely to be in excess of €3 billion annually. This estimate relates only to the cost of extending refundable tax credits to all those on the Revenue's tax files. If a refundable tax credit system were to be introduced, one would have to consider those who are not on the tax files, for example, those who are of employable age but not working, including those on social welfare. If such categories were eligible this would increase the cost significantly. Apart from the issue of cost, there would be a range of other policy and practical issues arising in introducing such a system.

Pension Provisions.

Brian Hayes

Question:

219 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a scheme (details supplied); the reason for the delay in approving it; the problems relating to the scheme; if all relevant service will be reckonable from the date in February 2009 that the scheme was due to begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36806/09]

As outlined in my previous reply to the Deputy, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has primary responsibility for matters relating to the state body mentioned, including its pension schemes. With regard to pension arrangements, the relevant legislation requires that these be approved by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance.

The position regarding the pension scheme referred to by the Deputy is that officials from my Department are involved in ongoing consultation with officials in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources about it. Certain aspects must be clarified in order to ensure that the Scheme is in accordance with public service pension policy and with public expenditure policy.

I refer to the specific issue raised by the Deputy as to whether all relevant service will be reckonable from a date in February 2009. Such details of the scheme are a matter in the first instance for the employer to determine and clarify and I am not in a position to advise on this point. It is hoped that, with cooperation from all parties involved, the scheme will be in order for the Ministers to approve in the near future. I can assure you that we are making every effort in this regard.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

220 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is due a refund on their contributions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36841/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that PAYE Balancing Statements P21 for the years 2007 and 2008 together with refunds due will issue to the person concerned shortly.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

221 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in his Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36862/09]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

224 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the number of officials at principal officer level or higher working in his Department on 1 May 2009. [36892/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 224 together.

I have taken a reference date of 1 April 2010 for full implementation of the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement (ISER) as this would take account of all cases in which deferred retirements have been agreed. 5.6 staff (whole-time equivalent — WTE) at Principal level or higher have to date applied for the ISER.

The number of officials at Principal level and higher in my Department at 1 May 2009 was 79.70 (WTE), which includes 2 officers at Principal level working outside the Department. The number expected to be in my Department following full implementation of the ISER is unlikely to exceed 71.10 (WTE), which represents 12.7% of the likely total number of staff in my Department at the reference date. It should be noted, however, that the number expected to be on the staff of the Department will be determined by a number of factors including ISERs and normal age retirements of staff.

Professional Fees.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

222 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the amount that would be saved if he reduced professional fees by 20%. [36884/09]

Following the Government decision in February to pursue a general 8% reduction on fees to legal, medical, veterinary and other professionals engaged by the public service, it is estimated that a further 20% reduction would yield up to €180 million in a full year.

Tax Yield.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

223 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the amount that would have been raised in the past year if on-course betting was taxed. [36885/09]

It is assumed that the question relates to the application of betting duty to bets placed with on-course bookmakers at horse and greyhound race meetings. Based on an estimate of around €230 million of bets having been placed with on-course bookmakers at race meetings over the year to 31 August 2009, it is estimated that applying the 1% betting duty to such bets would have yielded the Exchequer approximately €2.3 million.

The on-course duty was reduced to zero in 1999 in the context of the reduction in the off-course duty at that time and the importance of supporting attendances at race meetings.

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 221.

Tax Collection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

225 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if provision will be made for the repayment of underpayment of tax in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36895/09]

The position is that Illness Benefit is a taxable source of income.

In this instance (details supplied), the taxpayer has an available Tax Credit of €2,516 for 2009. This equates to an annual income threshold of €12,580 (€12,580 × 20% = €2,516) under which no liability to income tax arises.

I am advised that Revenue records indicate that the taxpayer received Illness Benefit income of €6,503 up to 7th October 2009. If the taxpayer does not have another taxable source of income, which combined with the Illness Benefit would be in excess of the €12,580 threshold at the suggested date of return to work (2nd November 2009), no tax liability will arise at that date. On resumption of work, the taxpayer is advised to request Revenue to issue a revised Tax Credit Certificate to reflect the Illness Benefit income received up to that date.

Jack Wall

Question:

226 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is due a tax rebate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36914/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have written to the person concerned requesting additional information. Her tax liability will be reviewed on receipt of that information.

Public Service Contracts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

227 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if local contractors were given the opportunity to tender for contract work (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36922/09]

Tenders are invited by the Commissioners of Public Works on a rotational basis for works in the various regions from both local and regional Contractors, with a view to giving equal opportunities to all.

With regard to the Oldbridge Estate, local contractors are currently employed on a variety of contract works within the Estate, and have been employed in various phases of previous works.

National Asset Management Agency.

James Bannon

Question:

228 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the number of developers being assisted by the National Asset Management Agency who will be involved in the developing of the co-location of private hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36934/09]

Until the full transfer of eligible loans has been completed, it will not be possible to analyse individual loan files and collate detailed information on borrowers.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Michael McGrath

Question:

229 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the income received to date in 2009 by the State arising from the bank guarantee scheme and the recapitalisation of banks (details supplied). [36937/09]

Under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008, each of the covered institutions pays a quarterly charge to the Exchequer which is held in a mandated account in the Central Bank. This charge is paid quarterly in advance and all payments have been made in respect of 2009 which amounts to €437,544,223.

In the context of the six month review of the charge which was undertaken by my Department, and given the shortfall in monies raised from the charge to date, the charge factor levied on each institution has been amended and new, higher rates are being applied for the remainder of the Scheme. Indeed, the monies to be received by the Exchequer in 2010 may be increased as institutions move from the existing guarantee scheme into the proposed revised guarantee scheme shortly to be brought to the Oireachtas.

With regard to the recapitalisation, in return for a capital injection of €3.5bn of Core Tier 1 Capital, the Government has received €3.5bn worth of non-cumulative preference shares. These preference shares pay a fixed coupon of 8% annually in arrears. However, as the first payment dates due under the recapitalisation fall in 2010, no monies are to be received in 2009 in respect of the recapitalisation.

In addition to the charge for the Guarantee levied on the covered institutions, institutions under the Guarantee are obliged to recoup the administrative costs of the Guarantee to the Minister. To date payments of €2,495,459 have been made, covering the period September 2008 to April 2009. There will be further charges made periodically between now and the end September 2010 when the Scheme is due to end.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

230 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a non-paper forwarded by the UK Government to the European Commission in 2009 in respect of customs checks on goods from illegal Israeli settlements; the measures which customs officials take to ascertain that goods imported from Israel have not been produced in illegal settlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37041/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

231 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the measures that have been established to make it possible to distinguish between Israeli and settlement goods that the Minister for Foreign Affairs referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 755 of 6 October 2009; and if he has adopted these measures. [37043/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 231 together.

My Department or the Revenue Commissioners are not familiar with the specific document mentioned by the Deputy. I would like, however, to assure him that Ireland, along with its EU partners, is mindful of the obligation to ensure that the benefits of the EU-Israel Association Agreement are not granted to goods produced in Israeli settlements in either the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

The origin of all goods imported into the EU must be declared to customs at the point of entry. Where preference is being claimed under the terms of an international accord, such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement, this must be declared and appropriate documentary proofs of origin must be made available to customs.

Throughout the EU, customs authorities examine this documentation either at import or as part of their post-clearance audit programmes. Where any doubt arises, the origin of the goods will be verified through contacts with the customs authorities in the country of origin. The procedures followed by Irish customs are similar to those operated throughout the EU.

Tax Yield.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

232 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be saved by capping all contributions to private pension funds at €150,000 per annum. [37121/09]

Tax relief on employee contributions to occupational pension schemes is subject to age-related percentage limits and to an overall annual earnings cap of €150,000 for 2009. The annual earnings cap and age-related percentage limits also apply to contributions to personal pension plans (i.e. Retirement Annuity Contracts and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts). In the case of occupational pension schemes, however, employer contributions on behalf of employees do not come within the age related and annual earnings cap limits applying to employee contributions. In that regard, control is effectively exercised on employer contributions through the separate funding limit relating to the maximum benefits that can be funded for under an occupational pension scheme (i.e. a pension of two-thirds of final salary). In addition, there is a general overall limit on the capital value of tax-relieved benefits that can be drawn down in a person's lifetime – known as the Standard Fund Threshold – and which currently stands at just over €5.4 million.

Employer contributions to occupational pension schemes are required to be returned annually to the Revenue Commissioners in aggregate form. Since the data is not disaggregated at the level of the employee or scheme member, there is no basis on which to estimate the impact of the change suggested in the question.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

233 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the revenue that would be saved or lost by allowing people to write off pension contributions against tax at a single rate of33%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37122/09]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to individual pension contributions, the tax relief on which is allowed at the taxpayer's marginal income tax rate, that is, at the standard or higher rate of income tax as appropriate in each case.

A breakdown of the cost of tax relief on employee contributions to occupational pension schemes is not available by income tax rate, as tax returns by employers to the Revenue Commissioners of employee contributions to such schemes are aggregated at employer level. An historical breakdown is available by tax rate of the tax relief claimed on contributions to personal pension plans — Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs) and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) — by the self-employed and others, to the extent that the contributions have been included in the personal tax returns of those taxpayers. The latest data available in this regard are preliminary figures in respect of the tax year 2007.

There is, therefore, no statistical basis for providing definitive figures. However, by making certain assumptions about the available information, it is estimated that the overall full year yield to the Exchequer from allowing tax relief at a flat rate of 33% in respect of individual contributions to occupational pension schemes, RACs and PRSAs would be about €135 million. It is assumed that tax relief at the flat rate of 33% would also be available to claimants who are currently confined to tax relief at the standard rate of 20%.

The estimated Exchequer saving assumes no change in the current relief arrangements for PRSI and health levy on pension contributions and takes no account of the economic or behavioural impacts which would occur as a result of a change in tax treatment as envisaged in the question.

Pat Breen

Question:

234 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 240 and 241 of 7 October 2009, the amount of this air travel tax which applies to flights departing from Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37139/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that payments of Air Travel Tax by airline operators are not required to be broken down by airport. It is not possible, therefore, to provide details of the amount of tax attributable to flights departing from Shannon Airport.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

235 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide data held by the Financial Regulator on the numbers of residential mortgage holders in arrears of more than three months on the books of all the regulated banks and building societies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37161/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

236 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide data held by the Financial Regulator on the numbers of mortgage holders who have restructured or rescheduled their mortgages over the past year, including the taking of a payment holiday or switching to an interest only mortgage; the way these figures compare with the figures for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37162/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 236 together.

While the Financial Regulator does not hold all of the specific data that the Deputy refers to, it is due to publish its findings in the near future of a themed inspection into arrears and repossessions. This is a follow on from the last such Financial Regulator report which was published in December 2008.

In the December 2008 report, the figures to June 2008 were collected during a review of the procedures that are in place across all mortgage lenders in the market in relation to arrears and repossessions. The examination shows that at end June 2008, 13,931 mortgage accounts (1.44% of residential accounts at end June 2008) were over 3 months in arrears, compared with end December 2006 when there were 11,252 accounts over 3 months in arrears (1.21% of residential accounts at end 2006). By end June 2008, credit institutions repossessed 16 properties and specialist mortgage lenders repossessed 13.

Between January 2005 and June 2008, lenders repossessed 128 properties by court order. In total, the residential properties repossessed by court order in this period represent 0.01% of the total number of residential mortgage accounts reported to be held at end June 2008.

On the issue of providing up-to-date statistics on the level of arrears and repossessions, my Department is currently liaising with the Central Bank regarding the Central Bank's plans to undertake further work in this area.

The Deputy may wish to note that the Irish Banking Federation presented statistics on arrears and repossessions for the whole of 2008 to the Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs on 24 June 2009. It said there were 96 repossessions in total last year, which is 0.01% of all mortgages. There are 35 repossessions in the UK for every one in Ireland, taking population balance into account along with other factors and 1.44% of mortgages here are in arrears for three months or over. The figures they gave were for 2008. They stated the figure for the first quarter of this year is 40 repossessions.

Ministerial Travel.

Enda Kenny

Question:

237 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the guidelines set down in respect of facilities provided for Ministers while on official duties; the guidelines for accommodation being sourced and whether capping arrangements apply; the guidelines for taxi, limousine hire; entertainment arrangements in respect of meals and so on; if these guidelines are applicable to all Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37201/09]

I assume the Deputy is referring to foreign travel by Ministers on official business.

My Department issued updated guidelines on foreign travel to all Government Departments on 1 July 2009. The guidelines are available on my Department's website at:

http://www.finance.gov.ie.

The guidelines apply to staff of Departments and all bodies and agencies under the aegis of Departments. I have also advised my Ministerial colleagues that the same principles should be observed by Ministers and office-holders when travelling abroad on official business.

The guidelines include provisions on the class of flights and standard of hotels to be used. My Department's Circular 25 of 2000 on official entertainment sets out limits on expenditure on official entertainment and the numbers that can be accommodated at any particular event.

The provision of other facilities abroad is a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

238 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with his Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37211/09]

Government Offices under the aegis of my Department operate under the Department of Finance guidelines in relation to Travel and Official Entertainment. The bodies concerned are the Office of the Ombudsman, State Laboratory, Public Appointments Service, Valuation Office, Commission for Public Service Appointments, The Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Public Works.

The situation in relation to other bodies that are funded by the Exchequer is outlined below.

The National Treasury Management Agency has in place a Staff Expenses Office Instruction which sets out the policies and the procedures that apply with regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals etc. The NTMA policy is consistent with the relevant Department of Finance Circulars and Foreign Travel Policy Guidelines. The NTMA has not incurred any such expenses on behalf of a Minister or Minister of State.

The Special EU Programmes Body adheres to guidance as set out in the Northern Ireland Civil Service Handbook and Department of Finance Circulars in respect of all accommodation, travel, entertainment and subsistence requirements. Internal policies exist to ensure adherence with the appropriate guidance. The Body does not provide accommodation or travel arrangements for Ministers or Ministers of State for functions at home or abroad. Any entertainment or subsistence provided to a Minister whilst attending a Special EU Programmes Body function would be the same as that received by all other participants.

State Banking Sector.

George Lee

Question:

239 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Finance the reason Anglo Irish Bank is offering the highest rate of interest on deposits of all banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37269/09]

As the Deputy is aware, Anglo Irish Bank is being run on an arm's length commercial basis by the Board of Anglo. Consequently, normal commercial decisions, which include those related to interest rate policy and the management of the funding of the bank, are a matter for the Board of Anglo.

Anglo has confirmed that the bank offers a competitive interest rate on a range of deposit products, but that it currently offers a leading market rate on only one of these. Also, comparisons with the deposit interest rates offered by different financial institutions need to recognise the different terms and conditions that apply to the accounts.

Anglo regularly reviews the interest rate on its deposit products, including with regard to positioning relative to competitor offerings. As with all financial institutions, Anglo's commercial decisions on its deposit interest rates are influenced by a number of factors including money market interest rate movements, competitor actions, and by the bank's strategy with regard to its overall mix of funding sources.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Question:

240 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the information that was supplied by the receiver of a company (details supplied) in County Waterford which determined that the €10 million provided for the workers by a firm was income and therefore subject to income tax rather than a lump sum that is an ex gratia payment which would be treated as tax free; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37278/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, for reasons of confidentiality, they cannot comment on the detailed information related to the payments from the fund referred to in the Deputy's question.

I am assured, however, that the Revenue Commissioners took account of all the facts and circumstances involved (including the basis under which entitlement to payments from this fund arose) in coming to a conclusion as to whether any payments made out of the fund are chargeable to income tax under Schedule E in accordance with Section 112 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

241 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37310/09]

The designation of areas for tax incentives in Northern Ireland is a matter for the UK Treasury. With regard to the designation of areas for tax incentives in this jurisdiction, there are no provisions in the tax code to allow for the immediate ad hoc designation of areas for tax incentives outside the scope of an existing tax incentive scheme. In addition, the designation of any such area for tax incentives would have to comply with the relevant State aid rules and be approved by the European Commission before such designation could proceed.

State Banking Sector.

Michael McGrath

Question:

242 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the future of Anglo Irish Bank; and the liability the State would have been exposed to in the event of the bank being allowed to collapse prior to its nationalisation and recapitalisation. [37321/09]

The Board of Anglo Irish Bank is currently finalising a restructuring plan which will set out the future strategy for the bank. The restructuring plan will consider all options for the future of Anglo. This plan will have to be approved by me and will be submitted to the European Commission for approval under EU State Aid rules by end-November.

Anglo is a major financial institution whose viability is of systemic importance to Ireland. The bank has a balance sheet in excess of €88bn and a substantial deposit base, which the Government is determined to safeguard. The Government therefore took the decision to take Anglo into public ownership and subsequently to provide €4bn in capital to the bank in order to maintain Anglo's viability.

As I have stated previously, these actions were taken by the Government to protect the economy from the wider losses that would have occurred in the event of a failure of the bank, to protect Anglo's deposit base, and to prevent the bank becoming a systemic threat.

National Lottery Funding.

Mary Upton

Question:

243 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the way the national lottery funding is apportioned; if he will express, as a percentage, the amount each area receives in each of the past ten years in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37400/09]

Under Section 5 of the National Lottery Act, 1986, the surplus from the National Lottery may be used for: Sport and other recreation; national culture (including the Irish language); arts (within the meaning of the Arts Act, 1951); health of the community; and for such other purposes as the Government may determine. The following additional categories have been so determined: youth, welfare, national heritage, and amenities. Under the legislation, the allocation of funding among the categories is a matter for the Government. There is no specific formula for the allocation of funding among categories. The Government decides on an annual basis how the surplus from the National Lottery is to be allocated in the context of the overall Estimates process.

The percentage of National Lottery funding which was spent on each of the categories is as follows:

Area

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

%

%

%

%

%

%

Sport

20

23

27

40

44

46

National Culture

15

6

4

2

2

2

Arts

10

9

8

6

7

9

Health

8

8

7

6

6

5

Youth

15

14

14

12

13

13

Welfare

23

28

28

24

18

16

National Heritage

3

4

4

4

3

3

Amenities

6

8

8

6

7

6

100

100

100

100

100

100

Since 2005, the total allocation for subheads which had formerly been funded entirely from the proceeds of the National Lottery has exceeded the funds available from the National Lottery. Therefore, the relevant subheads in the various Votes for subsequent years include both National Lottery and Exchequer funding. In the years 2005 to 2009, National Lottery funding as a percentage of total expenditure under such subheads was as follows:

2005

2006

2007

2008

64%

50%

52%

56%

On this basis, the percentage of Lottery funding for each category is as follows:

Area

2005

2006

2007

2008

%

%

%

%

Sport

28

24

23

24

National Culture

2

2

1

2

Arts

20

21

19

17

Health

4

3

3

3

Youth

11

9

10

9

Welfare

28

23

25

24

National Heritage

3

2

3

3

Amenities

4

16

16

18

100

100

100

100

Preschool Services.

John Deasy

Question:

244 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will relax the eligibility rules governing the free preschool year in early childhood care and education to accommodate parents of those children born in July and August 2006, who have been offered and accepted primary school places for September 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36738/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which provides a free preschool year to eligible children and which will be introduced in January 2010.

Children will qualify for the free preschool year where they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months at the start of each academic year. The application of the age range is being interpreted as generously as possible, to include children who are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September each year. This will mean that, in January 2010, children born on or after 2 February 2005 or on or before 30 June 2006 will qualify. Children born between 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2007 will qualify for the free pre-school year in September 2010. However, children who qualify for the pre-school year in September 2010 will not benefit from it if their parents choose to send them to primary school instead.

James Bannon

Question:

245 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason children attending a Montessori school (details supplied) have not been paid their due grant and fees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36933/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) as well as the new free preschool year of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, which is being introduced from January next.

The NCIP provides capital grant funding for the development and refurbishment of child care services as well as support funding for community based child care services, under the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), to enable them to charge reduced child care fees to disadvantaged and low income working parents.

Capital expenditure over the course of the NCIP is expected to amount to approximately €190 million and create over 25,000 additional child care places. I regret to advise the Deputy that, due to the economic turndown, the capital programme closed to new applicants in April of this year.

The new ECCE scheme, will allow qualifying children to avail of a free pre-school place in the year before they commence primary school. In January 2010, the scheme is open to private and community based pre-school services which are notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or registered with the Irish Montessori Educational Board (IMEB).

Services which choose to participate in the scheme, will receive grant funding from my Office based on a capitation fee of €2,450 per annum for each qualifying child. In return, the service will be required to provide appropriate programme based activities as part of the free pre-school year. Full details of the scheme, including the terms and conditions which will apply, are available on my Office's website at www.omcya.ie.

Following the announcement of the scheme in April of this year, my Office wrote to pre-school services operating in the State, inviting them to apply in respect of the period January to August 2010. I understand that the Montessori service referred to by the Deputy has applied to participate in the ECCE scheme and, subject to contractual requirements being met, would be expected to receive grant funding from my Office in January 2010.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

246 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for an audiology assessment appointment nationally; the waiting time for fitting a hearing aid nationally; the length of these waiting lists in south Tipperary; the number of audiologist posts awaiting advertisement which are on hold due to the recruitment freeze; the full complement of audiologists; the number currently employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter of the way this relates to her policy in this area. [36624/09]

The Community Audiology Service of the HSE provides hearing aids to eligible adults with medical cards. As the HSE has the operational and funding responsibility for the Community Audiology Service, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matters raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme.

James Reilly

Question:

247 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will give a commitment to allocate and include funds for a national cervical vaccination programme in 2010. [36665/09]

I have considered all the relevant advice available to me in relation to the potential public health benefits of HPV vaccination in the prevention of cervical cancer and the wider policy implications for its possible introduction into the National Immunisation Programme. I accept the consensus view of the relevant expert bodies that the introduction of a universal high uptake vaccination programme in young girls, in conjunction with population based cervical screening, could significantly reduce overall cervical cancer incidence. All of the clinical advice available to me indicates that, in the context of the limited resources available, the national roll-out of a cervical screening programme should take precedence over the introduction of a HPV vaccination programme.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has completed an assessment of the cost effectiveness of HPV. It shows that the vaccine does have the potential to play an important long term role in the prevention of cervical cancer and that a vaccination programme should be put in place to enable these long term benefits to be realised.

Accordingly, in August 2008, the Health Service Executive (HSE) was requested by the Department to examine operational and procurement issues relating to the introduction of a HPV vaccination programme for 12 year old girls on a basis that would achieve maximum cost effectiveness and appropriate national uptake rates.

I am keeping the cost of implementing such a programme under review. I am committed to progressively introducing cancer prevention measures, such as new screening and vaccination programmes, according to clinical prioritisation within the resources available in 2010 and beyond.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has an estimate of the number of people who have given up their health insurance as a result of income pressure during the current economic climate; if she has calculated the impact of this switching on the demand for health services from the public system and the expected cost involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36668/09]

There has been a small decrease in the number of people covered under a private health insurance contract in the first six months of 2009. It is not clear at this time the extent to which this is due to individuals ceasing to hold private health insurance or to individuals not taking out private health insurance for the first time.

In the case of individuals who may have ceased to hold private health insurance, no survey of reasons for such a possible cessation has taken place, so it is not possible for me to give any numbers of or statement with regard to individuals who have ceased to hold private health insurance due to income pressure.

Data is not available at this time with regard to the use of health services by persons who may have ceased to hold cover. However, all persons who hold private health insurance also have eligibility for services as public patients in acute hospitals which they can use while holding private health insurance cover.

The table shows changes in the numbers and percentage of the population covered under a private health insurance contract from 2007 to the end of June 2009.

Total

% Pop

000’s

%

Mar-07

2,192

50.8

Jun-07

2,204

50.8

Sep-07

2,226

51.1

Dec-07

2,245

51.2

Mar-08

2,254

51.2

Jun-08

2,269

51.3

Sep-08

2,282

51.6

Dec-08

2,299

52.0

Mar-09

2,286

51.7

Jun-09

2,278

51.5

Departmental Correspondence.

John McGuinness

Question:

249 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with the timeframe within which the Health Service Executive responds to members’ parliamentary questions; her views on imposing a timeframe within which the HSE should respond to members’ queries and parliamentary questions; if she will investigate the reason a response given by her to a parliamentary question on 7 July 2009 has not been responded to by the HSE; if she will request that the response be issued; if guidelines relating to these matters have issued to all sections of the HSE dealing with queries or parliamentary questions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36680/09]

Responding to the information needs of the Oireachtas and the public is a priority for my Department and is a regular agenda item at meetings between myself and the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive.

The operation of the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE (PAD) allows for the centralised receipt, assignment and tracking of Parliamentary Questions within the HSE's extensive network of operations. More generally, PAD monitors overall performance in relation to the timely issue of replies and provides a central contact for all requests from Oireachtas members for information relating to matters within the statutory remit of the Executive. It reports on a regular basis to the Chief Executive Officer and his management team.

In 2008, a timeframe of 15 working days for replies was introduced for Parliamentary Questions referred to the Executive for direct reply. The most recent statistics provided to my Department by the Executive show that in the period from January to October 6th 2009, 62% of questions referred to the Executive were answered within the 15 day timeframe. A further 4% were answered within 20 days. 71% of referred questions were answered within 30 days. I will continue to stress the importance of meeting the 15 day timeframe at my regular meetings with the CEO of the HSE.

The Deputy tabled three questions on July 7th 2009 which were referred to the HSE PAD for direct reply. The numbers of these questions were 27145/09, 27256/09 and 27820/09. I am advised that responses to all three of these questions have issued and are dated 20th July, 29th July and 5th August respectively. I will be happy to provide the Deputy with copies of these responses if necessary.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

250 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of employees of the Health Service Executive who also operate private residential centres for children in care; the details of these residential centres; the number of children who are resident in these residential centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36693/09]

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

Mental Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

251 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the key performance indicators used by the Health Service Executive and those used by her Department to monitor the performance of the mental health services; the trends in these indicators over the past three years; and her views on whether these indicators represent an adequate set of performance measures. [36731/09]

Joe McHugh

Question:

258 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether new performance indicators along with supporting up to date data should be developed and published by the Health Service Executive to enable accurate monitoring of the national mental health budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36823/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 258 together.

The annual HSE National Service Plan, which sets out the quantum of services to be provided in any financial year by the HSE for the resources allocated to it, is the primary vehicle through which my Department monitors and evaluates the performance of the Executive. Significant progress was made in the National Service Plan 2009 in terms of incorporating more explicit links between funding, staffing and services and the development of an improved set of activity measures, performance indicators and deliverables in key service areas, which are matched with timescales. These improvements form a framework for achieving greater clarity at an individual service unit level within the HSE on performance expectations regarding service delivery, staffing levels and funding. My Department has an agreed monitoring framework with the HSE and receives detailed comprehensive monthly reports on all aspects of progression of the National Service Plan, including information on activity measures and performance indicators. These Performance Reports are published on the HSE’s website each month following approval by the HSE Board.

Policy for the development of mental health services is outlined in ‘A Vision for Change', the report of the expert group on mental health policy. The aim is to migrate from the traditional institutional based model to a patient-centred, flexible and community based mental health service, where need for hospital admission is greatly reduced, whilst still providing in-patient care when appropriate. The performance measures and associated targets in the mental health area for 2009 are published as part of the National Service Plan 2009 and are included for ease of reference in a table. Examples of measures include (i) the number of child and adolescent mental health teams and (ii) the number of inpatient places per 100,000 population. The August Performance Report advises that the number of child and adolescent mental health teams has increased from 47 teams at the end of December 2008 to 54 at the end of August 2009. The National Service Plan target is 55 by end 2009 and there is an ultimate target of 99 teams as specified in ‘A Vision for Change'. The number of inpatient places per 100,000 population stands at 28.5 at the end of June (following an end December 2008 outturn of 30.7), against a full year target of 25.

Some of the measures outlined in the National Service Plan were included for the first time in 2009 with a view to the development and progression of the data by the end of the year. My Department is working on an ongoing collaborative basis with the HSE to further develop and refine performance measures across all service areas, including mental health, to ensure that they are as robust and meaningful as possible and reflect key priorities and international best practice as well as being comparable both within the EU and further afield.

Last week I received the first biannual report against the HSE Corporate Plan 2008-2011 which charts progress against desired medium and longer term objectives and priorities as set out in the Corporate Plan and implemented annually through the National Service Plan. This will facilitate the Department and the HSE in mapping performance trends across the health sector, including mental health, to inform future strategic and annual service planning. My Department and the HSE are also working under the auspices of a joint performance information group to streamline and simplify collation and presentation of information which will provide more capacity for better use and analysis of data. The continued development of HealthStat by the HSE is also part of our ongoing co-ordinated approach to monitoring and measuring health service performance at national level. These developments will facilitatea clearer link between information and action at all levels of the health system, from operational management to short and medium term planning to long term policy and strategy development.

Mental Health National Service Plan Performance Measures 2009

Mental Health National Service Plan Indicators, 2009

Projected Outturn 2008

Expected Activity/Target 2009

Performance Activity

Admissions

Total number of admissions to acute inpatient units (adults and children)

16,230

15,905

No. of readmissions as a % of total admissions

70%

68%

Total number of involuntary admissions

1,387

1,372

Child & Adolescent Mental Health

No. of Child & Adolescent Mental Health Teams (as outlined in a Vision for Change)

47

55

No. of new child/adolescent referrals received by Mental Health Services

Total number of child/adolescent patients seen by a member of the CAMH teams (new and existing)

New measures for collection in 2009

Total number of new child/adolescent referrals assessed

Performance Indicator

Acute Units

a) Number of inpatient places per 100,000 population

30.7

25

b) First admission rates to acute units (that is, first ever admission), per 100,000 population

Annual rate

105.6

105.6

Quarterly rate

26.4

26.4

c) Inpatient readmission rates to acute units per 100,000 population

Annual rate

266.2

260.3

Quarterly rate

70.1

66.6

d) Rate of involuntary admissions per 100,000 population (Quarterly rate)

8.2

Reduce by 1%

Median length of stay in inpatient facilities

12

12

Children & Adolescent Waiting List

Waiting times for assessment and treatment by CAMH Teams

To be progressed in 2009

Overall number on waiting list; No. and % seen (<3 months; 3-6 months; 6-9 months; 9-12 months, >12 months)

Target to reduce waiting times in 2010 using 2009 data as base position

% of new versus existing child/adolescent patients seen by a member of the CAMH team

To be progressed in 2009

No. of repeat deliberate self harm presentations at ED

To be progressed in 2009

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Noel Ahern

Question:

252 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 68 of 24 September 2009, the arrangements with the original purchase of the software; the reason the software for arteriovenous malformation planning is no longer supported by the manufacturer; if the manufacturer was free to do this; if she could have prevented them from doing so by contract conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36734/09]

I understand that the Health Service Executive (HSE) replied directly to the Deputy on 7 October 2009 in response to the previous parliamentary question referred to. As the further matter raised is a service issue it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Services for People with Disabilities.

John Deasy

Question:

253 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that budget 2010 protects services for those with an intellectual disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36741/09]

The Government has demonstrated its commitment to people with disabilities. Even in 2009, a very difficult year, it provided additional funding of €10 million for the provision of 125 additional therapy posts (speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and social workers) in disability and mental health services targeted at children with disabilities of school-going age. These posts have now been allocated to priority areas of need identified by the Health Service Executive, in particular to address gaps in existing services for children with disabilities. A recruitment process is well underway and the majority of these posts will be filled this month with the remainder to be filled in December.

With respect to the 2010 Budget, the Government will be considering the Estimates over the next couple of months, in the context of its target to reduce the general government deficit to 3% of GDP by 2013 as part of its strategy for economic recovery. As part of the Estimates process, my Department and the Health Service Executive are examining options which might provide expenditure savings next year, while to the greatest extent possible meeting the objective of maintaining population health and access to services. This process is being informed by the recommendations of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes and other relevant considerations. Deliberations by Government on the expenditure allocations for next year are likely to continue up until Budget time. The very difficult financial position facing the Exchequer will obviously require very careful management across all areas of expenditure.

Medicinal Products.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

254 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the advice given to her regarding the inclusion of adjuvant squalene and thimerosal in the swine flu vaccine and the potential link between these compounds and autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36746/09]

Thimerosal is a compound that has played an important role either as a preservative or in the initial stages of the manufacture of some vaccines for over 60 years. It is included in the pandemic vaccine, Pandemrix, in order to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination of the vaccine when the multidose vial is opened.

The mercury content of thimerosal has led to concerns that it may affect brain development when given in vaccines. Based on a large amount of scientific data, the WHO, the United States Institute of Medicine and the European Medicines Agency have concluded that the evidence favours no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.

Pandemrix also contains an adjuvant. An adjuvant is a substance that enhances the immune response to the viral protein. Benefits of using an adjuvant include better cross-protection from other influenza strains and also means that less viral material is used in each dose so that more vaccine can be produced. This adjuvant has been tested in clinical trials involving several thousand people and the safety profile is considered to be acceptable.

Medical Cards.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

255 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the withdrawal of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [36753/09]

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

Noel Ahern

Question:

256 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the operations of the over 70 years medical card; if it is being operated as announced after the 2008 debate; if discretion will be used for applicants who are just over the €700 limit with high medical expenses; if current applicants on gross income of between €720 and €730 are being refused as a matter of rule; the normal income guideline figure for persons over 70 years of age; if the higher figure built up in recent years for over 70 years was maintained; the reason it was dropped; and if reasonable medical costs will be allowed for in cases of persons over €700. [36764/09]

There are three routes by which a person aged 70 or over may qualify for a medical card. Firstly, under the Health Act 2008, a single person will qualify if his/her gross income is €700 per week or less. The figure for a couple is €1,400 per week or less. The 2008 Act does not allow any discretion to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to grant medical cards to persons who are in excess of these gross income thresholds.

Secondly, a person who does not qualify for a medical card by virtue of the gross income limits in the 2008 Act will qualify if his/her net income is €201.50 or less. In the case of a couple, their net income must be €298 or less. Medical, nursing and other relevant expenses are taken into account when using the net income thresholds to assess a person's eligibility. Thirdly, if a person does not qualify under either the gross or net income thresholds, the HSE may issue a medical card on a discretionary basis, if the applicant would otherwise be caused undue hardship in providing general medical and surgical services for himself/herself and any dependants. Special net income thresholds were used prior to the enactment of the Health Act 2008 to assess eligibility where a person aged under 70 years was married to a medical card holder aged 70 years or over. These special thresholds have been discontinued as couples now qualify for a medical card under the 2008 Act if their joint weekly gross income does not exceed the significantly higher figure of €1,400. If they do not qualify under this assessment, they may still qualify for a card on a discretionary basis as outlined above.

Community Care.

Joe McHugh

Question:

257 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the dependency on acute, long stay, inpatient beds needs to be reduced in favour of increased provision of community based services in order to ensure the most effective use of scarce public funds and to improve value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36822/09]

In line with Government Policy the Health Service Executive is refocusing its services to give people direct access in the community to multi-disciplinary teams including general practitioners, nurses, health care assistants, home helps and occupational therapists. This policy is designed not only to maintain and support people in their own homes and communities for as long as possible, but to decrease the need for acute hospital attendance, to facilitate early discharge, to shorten length of stay and to ensure the best use of available resources.

In the primary care area almost 130 Primary Care Teams are now in place. The HSE aims to have 210 Primary Care Teams in place by the end of 2009 and a total of 530 by 2011. The HSE is reassigning staff working in primary, community and continuing care services to work in Primary Care Teams to support this. In addition the HSE in recent years has invested heavily in developing both community supports and long stay residential community nursing units, which supports older persons, and their carers, in being cared for at home, or where this is not possible, in an appropriate residential setting. This has facilitated earlier discharge from acute hospital settings, and has helped prevent inappropriate admission to hospital.

The recent appointment of a National Director for Clinical and Quality Care in the HSE and the introduction of the clinical directorate model incorporating executive authority for the clinical director will be important in the context of progressing towards a more integrated patient focused health service.

Question No. 258 answered with Question No. 251.

Health Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

259 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of referrals to University College Hospital, Galway from Letterkenny, County Donegal for the purpose of breast care surgery for each month beginning in January 2009 to September 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36824/09]

The matter raised by the Deputy relates to the provision of health care services and accordingly, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy on the matters.

Joe Costello

Question:

260 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients in each of the Dublin hospitals whose treatment was complete at the end of September 2009 but who were still occupying hospital beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36834/09]

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

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

261 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in her Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36864/09]

To date, eight officials at Principal Officer or higher level, representing 7.5 whole equivalents, have applied and been approved for the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement in my Department. This represents 1.5% of the total number employed as of 30 September 2009. The final closing date for applications for the scheme has recently been extended by the Department of Finance to 23rd October 2009. Therefore the figures quoted above may be subject to change.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

262 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to add Lupus to the long-term illness scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36870/09]

There are currently no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme, which was introduced on a statutory basis in 1971. Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, which was introduced in 1999, no individual or family unit pays more than €100 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

263 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the funding request by a group (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36871/09]

I recently met with a deputation from the group in question. The group briefed me on their work and financial support needs, all of which I have noted. The 2009 budget allocation of the Youth Affairs Unit of my Department is over €48m, a decrease of some 8% on the 2008 figure. I explained to the group that in light of budgetary constraints it is intended that the 2009 Youth Affairs budget will continue to focus on supporting existing programmes and services for young people including those with fewer opportunities. In that context, the Youth Affairs Unit of my Department is not in a position to consider any new applications for admission to its schemes in the current year.

Adoption Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

264 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the distress being caused to families by the unresolved situation regarding inter-country adoption; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that adoptions from Russia to Ireland have been suspended since May 2009 and that there are issues outstanding in relation to the receipt by the Russian authorities of post placement reports; when she expects that these and any other matters in relation to Russian adoption will be addressed and resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36872/09]

The Adoption Bill, 2009, is designed to give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. The Bill has passed through the Seanad and is scheduled to be debated in Dail Eireann during the current session. The new legislation is designed to provide a framework to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed and that all adoptions are effected in the best interests of the child. This applies in the case of adoptions from Russia and other countries who have not, as yet, ratified the Hague Convention and would seem unlikely to do so in the immediate future. Future intercountry adoption arrangements will be governed by the terms of the Adoption Bill 2009 when enacted.

Neither the Adoption Board nor the HSE have a statutory function in relation to the provision of post placement reports, though they have, and continue to, facilitate the preparation of same. The key commitment given is the legal affidavit, required of all applicants, to cooperate with the provision of such reports. Recent discussions have focused on the completion and submission to the Russian authorities of a number of outstanding post-placement reports from adoptive parents in respect of children already adopted from Russia. This issue is being followed up by the Adoption Board and the HSE with the parents involved. I understand that the greater number of the outstanding reports have been competed and are with the adoptive parents for translation, apostilling and notarisation — that is, the social workers have already conducted the home visit and the report. In a small number of cases, parents have neglected or have been unwilling or unable to arrange for a home visit with their social worker. Further contact has been made again to arrange for all outstanding visits to be undertaken and is being prioritised by the Health Service Executive Adoption Services to ensure that parents can have the required reports forwarded to the Russian embassy in Dublin.

Preliminary work has been undertaken on the development of a bilateral agreement with the Russian authorities on intercountry adoption and discussions in this regard take account of the provisions of the Adoption Bill 2009.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

265 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the renewal of a medical card in respect of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [36874/09]

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

Hospital Procedures.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

266 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount that would be saved if all subsidies of private practice in public hospitals was phased out and practitioners charged for the use of public equipment and staff in their private practice. [36880/09]

Since the publication of the White Paper on Private Health Insurance in 1999, Government policy has been to move towards charging the full economic cost of private patient care and to end the subsidisation of private practice in public hospitals, while being sensitive to the need for continuing stability in the private health insurance market. This policy has seen significant increases in private charges in recent years.

A Value for Money and Policy Review of the Economic Cost and Charges Associated with Private and Semi-Private Treatment Services in Public Hospitals is currently being undertaken by my Department. The purpose of the Review is to carry out a detailed analysis of the costs and charges associated with providing private and semi-private services in public hospitals and to examine the fee collection processes used to recoup the cost of these services from private health insurance companies. Appropriate recommendations will be formulated in each of the areas of cost, charge and fee collection when the review is completed. These will be considered when the Review process is completed.

Health Service Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

267 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount that would be raised if she implemented a new contract on all hospital consultants which would cap their starting off pay at €100,000 with a maximum of €150,000 remuneration. [36881/09]

I am advised by the HSE that there are currently 2,337 medical consultants in the public health system, of whom 1,986 are permanent and 351 are temporary/part-time locums. It would be difficult to calculate precise savings on the basis of the Deputy's suggestion, since the years of service of each consultant would have to be inputted to an assumed, but unspecified, salary scale between the starting salary and the top point of the salary scale. In addition, the extent of non-salary remuneration for each consultant in such a revised contract would have to be factored in, if a total remuneration cap per person of €150,000 were in place.

Hospital Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

268 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount that would be saved if she ended co-location. [36882/09]

The Government is committed to proceeding with the current hospital co-location programme. It is the responsibility of the successful bidders to arrange the financing of the individual co-location projects. However it is an essential requirement that each co-location project demonstrates clear value for money to the taxpayer.

The Finance Act 2009 provides that the schemes of capital allowances for private hospitals and certain other health facilities will be terminated, subject to transitional arrangements for projects already in development. Provided that a co-located private hospital project conforms to the requirements of these transitional arrangements, and otherwise satisfies the general requirements of the scheme of capital allowances, the tax relief will apply. The value of the tax relief in each case will depend on the level of qualifying capital expenditure. I do not accept that, relative to its value, a high proportion of tax would be forgone by the Exchequer in respect of co-location projects as additional revenues would accrue to the Exchequer from the extra activity generated by the construction of the hospitals, the employment arising and the related services provided on which taxes will be paid.

As regards the costs incurred by the HSE on its legal and other expenses in respect of the co-location initiative, there is a requirement on each of the preferred bidders to pay a non-refundable deposit to the HSE on the signing of the project agreement. The intention of this requirement is to allow the HSE to recoup the expenses that it has incurred in this context.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

269 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount that would be saved if she nationalised the wholesale distribution of subsidised drugs and compelled medical practitioners to prescribe low-cost generic drugs. [36883/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

295 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the money which would be saved if she nationalised the wholesale distribution of drugs and medicines on community drugs schemes. [37251/09]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

296 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the system which could be employed to require the use of generic drugs for payments rather than branded drugs; her views on such options; the approximate cost difference involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37252/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 269, 295 and 296 together.

I have no plans to nationalise the wholesale distribution of drugs and medicines supplied under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

My Department and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have been reviewing the pharmaceutical supply chain, from manufacturers and wholesalers through to community pharmacists, with a view to seeking value for money in the State's drugs bill.

On 1 July 2009, I made regulations to reduce payments to community pharmacists under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. The main changes were a reduction in the wholesale mark-up paid on drugs from 17.66% to 10%, a common sliding dispensing fee across all schemes and a reduction in the retail mark-up paid on a number of schemes (Drug Payment Scheme, Long Term Illness, etc) from 50% to 20%. These changes are expected to result in savings in 2010 of approximately €133 million. Savings of €55 million are expected in 2009.

Generic drugs are available in Ireland for many medicines. In 2008, 18% of prescription items under the GMS scheme and 11% of items under the Drugs Payment Scheme and Long Term Illness Scheme were dispensed generically.

In 2008, expenditure on proprietary drugs where there was an equivalent generic available under the GMS, Drugs Payment Scheme and Long Term Illness Scheme was €227 million. The HSE estimates that there is a price differential of approximately 10% between off-patent proprietary drugs and their generic equivalents. This suggests that approximately €23 million in savings per annum could be made if there were full generic substitution of products supplied under the GMS, DPS and LTI.

My Department and the HSE are continuing to examine all aspects of pharmaceutical expenditure with a view to containing costs including options for the introduction of a system of reference pricing coupled with generic substitution.

Care of the Elderly.

Willie Penrose

Question:

270 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that it is her policy or Health Service Executive policy that the costs levied by the Health Information Quality Authority for conducting industrial inspections in respect of each bed in a nursing home on a yearly basis, has to be paid by the patient, which currently costs €195 per bed per annum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36893/09]

I understand the Deputy's question relates to the fees associated with the system of registering and inspecting nursing homes. As the Deputy is aware under the Health Act 2007, statutory responsibility is given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services, part of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) for inspecting and registering categories of centres, including nursing homes.

HIQA commenced the new system of registration and inspection on July 1st, 2009. This has, for the first time, introduced an independent system of inspection of both public and private nursing homes. The Authority's inspection process comprises three parts: pre-assessment, the inspection visit and report completion including a process of fact-checking and verification. Since July 1, the Authority has commenced 88 inspections. Of these, 46 were announced and 42 were unannounced visits. The average duration of inspection visits to date has been two days. Of the 88 inspection processes commenced, four have reached conclusion with the publication of reports. The remaining reports will be published shortly.

It is important that this new inspection regime is effective, robust, independent and properly resourced. In this regard the 2007 Act provides for the following fees:

Applications for registration or renewal of registration under Section 48. This section states that the applicant shall include with the application the prescribed application fee.

An annual fee payable by the registered provider under Section 99.

A fee for variation or removal of any conditions of the registration under Section 52. A registered provider making an application under this section must include the fee with their application.

Following analysis of the types of centres, numbers of places, etc. it was decided to set a registration fee of €500, payable every 3 years by each nursing home together with an annual fee of €190 per place in each registered centre. It is estimated that the fee will represent an average weekly cost of €3.73 per registered place. The fees are payable by the registered provider (or in the case of applications for registration by the applicant, who for existing designated centres would normally be the registered provider). These fees are not due or payable by the resident or their family.

In addition article 28 of the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2009 states that

"(1) The registered provider shall agree a contract with the resident within one month of the admission of that resident to the designated centre.

(2) Such contract shall deal with the care and welfare of the resident in the designated centre and shall include details of the services to be provided for that resident and the fees to be charged."

Therefore, only those fees, including any agreed increases, set out in the contract should be charged by the registered provider to the resident.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

271 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the minimum age for the early childhood care and education scheme will remain at three years and three months, or if the minimum age has been raised as some child-care providers have been told. [36919/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which is being introduced in January 2010.

Children will qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September each year. I am satisfied that the most generous possible interpretation of the qualifying age range is being applied, in that children who are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September each year will be held to qualify. This will mean that, in January 2010, children born on or after 2 February 2005 or on or before 30 June 2006 will qualify. In September 2010, children born on or after 2 February 2006 or on or before 30 June 2007 will qualify, and so on in subsequent years.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

272 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if a child who is below the minimum age for the early childhood care and education scheme when it comes into effect in January 2010 will become eligible immediately upon reaching that age; and if a child who reaches the maximum age ceases to be eligible immediately upon reaching that age. [36920/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the implementation of the new Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which provides a free Preschool year to eligible children and which will be introduced in January 2010.

Children will qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1 September each year. The application of this age range is being interpreted as generously as possible to include children who are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September. This will mean that, in January 2010, children born on or after 2 February 2005 or on or before 30 June 2006 will qualify. In September 2010, children born on or after 2 February 2006 or on or before 30 June 2007 will qualify, and so on in subsequent years.

With the exception of the interim pre-school year commencing in January next, each pre-school year will commence in early September. Children who are within the qualifying age range on 1 September will qualify for the duration of that year. Children who will be within the qualifying age range on 1 September of the following year will qualify for that year.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

273 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of subvention that will be awarded to child care providers in respect of each child under the early childhood care and education scheme. [36921/09]

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

The standard capitation fee which will be payable to services participating in the new scheme, will be approximately €2,450 per annum in respect of each qualifying child availing of the free pre-school year in the service. This is equivalent to approximately €276 per month, where a service is participating for 38 weeks or €207 per month, where it participates for 50 weeks. This payment will be made, in advance, at the beginning of each term.

A higher capitation rate of €75 per week (€2,850 p.a.) was announced in July of this year and will be available to sessional playschool services in which all child care workers have qualification levels above the minimum requirements for the scheme. To qualify for the higher capitation rate all Pre-School Leaders in the service must hold a level 7 or 8 qualification relating to child care and have 3 years' experience working in the sector, and all assistants must hold a relevant level 5 qualification.

Medical Cards.

Michael Creed

Question:

274 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application for medical card by a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36924/09]

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

Pharmaceutical Services.

James Bannon

Question:

275 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason pharmacists (details supplied) in County Longford are being obliged to dispense items costing more than €70 at a loss which does not take into account the considerable time and effort that goes into sourcing some of these products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36930/09]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the supply of unauthorised medicines to patients.

Following discussions between my Department and the Health Service Executive, it has been decided to reimburse pharmacists at invoice prices for such products.

Health Services.

James Bannon

Question:

276 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has been refused a domiciliary care allowance payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36936/09]

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

Health Service Staff.

Joe McHugh

Question:

277 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will appoint a second paediatric rheumatologist in view of the fact that waiting lists for such treatments show that a second paediatric rheumatologist is required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36940/09]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

293 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when additional paediatric rheumatologists will be appointed in accordance with the Health Service Executive recommendations in 2005 and 2008; if she will ensure that this issue is prioritised in view of the length of time children have to wait in pain for diagnosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37247/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 293 together.

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

278 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the stage at which the asset is valued at under the fair deal scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36946/09]

Applicants to the scheme will submit a valuation of their asset(s) when they apply for the financial assessment. Thereafter, they can request a review of the financial assessment every 12 months, or earlier if there has been a material change in their financial circumstances since the financial assessment or their most recent review. This will allow applicants to take account of any changes in the value of their assets.

Ambulance Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

279 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the Scarrif ambulance service in County Clare; if the hours of operation at the station are to be reduced; the implications for staffing at the station; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36947/09]

Pat Breen

Question:

300 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hours which are covered on a full time basis; the number of hours which are covered on an on call basis which are operated at the Scarrif ambulance station in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37285/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 and 300 together.

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

Food Labelling.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

280 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made by her in the context of the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers; the way she will pursue harmonised EU rules on origin labelling through this regulation; if she will make available the relevant policy documentation and correspondence on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37058/09]

At present EU food labelling legislation is harmonised by Council Directive 2000/13/EC, transposed in 2002, with several amendments since. In January 2008, the European Commission presented its proposals on updating and harmonising this legislation. The proposal is still under discussion. This proposal consolidated existing legislation in the area of food labelling and introduced new provisions for Country of Origin Labelling, a mandatory nutrition declaration and allergen labelling, amongst others.

In November 2008, Ireland submitted its position paper on the proposal. I have arranged for a copy of this position paper to be sent to the Deputy's office. This paper was informed by submissions made to the FSAI by many of the key stakeholders. Ireland's position will be further informed by the outcome of an FSAI Consumer Survey. This ended in June 2009 and final results are expected shortly. In its position paper, Ireland

supports mandatory Country of Origin Labelling,

shares the concerns of a significant number of other member states with regard to National Schemes,

welcomes the proposal for mandatory allergen labelling and supports the highlighting of allergens on labels,

supports the equal treatment of all alcohol products,

asks that consideration should be given to bringing alcohol products into the scope of the legislation,

supports the retention of the Commission's proposal with regard to the use of "per portion" expression alone in certain cases,

does not support the proposal for a minimum font size of 3mm for display of mandatory particulars and suggests that other aids to legibility, such as contrasting background, be explored,

shares the concerns of some other member states regarding possible flaws in the calculation of Reference Intakes,

feels that a lower "significant amount" should be stipulated for foods and beverages with low contents of dried matter,

supports the inclusion of trans fats, in the mandatory nutrition declaration.

During 2009 a number of meetings have taken place at European Union Working Group level, attended by officials from the Department of Health and Children and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The European Commission labelling proposal, states that, where country of origin is included on the label, the place of birth, rearing and slaughter of the animal, where different from the country of origin must also be stated. On 16th March 2009, the European Parliament examined the proposal. Parliament has indicated however, that it will not be in a position to conduct the first reading of the document until early 2010. The next meeting is due to take place on 26 October 2009.

Ireland is continuing to build support, among other member states for mandatory country of origin labelling. At this stage, the proposal will not be finalised until 2010.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

281 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the companies working on behalf of her Department in the administration of the health repayment scheme; the payments made to each company on an annual basis since the scheme was introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37120/09]

Under the provisions of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006, the Health Service Executive appointed an external service provider to act as Scheme Administrator for the Health Repayment Scheme. The service provider is a consortium which includes KPMG Accountants and McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors. As per the contract agreement with the Scheme Administrator the HSE make payments to the consortium on foot of invoices received from KPMG Accountants and payments are payable to KPMG accountants on behalf of the consortium. Approximately €13 million has been paid to the Scheme Administrator since the scheme commenced in August 2006 as follows:

Year

Payment

€m

2006

0.9

2007

1.9

2008

8.3

2009 (to 30th September 2009)

1.7

Total

12.8

Health Service Staff.

Joan Burton

Question:

282 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the remuneration and the bonus payments awarded to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive for each year since their appointment; the criteria for the payment of bonus payments to them; if such bonus payments are purely performance related; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37123/09]

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

Unaccompanied Minors.

Denis Naughten

Question:

283 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of unaccompanied children in Health Service Executive hostels annually since 2002 to date in 2009; the number of these children who have gone missing from each of these hostels annually; the number who remain missing; the number of children who have gone missing this year to date in 2009 in tabular format; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37127/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

284 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of unaccompanied children, categorised by age group, who are in foster care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37128/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

285 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of Health Service Executive hostels for unaccompanied children; the funding allocated to each of these hostels annually since 2004 to date in 2009; the number run by the HSE directly; the number of privately run hostels; the private contracts in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37129/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 285, inclusive, together.

As these are service matters they have been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the change which was taken place to the financial circumstances of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare which disqualifies them for mobility allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37166/09]

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

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a replacement wheelchair will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37167/09]

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

Medical Records.

Damien English

Question:

288 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to contracts that have been signed for storage outside the State of medical files from hospitals here; if so, the nature of the data that is being stored or that will be stored outside the State; if personal details of citizens are included in such data; the practicalities of ease of access to such data being stored outside the State; if it is her policy to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37189/09]

The management of medical records, including their storage within or outside the State, must currently comply with the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003. Those Acts apply to all personal information. All bodies in Ireland who control and process personal data are obliged under the Data Protection Acts to register with the Data Commissioner and to abide by the rules of Data Protection in accordance with the Acts. The Health Service Executive (HSE) is registered as four separate data controllers/processors, (i) HSE South, (ii) HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster, (iii) HSE Dublin North-East and (iv) HSE West.

The Health Information Bill which is currently being drafted will introduce a specific statutory regime for the collection, use, disclosure, storage and transfer of personal health information which persons and bodies holding such information will be required to adhere to.

The specific issues raised have been referred by my Department to the HSE for direct reply.

Ministerial Travel.

Enda Kenny

Question:

289 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with her Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37213/09]

All agencies under the aegis of my Department are required to comply with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies in their governance practices and procedures and with the Department of Finance guidelines on foreign travel. The Code and the guidelines are available on the website of the Department of Finance. Their guidance on accommodation, travel, entertainment and expenses would apply if a Minister was present on an official trip or at a function.

Medical Cards.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

290 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children when an over 70 years medical card will issue to persons (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37226/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

291 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that elective lists for surgery have been cancelled in Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal, for the second time in a week in October 2009 and that there are 13 patients who are on trolleys while beds are vacant in the gynaecological ward due to staff cutbacks; the steps she proposes to take to rectify this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37232/09]

Joe McHugh

Question:

310 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason elective lists were cancelled in Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal, twice in a week in October 2009 and her views on the fact that 13 patients were on trolleys while six beds were vacant in the hospital’s gynaecology ward; her further views on whether best use of skills and resources are being made as a result of these cancellations and vacancies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37404/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 291 and 310 together.

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

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

292 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason payments to patients under the drugs repayment scheme are on hold; if she will ensure that these payments are made to persons to whom they are entitled without further delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37237/09]

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

Question No. 293 answered with Question No. 277.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

294 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to hold a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, who, it is reported is visiting Ireland in October 2009; and if, at such a meeting, it is planned that she will discuss the recommencement of inter-country adoptions between Ireland and Vietnam. [37248/09]

I will meet with the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam on the 23rd of October during his visit to Dublin. Issues relating to Inter-country Adoption with Vietnam will form part of these discussions.

I have previously met with the Deputy Prime Minister during my visit to Vietnam in late June 2009.

Questions Nos. 295 and 296 answered with Question No. 269.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

297 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children when staffing will be provided to open a special unit for intellectually disabled people which was officially opened (details supplied) on 17 January 2007; her views on whether it is difficult to explain to the committee who organised, raised funds and oversaw the building of this project the reason when the project has been fully agreed with the Health Service Executive that it lies vacant two years after the building was completed; if she will ensure that steps are taken to have the service provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37257/09]

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

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

298 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when posts (details supplied) will be sanctioned for County Mayo. [37262/09]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Mary Upton

Question:

299 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding inter country adoption with Ethiopia; if the adoption process with Ethiopia is under threat of suspension; the action she has taken to protect the adoption agreement with Ethiopia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37282/09]

Ireland does not have a bilateral agreement in place with Ethiopia in respect of the adoption of children from that country. The Adoption Bill, 2009, is designed to give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. The Bill has passed through the Seanad and is scheduled to be debated in Dáil Eireann during the current session. The new legislation is designed to provide a framework to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed and that all adoptions are effected in the best interests of the child. This applies in the case of adoptions from Ethiopia and other countries who have not, as yet, ratified the Hague Convention, and would seem unlikely to do so in the immediate future. Future inter-country adoption arrangements will be governed by the terms of the Adoption Bill, 2009, when enacted. Only adoptions effected before the commencement of the Act can be registered on the Register of Inter-Country Adoptions to be established under the Bill.

Question No. 300 answered with Question No. 279.

Health Services.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

301 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive no longer provides dental services to school going children at a clinic (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37286/09]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

302 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review a health repayment scheme appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford in view of the fact that there was no such agreement or private contract in place between the patient and the private nursing home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37304/09]

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

The Appeals Officer's decision on the appeal in question was sent to the claimant on 12th June 2009. The claimant contacted the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office by telephone on 15 October 2009 stating that he had new information in relation to his appeal. The claimant was advised to forward this information in writing to the Appeals Officer. The Appeals Officer will be in a position to review the appeal on receipt of the information.

Health Services.

Niall Collins

Question:

303 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if grant assistance will be made available to a group (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37317/09]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

304 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a comprehensive joined up programme of service delivery relative to patients with diabetes is available to all such patients in the south east; the number and location of pediatrician endocrinologists employed in the south east; the number of nurses specialising in the area of diabetes; the plans for the future to develop this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37337/09]

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

305 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a medical card was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; her views on whether in cases such as this, the bereaved spouse should be entitled to continue to hold the medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37338/09]

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

Community Care.

John McGuinness

Question:

306 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the care of patients with diabetes will form part of the new general practitioner contracts relative to the primary care strategy being developed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37339/09]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is refocusing its services to give people direct access in the community to multi-disciplinary teams including general practitioners, nurses, health care assistants, home helps and occupational therapists. This is designed to maintain people in their own homes and communities for as long as possible, decrease hospital attendances and facilitate early hospital discharge and supported care at home.

The HSE plans to have 530 Primary Care Teams by 2011. Almost 130 Teams are already in place and the HSE aims to have 210 Teams in place by the end of 2009.

Chronic Disease Management Programmes are operating in a number of Teams and the HSE plans to further roll out such Programmes to a larger number of Teams. These programmes have defined linkages and agreed protocols with acute services.

It is my wish that future contracts between the HSE and general practitioners would provide for an increased focus on the active prevention and appropriate management of diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

307 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children when a response will issue to Parliamentary Question Nos. 82 of 7 May 2009 and 177 of 13 May 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37348/09]

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.

Ministerial Responsibilities.

Mary Upton

Question:

308 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to review the procedure whereby parliamentary questions replied to by the Health Service Executive are not provided to all Members, although the questions have been submitted to the Minister; her views on whether this is the best way to ensure transparency in the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37353/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

309 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of parliamentary questions submitted to her for reply which have been forwarded to the Health Service Executive; the number of questions submitted to her which have been replied to by her Department for 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37354/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 308 and 309 together.

The Health Act 2004 contains very specific provisions relating to the Health Service Executive's accountability to the Oireachtas at National level. The central elements of the current statutory accountability framework within which the HSE operates are: the Annual National Service Plan, the Annual Financial Statements, the three year Corporate Plan and the Code of Governance. The Service and Corporate Plans and the Code of Governance are subject to my approval and are then laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, the HSE is required to obtain my prior written permission for major capital spending.

Responding to the information needs of the Oireachtas and the public is a priority for my Department and is a regular agenda item at meetings between myself and the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive.

The operation of the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE (PAD) allows for the centralised receipt, assignment and tracking of Parliamentary Questions within the HSE's extensive network of operations. More generally, PAD monitors overall performance in relation to the timely issue of replies and provides a central contact for all requests from Oireachtas members for information relating to matters within the statutory remit of the Executive. It reports on a regular basis to the Chief Executive Officer and his management team.

As part of an ongoing process of meeting its obligations with regard to accountability and transparency, the HSE currently uploads replies to Parliamentary Questions on its public website, www.hse.ie. It should be noted that the Executive can only do this where responses to questions do not contain material which may be subject to exclusion under the provisions of Data Protection legislation. This includes replies to questions concerning the provision of services to a named individual.

The HSE routinely furnishes Oireachtas members with press releases and other documents, as prescribed in SI No. 798 of 2005, the Health Act 2004 (Dealings with members of either House of the Oireachtas) Regulations 2005.

As the Deputy will be aware, Parliamentary Questions relating to operational matters within the health services are referred to the HSE for direct reply. The statistical data requested by the Deputy is set out in the table. The percentage of the total number of PQs received by the Department which were fully referred to the HSE for direct reply were 51% in 2007, 50% in 2008 and 47% up to the 8th October 2009.

Year

Total number of PQs received by the Department

Fully Referred to the HSE

Partially Referred to the HSE

Fully Referred to Other Agencies

Partially Referred to Other Agencies

Remainder (answered in full during Dáil question time)

2007

4,849

2,463

281

36

14

2,055

2008

6,139

3,063

481

46

23

2,526

2009 (up to October 8th)

4,296

2,040

306

18

4

1,928

Question No. 310 answered with Question No. 291.

Road Safety.

Joe Costello

Question:

311 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport when he plans to introduce legislation to reduce the drink driving limit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36818/09]

A Road Traffic Bill, which inter alia provides for a reduction in the drink driving limit (Blood Alcohol Concentration levels) for drivers, is nearing completion and I hope to publish it this month. The Bill takes account of the proposed BAC levels made by the Road Safety Authority last year.

State Airports.

Joe Carey

Question:

312 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport if he will use the State’s 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus to prevent the loss of 102 cabin crew jobs at Shannon Airport and thereby prevent the loss of Shannon’s transatlantic base; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37341/09]

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

317 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport the way he will use the Government’s strategic shareholding in Aer Lingus in order to maintain a viable base in Shannon Airport and sustainable transatlantic routes from Shannon to support the current Aer Lingus jobs based in Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36781/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 312 and 317 together.

Decisions on commercial and operational matters at Aer Lingus are a matter for the Board and management of the Company and it is not open to the Government to intervene in such matters. Aer Lingus is an independent Company and it has to make decisions on a commercial basis. The State's 25% shareholding does not confer on the Government a right to influence commercial decisions at the Company.

The Government is satisfied from all of the information available to it that a major restructuring of the Group's cost base is essential if Aer Lingus is to survive. This restructuring is a matter for the company. It is my belief that if that restructuring does not take place urgently the airline will find it difficult to survive in the long term and all jobs in the company could be at risk. I understand that a consultation process between management and staff is now underway and I would encourage all parties to engage constructively in that process. The industrial relations mechanisms of the State are available to assist in reaching an agreed outcome for all concerned.

Cycle Facilities.

Mary Upton

Question:

313 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the progress made on the development of a national tourism cycle network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37397/09]

Mary Upton

Question:

332 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the progress made on developing a national cycle network; the way he has been working with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism to develop cycling as a tourism project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37398/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 313 and 332 together.

Good progress is being made on the development of an interurban National Cycle Network. Two projects have been approved in Cork; the Passage West to Rochestown route, and the Carrigaline to Crosshaven route, and work has commenced on the former. In Mayo works are already underway to provide 17.5km of cycle route from Newport to Mulranny. Funding for this route includes contributions from Fáilte Ireland and Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

In addition, the National Road Authority have been asked to research and map route options for the National Cycle Network. This work is underway, and is being assisted by an advisory group under the auspices of the National Trails Office. The group includes representation from Fáilte Ireland, the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism and the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Public Transport.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

314 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the amount of money allocated to the sustainable transport initiative; the criteria applied to spending this money; the steps taken to ensure that these criteria were met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36709/09]

The Smarter Travel policy which is aimed at delivering sustainable transport, embraces activities across many Government Departments. Within my own Department various elements of expenditure contribute to the delivery of Smarter Travel, including the public transport investment under Transport 21, which in 2009 includes a provision of €2 million for sustainable transport measures.

I assume the Question refers to the allocation of specific funding for new initiatives outside the Transport 21 envelope under Smarter Travel. There are two particular allocations, which are relevant in 2009, the capital allocation of €10 million for carbon reduction measures and a sum of €2 million under current expenditure for the Green Schools Travel Programme.

In relation to the latter the criteria for delivery of this programme include the number of schools and schoolchildren to be reached by the programme and targets for reduction in car travel to and from and school and for increased walking and cycling. The criteria and targets are captured in a formal Service Level Agreement between my Department and the Dublin Transportation Office.

In relation to the capital allocation of €10 million for 2009, much of this is focused on demonstration cycling projects to begin the radical transformation of cycling provision in Ireland. Submissions are received from Local Authorities and the key criterion is that the project must be exemplary in providing for cyclists by being largely off-road and of sufficient width to accommodate two-way cycling in most cases. The capital allocation also supports the Smarter Travel Project Fund and the Smarter Travel Areas Fund both of which I launched this year and the criteria for which can be accessed on www.smartertravel.ie

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

315 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received and reviewed a copy of the CIE-commissioned consultants’ report; if this report will be made public; if he has plans to take action in view of the alleged conclusions of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36772/09]

I have received the report referred to by the Deputy and I will be placing a copy of it in the Oireachtas library. References to persons and to some internal Irish Rail business practices have been deleted by the company in the interest of not prejudicing legal proceedings that are being pursued by the company and in relation to matters that have been referred to the Garda Síochána.

I have sought a full report from the CIE Board on the circumstances surrounding the report, the extent to which progress has been made in implementing in full all the recommendations in the report and the measures being taken to assess the controls being implemented on other expenditure within the Group which is not covered in the report.

Marine Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

316 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has reviewed the new report from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board; if he will ensure that key recommendations from the report are urgently implemented including the EU directive on minimum health and safety requirements for enhanced medical treatment on board vessels and the revision of marine notices for the provision of medical treatment on board fishing vessels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36774/09]

Based on the Deputy's question it is assumed that the report being referred to is MCIB/159, just recently received by my Department, regarding a tragic incident on board the Fishing Vessel "Róise Catríona". The report contains two recommendations, (1) the implementation of Council Directive 92/29/EEC on the minimum safety and health requirements for improved medical treatment on board vessels and (2) the revision and reissue of relevant Marine Notices.

With regard to recommendation (1), Directive 92/29/EEC was given effect in 1997 by the European Communities (Minimum Safety and Health Requirements for Improved Medical Treatment on Board Vessels) Regulations (S.I. No. 506 of 1997). These Regulations make it obligatory to provide certain medical facilities on board seagoing vessels, including fishing vessels. Section 9(1) of the 1997 regulations provided for the establishment of a Radio Medical Consultation Centre, known as MEDICO Cork, to provide mariners with free medical advice by radio on a 24-hour basis. The operation of MEDICO Cork is regularly reviewed and is being further expanded in the delivery of new services.

In relation to recommendation (2), Marine Notice No. 36 of 1997 gave notice of the transposition of the Directive into Irish law, summarising the requirements of the Regulations and appending a medical guide for the medicines and medical equipment required on vessels. Marine Notice No. 28 of 2001 gave notice of the establishment of MEDICO Cork and detailed how to make contact with the unit.

With regard to the Marine Notices it is intended to review and refresh them to take account of the new MCIB recommendation and to reissue as appropriate.

Question No. 317 answered with Question No. 312.

State Agencies.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

318 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport when the next independent safety audit of the Irish Aviation Authority as mandated under section 32 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993 will take place; the person who is commissioned to carry out this safety audit; if the audit will be made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36801/09]

The Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993 (Section 32(3)(a)) requires me, as Minister for Transport, to appoint a person to carry out an examination of the performance by the company of its functions in so far as they relate to the application and enforcement of technical and safety standards in relation to aircraft and air navigation every three years.

The IAA is also subject to frequent independent auditing of the same activities by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Eurocontrol and more recently by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) which was established in 2003.

ICAO will conduct a comprehensive audit of Ireland's system for safety oversight of civil aviation early in 2010. Prior to the audit a very significant amount of information must be submitted to ICAO and my Department and the IAA are intensively engaged in those preparations at present.

Earlier this month I announced my intention to amalgamate the safety regulation functions of the IAA and the Commission for Aviation Regulation with the planned new National Transport Authority. Detailed proposals will be developed to implement this decision in the coming months.

In light of the above, and of the need to ensure efficiency and value for money in the current economic climate, I do not propose to proceed with a further independent examination of the IAA at this time. The requirements under Section 32 of the 1993 Act will be considered in the context of the legislation I will bring forward to provide for the amalgamation of the IAA's safety regulatory functions into the National Transport Authority.

Rail Safety.

James Bannon

Question:

319 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the threat to public safety of passengers travelling on the Sligo to Dublin rail line every Sunday evening, particularly from counties Longford and Westmeath, in view of the fact that those persons have to stand in an overcrowded train; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36831/09]

I understand from Iarnród Éireann that there are occasions when demand for regular services on the Sligo-Dublin line exceeds seating capacity, but the company states that the issue of crowding is one of passenger comfort rather than a safety issue as all Iarnród Éireann passenger trains are constructed to modern design standards and operate safely when fully loaded with seated and standing passengers.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

320 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in his Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36868/09]

Following full implementation of the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement (ISER) and allowing for retirements outside of the Scheme, it is expected that my Department will have 1 Secretary General, 4 Assistant Secretaries and 16 Principal Officers. This total of 21 represents 3.9% of current staff numbers.

Air Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

321 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has met or has plans to meet with the chief executive of Aer Lingus to discuss the importance of maintaining services between Shannon Airport and destinations in the US including JFK and Boston airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36905/09]

In an introductory meeting with the new CEO of Aer Lingus Group plc on 17th September, the CEO indicated to me that the company expected to announce a cost-restructuring plan in October and that very hard decisions would have to be taken if the company was to survive in the long term. I outlined clearly to the CEO Government aviation policy on connectivity & competitiveness, and regional development policy.

Ultimately, decisions on commercial and operational matters at Aer Lingus are a matter for the Board and management of the Company and it is not open to the Government to intervene in such matters.

Rail Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

322 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport when the first phase of the western rail corridor is due to open; the projections in terms of passenger traffic on years one to five of its operation; the scale of subsidy the rail link will receive on an annual basis in its first five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36906/09]

In regard to the completion of the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor, I refer the Deputy to my answer given to PQs 201 and 202 on Wednesday 14th of the present month. The position remains unchanged.

The audit of the business case for the reintroduction of passenger rail services between Ennis and Athenry undertaken by Goodbody Economic Consultants in 2006 included an analysis of Irish Rail projections for passenger numbers and operating costs. This is published on the Transport 21 website of my Department:

at:http://www.transport21.ie/Publications/upload/File/Reintro%20Ennis%20to%20Athenry.pdf

The funding of the operation of the Western Rail Corridor, taking account of projected passenger traffic and operational costs, is a matter for Irish Rail in the context of its overall operations, having regard to funding available to it from fare revenue and the annual Exchequer public service obligation payment.

Airport Development Projects.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

323 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether there are too many commercial airports in operation here; if there are plans to reduce the number of public sector obligation routes at the regional airports here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36907/09]

The number, location and size of commercial airports must be assessed by reference to overall aviation policy objectives and the costs and benefits of exchequer support for regional airports in particular. Our major aviation policy objective is to promote regular, safe, cost effective and competitive air services linking the country with key business and tourism markets. The sustainable development of the three State Airports of Dublin, Cork and Shannon is a key aspect of the implementation of this policy objective.

In addition the six smaller regional airports in Ireland (Ireland West Airport Knock; Kerry Airport; Waterford South East Regional Airport; Donegal Airport; Sligo Airport and Galway Airport) play a complementary role in promoting regional integration and encouraging inward investment and tourism by providing air access to the regions. The existing regional airports programme receives a range of exchequer assistance such as capital expenditure grants, operational subvention and compensation for the operation of Public Service Obligations (PSO) air services.

The current PSO contracts commenced on 22 July 2008 and run to 20 July 2011. The contracts have been awarded for services linking Dublin Airport with the regional airports at Derry, Donegal, Sligo, Ireland West Airport Knock, Galway and Kerry Airports. Under updated EU legislation governing these services, more stringent conditions will apply in the future having regard, for example, to the availability of other transport connections and especially rail services with a travelling time of three hours or less.

I expect that a Value for Money review of regional airports being carried out within my Department will assist me in evaluating the appropriate scale of a regional airports programme in the future bearing in mind my aviation policy objectives, the improved surface transport links under the NDP and Transport 21 and the need to address secure best value for the more limited Exchequer resources available.

Rail Network.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

324 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that the cost per kilometre on the western rail corridor is €1.5 million as compared with the reported €7.5 million per kilometre spent on the Cork-Midleton line or the €21.4 million spent on the Navan line; his views on the reference to the abandonment of the western rail corridor in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37187/09]

I refer the Deputy to my answer given to PQs 201 and 202 on Wednesday 14th of the present month. The position remains unchanged.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

325 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with his Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37217/09]

This is a matter for the agencies concerned and I have no function in the matter.

Traffic Management.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

326 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport his views on the funding of projects (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37268/09]

Under Transport 21, my Department has for a number of years been providing funds to local authorities for traffic management and bus priority measures. In the case of Cork, the City and County Councils have applied and received funding towards the development of Green Routes in Cork, in line with proposals developed in the Cork Area Strategic Plan (CASP). One of the Green Routes to be developed under the CASP is the Carrigaline/ Ringaskiddy route, which includes the roads mentioned by the Deputy. In the present year I have allocated funding towards preliminary works on the county section of this route.

Parking Regulations.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

327 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce measures for disabled only parking spaces on public roads as enforcement is poor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37300/09]

Amendments made to the Road Traffic Acts from 2004 to 2007 strengthened provisions relating to the illegal use of disabled persons parking permits. It is an offence to make a false declaration in the application for a permit, and to forge, alter or illegally use or lend a permit.

On-street enforcement has been strengthened in that Gardaí and local authority traffic wardens have been given power to inspect permits and to detain any permit that is invalid or is being used in an illegal manner.

The fixed charge of €80 (increasing to €120 after 28 days) that applies to illegal parking in a designated disabled persons parking bay is double the amount of fixed charge that applies to any other illegal parking offence. I am satisfied with this level of fixed charge and have no plans to alter it.

Ambulance Service.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

328 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport if he will support an application from a group (details supplied) in County Kerry;. [37305/09]

I refer to the reply to Question Number 613 on 6th October 2009. The position remains unchanged. I can confirm that my Department have received the application. This application is currently being examined as part of the assessment process, in line with the criteria set out in the application form.

Road Network.

Joe Carey

Question:

329 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport when funding will be provided for the provision of the Killaloe bypass in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37342/09]

The maintenance and improvement of regional and local roads, including bridges, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of projects to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary County Councils have undertaken the development of a proposal for a new Shannon Crossing.

From 2004 to the end of 2008, State road grants totalling €819,318 have been provided to develop proposals for the proposed new bridge. In February 2008, Clare County Council, in association with North Tipperary County Council, appointed consultants to carry out a constraints study, route selection and preliminary design for the scheme. A further grant of €600,000 was allocated in 2009 to Clare County Council, which is now the lead authority for the project, to finance continuation of that work. The 2010 regional and local road grant allocations will be announced early in the new year.

Airport Development Projects.

Joe Carey

Question:

330 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in relation to the establishment of a cargo preclearance facility at Shannon Airport, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37355/09]

Joe Carey

Question:

331 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport the support he has provided for the development of a major international cargo hub at Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37356/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 331 together.

I have been informed by the DAA that earlier this year, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lynx Cargo Group, a global airport cargo facility company, to explore jointly the feasibility of developing a major cargo facility at Shannon Airport. Subject to the feasibility study being satisfactory, the DAA advises that it may be possible to advance the project on a joint basis.

The Ireland-U.S. Preclearance Agreement signed by me and the then U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, on 17 November 2008, does not provide for the preclearance of cargo. However, this is an issue which I raised with Secretary Chertoff at the time and more recently with his successor Janet Napolitano. Both were receptive to giving further consideration to cargo preclearance from Ireland, having regard to experience of passenger preclearance.

Question No. 332 answered with Question No. 313.

Departmental Funding.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

333 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in releasing the funding due to Dublin City Council for 2009 integration projects; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that these projects are dependent on this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37364/09]

I will communicate my decision on the funding in question to Dublin City Council shortly.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

334 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that due to the failure to provide core funding to groups working on integration projects these groups have had to forego or have failed in attempts to receive EU integration project grants or matching funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37365/09]

The funding provided by my Office is focused on local authorities, who have the option of using it to assist groups in their area, major national sporting bodies and faith-based groups. As funding is necessarily limited, the intention is to provide it to the bodies with the greatest potential to involve large numbers of migrants in their activities. It is an EU requirement that Community funds be matched by funding from other sources.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

335 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the work of a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 8, and its need for core funding of €50,000 annually in order to ensure delivery of its projects; the steps he will take to help the centre to secure such funding; and the other sources of funding it can avail of if his Department are unable to fund this work. [37366/09]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

336 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that without further funding a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 8 is at risk of closure due to the ending or curtailment of its non-governmental funding. [37367/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 and 336 together.

The organisation to which the question refers was allocated €50,000 from a special integration initiative originally introduced in 2006. This provided for seed-funding in relation to integration initiatives for legally-resident immigrants. As was made clear in the official guidelines for this special fund, support was provided on a once-off basis.

This organisation also benefits from assistance under the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme which comes under the aegis of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Funding of €864,476 has been provided to it for delivery of the programme in 2009. I understand that some €15,000 has been provided by the Partnership for the centre referred to in the question.

Pobal will shortly be conducting a call for applications on behalf of my Office under the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals and the European Refugee Fund and this organisation may wish to consider applying.

Citizenship Applications.

Dan Neville

Question:

337 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36629/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that there is no record of the person referred to by the Deputy as having registered with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Should the person referred to wish to remain in the State, they should write to the General Immigration Division of INIS, which is located at 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, providing full details and documentation of their activities in the State to date and details of their future intentions in the State. They should also include details of the duration of their relationship with their Irish partner. This information will enable the INIS to decide on the appropriate action to be taken in this case.

Residency Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

338 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive their Garda National Immigration Bureau card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36803/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person to whom he refers was granted permission to remain in the State in September of 2001 under the arrangements then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish citizen children. The permission granted was for an initial period of twelve months.

Under the terms of the scheme under which the person concerned was granted permission to remain, such persons are not required to contact my Department unless there is a change in their circumstances. The renewal or extension of an applicant's permission to remain is a matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau. In this regard, I am informed that the most recent permission to remain granted to the person concerned expired on 17 September, 2009. I should add that the person in question was deported from the United Kingdom to Nigeria on 17 November, 2008, for breaches of UK immigration law.

Enda Kenny

Question:

339 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if it is feasible for the person to stay here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36828/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 2 June 2000. 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 1 March 2002, 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.

Following consideration of his case 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, a Deportation Order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 27 April 2005. Notice of this order was served by registered post, dated 4 May 2005, placing a legal requirement on the person concerned to ‘present' himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on 12 May 2005 in order to make arrangements for his removal from the State. The person concerned presented, as required, on this occasion but failed to present on a subsequent occasion and was therefore classified as a person who was evading his deportation.

By letter dated 24 June 2008, the legal representative of the person concerned lodged an application for revocation of the Deportation Order, in accordance with the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended). Following consideration of the information submitted, the Deportation Order was affirmed and the person concerned and his legal representative were advised of this decision by letter dated 14 November 2008. In addition, the person concerned was required to present himself to the GNIB on 20 November 2008 in order to make arrangements for his removal from the State. The person concerned presented, as required, on this occasion but failed to present on a subsequent occasion and was therefore classified as a person who was evading his deportation. Should he come to the notice of the Gardaí, he would be liable to arrest and detention. He should, therefore, present himself to the GNIB without any further delay.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the GNIB.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Finian McGrath

Question:

340 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied). [36833/09]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

345 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36948/09]

Richard Bruton

Question:

371 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the recommendations of the report by Mr. Paul Coffey, senior counsel, in relation to the victims of the Stardust tragedy of 1981 have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37243/09]

As the Deputies will be aware, resolutions have been passed in both Houses of the Oireachtas concerning the findings of the Stardust Tribunal of Inquiry, thereby fulfilling the principal recommendations of Mr. Paul Coffey SC's report.

Insofar as Mr. Coffey's discretionary finding concerning ongoing outstanding counselling and medical needs is concerned, I understand that consultation has been ongoing with the Victims Committee's legal advisor with a view to identifying the level of demand for such services. As this process has yet to produce sufficient information to allow arrangements be made and so as to avoid having to interfere in the privacy of those victims or bereaved who might not welcome direct contact, a public information notice will appear in newspapers shortly asking those who wish to access such services through this channel to register their interest. This will allow arrangements for the provision of these services to be finalised.

Asylum Support Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

341 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason persons who were living in accommodation (details supplied) in County Clare for five years or more are now being transported to a variety of centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36838/09]

The accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy is Clare Lodge, Ennis, Co. Clare. The Reception and Integration Agency's contract with the centre ended in the normal course on 29 September, 2009 when the terms of the contract expired.

Persons accommodated in the centre were transferred to other centres within the RIA accommodation portfolio, a process phased over several weeks and designed to cause as little disruption as possible to those involved.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

342 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in his Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36865/09]

Assuming that all applicants under the Incentivised Scheme for Early Retirement (ISER) ultimately avail of the scheme, there will still be 116 staff at Principal Officer level or higher working in my Department and agencies staffed by it, representing 5% of the overall staffing complement.

Asylum Support Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

343 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the sum of payments received by the operator of a hostel (details supplied) in County Clare from the State to house asylum seekers at the hostel; the annual breakdown of the amounts received by the operator for its years of operation; the reason the contract with the company has been ended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36901/09]

The Reception and Integration Agency's contract with the centre ended in the normal course on 29 September, 2009 when the terms of the contract expired. This centre was first contracted to the RIA on 01/04/2000 for the accommodation of asylum seekers. Contracts for accommodation are generally not issued on a calendar year basis and can be offered for varying periods of time depending on the RIA's anticipated needs at the time of offer. RIA has had a total of 7 contracts with this centre and the details are shown in the table.

Start Date

Finish Date

Duration of contract

No of beds contracted

Total contract value

01/04/2000

31/03/2001

52 weeks

80

1,001,059.95*

01/04/2001

30/03/2002

52 weeks

80

877,225.04*

01/04/2002

31/12/2002

39 weeks 3 days

65

513,084.00

01/01/2003

23/03/2004

64 weeks

65

810,992.00

24/03/2004

28/11/2006

140 weeks

65

1,730,729.00

29/11/2006

02/10/2007

44 weeks

65

540,540.00

03/10/2007

29/09/2009

104 weeks

65

1,419,600.00

*For ease of reference all amounts have been converted to Euro.

Garda Investigations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

344 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if financial assistance will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36911/09]

I understand from the Garda authorities that the vehicle of the person referred to, which had been stolen, was identified as having been used in a serious crime. The vehicle was retained for evidential purposes in accordance with legislation and was technically and forensically examined. It is also my understanding that the vehicle was returned to its owner on 27th July, 2009.

Both the High and Supreme Court have determined that An Garda Síochána has both a right and a duty to take possession of and retain any evidence which may affect the guilt or innocence of an accused person.

It has always been the case that there is no scheme of financial assistance for innocent third parties where property has to be retained for evidential purposes. However, the general issue has been raised on a number of occasions and I have asked my Department, in conjunction with the Garda authorities and the Office of the Attorney General, to review arrangements for the retention of property as evidence in criminal cases.

Question No. 345 answered with Question No. 340.

Garda Stations.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

346 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a property identified and purchased to provide a regional 24 hour Garda station in an area (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37029/09]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation around the country is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and progressed by the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

I am informed by the Office of Public Works that it was unfortunately not possible to reach a final agreement for the purchase of a potential site that had been identified for the provision of a new Garda station in Carndonagh. The Office of Public Works will continue to examine available options for a new Garda station in the context of securing best value for public money and in light of available resources.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that, in the interim, refurbishment works, including the provision of additional accommodation, will be carried out at the existing station. It is anticipated that these works will proceed in the near future.

Citizenship Applications.

Seán Barrett

Question:

347 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship through naturalisation of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37032/09]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in March 2008.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 24 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that further processing of the application has commenced and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks.

There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

348 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the immigration status of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 8; if he will clarify their entitlement to live and work here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37066/09]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the first named person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in June 2009.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants.The average processing time from application to decision is now at 24 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the second named person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Citizens of Romania and Bulgaria became members of the European Union on the 1st January 2007 and as such are covered by the provisions of the European Free Movement of Persons Directive. The persons in question as citizens of Bulgaria, who have been legally resident in the State for a number of years prior to 1st January 2007, will have the same rights as a citizen of an existing EU member state including access to the labour market.

Departmental Expenditure.

Finian McGrath

Question:

349 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [37124/09]

The total amount paid in respect of legal and related costs to assist the Stardust Victims Committee's participation in the independent examination carried out into their case for a renewed inquiry was €424,300 including VAT. While it was initially agreed by Government that €400,000 should be paid to a nominated firm of solicitors for all legal costs incurred by the Stardust Victims Committee, including the use of professional witnesses, this was increased by an additional €24,300 in line with a recommendation made by Mr. Paul Coffey S.C.

Garda Stations.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

350 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations here that do not have access to PULSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37125/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Pulse system is available at all Divisional and District Headquarters and 24 hour stations. The number of Garda stations on the PULSE network has now increased to 347 out of 703 locations and these account for over 85% of incidents.

It was never the intention of the Garda authorities to provide PULSE in every single Garda location and the extension of the system to other Garda stations is regularly reviewed by Garda management with additional stations added on a case by case basis.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC) based in Castlebar is now a key component in the Pulse System. This Centre allows Gardaí, who would otherwise have to return to their station to input or update incident data, to log the information over the telephone with their civilian colleagues at the GISC, thus keeping thousands of members of the Force effectively deployed for longer periods in visible, front line policing roles across our communities.

Visa Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

351 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 284 of 8 July 2009, the position regarding same. [37130/09]

In the context of the Deputy's Question, it is being assumed that the Deputy is seeking an update on the figures provided to him in my Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 284 of Wednesday, 8 July, 2009. Against that background, the updated positions are as set out hereunder. All figures relate to the positions as they applied at 30 September 2009 with all twelve month figures based on the year from 1 October 2008 to 30 September 2009.

At 30 September 2009, 12,904 cases were recorded as awaiting a decision under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) i.e. as to whether a Deportation Order should be made or Leave to Remain in the State granted. However, this figure includes 3,369 cases where applications for Subsidiary Protection in the State have been submitted by the same persons. Where an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State has been submitted, this application must be determined before consideration can be given to the position in the State of the same person under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended).

The following is the statistical information sought by the Deputy.

(i) Cases finalised between 1 October 2008 and 30 September 2009

Number

(a) Deportation Orders signed

1,106

(b) Leave to Remain granted

761

(c) Voluntary Returns concluded

571

Total (a) + (b) + (c)

2,438

(d) Cases awaiting decision

12,904

(ii) New cases arising between 1 October 2008 and 30 September 2009

The Deputy might note that there is no application process as such in the context of cases arising under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). However, the number of such cases generated in the period in question can be obtained by aggregating the numbers of ‘notification of intention to deport' letters issued under all headings within that period. A notification of intention to deport, as provided for under Section 3 (3) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), is issued to a person who has become illegal in the State following the formal refusal of their asylum application or where they have otherwise become ‘illegal' e.g. following the expiry of a Work Permit or visa based permission to remain in the State. Any person served with such a notification is invited to (i) leave to State voluntarily, (ii) consent to deportation or (iii) submit written representations setting out reasons as to why they should not have a Deportation Order made against them. The majority of persons faced with these options proceed to submit written representations and such representations must be considered before a final decision is made. The Deputy might wish to note that in the context of failed asylum seekers, the option also exists for making an application for Subsidiary Protection which again is availed of in the majority of situations. The following figures relate to the period in question.

Number

Notifications of intention to deport (asylum origin)

3,350

Notifications of intention to deport (non-asylum origin)

660+

Total

4,010+

As stated previously, it is not possible to provide an average waiting time for the processing of cases arising under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) primarily because no two cases will be the same in terms of their complexity. The Deputy should also note that the consideration of such cases is a hugely resource intensive process given that a wide range of factors have to be considered by the Minister in each individual case.

In terms of efforts being made to speed up processing times, the Deputy can again be assured that strenuous efforts have been made and continue to be made to ensure that such cases are processed as promptly as possible. Towards this end, additional staff members have been deployed to this area and considerable investment has been made in the development of technology required to support the processing of such cases.

Garda Investigations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

352 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda investigations into alleged human trafficking between January 2008 to date in 2009; the number of these investigations that have been completed; the number of alleged victims that have been granted a recovery and reflection period; the number of persons who have been granted a recovery and reflection period since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37131/09]

The information requested is currently being researched by the Garda Síochána. I will contact the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Deportation Orders.

Denis Naughten

Question:

353 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of deportation orders that have been signed to date in 2009; the number of these that have been implemented; the number of deportation orders issued in 2008; the number of the 2008 orders implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37132/09]

The total number of persons who were issued with Deportation Orders in 2008 was 679. Of these 161 were subsequently deported. From 1 January 2009 to 30 September 2009 the total number of Deportation Orders signed was 860 of which 193 have subsequently been enforced.

The enforcement of Deportation Orders is and remains an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.While every effort is made to effect these orders as speedily as possible the process is regularly delayed by judicial challenges commenced by persons who are due to be deported. Evasion of deportation orders is also a factor that can lead to delays in removing people from the state.

Denis Naughten

Question:

354 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 486 of 9 July 2009, the cost of deportations; the cost of the ten most expensive individual deportations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37133/09]

The deportation costs provided below refer to the removal from the State of illegal immigrants and persons whose asylum applications were refused. The vast majority of the removals involved persons whose asylum applications were refused.

Set out in a table are the costs for 2008 and up to 30 September 2009 of the removal of persons subject to Deportation Orders, by scheduled and charter flights. These figures include the travel costs relating to the deportees and their Garda escorts.

Year

Cost of scheduled/commercial and charter flights

2008

927,091

2009 (up to 30 September)

520,925

The Deputy might wish to note that the figures above do not include the cost of overtime or subsistence payments for Garda escorts.

My Department deports persons to non — European Economic Area (EEA) countries. To identify the ten most expensive deportations would involve a disproportionate use of resources in disaggregating those individual costs from the cost figures quoted above. However, notwithstanding the foregoing, the single most expensive deportation in 2008 involved the removal of a Ghanaian man on 11 March 2008 at a cost of €151,900, while the most expensive removal to date in 2009 involved the removal of a Georgian man on 27 March 2009 at a cost of €35,888. In both cases attempts to remove the men by scheduled flight were unsuccessful due to their violent reactions to their deportation. For safety reasons they were subsequently removed by charter flights.

The numbers of persons deported in 2008 and up to 30 September 2009 are as follows:

Year

Deportation Orders effected

2008

161

2009 (up to 30 September)

193

Total

354

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

355 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position regarding the application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37169/09]

A valid 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 October 2007.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 24 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Officials in the Citizenship Division inform me that processing of the application is at an advanced stage and the file will be submitted to the Minister for a decision in due course.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks.

There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

356 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for refugee status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37170/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 29 August 2003. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until her application for asylum was decided. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 13 November 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She 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 a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her 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 initiated Judicial Review Proceedings in the High Court, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in her case. The High Court refused the Judicial Review Leave Application with the consequence that the earlier decisions of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister stood.

The person concerned has submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State 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 application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of 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. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

357 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37171/09]

A valid 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 April 2009.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 24 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. However, I understand that the person concerned is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks.

There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

358 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if leave to remain will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37172/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 7 January 2005. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed, by letter dated 23 November 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), to be exercised within 15 working days, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why he should not be deported.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). Following consideration of the information submitted the application was refused. The person concerned and his legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 21 September 2009.

His case was then examined 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. Consideration was given to representations submitted on his behalf by his legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 23 September 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to leave the State by 23 October 2009.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum, for temporary leave to remain in the State and for Subsidiary Protection, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport him is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

359 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review of the case of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37173/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 30 March 2004. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed, by letter dated 16 November 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), to be exercised within 15 working days, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why he should not be deported.

His case was then examined 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. Consideration was given to representations submitted on his behalf by his legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 11 May, 2005 my predecessor refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person to present himself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on 16 June, 2005 in order to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State.

The person concerned lodged a request for revocation of the Deportation Order pursuant to Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended). This application was refused and the Deportation Order was affirmed. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 19 November 2008.

The person concerned lodged a further request for revocation of the Deportation Order pursuant to Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended). This application was refused and the Deportation Order was affirmed. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 2 October 2009.

The person concerned continues to meet the presentation requirements of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (G.N.I.B.) in accordance with Section 8(1)(b) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). He is due to present again on 10 November 2009.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum and for temporary leave to remain in the State, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport him is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

360 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if leave to remain will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37174/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 7 September 2006 on her own behalf and on behalf of her child. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 November 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her and her child. She was given three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), to be exercised within 15 working days, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why she should not be deported.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). Following consideration of the information submitted the application was refused. The person concerned and her legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 2 October 2009.

Her case was then examined 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. Consideration was given to representations submitted on her behalf by her legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 15 October 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of her and her child. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned and her child to leave the State by 2 November 2009.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum, for temporary leave to remain in the State and for Subsidiary Protection, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport her is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

361 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if leave to remain will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37175/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 23 February 2007. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed, by letter dated 19 November 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), to be exercised within 15 working days, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why he should not be deported.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). Following consideration of the information submitted, the application was refused. The person concerned and his legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 2 October 2009.

His case was then examined 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. Consideration was given to representations submitted on his behalf by his legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 15 October 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to leave the State by 2 November 2009.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum, for temporary leave to remain in the State and for Subsidiary Protection, together with all refoulement issues, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, as such, the decision to deport him is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

362 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a Garda National Immigration Bureau card will be renewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37176/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person to whom he refers was granted permission to remain in the State in June of 2001 under the arrangements then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish citizen children. The permission granted was for an initial period of twelve months.

Under the terms of the procedures under which the person concerned was granted permission to remain, such persons are not required to contact my Department unless there is a change in their circumstances. The renewal or extension of an applicant's permission to remain is a matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau. In this regard, I am informed that the most recent permission to remain granted to the person concerned expired on 17 May 2009.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

363 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37177/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 135 of Thursday, 28 May, 2009 and 345 of Wednesday, 6 May, 2009 and the written Replies to those Questions.

As stated in my last Reply, the person concerned has submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State which 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 application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of 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. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

364 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when residency status will be granted or extended in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37178/09]

The Deputy will be aware of the history of this case from previous Parliamentary Questions. The person concerned is the subject of a Deportation Order following a comprehensive examination of his asylum claim and of his application to remain temporarily in the State. In addition he has been evading his deportation since 10 August 2004 and should therefore present himself to the Garda Authorities without any further delay.

As a matter of policy, I do not intend to reward persons who have failed a very fair and comprehensive asylum process, and who have thereafter proceeded to evade their deportation for several years, by granting such persons residency in the State. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if there has been a change in the circumstances of the person concerned, or new information has come to light which has a direct bearing on his case, there remains the option of applying to me for revocation of his Deportation Order pursuant to the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended. However I wish to make clear that such an application would require substantial grounds to be successful.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

365 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for citizenship in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37179/09]

A valid 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 April 2007.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 24 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that processing of the application is in the final stages and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks.

There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

In the absence of more specific information the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the spouse of the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

366 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for leave to remain in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37180/09]

There is currently no application pending in my Department for leave to remain 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 in detail on individual asylum applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

367 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency or leave to remain in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37181/09]

The first named person concerned applied for asylum on 6 December 2005. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), she was entitled to remain in the State until her application for asylum was decided. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The second named person concerned, an infant, was born in the State in early 2006 and an application for asylum was made on his behalf on 20 March 2006. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of their asylum applications, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the first and second named persons concerned were notified, by letters dated 28 June 2007 and 17 August 2007 respectively, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of them. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why Deportation Orders should not be made against them. In addition, they were notified of their respective entitlements 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 first and second named persons concerned submitted applications for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and these applications are under consideration at present. When consideration of these applications have been completed, the first and second named persons concerned will be notified in writing of the outcomes.

In the event that the applications for Subsidiary Protection are refused, the positions in the State of the first and second named persons concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of 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. All representations submitted will be considered before the files are passed to me for decision. Once decisions have been made, these decisions and the consequences of the decisions will be conveyed in writing to the first and second named persons concerned.

The Deputy might wish to note that the first and second named persons concerned were separately included in an application for Family Reunification made under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended). Following consideration of this application, a decision was made to refuse the application. This decision was notified to the relevant party on 16 December 2008.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

368 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for citizenship in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37182/09]

A valid 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 July 2007.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 24 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale. Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that further supporting documentation was requested from the person concerned on 13 January, 2009, a 21 day letter issued on 26 August, 2009 and to date the requested documentation has not been received.

I am also informed that neither of the addresses provided by the Deputy correspond to the address that my Department holds on file, please note that it is the responsibility of the applicant to keep the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service informed of any change of address promptly and in writing. The request for further supporting documentation was re-issued to the new address provided by the Deputy on 15 October, 2009. Further processing of the application will continue once the requested supporting documentation is received.

In the absence of more specific information the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the spouse of the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

369 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a Garda national immigration bureau card will issue to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37183/09]

The person concerned has been granted Leave to Remain temporarily in the State for a one year period, to 24 August 2010. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 24 August 2009. This communication advised the person concerned of the conditions attaching to this permission and outlined the registration process involved which was to attend at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 where, upon presentation of appropriate identification documentation and payment of the relevant registration fee, this registration process is completed. If the person concerned has not done so to date, it is in his interests to do so without further delay.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

370 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with his Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37214/09]

I am advised that the Agencies attached to my Department are subject to and adhere to the relevant Department of Finance rules in respect of all the matters referred to by the Deputy.

Question No. 371 answered with Question No. 340.

Visa Applications.

Michael Creed

Question:

372 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will arrange to process a visa application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37253/09]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa application referred to has been approved.

Proposed Legislation.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

373 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take in relation to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37267/09]

The Multi-Unit Developments Bill 2009, which is currently awaiting Committee Stage in the Seanad, has been the subject of a number of submissions from various interested parties. My Department is in the process of examining these submissions with a view to the drafting of any appropriate amendments. I can assure the Deputy that the matter he has raised concerning smoke alarms will be considered in this context with a view to determining what action, if any, may be required.

Prison Accommodation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

374 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to acquire or lease a centre (details supplied) in County Kerry for use as a juvenile detention or rehabilitation centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37275/09]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has no plans to acquire or lease the property in question for use as a juvenile detention or rehabilitation centre.

Missing Persons.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

375 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37315/09]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

376 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37323/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 375 and 376 together. Following my request to the Garda Síochána Inspectorate to assess the need to establish a dedicated Missing Persons Unit within An Garda Síochána, including a response similar to Amber Alert, and to report their findings to me, the Inspectorate published its report earlier this year. One of its main recommendations was that an emergency alert system for missing children, similar to the Amber Alert system in place in other countries, should be established. I gave the go ahead for the implementation of this recommendation. I am informed by the Garda authorities that they have commenced preparatory work in that respect. A State-wide emergency system will provide An Garda Síochána with access to on-air broadcasters and other means of communication during the critical time in the event of child abduction. The application of such an alert system relies on the cooperation of agencies including telephone service providers, print and electronic media and television and radio service providers, as well as Government Departments and agencies. As the Inspectorate's report recognises, this is a challenging task which requires the support of a range of government agencies, NGOs and private sector representatives. It is not possible at this point to indicate a precise timeframe within which the system would go live. I am also informed by the Garda authorities that they are satisfied that all requests for cooperation received from the Spanish police through Interpol have been serviced. Any further requests from the Spanish authorities will receive appropriate attention. I am further informed that there is a Garda liaison officer based in the Irish Embassy in Madrid who will process any requests from the Spanish authorities regarding the matter referred to by the Deputy.

Emigrant Support Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

377 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to harness the power of the Irish diaspora in view of the fact that 34 million people in America registered as Irish-American in the 2005 US census; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37359/09]

The Government continues to attach a high priority to the development of relations between Ireland and the global Irish. Through the Emigrant Support Programme, managed by my Department, we have allocated some €60 million to Irish welfare and community organisations across the world since 2004. Of these funds, almost $15 million has been awarded to community organisations in the United States.

Successive Irish Governments have built a multilayered relationship with the global Irish which has contributed in significant ways towards the success of the peace process in Northern Ireland and to the development of our economy. As part of our commitment to build on this record of achievement and to further develop a more strategic relationship between Ireland and its Diaspora, the Government convened the Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh on 18-20 September. The full report of the Forum is now available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs, www.dfa.ie.

The overall report contains details of the main themes to emerge; the specific initiatives proposed; and the medium term objectives identified. These initiatives are not formally endorsed by Government, but instead reflect the opinions and suggestions advocated by those who participated at Farmleigh. The Government has also decided to establish a new inter-Departmental Committee of senior officials to consider and take forward the work of the Forum. This group will report to Government.

The publication of these reports and the establishment of new mechanisms for progressing the proposals made at Farmleigh are clear demonstrations of our determination to build on the success of the Forum and to develop closer links between Ireland and the global Irish.

The Government has also established a specific strategy aimed at further enhancing our relationship with the United States and the Irish community resident in that country. The Strategic Review of Ireland's relationship with the US, launched by the Taoiseach last March, made a number of key recommendations which are now being taken forward by a new Ireland US Strategic Policy Group in Dublin, chaired by myself and bringing together key Departments and Agencies in Dublin. The Government has also established a specific strategy aimed at further enhancing our relationship with the United States and the Irish community resident in that country. It also created an Irish-American Leadership Council in the United States to harness the collective organised leadership of Irish America. I was pleased to chair the inaugural meeting of this Council in New York last week during my visit there.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

378 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had contact with the Irish Embassy in London with regard to its expenditure on cars and limousines for Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36647/09]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

379 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of money spent by the Irish Embassy in London on the hire of cars, limousines and cabs in 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36651/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 378 and 379 together.

It is standard recognised international practice for a Minister in any government to be met on arrival in a foreign country by their Ambassador or an embassy official, to be accompanied by their embassy throughout the visit and to be seen off by the embassy on their departure. It is also standard practice for the embassy to arrange transport and accommodation for visiting ministerial delegations where this is not provided by the host government. In addition, it is normal practice for an Embassy representative to be present on the ground to assist with transit when a Ministerial delegation arrives at an airport in its country of accreditation en route to a third country. This is particularly so when the transit occurs through the city in which the Embassy is located. These courtesies are universally observed and have been extended to Irish Government Ministers, regardless of party, since the earliest years of the State.

It had been the practice over several decades for chauffeur-drive cars to be hired to transport Ministerial delegations where local Embassy vehicles were unavailable or unable to accommodate the delegation. This practice, which had been followed by all Governments going back at least thirty years, was discontinued in February this year, following a decision by the current Government that chauffeur-drive cars should not be hired unless there are compelling business reasons to do so. The Government also decided that in situations where it is necessary to hire vehicles for the transport of Ministerial delegations, people carriers should be used, where this is the cheapest option. I have been in frequent contact with the Secretary General of my Department, in his capacity as Accounting Officer, regarding these matters, including the particular case of Embassy London, and he and senior officers of the Department's Corporate Services Division have communicated the Government's position to all Missions on a number of occasions during the course of this year.

A number of communications which issued to Missions since late last year have emphasized the severity of the pressure on the public finances and the consequent need to make savings across the entire Department. The Department's travel and subsistence regulations, most recently revised and re-issued in June 2009, are underpinned by the need to obtain best value for money in respect of expenditure incurred. Missions have been reminded of the need to regularly review their arrangements with regard to locally procured services including chauffeur-drive car hire. Where annual expenditure is likely to be above a certain threshold, Missions are also expected to ensure that Departmental guidelines on procurement are being complied with and that indefinite or open-ended arrangements are not allowed to develop or continue.

As regards travel by Ministerial delegations, Missions were earlier this month instructed, where it not already the practice, to ensure that the Ministerial Private Office concerned is provided with a detailed estimate of the nature and likely cost of the local transport, hotel and/or other costs in advance of the visit and to ensure that they receive written confirmation from these offices before any costs are incurred. This will enable Departments and Ministers to be fully aware of the costs of their travel.

The London Embassy services a relatively large number of visits by Government Ministers to Britain as well as a significant number of Ministerial transits through London Airports. For well over twenty five years, the Embassy in London had been routinely hired chauffeur-drive cars for Ministerial delegations and those of other senior office holders visiting Britain or transiting British airports. This practice was informed by a number of logistical considerations, including security concerns. For reasons of economy, in January 2009 the Embassy in London purchased a seven-seat vehicle which, together with the official embassy car, is now routinely used for transporting visiting and transiting delegations where required. Even when the annualised cost of the purchase of the second vehicle is taken into account, this measure has generated substantial savings, particularly on chauffeur-drive hire and travel.

On foot of the instructions issued earlier this year to all Missions about reducing the use of hired cars and making bookings only on the specific instructions of the other Department or Minister's Office concerned, I anticipate that 2009 will show a dramatic reduction in expenditure on hiring chauffeur-drive cars, in London and elsewhere. The expenditure information requested by the Deputy is given in tabular form.

Embassy of Ireland, London Taxi, Chauffeur drive and Car Hire costs 2007, 2008

Year

Charged to:

Taxi fares*

Chauffeur-drive cars

Self-drive cars

Annual Totals

2007

Department of Foreign Affairs

19,594.03

81,038.53

0.00

100,632.56

Other Departments and offices

0.00

46,625.15

0.00

46,625.15

Totals (€)

19,594.03

127,663.68

0.00

147,257.71

2008

Department of Foreign Affairs

11,419.58

45,958.35

0.00

57,377.93

Other Departments and offices

0.00

55,094.95

0.00

55,094.95

Totals (€)

11,419.58

101,053.30

0.00

112,472.88

*Taxi costs incurred by embassy staff on official duty.

Overseas Development Aid.

Joe Costello

Question:

380 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the percentage of Gross Domestic Product spent on overseas development aid; the steps he will take to reach the target of 0.7% in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36816/09]

Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) is measured internationally as a percentage of Gross National Product (GNP). For 2009, total ODA is expected to reach €696 million. Based on current projections, this will represent at least 0.48% of GNP. This means that Ireland will maintain its position as one of the most generous donors in the world on a per capita basis.

The Government has established a target of spending 0.7% of GNP on ODA by 2012. Achieving this target will be a challenge in the current economic circumstances. The Government will make a full assessment of our capacity to achieve it in the context of the preparation of the 2010 Budget. Ireland's aid programme is recognised internationally as one of the best in the world. Our peers in the OECD have described it as "cutting edge" and Ireland as a "champion" of aid effectiveness. I can assure the Deputy that this quality will be maintained while we continue to ensure maximum value for taxpayers' money in our aid programme.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

381 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in his Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36863/09]

In my Department, five officers at Principal Officer level or higher are due to retire under the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement. The total number of staff in my Department at Principal Officer level or higher is currently 140. Following full implementation of the ISER, the number of staff at Principal Officer level or higher will be 135. This represents 8.5% of the Department's current authorised number (1,577).

Arms Trade.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

382 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to seek a more peaceful world by offering Ireland’s support, and campaigning, for a strong international arms treaty to stop irresponsible arms transfers with a view that such be universally enacted by 2012; the position he will take on this at the first committee meeting of the UN in order to support the conclusion of an arms trade treaty by 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37039/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

383 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans regarding the negotiation on a strong international arms treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37040/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 382 and 383 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has been working towards a binding and comprehensive global treaty on the arms trade, covering all weapons and ammunition. At the United Nations, Ireland has been actively promoting the proposal for an Arms Trade Treaty to secure agreement on common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. In October 2008 we co-sponsored a resolution at the General Assembly which led to the establishment of a Working Group to consider the elements that might be included in a legally binding Treaty. That Group in turn met in March and July of this year in New York. Officials from my Department played an active role in proceedings, and took the opportunity to explain to other UN Member States both the high priority which Ireland attaches to achieving an Arms Trade Treaty, and the specific elements which we believe it should take account of.

Following on from those meetings, Ireland, along with its EU partners, concluded that we should now take the next step in this process and proceed to full negotiations on a Treaty. Currently, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly is considering a resolution to establish a United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. It is planned that negotiations on a Treaty would be conducted at this Conference in 2012. The Resolution also directs that five preparatory meetings be held prior to the Conference in the period 2010 to 2012. While this resolution has not yet been finalised, it seems clear that the formal negotiation of a Treaty will begin in 2012. Matters such as the agenda and rules of procedure of the Conference will be considered at the preparatory meetings. The Deputy can be assured that Ireland will continue to advocate for the strongest possible Arms Trade Treaty, and to work towards that end.

Middle East Peace Process.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

384 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures that have been established to make it possible to distinguish between Israeli and settlement goods that he referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 755 of 6 October 2009; and if he has adopted these measures. [37042/09]

The European Commission concluded a technical agreement with Israel in 2005, whereby Israel agreed to provide proof of origin notes on consignments to the EU, which should enable customs authorities in the EU to distinguish between goods originating in Israel and in settlements, based on the postcodes of the place of origin. I understand that it is in the first instance an obligation on the importer to distinguish between goods entitled to preferential rates of duty and those not so entitled. There are obvious difficulties in ensuring 100% effectiveness of this or any such system in relation to the complex situation in the Occupied Territories. Implementation and enforcement are the responsibility of the competent domestic authorities in each Member State. In Ireland that would be the Revenue Commissioners, the Irish Customs Service and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Human Rights Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

385 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made to date on foot of the imprisonment of a person (details supplied); if he will request the aid of the international community with a view to ensuring that they are accorded family and legal visitations in line with international human rights criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37165/09]

As the Deputy will be aware from my previous reply to him on 16 September, I am familiar with the case of Dr. Tajbakhsh, who was arrested at his home on 9 July in Iran. Our Embassy in Tehran is continuing to follow his case.

Unfortunately, like many of those arrested in the aftermath of the disputed Presidential elections of 12 June, Dr Tajbakhsh's conditions of detention remain unclear. Many hundreds continue to remain in detention in Iran and it is still not clear when, and by what process, these will be released. There appears to be some degree of disarray in the judicial system, with trial dates being set and then re-scheduled and diverging views internally within the regime as to how the protestors should be dealt with. Dr. Tajbakhsh is a US dual citizen and a noted and respected academic who has been accused of being a spy for a western intelligence agency and has had to participate in one of the televised "show trials". He had been arrested before on similar charges. He is therefore a "high-profile" detainee, whose prospects of being released are not helped by the authorities' misrepresentation of the post-election protests as an attempted revolution with international involvement.

While it is regrettable that there has been no progress so far in securing his release, I am encouraged by recent reports that Dr Tajbakhsh may have been allowed some limited access to his family, including occasional brief phone calls and supervised visits. Diplomatic efforts, led by the Swiss Embassy in Tehran which handles US interests, are continuing in an effort to secure Dr. Tajbakhsh's release. I understand that the US representatives also took the opportunity to raise directly the cases of all five of their nationals currently detained in Iran, including Dr Tajbakhsh, at the talks with Iran in Geneva on 1 October. It is now to be hoped that Dr Tajbakhsh's case will benefit from the intensive diplomatic engagement which is continuing between the US and Iran and which, so far, appears constructive. However, there are some worrying reports emerging today that Dr Tajbakhsh may have been sentenced to at least 12 years imprisonment. Our embassy in Tehran is following the matter closely.

The EU has been vocal in its reaction to the deterioration in human rights generally in Iran since the disputed Presidential elections, with a particular focus on the maltreatment of those in detention and the need for due legal process to prevail. Ireland has strongly associated itself with the serious concerns expressed by the EU regarding the recent deterioration in the human rights situation in Iran. Senior officials of my Department have met with the Iranian Ambassador to Ireland on several occasions since the June elections, to convey my strong concerns on these matters to him.

The Deputy can be assured that we will continue to bring these matters, and the case of detainees such as Dr. Tajbakhsh, to the attention of the Iranian authorities. We will also avail of the opportunity to express our concerns about the deterioration of human rights in Iran, both nationally and in an EU context, as we did most recently at the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month.

Question:

386 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the appeal against the guilty verdict handed down to a person (details supplied); the situation regarding her house arrest; and if the human rights record of Burma has been raised. [37196/09]

On 11 August, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months in detention. She was found guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest by virtue of the illegal intrusion of a US national into her compound in May.

She lodged an appeal against this conviction but, not unexpectedly, the appeal was turned down by judges at a divisional court on 2 October. The appeal will now be taken to a higher court. I have no date on which these proceedings will be completed.

As I indicated in a statement on 11 August, and since then in this House, the arrest, trial and conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi on the most spurious of charges further compounds the already bleak situation in Burma, 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. We fear that the sentence indicates the regime's intent to silence Aung San Suu Kyi in the lead-up to the elections they plan to hold next year. These elections will be held on the basis of a discredited new Constitution, which excludes her from running in them.

There have been no changes in the situation regarding Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest while her appeal proceedings are underway, but there have been a number of recent developments in Burma which involve her, which I welcome. In the last two weeks, the junta has facilitated two meetings between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Labour Minister, Aung Kyi, who is the official liaison officer between her and the Government. In addition, Aung San Suu Kyi has been permitted, at her request, to meet the Heads of Mission of the Embassies of the United Kingdom (local EU Presidency), the United States and Australia in Rangoon on 9 October. It would be premature to conclude that these developments represent any substantive change of direction on the part of the regime but we are monitoring the situation carefully. We are also maintaining contact with the United States with a view to following how its new strategy of engagement with the regime is developing and if it seems to be producing any positive results.

In the meantime, the European Union will continue to maintain its sanctions against the Burmese regime, sanctions which were strengthened following the conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi. We will also continue to call for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners and for the launching of a genuine, inclusive political dialogue in Burma, as we did in Ireland's statement at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 28 September.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

387 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with his Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37212/09]

There are no state agencies operating under the responsibility of my Department. However, there are currently three bodies; two Advisory Committees and one Educational Commission, which operate under the aegis of my Department. All members serving on these bodies do so in a voluntary capacity and are not in receipt of a salary or fee.

The Development Education Advisory Committee was established in 2003 following the recommendations of the Ireland Aid Review Committee. Its purpose is to advise the Minister, the Minister of State and Irish Aid on development education policy.

The Government Emigrant Services Advisory Committee (previously known as Díon) was set up in 1984 to advise the Government on the welfare of the Irish community in Britain. The Committee’s primary role is to advise on the distribution of Government support to voluntary agencies providing front line services and community care to Irish people in Britain.

The Fulbright Commission (The Board of the Ireland – United States Commission for Educational Exchange) finances study, research, teaching and other educational activities between Ireland and the United States of America. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have some statutory obligations in regard to this organisation, including the appointment of four members of the eight-member Commission.

In addition, theAdvisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA) was established in August 2002 to provide general oversight and advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for Overseas Development on the strategic direction of the Government’s programme of assistance to developing countries. The term of the last Board ended on October 31st 2008. The work of the Board was funded by an annual budget allocation under Vote 29 (International Co-operation) of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In respect of the Fulbright Commission, I, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, have no statutory role in regard to the management of the Commission. The management of the Fulbright Commission, to which my Department provides an annual grant in aid, enjoys full autonomy of management and administration in accordance with the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991. Accordingly, the question of the travel or entertainment allowances does not arise. Members serving on the Government Emigrant Services Advisory Committee, are entitled to claim for costs of official travel undertaken either attending meetings of the body or when engaged on overseas travel on behalf of the body. Members serving on the Development Education Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board for Irish Aid may claim for vouched travel and accommodation costs associated with participation in meetings. In the case of the Advisory Board for Irish Aid, members may claim the costs of overseas travel on behalf of the body and subsistence allowances at standard rates. These travel and subsistence costs are paid in accordance with the internal travel guidelines operating in my Department, which are in turn fully compliant with the Department of Finance guidelines on travel.

Members of these bodies do not receive entertainment allowances. The budget allocation to the Advisory Board for Irish Aid covered research and administration. This included a number of incidental expenses, including the hosting by the Chairman of a small number of lunches in connection with meetings of the Board.

Missing Persons.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

388 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will respond to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37322/09]

As mentioned in my previous reply to the Deputy, my Department, through the Consular Assistance Section in Dublin and our Embassy in Madrid, has been providing assistance in the case of the person mentioned by him since her disappearance on 1st January 2008. We have remained in contact with her Spanish and Irish family during this deeply worrying time for them.

The Embassy, including the Ambassador, has been in regular contact with the senior police officer leading the investigation and also with senior political representatives, and will continue to do so. The Spanish authorities have undertaken to keep our Embassy informed of developments, which they are treating as a missing persons case, and I can assure you that any information received to-date has and will continue be passed on immediately both to the family in Spain and in Ireland.

I am informed that a meeting between the father of the person concerned (accompanied by a consular official) and senior police officers involved in the investigation was facilitated by the Embassy. I am also informed that since the disappearance of the girl that there had been regular contact with her aunt and that she was provided with any information pertaining to the case that was available.

I can confirm that I did offer, following a request from her local Councillor, a meeting with the Head of our Consular Division, who is also the contact person for the Spanish based family in this case, and for him to report to me on that meeting. Furthermore, I made clear in my previous reply to you of 13 October that I am willing to meet the family members concerned and I repeat my invitation to them to contact my office on (01) 4082140 to arrange such a meeting. The Deputy should also be aware that we acceded to a request from the Irish family that the aunt mentioned by him would be our contact person in this very sad case. I can assure the Deputy that I have taken a strong interest in this case and I fully understand the acute distress the disappearance of the girl is causing all her extended family.

Departmental Staff.

Mary Upton

Question:

389 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of staff employed or the percentage of departmental time allocated directly on the national sports facilities strategy; the number employed or the percentage of Departmental time allocated directly on the sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36792/09]

The Sports Policy Unit of my Department has responsibility for a number of areas of work including the National Sports Facilities Strategy. Two members of staff in this unit are employed on the National Sports Facilities Strategy. However these staff also have other areas of responsibility within the sports policy area. In the Sports Capital Unit, a number of the staff complement also have other areas of responsibility within the sports area of my Department and some avail of family friendly work arrangements. Accordingly, the whole time equivalent figure for staff engaged in Sports Capital Programme work is almost 14, processing allocations already made under previous rounds of the Sports Capital Programme.

Film Industry Development.

Mary Upton

Question:

390 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the Irish Film Board will be wound up in view of the statement in the renewed programme for Government that the supports provided by the Irish Film Board are to be maintained but no guarantee regarding the independence of the Irish Film Board is provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36797/09]

In my comprehensive reply to Priority Questions Nos. 1 and 2 of 24 September 2009, I outlined, inter alia, the benefits that accrue to Ireland of having a vibrant film industry and the crucial role of the Irish Film Board in that respect. I also pointed out that the recommendations of the Special Group on Public Sector Numbers and Expenditure Programmes have not been adopted by the Government as policy but rather are proposals for consideration in the context of addressing the current budgetary challenges. I welcome and support the commitment contained in the Renewed Programme for Government relating to the continuation of supports for Irish film making.

State Agencies.

Mary Upton

Question:

391 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the chairpersons and members of the boards and agencies under the aegis of his Department have taken a 10% pay reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36798/09]

The Government approved a reduction of 10% in the fees for non-executive chairpersons and members of boards of state bodies with effect from 1 May 2009. The Department informed all relevant bodies accordingly and all these bodies are obliged to comply with this requirement.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

392 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in his Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36855/09]

Following the full implementationof the incentivised early retirement scheme it is expected that there will be 15 staff at Principal Officer level or higher working in the Department including the National Archives, which will represent 9% of total staff.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

393 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with her Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37204/09]

An updated Corporate Governance manual was prepared and issued by the Department to all agencies under its aegis earlier this year. Subsequently, the Department brought the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, 2009, which was issued by the Department of Finance and included requirements in relation to expenses, to the attention of all its agencies.

In general, the practice to date has been that an agency, hosting a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions abroad, would make the necessary travel, accommodation and other arrangements and meet some of the associated costs. Such a practice would also apply, but to a much lesser extent, for home events. This practice is currently being reviewed, in consultation with the relevant agencies under the aegis of the Department.

Departmental Contracts.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

394 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the company that was awarded the cleaning contract for his Department’s offices in Killarney, County Kerry and the terms and conditions of the contract. [37298/09]

In accordance withthe Department of Finance Public Procurement Guidelines, the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism recently sought tenders in respect of the provision of cleaning services in the Department’s office at New Road, Killarney, Co. Kerry. Of seven qualifying tenders, the Department selected one which was considered to be the most economically advantageous having regard to the criteria applied. The selected tenderer has been notified and contractual documentation is currently being finalised with them. Until the contract has been signed I do not propose to put the name of the selected tenderer into the public domain. The unsuccessful tenderers have also been notified, and where sought, the Department has provided feedback to them on their submissions.

Arts Funding.

Mary Upton

Question:

395 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the cost of running the Culture Night Project on 25 September 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37391/09]

Culture Night 2009 took place on the 25th of September last, with 11 towns and cities throughout Ireland participating in the event. On Culture Night, key artistic and cultural organisations, including the National Cultural Institutions, extended their opening hours until late in the evening to allow the public increased free access to the various collections, workshops and other events on offer.

Culture Night encourages people of all ages and from all backgrounds to experience a wide range of cultural activities in a relaxed and family friendly manner. Whilst the attendance figures for the 2009 event are not quantified, initial indications are that the event was a huge success in all the areas.

Temple Bar Cultural Trust has been co-ordinating Culture Night in Dublin since its inception in 2006 and my Department has provided an allocation of €50,000 to the Trust for the 2009 event. In addition, Temple Bar Cultural Trust provides assistance to the various regional venues with the development and promotion of the national event and will receive a further allocation of €20,000 for this service in 2009.

All other participating cities and towns will receive allocations on a matched funding basis subject to a maximum of €10,000 for each location. The final cost of the regional event is not yet available as participants have until the end of this month to submit claims. In addition to the sums outlined above, Culture Night in Dublin and Limerick were each allocated an additional €10,000 by my Department for an outreach programme.

The above amounts represent my Department's direct cost towards the running of the event. They do not include the costs of the individual institutions and organisations, which participated in the event, or the value of any sponsorship or contributions in kind received by the Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

Sports Funding.

Mary Upton

Question:

396 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding that has been withdrawn from sports capital grantees under the sunset clause in each of the past ten years; the number of grants affected by this ruling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37399/09]

Information in relation to withdrawals is only available to hand since 2001. This information is set out in the table.

Year

Amount Withdrawn

Number of Grants

2008

6,637,526

19

2007

1,293,157

29

2006

1,208,062

40

2005

1,572,442

65

2004

3,550,824

124

2003

8,271,699

170

2002 & 2001

4,924,403

166

For a variety of reasons it can take grantees several years to draw down allocations. Some of the more common reasons for this include delays in finalising the legalities required to protect the State's investment, delays in the planning process and construction and difficulties in raising the required own funding. Where delays are excessive, or the project has ceased, the Department seeks to withdraw allocations.

Community Development.

Joe McHugh

Question:

397 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will communicate with Pobal to establish if a company (details supplied) in County Donegal will continue to receive its grants beyond 31 December 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36942/09]

Pat Breen

Question:

405 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 813 of 16 September 2009, the position regarding the future of a company (details supplied) in County Clare; if plans to axe this service have been abandoned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37287/09]

Joe Carey

Question:

410 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in relation to an application for funding from an organisation (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37343/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 397, 405 and 410 together.

The position regarding the renewal of contracts under the Community Services Programme remains as stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 813 of 16 September 2009. I do not expect the funding position under the Programme to be finalised until Budget day.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

398 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason community groups which have previously offered security alarms for older people have been excluded from the extra funding made available for the scheme until 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36785/09]

The Scheme is open to all community groups who are eligible under the existing criteria. In the interest of ensuring an equitable distribution of support nationwide I am prioritising support for those groups that have not received funding so far in 2009 and have fulfilled the administrative criteria attaching to the Scheme. Applications from groups that have received funding already in 2009 will be considered in the context of available funds.

Joe Costello

Question:

399 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals for funding community development plan over the next 12 months in order that the community development projects can survive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36836/09]

Joe Costello

Question:

400 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will ensure that community development projects are not closed due to cut backs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36837/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 399 and 400 together.

I refer the Deputy to my responses to Question Nos. 153 and 790 on 6 October 2009 in which I indicated my view that there should be a single focussed social inclusion/community development programme with a single delivery structure.

In relation to services provided by Community Development Projects, it is my intention that my Department will continue to support, subject to available resources, the provision of tangible supports to communities within the context of a single focussed programme. Funding in respect of such services generally will, subject to 2010 Estimates decisions, be channelled through local integrated development companies and urban partnerships.

Departmental Staff.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

401 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of officials at principal officer level or higher, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total staff, who are expected to be working in his Department following full implementation of the incentivised early retirement scheme. [36857/09]

It is expected that the number of officials at Principal Officer level or higher that will be working in my Department following the full implementation of the Incentivised Early Retirement Scheme will be 17.8, which represents some 6.5% of my Department's staffing complement. For the sake of completeness, I should point out that there are also 2 Principal Officers working on secondment to Oifig an Choimisinéir Teanga and the National Advisory Committee on Drugs.

Community Development.

Joe McHugh

Question:

402 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide funding for the completion of wheelchair accessibility to a building (details supplied); his views on whether there is a need for this funding in view of the building’s importance to the communities that it serves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36943/09]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that Manorcunningham Development Association was successful in its application for funding of €17,792.60 under the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013. The funding was allocated to the project in June 2009 and works are currently underway.

Donegal Local Development Company found that the need to make it wheelchair accessible was essential to the resource centre, particularly given its proximity to the Irish Wheelchair Association which uses its facilities on a regular basis. I understand that the funding will make all the facilities in the resource centre, including the meeting room and computer suite on the first floor, fully accessible to the community.

Joe McHugh

Question:

403 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason community development programmes will not be represented on partnership boards in view of the fact that the Changing Ireland report which describes the amalgamation of CDP and Local Development Social Inclusion Programme as a merger; the person who decides which CDPs are viable; the criteria under which they decide the CDPs are viable; the measures which will prevent CDP staff from being made redundant; the outcome of pertinent legally constituted companies and subgroups; if the review of CDPs has been completed; when the results of this review will be accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37143/09]

The Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP) and the Community Development Programme (CDP) are my Department's two main social inclusion/community development programmes. Both have a community development element and both are delivered through separate local delivery structures.

I have already indicated that my strong view is that a single focussed programme with a single integrated delivery structure is now needed in order to maximise the impact of these two programmes, which serve disadvantaged communities. My overall aim is to ensure that, from 2010, disadvantaged communities will benefit from a more focussed programme with clear objectives and simplified and streamlined delivery structures. The Centre for Effective Services is currently preparing proposals for me in this regard, which will draw on good international practice and independent advice. I hope to receive this in the near future with a view to rolling out a new programme early next year.

The community and voluntary sector is represented on the boards of Urban Partnerships/Local Integrated Companies and nomination from that sector and others is subject to compliance with a number of guiding principles and requirements. Information in relation to board membership and nomination is available on the Department's website at www.pobail.ie. Automatic representation for CDPs on the boards of these companies in the context of the roll out of the new programme does not arise at this time. I should also stress that my Department has no role in the internal operations of community development projects, which are companies limited by guarantee. Management of the companies, including staff matters and redundancy issues, are a matter for the Boards of those private companies.

In tandem with the redesign work, my Department is currently undertaking a review of Community Development Projects and will shortly have a full report on the findings and recommendations that arise from that review. While I cannot be specific at this stage about the impact on specific bodies in particular areas, pending the outcome of the review process, disadvantaged communities will benefit from a more focussed programme with clear objectives and simplified and streamlined delivery structures.

State Agencies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

404 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the arrangements that apply in respect of agencies associated with her Department in regard to booking accommodation, travel arrangements, entertainment allowances for meals and so on for officials, board members or directors; if these arrangements apply when the agency involved may host a Minister or Minister of State for functions or occasions at home or abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37206/09]

I can confirm to the Deputy that each of the agencies that come within the ambit of my Department is required to operate and comply in all aspects with the circulars issued from time to time by the Department of Finance regarding travel and subsistence. Each agency has been provided with these circulars and has confirmed in writing to my Department that they are in compliance with the requirements arising.

I wish also to advise the Deputy that, in line with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, the Chairpersons of relevant State bodies within the ambit of my Department furnish me with annual reports and accounts for the bodies, including a comprehensive report covering a wide range of financial and governance issues. Such reports include confirmation that all appropriate procedures for travel are being implemented.

In relation to Deputy's query regarding the hosting of functions or occasions at home or abroad for a Minister or Minister of State, the arrangements as set out in the Department of Finance circulars on travel and subsistence also apply in that regard.

Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 397.

Community Development.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

406 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has carried out a review of a RAPID programme in an area (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37306/09]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

407 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans for the future development of the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37307/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 406 and 407 together.

As the Deputy is aware the Government in May 2009 approved the inclusion of five new towns in the RAPID programme: Ballina, Co. Mayo; Dungarvan, Co. Waterford; Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford; Mullingar, Co. Westmeath and Rathkeale, Co. Limerick. I plan to hold Information Sessions in the five new towns over the coming months.

The review of the existing RAPID areas to which I have previously referred is now complete. The findings and recommendations of the review are now being considered. As the Deputy is aware any changes to existing RAPID areas require referral to Government for its approval. I expect to be in a position to announce the outcome in early 2010.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

408 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans for the future development of a programme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37308/09]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

409 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans for the future development of a programme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37309/09]

I propose to take Question Nos. 408 and 409 together.

I refer the Deputy to Question Nos. 153 and 790 on 6 October 2009. As I indicated in those replies, while I cannot be specific at this stage about the impact on specific bodies in particular areas, disadvantaged communities will benefit from a more focussed programme with clear objectives and simplified and streamlined delivery structures.

Question No. 410 answered with Question No. 397.

Harbours and Piers.

Joe Carey

Question:

411 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in relation to funding for the provision of a pier at Doolin, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37344/09]

As Doolin Pier is owned by Clare County Council, responsibility for its development rests with the local authority in the first instance. While there has been contact between my Department and the Council recently in regard to the development of this pier, it is not envisaged that the project will be advanced at the present time.

Departmental Properties.

Joe McHugh

Question:

412 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the processes and system for the cleaning and maintenance of Government buildings; if these criteria will apply to the new public service office in a town (details supplied) in County Donegal; when contracts for the cleaning and maintenance of this building will go to tender; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36625/09]

Under the Government's Programme of Decentralisation, 118 posts in the Department are to be relocated to Buncrana. Work on a new building in Buncrana has now been completed and the assignment of staff will commence within the next week. It is proposed to relocate the local office currently based in Castle Avenue, Buncrana, to the new Government offices in mid November next. The new offices are part of a State-owned complex. The responsibility for the maintenance of these offices is a matter for the Office of Public Works. The Department has a contract with Grovesnor Cleaning Company Ltd for the provision of cleaning services for all the Department's offices country wide. Accordingly, the new offices will now be included as part of this contract.

Irish Language.

John Deasy

Question:

413 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department has a policy regarding persons’ birth certificates being available in Irish. [36767/09]

The system of civil registration in Ireland, which includes the registration of births, deaths, marriages, stillbirths and domestic adoptions, is administered by an tArd Chlaráitheoir (Registrar General).

The Official Languages Act, 2003, provides the statutory basis for the promotion and use of both official languages of the State. In compliance with the provisions of the Act, all certificates of life events issued by the civil registration service are bi-lingual. This facilitates persons registering a particular life event to do so either in the Irish or English language and these details are included in any certificate subsequently issued in respect of that event.

Birth certificates are issued by registrars and the General Register Office in accordance with section 61 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004. All of the standard text on a birth certificate form is bi-lingual with certain exceptions. If an applicant requests a certificate in English, the name of the district of registration, superintendent registrar's district and county is printed in English only. If an applicant requests a certificate in Irish, these items are printed in Irish only.

Public Transport.

Mary Upton

Question:

414 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support a scheme to boost tourist numbers by providing for free travel on public transport for all EU citizens over the age of 66 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36795/09]

The current free travel scheme operated by the Department provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 80 private transport operators.

While the scheme is free for those who are eligible, all of the transport companies involved, including CIE, are paid for the service by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The estimated cost of the scheme in 2009 is €76.4 million. Any extension of the scheme to include other EU citizens would have considerable cost implications. Given the current economic situation, I have no immediate plans to extend the free travel scheme to British or other EU citizens in the absence of an agreed and appropriately funded EU wide reciprocal arrangement. We will, of course, continue to provide free travel for those who qualify and meet the residency requirements.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

415 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if rent support will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37168/09]

The Health Service Executive has advised that according to its records, an application for rent supplement has not been received from the person concerned. It is open to the person concerned to contact his local community welfare officer with a view to making an application for rent supplement.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

416 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the projected cost of jobseeker’s benefit in 2010. [36635/09]

The projected cost of Jobseeker's Benefit in 2010 is being considered in the context of the current Estimates and Budget process. It is not possible at this stage in the process to predict the cost of the scheme next year.

Child Care Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

417 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who are currently in receipt of domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36642/09]

In order to qualify for Domiciliary Care Allowance a child must have a disability so severe that it requires the child needing care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be given by another person, effectively full-time, so that the child can deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months.

Eligibility for Domiciliary Care Allowance is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted.

Since the 1st April 2009 new claims for Domiciliary Care Allowance have been processed by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In the period 1st April 2009 to 9th October 2009, a total of 2430 applications have been received in the required format, of which 1688 cases have been fully processed. Of the processed applications, 194 have a medical condition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, 28 of which have been deemed eligible for Domiciliary Care Allowance.

Child Support.

Denis Naughten

Question:

418 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the regularity with which review forms for child benefit payment are issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36643/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

419 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way she decided the clients who are to be issued with review forms for payment of child benefit. [36644/09]