Adjournment Debate.

Job Protection.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

The number on the live register in County Kerry has increased by over 100% since December 2007. Between then and October 2009, the number on the live register increased from 7,288 to 15,106. In December 2007, there were 3,249 people on the live register in Tralee but this has now increased to 6,269 according to the figures released for October. The increase is due to the decline in the construction industry in the county, in respect of which there has been a reduction in employment from 11,500 in 2006 to 5,125 in 2009. This is a major blow. However, it is also due to the loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector.

In recent years, Tralee has lost most of its manufacturing industrial base, including Denny, Amann, Glen Dimplex, Kleinhuis and Ridgeview. Apart from the development by Shannon Development of Kerry Technology Park, which opened in 2001 and which now supports over 300 well-paid jobs, very few industrial jobs have been created in Tralee, either by IDA Ireland or more recently by Enterprise Ireland since it took over from Shannon Development.

The announcement on Wednesday, 11 November by the management of BERU Electronics that it may have to shed up to 80 jobs came as a major disappointment and a further blow to the local economy. Management at the company confirmed on 11 November that it will reduce its workforce at the Tralee-based operation. The proposal forms part of an overall reorganisation by the group to ensure ongoing competitiveness in line with global economic conditions and the serious downturn in the worldwide automotive industry.

The company said in its press release that it intended to enter consultation with staff to protect the employment of approximately 120 people at its Tralee plant, where 200 are currently employed, and that the reorganisation may involve some 80 redundancies among the workforce. It stated also the redundancies would be in order to avoid possible closure of the facility, which is currently loss-making.

The management stressed in its press release that the company remains committed to its operations in Tralee, where it has been located since 1985. The initiative it proposes is designed to bring costs into line with overall economic conditions and to return the Tralee-based facility to profitability based on current and future expected sales volumes.

In the press statement, the plant manager, Mr. Paddy Lange, said the company must address the over-capacity that exists in the company's international production facilities. He stated that while this has already involved plant closures in places such as Italy, Hungary, Mexico and Korea, and job losses in other countries, the company is hopeful of sustaining and securing the future of its long-standing operations in Tralee as market conditions improve.

I call on the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to convey to the Minister that it is very important that IDA Ireland and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provide every support possible to the company to help it survive. I welcome the fact that the Department has approved the employment subsidy scheme for the company. This will no doubt help.

I call on IDA Ireland, through the Minister, to try to provide resources to the company to help it research and develop further products. It is critical that the company look to other areas in the automotive industry in order to create further jobs and possibilities. I hope new opportunities arise on foot on an upturn in the industry globally. I hope the Minister of State has a very positive response. Tralee and Kerry as a whole have been devastated by job losses. We must create new jobs, which is very difficult, and at least protect the existing ones.

IDA Ireland was informed on Wednesday, 11 November 2009 that BERU was announcing the impact of the decision made in June 2009 by BERU Group to transfer the quick-start glow plug line from Tralee to Germany. An announcement was made that afternoon to all staff updating them on the future of the Tralee plant, which will include the likely loss of up to 80 employees at the plant and the timing of the transfer, which is scheduled for February next year.

BERU Manufacturing GmbH was established in Tralee in 1986 by BERU AG, Ludwigsburg, Germany. BERU is now 100% owned by Borg Warner Incorporated, Auburn Hills, Michigan, United States, which purchased a controlling 60% stake in BERU in 2005 and purchased the remaining share in May 2009.

BERU was founded in 1912 and it is one of the leading manufacturers of diesel cold-start systems with an estimated world-wide market share of 40% for glow plugs. In the field of ignition technology for petrol engines, BERU is one of the four major manufacturers in Europe. The electronics and sensors division provides focuses on electronic systems solutions for the automotive industry. The company also produces sensor technology and ignition systems for the oil and gas burner industry.

IDA Ireland approved assistance towards the start-up of the operation in 1986 and a major expansion of the plant in 1999. Employment grew to a peak of 300 people in 2000 and the company currently employs 204 in the manufacture of diesel glow plugs and electronic sensors.

BERU is suffering badly in the current automotive industry downturn. Since the end of 2007, the company has been focusing on reducing costs. It released its results for the period January 2009 to March 2009 on 14 May 2009 and they showed a decline in first-quarter revenues of 38% and a decline in earnings before interest and taxes of 73%. Employment in the group reduced from 2,461 in the first quarter of 2008 to 1,898 currently. The group has closed plants in Hungary and Italy.

In line with the company's cost cutting, the Tralee plant has had to make significant progress in respect of lean implementation and process improvements to strengthen engineering capability. In April 2009, the Tralee plant announced 20 job losses but a visit by the BERU CEO in January confirmed the group's commitment to the plant. However, following the deterioration in revenues and earnings, the group reviewed its production operations which lead to the recent decision.

IDA Ireland is working closely with the company to secure new investments and to protect the remaining 120 jobs. The locations that IDA Ireland is focusing on in Kerry are the national spatial strategy-linked hub locations of Killarney in south Kerry and Tralee in north Kerry.

IDA Ireland's strategy for County Kerry is to work with local authorities and relevant infrastructure and service providers to influence the delivery of appropriate infrastructure to the region; to progress the development of a knowledge economy so that the region can compete both nationally and internationally for foreign direct investment; to work with the existing IDA client base and to help it to further develop its presence; and to provide modern property solutions with supporting infrastructure.

The recognition under the national spatial strategy of the importance of Killarney and Tralee as linked hubs will assist IDA Ireland in promoting the region for inward investment. It will also assist in the development of the necessary critical mass needed in terms of population, skills and infrastructure.

Kerry has traditionally been a centre of manufacturing for foreign direct investment. However, over recent years it has proved challenging to maintain and attract overseas manufacturing companies into the county as much of this investment globally is going to low-cost destinations such as eastern and central Europe and China. As a result of this location shift in global manufacturing, Kerry has seen a number of closures within the multinational sector. At the end of 2008, there were 15 IDA Ireland-supported companies in Kerry employing approximately 1,798 permanent staff.

IDA Ireland promotes Kerry as part of an integrated region with access to the county population base of 139,616 in addition to the expanded population of both the mid-west and south-west regions with a combined population of 935,039. Based on the strengths of the region, IDA Ireland is particularly targeting the ICT sector, including the software sector, and the international financial services and globally traded business sectors. To support this strategy, IDA Ireland is working closely with educational institutions in the region in developing the skill sets necessary to attract high value added employment to the county. The IDA is also working with FÁS to provide guidance in developing the skill sets needed by those in the workforce who are interested in upskilling.

It continues to market all available land and buildings in the county including its 12 acre business and technology park at Tiemaboul, Killarney, County Kerry. In Tralee, the IDA is also marketing the Kerry Technology Park which is owned and managed by Shannon Development in partnership with the Institute of Technology Tralee.

In addition to attracting new foreign direct investment, the IDA continues to work closely with its existing clients in Kerry to encourage them to expand their operations in the county. An example of this is the recent announcement in September 2008 by Aetna that it is to expand its existing operation with the addition of 70 jobs in Castleisland.

Flood Relief.

The recent monsoon-type rainfalls have created havoc, despair, hardship and bitterness for thousands of families whose homes have flooded. As we speak in Dáil Éireann tonight, the problem is getting worse in some areas, in particular south Galway, from Clonfert, Melick, Loughrea, Gort and Kinvara, while parts of Ballinasloe town, after what happened last week, would remind one of a war zone.

The misery visited on families in Abbeyknockmoy and Ballinastack, together with a vast number of other families who had to walk, crawl or be rescued from their houses had to be seen to be believed. I have seen first hand several of these areas and it is difficult for the families concerned to make decisions about their future, given the enormous difficulties they are currently experiencing.

There are countless other people who have been left penniless by the floods. Many farmers' land is under water and many of them have had to rescue their stock from slatted houses. Many farmers have outsourced their stock to kindly neighbours who are now looking after them. Many business people are financially ruined because stock is rotting away and is totally useless.

Last Saturday morning in the frost, fog and bitter cold, I saw heroic work being done by neighbours, county council staff, IFA leaders, HSE officials, the Order of Malta, the clergy and many others in an effort to try to save the Emmanuel House of Prayer and four or five nearby houses in Clonfert. So great was the force of the flood which backed up from the Shannon that, despite the best efforts of the numerous tankers which removed thousands of gallons of water from each garden, it was obvious that the fight was being lost. Several families had to evacuate later on that day as the water ran through their houses.

Realistic humanitarian aid must be made available quickly. Many families have received small amounts of compensation from community welfare officers to buy provisions such as food, blankets and other necessities of life. However, several householders who have been denied insurance cover because of previous flood compensation settlements are now standing in the worst possible position in the world. Their houses and their contents are destroyed, they have no insurance cover and, which is worse, will never be able to sell their houses. This is where humanitarian aid is most needed and is needed quickly.

Many other families who have insurance but who will not have their claims processed for weeks or months need humanitarian aid to tide them over. Farmers who have lost valuable stock and winter feed and whose machinery has been damaged need financial aid quickly.

When will the guidelines for the compensation scheme be announced? Will there be a means test for qualification? Who will assess the damage? When will the cheques be paid?

No other flood since 1954, and long before that, have caused such havoc and destruction. The long-term answer to a problem which has been getting worse in recent years must surely be better management of the River Shannon. No debris, soil, silt or trees have been removed from the Shannon or its tributaries, such as the Suck, for 25 years. There are banks of mud and debris which now look like islands in the middle of the Shannon and this material must be removed over the coming years.

The ESB must play a different role in river flows given the increased torrent of rain which now falls. The attitude towards the management of the Shannon and its tributaries must change from a "cannot do" to a "must do" scenario. It does not take a scientist or an engineer to identify that the quicker inland water can be moved to the sea the less likely flooding will take place upstream. The various stakeholders who steadfastly hold on to their piece of the cake will now have to come together to seek a solution quickly or floods on the Shannon in years to come will make what happened this year seem like a picnic. If it is any worse than this year, it will be an outrageous disaster.

The Government recognises the devastation suffered by people in many areas as a result of the recent floods. Community welfare service staff throughout the country have been providing huge support to families every day since the flooding occurred. They have already provided emergency financial and other assistance to households affected by the flooding to cover items such as clothing, food, bedding, heating, hire of dehumidifiers and emergency accommodation needs. Community welfare officers have made more than 470 initial emergency payments to people in areas impacted by flooding, including 200 payments made in Cork. The average payment made was €300. Officers will continue to make these payments as long as there is a requirement to do so.

In addition to this, a humanitarian assistance scheme is being set up to provide means tested financial support to people who have suffered damage to their homes. An initial sum of €10 million has been set aside by the Government for this purpose. As the flood waters abate and people assess the full extent of the damage to their homes, qualified households can claim for essential household items such as carpets, flooring, furniture and white goods. Assistance will also be available for structural repairs to homes not covered by household insurance.

Humanitarian assistance is not an alternative to insurance in cases where household insurance was available on a reasonable basis. However, where insurance cover is not available because of previous flooding claims, a person may claim humanitarian assistance. All of the main insurance companies have 24 hour, seven day a week dedicated phone help lines in place to assist people to make claims under their household insurance policies. Depending on the nature of the insurance policy held, some companies may make advance payments to help people replace their most important belongings immediately. Insurance companies have undertaken to process claims as quickly as possible. The costs of medical treatment and supplies may also be considered in determining assistance where medical cover is not already in place through private health insurance or medical card.

The level of payment available under the aid scheme to any qualified individual will depend on the severity of the damage to that person's home and the extent of the loss experienced, as well as household income and general family circumstances. The scheme will provide hardship alleviation as opposed to full compensation. As on previous occasions, commercial or business losses will not be covered by the scheme nor will losses which are covered by household insurance.

Applications under the scheme will be means tested to ensure that available assistance will be prioritised for those who are most vulnerable. It will not cover damage to private rented accommodation or local authority accommodation, though humanitarian assistance may be considered in the case of a tenant's personal belongings.

The basic principle of the means test will be to determine the household's capacity to meet the costs of restoring the home to a habitable condition. All household income will be considered when determining entitlement to a payment. However, account will be taken of outgoings such as rent or mortgage payments, other loans and travel to work costs.

In addition to the means test, other factors will also be considered by the community welfare service in assessing individual applications, including whether the applicant is or was homeless as a result of the flooding, the age profile of family members, including babies, young children or elderly persons, the availability of support from the wider family and the special needs that people may have as a result of illness or disability.

People seeking assistance should contact their local community welfare office. Further information and applications forms in regard to the humanitarian assistance scheme are available from the community welfare service in the affected areas and from the Department's website,www.welfare.ie, and the HSE’s website, www.hse.ie. While this scheme is not intended to provide full compensation for all losses and damage it will go towards alleviating the hardship which many hundreds of families have had to endure.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for affording me time to discuss this important issue, namely, the need for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to establish a River Shannon authority on a statutory basis to take overall control of river management and development in the Shannon catchment and navigation areas, with its prime function being flood protection and alleviation and land drainage.

As householders, farmers and business owners in counties adjoining the Shannon face immeasurable hardship due to unprecedented flooding, the long overdue River Shannon authority which was promised by Fianna Fáil Ministers, particularly one in my own area and another in the midlands area, must be put in place as soon as possible. A River Shannon authority would provide for the overall control of river management and development in the Shannon catchment and Shannon navigation areas from the source of the river to the Shannon Estuary in Limerick.

At present a large number of separate statutory bodies exercise authority over various aspects of river management and a considerable number of private organisations have a direct interest in and beneficial use of the Shannon. These include 11 local authorities in Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, Longford, Westmeath, Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Offaly, Galway, Tipperary, Limerick and Clare, plus other statutory bodies such as the ESB, OPW, Bord na Mona, IDA Ireland, CIE, the fisheries boards, various drainage boards and committees under the auspices of local authorities, Tourism Ireland, at least three regional tourism organisations, a number of environment and enterprise SPCs, the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and Transport, and the Shannon Foynes Port Company etc.

Voluntary bodies involved with the River Shannon include the IFA, Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, local fishing clubs, local boating clubs, local yachting clubs, sailing clubs, canoe clubs, commercial boat hire companies, Irish Water Safety, Irish Wildbird Conservancy, Irish Wildlife Trust, bird-watching clubs, ICMSA and National Farmers Union in Northern Ireland. I could go on until morning naming organisations with an involvement in the River Shannon.

There is no structure to ensure the co-ordination of the activities of these bodies. A River Shannon authority would provide such a structure and deal once and for all with the causes and extent of flooding in the Shannon catchment area; the impact of flooding on different sections of society, including farmers, householders, businesses, etc.; and powers to respond to different categories of flooding. A River Shannon authority would be responsible for the regulatory and river management functions of the water authorities — local authorities and the national rural water monitoring committee — including pollution control and quality regulation of the river with powers to prosecute offenders.

Such an authority would have control of putting in place a flood alert system as part of a national system to increase awareness of potential river flooding. It would be responsible for controlling flooding, maintenance works, improving farming and forest practices, and public health. This authority would be endowed with sufficient powers to instigate measures to deal with pollution and enforce them. The ineffectiveness of duplicated and overlapping structures could be remedied by the establishment of a single River Shannon authority. This proposal makes good business sense in terms of efficiency and cost. A unified authority would carry more weight than the many existing separate authorities in ensuring that necessary legislative measures for the River Shannon management and development are enacted and also for attracting EU funds.

Apart from the urgent need to establish a River Shannon authority, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has shamefully refused to draw up planning regulations to prevent the building of houses on flood plains. What does the Minister do now? He blames bad planning. The Minister needs to get a grip on his portfolio. The double blow to those living in counties adjoining the Shannon, of economic downturn and the repercussions of flood damage, are almost too much to bear. I have met many of those people. They are too sad and depressed to even be angry at this stage. I spent all of Saturday and Sunday throughout the areas of south County Longford that adjoin the Shannon.

The Deputy's time has expired.

From 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, I was in the Athlone catchment visiting the people who were in desperation.

I ask the Minister of State to respond now.

The very least that can be offered to the people living along the course of the River Shannon is that the long-promised River Shannon authority will become a reality. I thank people like John Dolan, Councillor Colm Arthur and others who accompanied me throughout my travels last Saturday and Sunday.

I ask the Deputy to let the Minister of State respond now.

They are great people and did their best for those affected. Many farmers had moved their animals to higher land in other parts of the county. I compliment and congratulate the people who did so much for many people who were unfortunately flooded by the Shannon.

In recent days we have seen the devastating effects of flooding on homes, businesses, and people's livelihoods in many parts of the country including locations across the River Shannon catchment area. The entire river basin area has been affected from Leitrim and Roscommon down to Clare and Limerick. Record water levels were recorded in Loughs Derg, Ree and Allen. Our thoughts are with all those who have suffered the effects of flooding in recent days.

In responding to the flooding, the local authorities have been following the procedures set out in the framework for major emergency management. This framework enabled the three principal response agencies — the Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and local authorities, together with the Defence Forces and other voluntary agencies to co-ordinate their response to the flooding. Reports from the areas experiencing major flooding show that the interagency response has worked in a satisfactory manner.

Future improvements to co-ordinated flood risk management in Ireland will be in accordance with the EU floods directive, which requires the assessment of flood risks and the preparation of flood risk management plans on a river basin basis. The report of Ireland's flood policy review group, approved by Government in 2004, set out a policy on the management of flood risks which is in line with the requirements of the floods directive. The report recommended that the OPW should have responsibility for flood risk management. An interdepartmental co-ordination group has been established to assist in co-ordinating the implementation of the recommendations of the flood policy review group, and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is represented on this group.

The OPW will transpose the floods directive into Irish law before the end of the year. It is envisaged that the OPW will be the competent authority for the directive. The OPW has already begun the process of procuring a flood risk assessment and management study for the River Shannon catchment area, and the study is expected to be commissioned by mid 2010. All of the main stakeholders will be consulted including the ESB and relevant local authorities.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has lead responsibility for implementation of the EU water framework directive which provides for the protection of our waters. Local authorities are in the process of finalising river basin management plans. These plans will detail current water quality, set objectives for maintaining and improving water quality, and set out the measures necessary to achieve these improvements. The plans are being prepared jointly by the local authorities in each river basin district with funding provided by the Department. Limerick County Council is the co-ordinating authority for the Shannon river basin district.

The Department has also worked closely with the OPW to develop comprehensive guidelines to enable local authority planners to contribute substantially to the management of flooding-related issues. The guidelines, published by the Minister, Deputy Gormley with the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, last Monday are aimed at ensuring a more consistent, rigorous and systematic approach to incorporate fully flood risk assessment and management into future regional plans, county and city development plans, local area plans and in determining future applications for planning permissions in line with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development.

The Department and the OPW will work closely to co-ordinate future revisions of river basin management plans and flood risk management plans. These plans will provide a comprehensive and integrated response to the issues raised by the Deputy.

Higher Education Grants.

This case concerns a mature student who is now in her late 20s. She is originally from my constituency and is now in the second year of a degree course in a university outside Dublin. She started her course in 2008 and applied for a higher education grant to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council as a mature student. She was refused the grant on the grounds that she did not satisfy the residency requirement. When she appealed to the Department of Education and Science the decision to refuse the grant was upheld. I have made repeated representations to the Minister for Education and Science, and to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, but to no avail which is why I am raising the issue here today.

This woman worked for approximately ten years. She started to work at 16. She paid her tax, social insurance, etc. She never claimed any social welfare payment from the State. In 2005 she decided to travel. She worked for a while in China, South East Asia and in Australia. While she was back home for brief spells at various times during those three years, she returned to Ireland in August 2008 to start her course in the autumn. She applied for the higher education grant and was informed that she did not satisfy the residency requirement and that she would have needed to have been living in Ireland prior to 1 October 2007.

There was a glimmer of hope in a letter that I got from the Minister for Education and Science on 14 July which stated that local authorities had the discretion to waive this requirement in exceptional circumstances. I pursued this with the county council and it replied, stating that it did not have discretion. The letter stated that the council would only have had such discretion if the person concerned had been out of the country for less than one year and because she was out of the country for more than three years, it was not possible for the county council to waive the requirement in her case. I went back to the Minister on the issue and he replied, stating that he did not have discretion and did not propose to make an exception in this case. This is ludicrous. There is a clear contradiction between what the Minister said — that the local authority had discretion — and the local authority's assertion that it did not have discretion. That is something that can be sorted out by means of a direction from the Minister to the county council, because he is the final arbiter in these cases.

The person in this case was born and reared in my constituency and has worked all her life in Ireland. She went away for a couple of years but she is being treated as though she has just arrived from Mars. The residency requirement is ludicrous in such a case. This woman has managed to get through the first year of her course with considerable difficulty. She is now in her second year and facing a crisis which may force her to withdraw from the course. If she does this, she will cost the State more, in terms of what she is entitled to claim in social welfare, than the value of the grant. Alternatively — this is the daftest aspect of the whole situation — having done a year and a half of the course, she would be entitled to start the course again, claim the grant and receive it because she would by then have been resident in Ireland since 1 October of the year before her application.

I suspect the Minister of State will read out the response I have repeatedly received from the Minister for Education and Science. I appreciate he must read out the script he has been given. However, when we have concluded this exchange, I ask him to discuss this with the Minister and ask him to reconsider this case. Not only is it ludicrous in its own terms and unfair to the young woman concerned, who will suffer hardship as a result, but the way this residence requirement is being applied in student grant cases such as this is quite absurd. It is unfair that a person who has contributed to the State and the Exchequer through payment of taxes through the years is being treated as though she were an absolute stranger who had never lived here before and had no connection with the country. The application of the residency requirement in such circumstances is inappropriate.

I am replying to this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

I thank the Deputy for giving me an opportunity to outline the Department's position on the application by the student in question for funding under the higher education grants scheme. The Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students: the higher education grants scheme, the Vocational Education Committees' scholarship scheme, the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees and the maintenance grant scheme for students attending post-leaving certificate courses. The higher education grants scheme is administered by the local authorities, while the other three schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees.

Under the terms of the maintenance grant schemes, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, means and previous academic attainment. The residency clause of the scheme requires, in the case of a candidate under the age of 23, that the candidate's parents or guardians have been resident in the administrative area of a local authority from 1 October of the previous year or, in the case of an independent mature candidate, that he or she has been resident in the administrative area of a local authority from the same date. The local authority has discretion to waive this requirement in exceptional circumstances. However, the type of situation in which the residency requirement is waived is, for example, one in which an independent mature candidate has missed the residency requirement by a relatively short period of time.

The candidate in question had been out of the country for a period of three years and four months and had only been resident in the country from August 2008. To meet the residency requirement of the scheme, the candidate would need to have been resident in the administrative area of the local authority from October 2007. In cases in which a candidate has been out of the country for a period of time of more than one year before commencing his or her course, irrespective of whether he or she can produce evidence of independent living prior to going abroad, he or she is not eligible to be considered under the residency clause of the scheme.

In this case, the decision on the candidate's eligibility for a third level grant was a matter for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Its initial decision — that the candidate did not satisfy the residency requirement of the higher education grants scheme — was communicated to the candidate on 13 October 2008. Following an initial appeal of this decision to the local authority, the county council wrote again to the candidate on 29 October 2008 to advise that the decision remained unchanged. On 28 November 2008, a notice of appeal was received from the candidate by the Department. The Department responded to the candidate on 15 December 2008, advising that as she did not meet the residency requirement prescribed under the higher education grants scheme for 2008, she was ineligible for financial assistance. On that basis, the Department upheld the original decision of Dun Laoghaire County Council and its subsequent decision on appeal.

In publishing the student grant schemes for 2009 and 2010 earlier this year, the Minister for Education and Science gave notice that it is intended to introduce a revised residency requirement of three out of the last five years, with effect from 2010-11, in accordance with the provisions of the Student Support Bill. This will allow for greater flexibility in meeting the residency requirement. The Deputy will appreciate that it is not open to the Minister, the Department or the assessing authorities to depart from the terms and conditions of the maintenance grants schemes in individual cases.

The Dáil adjourned at 11.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 December 2009.