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 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

John Deasy

Question:

10 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made regarding the proposed establishment of a judicial council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46265/09]

The commitment given in the Agreed Programme for Government is to "legislate to provide effective remedies for complaints about judicial behaviour, including lay participation in the investigation of complaints". That commitment is reflected in the Government's Legislative Programme published on 16 September 2009. It lists the Judicial Council Bill in relation to which proposals are being developed by my Department.

Under the Bill, members of the public will be provided with a framework through which they can pursue allegations of judicial misconduct. A Judicial Council will be given the responsibility of ensuring high standards of conduct among judges. The work of the proposed Council will also be more broadly supportive of excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions. It will be supported by a structure which will include a committee with responsibility for judicial conduct which will be tasked, among other things, with the consideration and investigation of complaints and will have lay participation.

The underlying approach of the Scheme of the Bill will be centred on a definition of a breach of judicial conduct. At the same time, the Bill will be duly cognisant of the independent exercise by the judiciary of its functions as provided for under Article 35.2 of the Constitution, namely,

"All judges shall be independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and subject only to this Constitution and the law".

Necessary consultations with the judiciary on the details of my proposals for a Judicial Council Bill have been ongoing for some time. The Chief Justice has consulted with fellow members of the judiciary and the outcome of those consultations was recently conveyed to my Department. The Chief Justice has in recent days been sent the text of a comprehensive Scheme of a Bill that takes into account, as far as possible, the views of the judiciary. I believe that the process of consultations with the judiciary is nearing completion and I hope to be in a position shortly to seek the approval of the Government of my proposals and for their publication.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

11 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the required 8% reduction in professional fees has been implemented by his Department for 2009; the estimated savings arising from that implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46165/09]

I can inform the Deputy that following the Government Decision on this matter, all Agencies and areas of my Department were instructed to rigorously implement the 8% reduction in professional fees across the board. The saving from this measure is estimated to be in the region of €3m this year.

Furthermore, a range of administrative efficiencies, including procurement efficiencies achieved through a co-ordinated Sector-wide approach to procurement, were also implemented and reductions were achieved where possible in the cost of goods and services.

The combined savings from the two initiatives are of the order of €10 million across the Vote Group this year.

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

Detention Centres.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

12 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on plans for a new national children’s detention facility; when it is expected that such a detention facility will become operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46169/09]

Michael Noonan

Question:

14 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the new national child detention facility planed for Oberstown campus near Lusk, County Dublin; when it is expected that the design stage will be completed; the month in 2010 it is expected that the tender phase for construction will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46302/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 14 together.

In March 2008, the Government approved the development of new national children detention facilities on the Oberstown campus near Lusk, Co. Dublin. This campus is already the site of 3 of the 4 existing children detention schools, the 4th is located at Finglas, Dublin 11. The Government decision was informed by the report of the Expert Group on Children Detention Schools, which is available on www.iyjs.ie along with reports of consultations which were undertaken by the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) to inform the design brief for the project.

The project is being delivered by the IYJS, an executive office of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has responsibility for youth justice policy matters and for children detention schools. In preparing for the development, in line with Department of Finance guidelines for capital projects and with good practice, the IYJS has established a Steering Committee to ensure robust governance and accountability measures are in place.

The Office of Public Works has been charged with designing the new facilities and managing the procurement of the construction stage of the project. The design stage is well advanced with both the concept and sketch designs having been completed. The next phase involves the completion of detailed specifications and requirements as part of the tender documentation. The tendering process, including specification and requirements, must comply with the Department of Finance guidelines for large capital projects and it is anticipated that the tendering process will be completed in late 2010.

Construction will take place over 2 phases in order to ensure that the existing detention schools, already operating on the Oberstown campus, can continue to operate and provide the necessary services to the Courts until such time as the new facilities are available. Phase 1 of the project, which will deliver sufficient new places to enable the transfer of responsibility for 16-17 year old boys from the Irish Prison Service, is expected to be completed at the end of 2012 and Phase 2 in 2014.

The Deputy will be aware, however, that tendering for the construction of the new facilities will be subject to Government approval and to the necessary funding being made available.

Prison Inspection Reports.

Seán Barrett

Question:

13 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the actions that have been taken to implement the recommendations of the Prison Inspector following his recent report on Mountjoy Prison, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46239/09]

The recent report on Mountjoy Prison by the Inspector of Prisons has been considered by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service and his Senior Management Team. A number of the Inspector's recommendations have been implemented or are in the course of being implemented, subject to the availability of resources.

The Government has been acutely aware of the limitations of the existing Mountjoy Prison for some time and it was for this reason that the decision was taken to replace it with a completely new prison campus on a green field site at Thornton, North County Dublin. I am determined to push ahead with the Thornton project but in the intervening period, it is necessary to maintain Mountjoy as a prison.

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,670 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation blocks, wings or units in Limerick, Portlaoise and Castlerea prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

Current projects will see a further 250 prison spaces provided in the short term by means of:

A new block in Wheatfield Prison which will accommodate approximately 200 prisoners.

The re-opening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy which will provide an additional 50 spaces

In addition, work is expected to commence in 2010 on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 additional prison spaces.

To further reduce the volume of prisoners committed to Mountjoy on a daily basis, male offenders committed to prison by the District Courts sitting in Dún Laoghaire, Swords, Tallaght, Cloverhill and Blanchardstown will in future be committed to Wheatfield Prison. A suitable order to give effect to this operational change will be made by me when the additional capacity becomes available in Wheatfield Prison with the opening of the aforementioned new accommodation block at that location.

In June 2009 the Irish Prison Service tendered for the refurbishment of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy Prison with the intention of creating a specific unit within the prison for protection prisoners. Work in this regard commenced in September 2009 and is due to be completed shortly. This will provide 50 spaces with in-cell sanitation and secure exercise yards.

It is the intention of the Director General of the Irish Prison Service to use the re-commissioned Separation Unit to house protection prisoners thus enabling the provision of an enhanced regime giving greater out of cell time for such prisoners. The opening of this Unit will also allow for the introduction of a dedicated area for vulnerable prisoners. The feasibility of a dedicated committal area is also being examined.

The Director General has also instructed the Governor of Mountjoy to personally address all local management issues raised by the Inspector in his Report including matters relating to basic hygiene, cleanliness, accommodation of prisoners at night, implementation of Governor's Orders, maximum operation of regime's activities, maintenance and the investigation of prisoners' complaints.

In addition, the Fines Bill 2009 includes a number of non-custodial measures to deal with non-payment of fines and it is my intention to have the Fines Bill enacted as soon as possible. This will reduce the number of people committed to prison for non-payment of fines.

Question No. 14 answered with Question No. 12.

Cross-Border Policing Co-operation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

15 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the procedural manual designed as an authoritative guide for police officers and prosecutors with a view to maximising the chances of successful detections and prosecutions in cross-Border cases has been completed; if it is in use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46124/09]

I would like to begin by stating that co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI has never been better, both in terms of range and quality. The two police forces on the island are working more closely together than ever in the service of the Irish people.

I know that the Deputy met with the Garda Commissioner and with officials of my own Department as part of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly's examination of North-South policing co-operation and that he was briefed at that time on our intention to issue a manual of guidance in relation to criminal investigations which contain a significant cross-border element.

Officials of my Department and representatives of An Garda Síochána have met with their equivalents from Northern Ireland on several occasions over the last year with a view to issuing to police officers in both jurisdictions a manual of guidance as to the particular circumstances which arise in relation to criminal investigations which contain a significant cross-border element. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and its Northern Ireland counterpart have also been consulted with a view to ensuring that, as far as is possible, the differing requirements of the two judicial systems are taken into account in the police investigations. The most recent meeting took place last month and another is scheduled for early in the New Year.

The differences in the criminal law and criminal procedures in the two jurisdictions requires us to ensure that, on our side, the Gardaí continue to comply with our own requirements, while endeavouring to maximise the possibility of the use of evidence in the other jurisdiction. The manual must reflect this and I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that when dealing with matters of law and of law enforcement across two separate jurisdictions, the work involved is complex and painstaking. I nevertheless advised that it is expected that the manual will be ready in the middle of 2010.

Commissions of Investigation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

16 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take arising from the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46158/09]

When I received the report last July, I immediately sent it to the Garda Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Since then, I have discussed the matter at length with the Commissioner. A number of the perpetrators discussed in the report have already been brought to justice, proceedings are pending against others and a number of investigations are ongoing. The Garda Commissioner has assured me that pursuing the perpetrators, whenever the abuse occurred, is an absolute priority for An Garda Síochána.

Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney has been appointed to examine the report's findings relating to the handling of complaints and investigations by both Church and State authorities, to carry out such investigations and inquiries as he deems appropriate and to make a report to him with his recommendations. The Commissioner will then consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to what issues arise in the context of criminal liability.

The report's findings are positive with regard to the current Garda arrangements for dealing with such allegations. Nevertheless, after consulting with the Garda Commissioner, I have asked the Garda Inspectorate to review the Garda handling of allegations of child sexual abuse.

The Government earlier this year requested the Commission of Investigation to extend its work to deal with the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne because of concerns which had arisen in relation to that Diocese. I believe that the work of the Commission in relation to the Archdiocese of Dublin and its forthcoming report on the Diocese of Cloyne will serve the primary purpose of establishing how child sexual abuse cases were dealt with by the Church and State authorities so that lessons can be learned and remedies introduced.

The audit currently being carried out by the Health Service Executive to ensure that it is fully aware of all cases of clerical child sex abuse known to the Church will also help to establish how child sexual abuse cases were dealt with by the Church. Work is well under way on preparing legislation to provide a statutory framework for the sharing of soft information. The Office of my colleague the Minister of State for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Barry Andrews, is preparing Heads of a Bill in consultation with my Department, An Garda Síochána and the HSE. The findings of the Commission's report about collection and sharing of information will be taken fully into account in the process which will be completed in the very near future.

Capital Projects.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

17 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform following the recent meeting of the Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights at which the estimates for his Department were considered the reason for the delay of a capital project for the State Forensic Laboratory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46278/09]

A key element of the criminal justice sector building programme is the provision of a new facility for the Forensic Science Laboratory. Notwithstanding current budgetary constraints, I can assure the House that the project remains a top priority, which is being advanced as expeditiously as possible by the Office of Public Works on behalf of my Department.

Having considered the various options for developing the project, including optimal site locations, it has been decided to relocate the Forensic Science Laboratory to a new purpose built facility on available State land at the Backweston Campus, Leixlip, which is already the location of the State Laboratory and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food laboratories. The site, which is fully serviced, is considered particularly suitable for a development of this type and scale, especially in terms of the potential for possible synergies between the expertise and resources of the various laboratories, and I am confident it is capable of facilitating the medium to long term requirements of the Forensic Science Laboratory. Most notably, the new laboratory will have the capacity to maintain and operate the proposed National DNA Database and the associated legislative provisions, which will shortly be brought before the Oireachtas in the context of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill.

The OPW has established a Project Team to deliver the project at the preferred location and I can inform the House that substantial progress is being made in the design and planning phase of the project. This stage is nearing completion and it is anticipated, subject to appropriate sanction and funding being made available, that the tendering process for construction will take place in early 2010. While conscious that funding for capital projects has been necessarily reduced across all Departments, I am anxious that the project should proceed to the market as speedily as possible so that full advantage can be taken of the current highly competitive trading environment in the construction sector.

Garda Investigations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

18 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the investigations that are under way into allegations that a small number of gardaí may have been providing information to criminal gangs thus potentially jeopardising investigation and putting other members of the force at risk in view of comments made by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46176/09]

James Bannon

Question:

23 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of An Garda Síochána are currently been investigated, and have been investigated previously, in respect of allegedly assisting criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46236/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 23 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, Section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 was enacted for the purpose of specifically prohibiting a person who is or was a member of the Garda Síochána or of its civilian staff from disclosing information obtained in the course of his or her duties if the person knows the disclosure of that information is likely to have a harmful effect. The section provides stiff penalties, fines up to €75,000 and/or up to 7 years imprisonment for conviction on indictment, for persons who contravene its provisions.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a number of investigations in relation to breaches of section 62, Garda Síochána Act, 2005 are being conducted by the An Garda Síochána which are ongoing and, on completion, will be submitted to the Law Officers for directions as to what charges, if any, are to be preferred.

As these investigations are ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Prison Building Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

19 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the Thornton Hall prison project; the amount spent on the project to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46287/09]

The new prison campus at Thornton Hall, County Dublin will have a design capacity of 1,400 with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 offenders in a range of security settings. The revised plan for the new prison campus aims to protect the taxpayers' interests and provide good quality, regime focused accommodation and programmes to prepare offenders for re-integration back into society, on a scale that cannot currently be delivered at Mountjoy Prison.

The new prison campus at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin is proceeding on a phased basis with Phase One comprising essential preliminary works required for the prison development. These preliminary works include the dedicated access route, the perimeter wall and related services. The preparation of the tender documentation as well as the detailed scope of work for the phase one work is at an advanced stage. It is anticipated that the preliminary works tender documentation for the construction of the access road will be issued to the market in the first quarter of the New Year.

The development of the new prison campus at Thornton Hall is a complex project which is governed by Department of Finance and EU procurement guidelines. These guidelines set out a range of actions that must take place prior to inviting tenders for the project. The Irish Prison Service with the assistance of the National Development Finance Agency are in the process of finalising the various preparatory steps prior to inviting tenders for the construction of the prison. It is intended to issue the tender documentation for the construction of the prison next year. Construction and fitting out of the prison will take two to three years from the date of signature of a contract.

The National Development Finance Agency and the Irish Prison Service has commenced the procurement process for technical advisers for the new project. A contract notice to procure these services was published last month in accordance with EU and National procedures. I am advised that an appointment from this competition is expected in the second quarter of 2010. As I have indicated to the House before, the revised design of the new prison campus at Thornton Hall must protect the taxpayers' interest, be operationally efficient in its design and provide good quality regime focused accommodation for prisoners.

In relation to expenditure on the project a total of €41.9 million has been expended up to end November 2009. This sum includes €29.9 million on the purchase of the site at Thornton. It is frequently overlooked that the cost of the site was actually largely offset by the sale of surplus prison lands at Shanganagh, County Dublin. An additional 8.7 acres has been acquired at a cost of €1.3 million to provide a dedicated access route to the prison. This was done following representations from the local community which reflected concern in relation to the effect of increased traffic in the area generated by the prison development. Approximately €7 million has been expended on professional fees, €2.8 million on site preparation and surveys, €0.5 million on security services and €0.4 million on landscaping works.

As is the case with all major infrastructure projects a comprehensive set of geological, engineering and archaeological surveys have been undertaken at the site and these surveys together with the completion of the phase one works will help to reduce the overall construction programme for the prison once a contract for the construction is awarded.

Tobacco Smuggling.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

20 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a Garda file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, arising from the seizure of 120 million cigarettes at Greenore, County Louth in October 2009; the estimated value of the cigarettes seized; if the vessel (details supplied), alleged to have been involved in the incident, is still detained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46164/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that Operation Samhna resulted in the seizure of contraband cigarettes with an estimated retail value of €46.7 million at Greenore Port Co. Louth in October 2009. The Operation was led by the Revenue Customs Service, and supported by An Garda Síochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Irish Naval Service, and the Air Corps. Officers from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the Police Service of Northern Ireland were also present.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a file has not yet been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions either by the Gardaí or by the Revenue Commissioners as the investigation is not yet completed. The completion of the investigation is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners as they have primary responsibility for tackling cigarette smuggling.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the vessel involved in the conveyance of the cigarettes to Ireland was released on 6 November 2009 after it was established that neither the owners of the vessel nor the company to whom it had been first leased had any involvement in the smuggling operation.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

21 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress of the review of gambling announced by him in May 2009; when he expects the process to be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46171/09]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 204 and 205 of 1 December 2009 and my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 171 of 9 December 2009 in which I outlined progress on the review of gambling being undertaken by my Department.

Drug Courts.

George Lee

Question:

22 Deputy George Lee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his vision for the future of the Drugs Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46290/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

63 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the future operation of the drug treatment court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46170/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 63 together.

My Department has been carrying out a review of the operation of the Drug Treatment Court which is nearing completion. I will arrange to have its outcome communicated to the Deputies in due course.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 18.

Proposed Legislation.

Shane McEntee

Question:

24 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to amend Section 38(6) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 which exempts members of An Garda Síochána from having to hold a driving licence when driving a mechanically propelled vehicle in the course of their duty. [46294/09]

Amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1961 are the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Transport.

Departmental Expenditure.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

25 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the fact that almost €32 million has been paid out over the past five years in respect of claims made against members of the gardaí for wrongful arrest, assault and other reasons; the steps he is taking to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46178/09]

Members of the Garda Síochána are called upon to interact with members of the public on a twenty four hour basis in a wide variety of situations — many of which are unavoidably stressful and contentious. In the vast majority of cases these interactions are handled in an exemplary and professional manner and do not give rise to subsequent difficulty from a litigation point of view. However, inevitably there is a small number of cases which give rise to the question of a legal liability on the part of the State.

The Commissioner, as Accounting Officer for An Garda Síochána, is concerned about the impact of the cost of these cases on the funds available to An Garda Síochána. In all cases the advice of Counsel, the Chief State Solicitor and the Attorney General inform the approach taken in addressing the issues involved. In most cases the advice leads to settlement of the cases but the question cannot be decided on a fiscal basis alone. The Commissioner must ensure that a proper balance is maintained between the benefits that might accrue for the public purse in the event of prudent settlement agreements and the necessity to vigorously defend the right and duty of the gardaí to carry out their functions.

Certain costs are outside the control of the Commissioner. Once a case goes before the Courts the level of compensation is determined by the Courts. That said, one of the main elements of expenditure in this area is legal costs and my Department, in conjunction with the Attorney General, the Department of Finance and An Garda Síochána, is currently exploring possible ways to minimise such costs.

I should point out that many of the civil actions that are taken do not ultimately reveal any wrongdoing on the part of the Garda members concerned. However, I can assure the Deputy that where there is wrongdoing the Commissioner enforces the discipline regulations appropriately. Breaches of discipline are dealt with under new Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations which came into operation on 1 June 2007. These Regulations have streamlined the disciplinary process and replaced the complex system which had developed over the years and was the subject of much criticism by the Morris Tribunal.

Finally, as regards the actual amounts paid over the past five years, the Deputy will see from the figures provided in my answer to Question 18 of 22 September 2009 that as the "Donegal-related" cases are finalised and removed from the equation the cost of legal actions is being reduced significantly.

Legal Services Ombudsman.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

26 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will appoint a Legal Services Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46166/09]

My Department is making arrangements to facilitate the appointment by the Government of a Legal Services Ombudsman in the near future.

Crime Levels.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

27 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used for each year from 1998 to date in 2009; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases in which convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46182/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table contains the number of cases of murder in which a firearm was used, proceedings commenced and convictions secured from 1998 to 2008 and in 2009 up 7 December. Of these murders, 21 took place in 2009.

As the Deputy is aware, these statistics, by their nature, carry a significant health warning. The detection rate for murders by its nature increases over time as Garda investigations progress. It is expected that the number of convictions obtained will increase as Garda investigations are concluded and proceedings commenced are finalised by the courts. This applies particularly to murders committed in the most recent years. In addition, directions may be received from the Law Officers to charge persons arrested in connection with such incidents with offences other than murder, for example firearms offences. Furthermore such persons charged and brought before the courts may be convicted of offences other than murder.

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

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

Our criminal law has been significantly strengthened in recent years. Many of these changes are targeted at fighting gangland crime. The Criminal Justice Acts of 2006 and 2007, in particular, introduced wide ranging reforms to strengthen the capacity of An Garda Síochána to tackle serious crime. The bail laws have been strengthened to allow the prosecution mount a more effective challenge to bail applications. I have also secured Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law.

A significant further strengthening of the law dealing with those involved in criminal organisations took place with the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009.

Other significant pieces of legislation introduced to target organised crime include the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act, which provides a statutory framework for evidence obtained by means of covert surveillance to be used in criminal trials, and the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which further tightens the legislative provisions relating to guns and knives and similar weapons.

A further important development, which is currently being progressed through the Houses of the Oireachtas, is the Criminal Procedure Bill 2009 which gives effect to the measures contained in the Justice for Victims Initiative. The Bill provides for reform of the law on victim impact statements and proposes to end the ban on retrying people who have been acquitted in specified circumstances.

I expect that the Criminal Justice (Forensic Sampling and Evidence) Bill, which will provide for the establishment and operation of a DNA database, will be published in the coming weeks.

Under Operation Anvil, up to 29 November, 2009, over 2,800 firearms have been recovered. There have also been over 8,700 arrests for serious crimes such as murder, serious assault, robbery and burglary and over 83,700 searches for weapons, drugs and stolen goods. An Garda Síochána will continue to address the issue of illegal guns relentlessly through Operation Anvil.

Number of murders recorded in which a firearm was used, proceedings commenced and convictions from 1998 to 2008 and in 2009 up to 7 December*

Recorded

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

182

50

23

*These figures are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Commissions of Investigation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

28 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on extending the remit of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin to cover other dioceses here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46157/09]

The Government earlier this year requested the Commission of Investigation to extend its work to deal with the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne because of concerns which had arisen in relation to that Diocese. I believe that the work of the Commission in relation to the Archdiocese of Dublin and its forthcoming report on the Diocese of Cloyne will serve the primary purpose of establishing how child sexual abuse cases were dealt with by the Church and State authorities so that lessons can be learned and remedies introduced.

I am informed by my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that the Health Service Executive is currently carrying out an audit of Catholic dioceses to ensure that it, as the statutorily responsible body, is fully aware of all cases of clerical child sex abuse known to the Church. A detailed questionnaire issued to each diocese and completed replies have been received by the HSE from the head of each diocese. The audit, as currently designed, will be finalised by 22 December in respect of the dioceses. It is hoped that a similar audit of religious orders may also be completed by that date. A number of dioceses have asked to re-submit their questionnaire responses and the requests have been assented to. This will of necessity entail a delay in the process but with the expectation that it will improve outcomes. The HSE will then submit a detailed and comprehensive report to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs for his consideration.

Juvenile Offenders.

James Reilly

Question:

29 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a survey carried out by An Garda Síochána which concluded that members of the public rated youth crime as a major national problem; his views on this finding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46312/09]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the Garda Public Attitudes Survey 2008 which was published over a year ago in October 2008. The full survey is available on the website of An Garda Síochána (www.garda.ie). While 76% of respondents said they regarded juvenile/teenage crime as a major problem in the country as a whole, it is interesting to note that only 27% of the respondents saw juvenile/teenage crime as a major problem in the community where they live. The report appears to indicate that people's perceptions of the levels of crime generally, and not just youth related crime, are much greater than the levels which they experience locally. This is similar to a 2006 survey on crime and victimisation published by the Central Statistics Office, which indicates that the level of public concern about crime is not a measure of the actual levels of crime nationally.

A significant aspect of the Garda Public Attitudes Survey is that the preferred response of respondents to youth related crime is through non-punitive measures. This is consistent with the general approach adopted by the Government in the deployment of Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers, and the use of measures such as the Garda Diversion Programme, Garda Youth Diversion Projects, Young Persons Probation Projects, community sanctions and the incremental process of warnings, good behaviour contracts and anti-social behaviour orders, all of which attempt to confront youth crime and related behaviours in an incremental way, using detention as a measure of last resort. Tackling youth crime is a key priority for this Government. Public order, which is one of the most significant aspects of youth crime, is one of the priorities set by my colleague, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform, for the Gardaí in 2009 and it is one of the 6 strategic goals in the Garda Policing Plan 2009.

In addition, the National Youth Justice Strategy 2008-2010 sets out plans for co-ordinated programmes and services in the area of youth justice which will be delivered through a number of agencies including my own office (OMCYA), the Irish Youth Justice Service, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children, HSE, an Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Probation Service and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The net effect of the strategy is to ensure a more co-ordinated strategic approach to service delivery, make better use of existing resources and deliver better outcomes for children in trouble with the law and the community in general.

The Strategy is being progressed at a national level by the National Youth Justice Oversight Group, which has been established in order to facilitate the cross-agency collaboration required. The Oversight Group, which comprises members from each of the key agencies and is chaired by the Director General from my office, reports to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Social Inclusion twice a year.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

30 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners incarcerated in the various prisons here; the number of prisoners to a cell; the number of cells accommodating two, three, four or more prisoners; the extent to which adequate accommodation to meet current or future requirements has been or is being made available; the number of prison spaces lost through the closure of the prisons at the Curragh and Spike Island or other locations; the extent to which such places were replaced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46319/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that on 4 December 2009 there were 4,041 prisoners in custody. The breakdown of the population per prison is listed in the table below:

Prison/Place of Detention

Persons in Custody

Number of cells with 1 person

Number of cells with 2 persons

Number of cells with 3 persons

Number of cells with 4 persons

Number of cells with more than 4 persons

Arbour Hill Prison

151

83

24

0

5

0

Castlerea Prison

359

73

107

0

4

0

Cloverhill Prison

460

48

21

78

34

0

Cork Prison

312

12

96

36

0

0

Dóchas Centre

125

73

6

6

2

3

Limerick Prison (male)

302

72

97

12

0

0

Limerick Prison (female)

25

0

5

5

0

0

Loughan House

138

70

31

2

0

0

Midlands Prison

521

360

45

9

11

0

Mountjoy Prison (male)

647

244

126

9

7

5

Portlaoise Prison

154

122

16

0

0

0

Shelton Abbey

100

40

5

0

5

5

St. Patrick’s Institution

201

195

3

0

0

0

Training Unit

111

73

19

0

0

0

Wheatfield Prison

435

127

154

0

0

0

These figures do not include prisoners who were being held in special/observation cells or beds that were being held for prisoners who were out on a form of temporary release including hospital attendance. In the case of Castlerea Prison 55 prisoners are held in "The Grove" which does not consist of cell type accommodation.

There has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number of persons in custody has increased by 379. This represents a 10% rise in the number in custody.

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,670 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise and Castlerea prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

Current projects will see a further 250 prison spaces provided in the short term by means of:

A new block in Wheatfield Prison which will accommodate approximately 200 prisoners.

The re-opening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy which will provide an additional 50 spaces.

Work is also expected to commence in 2010 on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces. In the longer term, the Government remains firmly committed to replacing the prisons on the Mountjoy complex with modern prison accommodation at Thornton Hall. These are major undertakings involving replacement of close to 40% of the entire prison estate. They will take a number of years to complete but it is my intention that they will proceed as quickly as possible.

These progressive measures contrast starkly with the failure of the Deputy's Party, when last in power, to construct new prison places. The decision to close locations such as the Curragh, Fort Mitchel and Shanganagh Castle, which had a combined capacity of 264 places, was made for operational and financial reasons. Any potential loss in capacity has been more than offset by the bringing into operation of previously unused prison spaces and improvements to the prison estate and the money received from the sale of Shanganagh Prison covered in full the acquisition cost of the site at Thornton Hall.

Detention Centres.

Joe Carey

Question:

31 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of 16 to 18 year old offenders in St. Patrick’s Institution; the number of 18 to 21 year old offenders in St. Patrick’s Institution; the number of places available in St. Patrick’s Institution; his plans to address overcrowding in St. Patrick’s Institution in the short, medium and long term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46248/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that on 7 December, 2009 there were 203 persons in custody in St. Patrick's Institution which has a bed capacity of 217. Of the 203 persons in custody, 49 persons were aged either 16 or 17 years of age and 154 persons were aged between 18 and 21 years of age.

St. Patrick's Institution is a closed, medium security place of detention for males aged 16 to 21 years of age and accommodates both remand and sentenced prisoners. It contains a special unit for 16 and 17 year olds. However, in the longer term the Irish Youth Justice Service, an executive office within my Department responsible for an integrated response to youth offending, will take responsibility for the detention facilities for all boys under 18 years of age.

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

32 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 and the Criminal Justice Provisions Bill 2009 has been invoked to date in 2009 against criminal gangs; the number of arrests that have been initiated; the degree to which criminal gangs and gang leaders have been subjected to the full extent of the legislation; the extent of the seizure of assets; the actions taken on foot of this legislation since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46318/09]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crimes. As the Deputy is aware the Government has introduced extensive legislation in 2009 to target those involved in serious and organised crime including;

The Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 which further tightens the legislative provisions relating to the use of weapons;

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 which provides for all organised crime offences to be scheduled offences under the Offences Against the State Act so that they may be tried in the Special Criminal Court unless the DPP directs otherwise. This Act also creates a new offence of directing or controlling a criminal organisation which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Participation or involvement in organised crime carries a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment. Also, expert Garda opinion on the existence and operation of criminal gangs is now admissible in evidence.

The Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 provides for a legal framework to allow covert surveillance material to be used in criminal trials. The Act provides a statutory framework for the operation of secret electronic surveillance to combat serious crime as well as subversive and terrorist threats to the security of the State.

The Gardaí are actively making use of these legislative measures to target and disrupt organised criminal networks and their activities. Given the serious nature of the offences dealt with under this new legislation, a full and thorough investigation of individuals and their activities must be conducted before charges can be brought against them.

While to date persons have not been charged with an offence contrary to the recently enacted Criminal Justice legislation and amendments, a number of Garda Investigation Files are at various stages of completion for submission to the Law Officers for consideration as to what charges should be preferred under recent legislation.

Members of An Garda Síochána will continue to utilise all available legislation, including the additional legislative provisions mentioned above, in relation to organised crime, to develop and implement strategies to dismantle and disrupt criminal networks.

Drug Treatment Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

33 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity of drugs seized in St. Patrick’s Institution in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the number of offenders as a percentage of the total held in St. Patrick’s Institution in the years 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 that have participated in a drug treatment programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46308/09]

The confiscation of drugs (or suspected drugs) was recorded by our prisons under the generic description of "prohibited articles/substances" in 2007 and 2008. Therefore an accurate breakdown of those statistics as requested by the Deputy for that period could not be obtained without the manual examination of records going back over a considerable time period. However, in 2009 to date, St. Patrick's Institution recorded 85 drug seizures. Gardaí are contacted once suspected drug seizures are made and issues of investigation and prosecution fall within their remit.

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

Drug Users present with multiple and complex problems. The evidence would indicate that a multidisciplinary approach is needed to effectively care for this group and that maintenance of a personalised therapeutic relationship yields the best outcomes.

Saint Patrick's Institution treated 15 prisoner/patients with methadone in 2007 and a further 28 in 2008. This represents 2% and 3.7% respectively of the number of prisoners committed to Saint Patrick's Institution for the years mentioned. The Central Treatment List who maintain a national register for methadone use have not compiled their cumulative data as yet for 2009. In presenting this data it must be remembered that many of the young people committed to Saint Patrick's Institution, while dabbling in illicit drug use, have not established a dependency on opiates and as such would not be considered for a methadone treatment programme. All those undergoing methadone treatment will be seen by an adolescence psychiatrist in addiction along with an addiction counsellor and the primary care general practitioner.

Prisoners have access to a range of medical and rehabilitative services such as psychosocial services and work and training options which assist in addressing their substance misuse issues. Saint Patrick's Institution also offers a drug free option to prisoners. This programme is run on a contingency management approach, which sees drug free behaviour rewarded which in turn reinforces positive models of behaviour. This approach has a strong evidence base and is particularly successful with adolescence age groups. This programme has a strict regime of voluntary drug testing in place.

The Irish Prison Service has committed significant investment in recent years in responding to addiction issues in the prison system. The most significant new development was the awarding of a contract for addiction counselling services to Merchants Quay Ireland. Eighty hours of addiction counselling per week are now in place in St. Patrick's Institution for those who are identified as at risk and wish to engage with services.

International Agreements.

David Stanton

Question:

34 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 472 of 22 April 2009, the further progress which has been made in ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; when he expects the mental capacity Bill to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46315/09]

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Questions Nos. 195 and 196 of 1 December 2009 and to Question No. 216 of 2 December 2009. I have nothing to add to the details of those replies.

Child Protection.

Jack Wall

Question:

35 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the new instructions which have been issued to members of the gardaí arising from those recommendations of the Monageer Inquiry relating to the gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46161/09]

The Garda Commissioner has accepted the findings of the Monageer Inquiry and is committed to ensuring that the safety and protection of children is a key priority for An Garda Síochána. Following receipt of the Monageer Inquiry Report, the Commissioner said that its findings would be utilised to refine the practices and procedures of An Garda Síochána to ensure that they complement the Children First guidelines. These guidelines provide the essential framework for the work of An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive in dealing with the sensitive area of child safety. The guidelines, as the national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children, together with the relevant legislation, in particular the Child Care Act 1991 as amended, are being fully applied by An Garda Síochána.

The Garda Commissioner has stated that An Garda Síochána attaches high importance to inter-agency co-operation, particularly with the Health Service Executive.

On 5 June 2009, the Health Service Executive, in consultation with An Garda Síochána, established an out of hours emergency place of safety service, which is being provided by a private operator as agent of the HSE, for children found to be at risk (outside the Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow catchment area for which provision had already been made).

These arrangements have been brought to the attention of members of An Garda Síochána.

Garda Deployment.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

36 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of garda personnel engaged in providing driver and security services to the members of the Government, members of the Judiciary; former Taoisigh or former Government Ministers; if he has plans to review the numbers involved with a view to transferring some of these Garda officers to front line duties fighting crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46177/09]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that there are 56 members of An Garda Síochána permanently assigned duties as Garda Protection Officers to 27 designated persons including current Office holders and former Taoisigh. Included in the duties of the Protection Officer is a requirement to drive the Protected Person. There are no protection officers assigned to former Ministers.

Responsibility for the allocation of personnel rests with the Garda Commissioner, in conjunction with his senior management team. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends and other demands made on An Garda Síochána, and are kept under review.

Garda Retirement.

Liz McManus

Question:

37 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications received for early retirement from members of the gardaí to date in 2009, broken down by rank; the way this compares with the same period in each year from 2002; his views on reports that a significant number of senior gardaí are planning to take early retirement; the implications of such retirements for policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46179/09]

I have requested the latest information on the number of retirements, including late applications, from the Commissioner and I will revert to the Deputy immediately on receipt of that information.

Crime Levels.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

38 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 in which grenades, bombs or improvised explosive devices have been used; the number of occasions in each year when the gardaí called on the assistance of the Army ordinance unit to deal with such devices; the number of prosecutions initiated as a result of the discovery or such devices; his views on the increased use of such devices by criminal elements; the steps that are being taken to curb the use of such devices, particularly having regard to the danger they pose the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46185/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 112 of 10 November 2009. The updated figure for such incidents in 2009 (to 5 December) is 186 incidents; in respect of the incidents that occurred in 2008 and 2009 (to 30 November) there has been a total of 91 arrests, there have been four convictions and in another 58 cases the matters are currently before the courts or files are with the DPP. The remainder of the information provided previously is unchanged.

Prison Accommodation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

39 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners in jails at the latest date for which figures are available; if the prison population recently exceeded 4,000 for the first time eve r; the steps taken to deal with prison overcrowding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46175/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that on 7 December 2009 there were 4,051 prisoners in custody. I can confirm that on several occasions recently the prison population has exceeded 4,000, the first instance of which was on 9 October 2009.

As the Deputy will appreciate the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts into its custody and does not have the option of turning away committals. There has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 379. This represents a 10% rise in the number in custody.

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,670 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise and Castlerea prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

Current projects will see a further 250 prison spaces provided in the short term by means of:

A new block in Wheatfield Prison which will accommodate approximately 200 prisoners.

The re-opening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy which will provide an additional 50 spaces.

In addition, work is expected to commence in 2010 on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces.

By contrast, when the Deputy's Party was last in power, no additional prison places were constructed. Despite this significant investment, it is quite clear that in some of our prisons we are operating in excess of our bed capacity at this time. In the longer term, the Government remains firmly committed to replacing the prisons on the Mountjoy complex with modern prison accommodation at Thornton Hall. Building new prison facilities at Thornton Hall on a green field site will open up new opportunities for the development of structured regime activities which will support the more effective rehabilitation and resettlement of prisoners.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 6.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Creed

Question:

41 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated saving made by the Irish Prison Service arising from the closure of prisons at Spike Island and the Curragh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46260/09]

The closure of Fort Mitchell Prison, on Spike Island, and Curragh Place of Detention in early 2004 occurred against the backdrop of the need to make significant savings in prison expenditure through reductions in overtime. The closure of these two institutions led to savings on the paybill that was previously associated with these prisons and the utilisation of the staff formerly assigned to them to reduce the level of overtime worked in the prisons to which they were transferred. In 2003, being the last full year of operation for both prisons, the costs of running Fort Mitchell and the Curragh Prisons were €6.868M and €9.029M respectively. The introduction of the Agreed Proposal for Organisational Change, which commenced in 2005, eliminated overtime working in the prison system and replaced it with an Additional Hours system.

In terms of the operational implications, the impact of the closure at Fort Mitchell, which had a capacity of 102, was offset by the opening of the new C Block at Limerick Prison, providing an additional 100 beds. The closure of the Curragh, Place of Detention, which had a design capacity of 68, was offset by the opening of a previously unopened wing in the Midlands Prison.

I should point out that there is no potential to reopen any of these facilities. Small stand-alone prisons accommodating 100 prisoners or less are simply not economic to operate. The policy of the Irish Prison Service is, where possible, to develop campus-style developments which take full advantage of economies of scale and operational efficiencies.

Garda Investigations.

Alan Shatter

Question:

42 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to ask the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána to reopen the investigation into the murder and suspected rape in 1970 of a person (details supplied); the location of the file relating to the murder; and if he will make a statement on allegations made the murder was not fully and comprehensively investigated and that a copy of the Garda file was furnished to a senior member of the Roman Catholic clergy. [46193/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

51 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to reopen the Garda investigation into the 1970 murder of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; if new evidence has emerged in regard to the case; if a review of the original garda investigation is planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46191/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

56 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on allegations made that senior members of An Garda Síochána interfered with and prevented a full investigation taking place into the murder and suspected rape in 1970 of a person (details supplied); if an investigation officer was stopped from interviewing a suspect named on this file; if he will instruct the Garda Commissioner to reopen the investigation in this case and take the steps necessary for a separate independent investigation to be conducted into the manner in which the murder was originally investigated in 1970 and into any alleged obstacles to that investigation which inhibited its completion and prosecution taking place. [46194/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 42, 51 and 56 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the investigation into the death of the person referred to by the Deputies was the subject of an intense review in 2004.

I am further informed that the Commissioner recently appointed the Assistant Commissioner, Northern Region to examine the investigation file, which remains open, and is under the supervision of the Assistant Commissioner. Liaison is being maintained with the family of the person referred to.

The Deputies will appreciate that as the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Human Trafficking.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

43 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to prevent the trafficking of young people into the sex industry here. [40673/09]

An extensive range of legislative and administrative measures have been undertaken to address this concern. Many of these are set out in the National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings which I published on 10 June 2009. The measures include the following:-

1. Legislative measures

Under the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act 1996 it is an offence for an Irish person or a person ordinarily resident in the State, to commit a sexual act against a child in another country which is an offence in that country and if committed in the State, would be an offence under the Schedule to that Act. In such circumstances, the person can be charged with the offence in this country. The offences listed in the Schedule (as amended) are carnal knowledge, rape, buggery and sexual assault offences. It is also an offence to make an arrangement to transport to a place in or outside the State or to authorise the making of such an arrangement for or on behalf of another person knowingly for the purpose of enabling that person or another person to commit a sexual offence against a child in another country.

The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 makes it an offence to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into, transit through, or exit from Ireland of a child for the purpose of the child's sexual exploitation or to provide accommodation for the child for such a purpose while in Ireland. It is also an offence to take, detain or restrict the personal liberty of a child for the purpose of the child's sexual exploitation, to use a child for such purpose or to organise or knowingly facilitate such taking, detaining, restricting or use.

TheCriminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 provides for offences of trafficking in children for the purposes of labour exploitation or the removal of their organs and additionally in the case of adults for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Section 1 of the Act amends the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 by extending the definition of a child from a person under the age of 17 years to a person under the age of 18 years. The maximum penalty on conviction is raised from 14 years to life imprisonment. It also makes it an offence to sell or offer for sale or to purchase or offer to purchase any person for any purpose. The State automatically accepts jurisdiction when the offence is committed in the State, including on ships or aircraft registered in the State. The Act also provides that if an Irish citizen or a person ordinarily resident in Ireland is alleged to have committed a trafficking offence abroad the State will accept the jurisdiction to try the offence here. Penalties of up to life imprisonment and a fine apply in respect of these offences. Under Section 5 of the Act it is an offence for a person to solicit sexual services from a trafficked person where the person soliciting knows that the person has been trafficked. The soliciting can take place anywhere — in public or in private. Any person who accept or agrees to accept a payment, right, interest or other benefit for the prostitution of the trafficked person will also commit an offence. Fines of up to €5,000 and 12 months imprisonment apply on summary conviction and an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment applies if a person is convicted on indictment.

Legislative measures to deal with prostitution include the following:

Under section 7 of theCriminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 it is an offence for any person to solicit or importune another person in any street or other public place for the purposes of prostitution. In exploitative situations, where the person being solicited or importuned has been trafficked, the offence of soliciting or importuning can be committed in any place, public or private.

The criminal law governing prostitution is kept under continuing review in my Department and, in that context, one area of the law that has been identified as requiring change is where a person engages in sexual activity with a person over the age of consent but under 18 years in exchange for money or some other consideration. Legislation that will criminalise such behaviour in any place is being prepared in my Department. My Department is also reviewing the prostitution laws as they affect children, with a view to substantially raising the penalties for soliciting children for the purpose of prostitution and for recruiting or coercing children into prostitution. Consideration is also being given to extending the offence of soliciting in such circumstances to soliciting in any place.

2. Policing measures

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the measures taken include the following: Immigration control takes place at ports and airports within the State. There is regular liaison between the Garda Síochána, Health Services Executive (HSE) and NGOs. Where incidents are reported to the Garda Síochána or it is suspected that victims of trafficking are operating in the sex industry, investigations including searches of premises, are commenced. Intelligence from international law enforcement agencies also assists in identifying those persons suspected of being trafficked and also those suspected of being involved in this type of criminality, allowing the Garda Síochána to carry out intelligence-led and targeted campaigns.

All cases of suspected human trafficking are the subject of an investigation by the Garda Síochána and a specific initiative — Operation Snow — targeting the suspected trafficking of minors, was established by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. This initiative is designed to prevent the trafficking and smuggling of minors into, out of and within the State; to ensure that welfare of suspected victims of such criminal activity is adequately provided for and to achieve prosecutions where criminal activity of the nature concerned has been detected.

Enforcing the relevant provisions of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) and the Childcare Act, 2001 in respect of minors arriving in the State at ports of entry, has proved to be particularly important in offering protection to minors suspected to be victims of human trafficking or smuggling of illegal immigrants. One of the most significant detections to date under this initiative involved the holder of a Ghanaian passport, who presented at the Garda National Immigration Bureau Headquarters for the purpose of being entered on a register of non-nationals maintained by the Garda Síochána in accordance with the provisions of Immigration Act, 2004. Records indicated that this person was wanted, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant which had been issued by the Dutch Authorities, on suspicion of involvement in the trafficking of minors. He was arrested and was subsequently removed to the Netherlands, where he is due to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the trafficking of unaccompanied minors, who are Nigerian nationals, into the Netherlands and other European countries, for the purpose of their sexual exploitation.

In so far as prostitution is concerned initiatives are put in place on a regular basis by Divisional and District management of the Garda Síochána targeting offences relating to prostitution, including brothel-keeping and living off immoral earnings which are targeted as part of investigations into organised criminal activities, including the advertising of escort agencies.

3. Other measures

The establishment of a Working Group on Child Trafficking under the auspices of an Interdepartmental High Level Group which reports to me is a key element in developing the response to child trafficking and in facilitating the creation of an environment which protects children. The HSE is also committed to providing an equitable service to unaccompanied minors in their care. An Operational Plan has been developed that commits the HSE to withdrawing from hostel provision for separated children which should reduce the incidence of children going missing from HSE care. The HSE has also developed a joint protocol with the Garda Síochána entitled ‘Children missing from care'. This, in addition to intensive interagency working between the HSE and the Garda National Immigration Bureau is proving successful and monthly figures in relation to children going missing from HSE care have begun to decrease.

Other measures include ongoing training for law enforcement and other key personnel in the public sector; education campaigns in schools; articles in journals; etc aimed at particular sectors likely to encounter suspected child victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and particularly the overlap between human trafficking and prostitution is a complex issue involving many factors. The Sexual Exploitation Working Group comprising Governmental, non-governmental and International organisations, which is chaired by my Department, are tasked with examining and making recommendations on legislative, administrative, educational, social, cultural and other measures which (i) impact on and (ii) discourage demand for sexual services of victims of trafficking. I will consider what action is necessary in the light of the outcome of those deliberations.

Garda Procedures.

Liz McManus

Question:

44 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when arrangements will be made to instruct members of An Garda Síochána that it is not necessary to take a longhand note of interviews with persons in custody when such interviews are being electronically recorded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46180/09]

As I indicated to Deputy Rabbitte in my reply to Question No. 307 on 17th November, An Garda Síochána are at an advanced stage in developing proposals for the operational aspects of a new system.

Because of the complexities involved, it is likely that any new system will be introduced on a pilot basis to allow all the operational and legal aspects to be fully tested and evaluated.

This is a matter which is being pursued by the Garda authorities and, given the extensive operational and other issues involved, it is not possible to indicate when the relevant work will be completed.

EU Directives.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

45 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number EU Directives for which his Department has responsibility to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46183/09]

My Department has responsibility for seven EU Directives which have to be implemented. There are four Directives which are currently overdue as follows:

Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

The minimum standards on procedures required by this Directive are operated by the State in its national provisions and procedures, and therefore, the State is substantially in compliance with the Directive in law and practice. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008, which is currently before the Oireachtas, includes provisions to revise the law on refugee and other protection procedures and this revision will be in compliance with the terms of the Directive.

Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC.

Part of this Directive is covered by Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. The remainder of it is to be transposed by the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2009 which was published on 9 July 2009 and is currently before Dáil Éireann.

Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing; and

Commission Directive 2006/70/EC of 1 August 2006 laying down implementing measures for Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the definition of politically exposed person and the technical criteria for simplified customer due diligence procedures and for exemption on grounds of a financial activity conducted on an occasional or very limited basis.

The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009, which will transpose both of these Directives, was published on 28 July, 2009 and is currently before Dáil Éireann.

There are three Directives which remain to be implemented but are not overdue. They are:

Directive 2008/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons;

Directive 2007/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 May 2007 on the placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles;

Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters.

Commissions of Investigation.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

46 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to receive the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46160/09]

The examination by the Commission of Investigation of the handling of child sex abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne is underway. I expect to receive the Commission's report in mid 2010.

Detention Centres.

Joan Burton

Question:

47 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the continuing unsuitable use of St. Patrick’s Institution to detain children, he will issue an order under Section 11(2) of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 to remove the current exclusion from the general power of the Ombudsman to receive individual complaints in relation to St. Patrick’s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46192/09]

St Patrick's Institution is currently subject to two different systems of independent inspection, the Inspector of Prisons and the Prison Visiting Committee.

The Inspector of Prisons is a statutory office holder and is independent in the performance of his functions. The current Inspector, Judge Michael Reilly, has taken a particular interest in the circumstances of under-18s in our system and has published specific inspection standards in relation to this age cohort.

The function of Prison Visiting Committees is to visit at frequent intervals and hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner. In 2008, the Visiting Committee in St Patrick's carried out in excess of 50 unannounced visits. They report to the Minister any problems observed or found by them in the prison. The Visiting Committee has free access, either collectively or individually, to every part of the prison.

I am satisfied that these independent systems provide sufficient mechanisms for receiving complaints.

That is not to say there is no role for the Ombudsman for Children in St Patrick's Institution. The Irish Prison Service is currently facilitating a consultation by staff of the Ombudsman's Office with inmates in St Patrick's Institution. This consultation process will run for a number of weeks and focuses on themes highlighted by the Inspector of Prisons. This reflects the function of the Ombudsman to promote children's rights, generally.

Garda Strength.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

48 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of An Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available broken down by full members, those who have attested but not yet concluded their training and those in training; the expected number that will be recruited during 2009; the anticipated number at each above category at the end of 2009; the number of members of the force that are expected to retire during 2009; the number that will be recruited in the first half of 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46184/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that on 31 October, the latest date for which completed returns are available, the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána was 14,634. This figure includes 1,098 probationer Gardaí who have been attested and will graduate over the next six months. On that date there were also 326 unattested students in training. A total of 200 students — 100 in February and 100 in May — were inducted into the Garda College in 2009.

In relation to retirements, a total of 826 members of the Force have retired or declared their intention to retire, either voluntarily or on age grounds, in 2009.

The moratorium on Public Service recruitment, introduced in May 2009, applies to Garda recruitment. I intend to keep the position under review during the course of 2010 in consultation with the Garda Commissioner and my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Commissions of Investigation.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

49 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take in view of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46317/09]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 16 of today's date.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Joe Costello

Question:

50 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if all sections of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act, 2009 have now been brought into operation; the number of occasions on which the powers contained in the Act have been used since its enactment; the number of prosecutions transferred to the Special Criminal Court under the provisions of Section 8 of the Act; the number of charges that have proffered under the powers contained in the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46190/09]

The Criminal Justice [Amendment] Act 2009 became law on 23 July 2009 and all sections of the Act are in operation. Section 8 of the Act schedules the organised crime offences specified for the purpose of the provisions under the Offences Against the State Act 1939 relating to the use of the Special Criminal Court.

This is a new piece of legislation aimed at tackling serious crimes and I can assure the House that An Garda Síochána have been actively using its provisions to target and disrupt organised criminal networks and their activities.

Given the relatively recent enactment of the legislation it is too early to collate meaningful statistics in relation to the operation of all of its provisions.

Given the serious nature of the offences dealt with under the legislation in question a full and thorough investigation of individuals and their activities must be conducted before charges can be brought against them.

While to date no person have been charged with offences dealt with under this legislation, a number of Garda Investigation Files are at various stages of completion for submission to the Law Officers for consideration as to what charges should be preferred.

I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána will continue to utilise all available legislation, including all the additional legislative provisions recently introduced by the Oireachtas relating to organised crime, to develop and implement strategies to continue to dismantle and disrupt criminal networks.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 42.
Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 6.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Costello

Question:

53 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in the Garda investigation regarding activities in a financial institution (details supplied); when he expects that a file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in view of a newspaper interview; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the public were demanding arrests and would not support the National Assets Management Agency otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46189/09]

The investigation, which commenced following a complaint from the Financial Regulator to the Garda authorities, is ongoing and involves a number of financial institutions.

This investigation is particularly complex, involving a vast amount of documentation and a large number of witnesses. Significant resources are being devoted to the investigation, including members of An Garda Síochána with extensive previous experience in the investigation of fraud related offences. The Garda investigation team, which is drawn principally from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, is complemented by experienced investigators from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, with which ongoing liaison is being maintained.

My concern is to see the investigation concluded as quickly as possible so that those who are responsible for any wrongdoing may be held properly accountable under the law. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the investigation is being progressed as expeditiously as possible with a view to submitting an investigation file to the law officers.

Departmental Reviews.

David Stanton

Question:

54 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the review of his Department’s sectoral plan has been completed; if the National Disability Authority will submit a report to his Department as the co-ordinating Government Department of the National Disability Strategy, with details of the six Departmental reviews of the sectoral plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46314/09]

My Department is not among the Departments under the Disability Act 2005 that were required to provide for the preparation of sectoral plans as defined in the Act. However, the position in relation to the reporting of progress made in the implementation of the sectoral plans under the Act of 2005 by the six Departments who are involved is that the reports are in the process of being finalised. My Department is arranging for a measure of co-ordination in the promulgation of the reports. Copies of the reports will in due course be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with the Act of 2005.

Prisoner Releases.

Willie Penrose

Question:

55 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners on temporary release at the latest date for which figures are available; the highest number on temporary release on any date during 2009; the average number of prisoners on temporary release during 2009; the steps he is taking to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46174/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that on 7 December 2009 there were 747 prisoners on temporary release. This represented 15.5% of the overall prisoner population for that day. In contrast, the equivalent percentage of prisoners on temporary release for the years 1994 to 1997 was as follows: 1994 — 22.2%, 1995 — 20.2%, 1996 — 17.9% and 1997 — 19.2%.

The figure for 7 December represents the highest number of prisoners on temporary release this year. The daily average figure to date in 2009 for prisoners on temporary release is 519 and this represents 13% of the daily population figure.

The Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that the Minister may approve the temporary release of a sentenced prisoner. This discretionary instrument assists in gradually preparing suitable offenders for release and in administering short sentences, and is an incentive to well-behaved prisoners.

Temporary release arrangements are an important mechanism for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned gradual re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence. Each case is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is a paramount consideration when decisions are made. In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a regular basis to the offender's Garda Station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Gardaí.

As the Deputy will appreciate the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts into its custody and do not have the option of refusing committals. It is the case that there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 379. This represents a 10% rise in the number in custody.

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,670 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise and Castlerea prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

Current projects will see a further 250 prison spaces provided in the short term by means of:

A new block in Wheatfield Prison which will accommodate approximately 200 prisoners.

The re-opening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy which will provide an additional 50 spaces.

In addition, work is expected to commence in 2010 on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces.

By contrast, when the Deputy's Party was last in power no prison places were constructed.

The additional prison spaces which these new developments will provide should assist the Irish Prison Service in reducing the rate of prisoners on temporary release in the future.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 42.

Departmental Expenditure.

Mary Upton

Question:

57 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the Estimates for his Department for 2010. [46162/09]

I refer the Deputy to my press release of 9th December, 2009 in relation to the Estimates for 2010 for the Justice Sector. I do not propose outlining again all of the different elements of the estimates package. However for the benefit of the Deputy I will set out the main points. Despite the difficult economic backdrop to the framing of the estimates for 2010, the Justice Sector still has a gross budget of €2.45 billion available next year, €430.3 million for the Justice, Equality and Law Reform Vote, €1.48 billion for An Garda Síochána, €352.3m is for Prisons; €147 million is for Courts and €39 million for the Property Registration Authority. This gives me the scope to continue to prioritise resources in front line services, involved in the fight against crime.

The budget provides for continued investment of €29 million in the provision of additional prison spaces and equipment; a combined total of €54 million for Garda ICT and Communications expenditure and almost €9 million for new capital investment in the Forensic Science and State Pathology facilities.

The provision also includes a once-off VAT related capital payment in respect of the Criminal Courts Complex and €21 million in respect of the annual repayments for this new criminal justice facility.

In conclusion, while in common with all Departments at this time, the allocations available for 2010 are reduced from those of recent years I am confident that there is considerable scope with tight budget management and prioritisation of resources to effectively meet the challenges facing the Justice Sector in 2010.

Garda Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

58 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the Garda investigation into matters arising from the report of the commission of investigation into the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46159/09]

Following publication of the report, the Garda Commissioner asked Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney to examine its findings relating to the handling of complaints and investigations by both Church and State authorities, to carry out such investigations and inquiries as he deems appropriate and to make a report to him with his recommendations. The Commissioner will then consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to what issues arise in the context of criminal liability.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Assistant Commissioner has commenced his examination of the report but that it is at this stage too early to give a precise date for its completion. The Commissioner has directed that the investigation be concluded as early as possible.

Garda Deployment.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

59 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the creation of 900 civilian posts within the Garda has resulted in the release of only 144 Garda personnel for front line policing duties as highlighted in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46188/09]

An effective police civilianisation programme should never be confined to pure "one for one" replacement of individual Gardaí with civilians — it must necessarily take a number of forms. Firstly, there is the replacement of sworn members, who are engaged in exclusively clerical, administrative or technical duties, with civilian staff. Secondly, and very importantly, there is the use of civilian support which allows sworn members who would otherwise have to devote a huge part of their working day to performing administrative duties to focus exclusively on front-line policing duties. Thirdly, there is the recruitment of civilians to perform completely new or expanded administrative, managerial and professional support roles in An Garda Síochána, for example as crime analysts or IT specialists.

On this account, and because of the significant restructuring of roles, functions and business areas that has taken place at all levels of An Garda Síochána in recent years, it is very difficult to quantify the exact number of posts which were occupied by sworn members but which today are held by civilians. I can however confirm that since 2003 the number of civilians in An Garda Síochána has risen to approximately 2,115 whole time equivalents. This is still a low number compared to similar police services in other jurisdictions. Civilian staff are now involved in the provision of vital support services in a wide range of administrative, professional, technical and industrial areas, including Human Resources, Training & Development, IT and Telecommunications, Finance and Procurement, Internal Audit, Communications, research and analysis, accommodation and fleet management, scene-of-crime support and medical services. In addition, a number of essential operational support areas are now wholly or largely staffed by civilian staff, such as the Central Vetting Unit and the Fixed Charge Processing Office in Thurles and the Garda Information Services Centre which is based in Castlebar. The Garda Síochána Analysis Service, to which I referred earlier, is staffed by qualified and highly trained civilian analysts. Civilian Telecommunications Technicians provide front-line support to the whole of the Garda organisation across a range of technologies and services.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 8.

Drug Seizures.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

61 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity and values of seizures of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and other drugs within the State during 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; the proportion of the overall flow of drugs into here believed to be represented by these seizures; the new initiatives he is planning to control the flow of illegal drugs into here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46181/09]

I set out below a tabular statement giving the latest available information in relation to drug seizures for 2007, 2008 and this year to date (up to 6th December 2009).

Due to the covert nature of the activity, it is not possible to give a reliable estimate of the proportion of drugs coming into the country that these figures represent.

Drugs and organised crime have been prioritised by An Garda Síochána as a core focus for 2009, through the Garda Commissioner's Policing Plan, 2009, which reflects Government strategies contained in the National Drugs Strategy.

Through ongoing specific initiatives and intelligence-led operations, An Garda Síochána continues to seize substantial quantities of illegal drugs and identify those involved in the importation, distribution, sale and supply of illegal drugs.

In addition to the officers of the Force specifically assigned to the drugs issue who are attached to the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Divisional Drug Units, officers from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau all assist in our overall law enforcement response to drug trafficking and drug dealing. In addition, the Gardaí work closely with Customs and the Naval Service under the umbrella of the Joint Task Force on Drugs as well as with their international colleagues in tackling the problem.

Recent and ongoing initiatives include: the operation of the Organised Crime Unit on a permanent capacity, ongoing Irish involvement in the work of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre in Lisbon, the ring-fencing of resources this year for Operation Anvil.

Furthermore, as the Deputy will know, I have in recent times introduced an extensive suite of criminal justice legislation targeted at those engaged in serious crime (including drug trafficking) including the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act, the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act and the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

However, it is clear that we cannot tackle the problem of drug misuse through law enforcement measures alone. As set out in the Government's new National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009 to 2016, it is vital to address the problem in a co-ordinated way across the pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research.

In this context, I can assure the House that my Department, and all the agencies under its aegis, remain fully committed to this approach and to the implementation of the Strategy. The Garda authorities advise that the following tables show the quantities of drugs seized in 2007, 2008 and up to 6th December, 2009, on the basis of cases already reported to the Forensic Science Laboratory.

2009: Drug Seizures (up to 6th December 2009)

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis*

517,297 gms

6,207,564

Cannabis Resin

1,476,249.3 gms

8,857,496

Heroin

62,981.6 gms

9,447,240

Cocaine

73,126.3 gms

5,118,841

Ecstasy

18,412 tablets & 3,207.2 gms

253,680

Amphetamine

36,198.4 gms & 6 tablets

543,006

Total Value

30,427,827

*Statistics provided for 2009 are operational, provisional and liable to change.

2008 : Drug seizures

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

1,017,143.9 gms

2,034,288

Cannabis Resin

5,370,789.1 gms

37,595,524

Heroin

212,483.8 gms

42,496,760

Cocaine

1,691,170.3 gms

118,381,921

Ecstasy

114,331 tablets & 1,199.5 gms

1,203,285

Amphetamine

11,794.7 gms, 1698 tablets

202,391

Total Value

201,914,169

2007: Drug seizures

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

779,310.871 grams

1,558,622

Cannabis Resin

1,279,697.544 grams

8,957,883

Heroin

148,520 grams

29,704,000

Cocaine

1,768,990.933 grams

123,829,365

Ecstasy

279,017 tablets, 17,375.362 grams

3,658,938

Amphetamine

58,223 grams, 10,471 tablets

1,030,410

Total Value

168,739,218

Asylum Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

62 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum applications which have been deemed withdrawn in each year from 2000 to date in 2009, due to their failure to inform the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of their change of address; the number of such persons who have been issued with an intention to deport notification; the number deported; the number in each category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46122/09]

The Immigration Act 2003, which was commenced on the 15th September 2003, contained a number of key changes to the Refugee Act, 1996 which enabled the processing of asylum applications to be speeded up and enhanced our ability to deal with abusive applications. These changes included the imposition on applicants of a clear statutory duty to actively pursue their asylum applications and co-operate at all times with the processing agencies or face having their applications deemed withdrawn.

The most common reasons for an application to be deemed withdrawn are where an applicant fails to attend for an interview at the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) without reasonable cause; an applicant fails to co-operate with the Refugee Applications Commissioner after having lodged his or her application; or an applicant fails to notify the Commissioner of his or her postal address or change of address.

Statistics are not maintained in a way which distinguishes between applications deemed withdrawn on the basis of applicants failing to notify the Refugee Applications Commissioner of their postal address or change of address and applications deemed withdrawn for other reasons. However, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) is currently reviewing the manner in which statistical information is being recorded and in that context it may be possible in the future to provide details in relation to the number of asylum applications deemed withdrawn due to the applicant's failure to inform the ORAC of their change of address.

The number of asylum applications deemed to be withdrawn in the period from 2000 to end of November 2009 are set out in table 1 below (asylum applications deemed to be withdrawn where the application was transferred to another Dublin Convention state are provided separately as follows).

Table 1 — Asylum applications deemed withdrawn 2000-2009 (30/11) (excluding asylum applications where the application was transferred to another Dublin Convention state)

Year

Asylum applications deemed withdrawn

2003

402

2004

1,734

2005

802

2006

477

2007

1,777

2008

632

2009 (30/11)

472

Where an asylum application is deemed to be withdrawn the applicant is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act, 1999. A person served with a notice of intent to deport is afforded certain options, viz. to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of a Deportation Order; to make an application for subsidiary protection; or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why a Deportation Order should not be made and why temporary leave to remain in the State be granted instead.

Statistics are not maintained in a way which distinguishes between deportations effected arising from applications deemed to be withdrawn and other deportations. The overall number of deportations issued and effected in the period from 2000 to end of November 2009 is set out in Table 2 as follows.

Table 2 — Deportation Orders Issued and Effected 2003-2009 (30/11)

Year

All Deportation orders issued*

All Deportation orders effected*

2003

1,977

591

2004

2,091

598

2005

2,186

395

2006

1,371

301

2007

400

139

2008

669

161

2009 (30/11)

924

244

*Including failed asylum applicants.

Section 22(8) of the Refugee Act (as amended), provides that where an asylum application has been transferred to another Convention country for examination or to a safe third country, the application shall be deemed to be withdrawn; see figures in Table 3 as follows.

Table 3 — Transfer Orders Effected 2003-2009 (30/11)

Year

No. of asylum applications transferred to Convention countries

2003

0

2004

64

2005

209

2006

294

2007

225

2008

271

2009 (30/11)

232

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 22.

Prison Building Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

64 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made over recent months on the Thornton Hall project, County Dublin; if consideration has been given to rethink the project in favour of a more feasible smaller institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46168/09]

The new prison campus at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin is proceeding on a phased basis with phase one comprising essential preliminary works required for the prison development. These preliminary works include the dedicated access route, the perimeter wall and related services. The preparation of the tender documentation as well as the detailed scope of work for the phase one work is at an advanced stage. It is anticipated that the preliminary works tender documentation for the construction of the access road will be issued to the market in the first quarter of the New Year.

The National Development Finance Agency and the Irish Prison Service has commenced the procurement process for technical advisers for the new project. A contract notice to procure these services was published last month in accordance with EU and National procedures. I am advised that an appointment from this competition is expected in the second quarter of 2010. As I have indicated to the House before, the revised design of the new prison campus at Thornton Hall must protect the taxpayers' interest, be operationally efficient in its design and provide good quality regime focussed accommodation for prisoners.

The need to replace Mountjoy Prison has been well documented. The new prison campus at Thornton will enable the Irish Prison Service to deliver the range of rehabilitation programmes not currently possible at Mountjoy Prison as well as providing additional prisoner spaces to cater for the increased number of people being committed to prison. The revised design of the new prison campus at Thornton Hall will have regard to developments in prison design both here and abroad.

The new prison campus at Thornton Hall, County Dublin will have a design capacity of 1,400 with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 offenders in a range of security settings.

Garda Equipment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

65 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the powers to establish full interoperability of the radio communication systems between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland have been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46123/09]

On 29th April 2002, the Irish and British Governments signed an Agreement on Police Co-operation providing a framework for the implementation of certain Patten recommendations including the establishment and enhancing of fast, effective and reliable communication links between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) through improved radio communications and compatible Information Technology systems.

The National Digital Radio Service, which is currently being rolled out to members of the Garda Síochána, will enable such enhanced interoperability for radio communications with the PSNI. Rollout of the service is ongoing and is being implemented on a Garda Region by Region basis. As an interim measure, certain radio communications facilities are being put in place with the PSNI and further enhancement of radio communication interoperability will take place when nationwide rollout of the digital radio service, particularly in the Northern Region, is achieved.

Personal Debt.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

66 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will bring forward legislative proposals to change the law on debt enforcement arising from his speech to a Law Reform Commission conference on debt on 18 November 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46172/09]

The Government is committed to implementing substantial reform of the system, legal and administrative, as it affects those in personal debt. The reform commitment is based on the work of the Law Reform Commission who having published its Consultation Paper entitled "Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement", intends to finalise its recommendations as a matter of priority. To date, the Commission has made a total of 123 provisional recommendations that include: replacement of legislation on enforcement of debt, new insolvency regulation laws, regulation of debt collectors and the basis for an out of court settlement approach as soon as possible.

I can inform the House that the Government has approved the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Working Group on Personal Debt Management and Enforcement to

(a) consider the commitment under Helping those in Debt envisaged in the revised Programme for Government;

(b) agree a plan for implementation where appropriate of the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission;

(c) assist in the development of a coherent and comprehensive administrative and legislative response to the issues arising; and

(d) determine those measures, administrative and legislative, that can be implemented in a cost efficient manner, for early effective results.

The Deputy will recall that, with the co-operation of the House, I recently promoted to enactment the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009. I brought this forward following a High Court judgment earlier this year, and it provides that certain safeguards will apply to the provisions under which a court may hear an application or grant an imprisonment order against a debtor who has failed to comply with an instalment order. The Act ensures that the court will not imprison the debtor unless it is satisfied that he has the means to pay and may also postpone the execution of an imprisonment order until such time as it thinks just. In addition, the court will inform a debtor of the risk of imprisonment and of his entitlement to apply for legal aid. The Act gives the court a clear power to vary the terms of an order to pay by instalments or alternatively to refer the parties for mediation.

Joint Policing Committees.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

67 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to amend the legislation establishing the joint policing committees; the locations at which joint policing committees are operating; if he is satisfied with the performance of these policing committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46167/09]

Joint Policing Committees are provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Their purpose is to provide a forum where An Garda Síochána and the local authority — the two organisations which make the most significant contribution to preventing and tackling crime in a specific area — can come together, with the participation of members of the Oireachtas and community and voluntary interests, on matters affecting the area.

During 2006 and 2007, Committees were established in 29 local authority areas in a pilot phase, prior to extending them to all 114 county, city and town council areas. The guidelines under which these operated were amended in the light of the experience gained in their operation. On 24 September, 2008 I launched, with my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the amended guidelines providing for the establishment of Committees in all 114 local authority areas by the relevant local authorities and the Garda Commissioner. I have no plans to amend the terms under which Committees operate at the present time. It should be noted that each Committee is required to submit an annual report of its activities and this will support the ongoing consideration of the operation of Joint Policing Committees by my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Committees have been established in 96 local authority areas, representing 84% of the total. The process of establishing a Committee can take some time since it is necessary to select Committee members from the elected local authority members, Oireachtas members who have expressed an interest in becoming members and the community and voluntary sector in accordance with the procedures set out in the guidelines and local arrangements. Furthermore, Committees already established had to be reconstituted following the local elections last June.

The Garda Commissioner and I attach importance to the Committees and the constructive role they are playing in preventing and tackling crime in partnership.

Company Closures.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

68 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans submitted by her to the European Commission on 25 September 2009; the number of former employees of a company (details supplied) in County Waterford that are included; the ancillary enterprises that are included in the submission; the number of persons in the case of each ancillary industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46400/09]

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund application in question contains proposals for the co-financing of a range of measures including occupational guidance, training, upskilling, entrepreneurship and educational opportunities for a total of 653 workers made redundant at the Waterford Crystal plant in Kilbarry, Waterford and at the three ancillary enterprises of Thomas Fennell Engineering, RPS Engineering Services and Abbey Electric.

As the application is currently in inter-service consultation within the European Commission and will subsequently be considered by the College of Commissioners, the European Council and the European Parliament in due course, it is not considered appropriate to divulge its detailed contents at this time.

Redundancy Payments.

David Stanton

Question:

69 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding an RP50 form in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; when she expects this situation to be resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46429/09]

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.

I can confirm that my Department received a statutory lump sum application for the individual concerned on 25 August, 2009 claiming inability to pay on behalf of the employer. I understand that a Liquidator has been appointed to the company in question and that a number of applications, including that of the individual in question, await processing.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing rebate applications submitted by post from March 2009 and those filed on-line from April 2009, so that the waiting time is approximately 8 to 9 months depending on the manner of filing the application. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees such as in this instance, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from June 2009.

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 eleven months of 2009 is 73,024. This figure 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 my Department 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 52.5. 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.

Research Funding.

Seán Barrett

Question:

70 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the establishment of a centre at which persons with innovative ideas could have them researched and tested for possible feasibility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46451/09]

The Government's approach in this regard is to attempt to utilize the entire higher education research sector as such a test bed for innovative ideas. The Government has invested heavily in recent years through Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and PRTLI to develop facilities and supports within the third-level sector to encourage scientists and engineers to develop business ideas.

A network of Incubation Centres are currently provided in Institutes of Technology and Universities, funded through Enterprise Ireland, which proved a network of facilities designed to help emerging entrepreneurs in the effort to develop new businesses. The Incubation Centres include ‘hot desks' where an individual can work on an idea at very modest cost. Also, the Enterprise Platform Programme is operated by the Institutes of Technology and is designed to provide support through a structured programme of lectures and mentoring to allow entrepreneurs with potential to develop business plans and grow their companies quickly.

Enterprise Ireland operates a range of supports to help entrepreneurs and companies engage with third level researchers to undertake collaborative research for the benefit of the company. Companies can be supported to undertake individual research projects via the Innovation Partnerships programme. On a smaller scale, firms can be supported by means of €5000 Innovation Voucher, whereby companies can identify a specific idea or business problem and seek solutions from a relevant research group in a third level institution. Larger collaborative research projects involving groups of companies are also supported. Industry Led Research programmes and the new EI/IDA Competence Centre initiative allow industry groups to set a commercially valuable research agenda which academics in the higher education sector deliver on.

Where companies may have the necessary in-company capabilities to explore new ideas but may require additional support in order to undertake the research, feasibility support is provided under Enterprise Ireland's R&D Fund.

The establishment of another centre with the necessary resources and in-house cross sectoral competencies to research and investigate feasibilities across a potentially vast breath of ideas would be prohibitively costly to implement, especially in the current budgetary situation.

Redundancy Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

71 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their redundancy payment. [46461/09]

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.

I can confirm that my Department received a statutory lump sum application for the individual concerned on 26 November, 2009 claiming inability to pay on behalf of the employer. I understand that a Liquidator has been appointed to the company in question and that the claim awaits processing.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing rebate applications submitted by post from March 2009 and those filed on-line from April 2009, so that the waiting time is approximately 8 to 9 months depending on the manner of filing the application. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees such as in this instance, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from June 2009.

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 eleven months of 2009 is 73,024. This figure 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 my Department 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 52.5. 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.

Sean Fleming

Question:

72 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a redundancy payment will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46467/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that according to the records in the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department, no redundancy claim exists in respect of the individual in question.

I am advised that the individual lodged a claim with the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) on 24 September 2009 to seek a determination establishing the employee's right and entitlement to redundancy against his former employer. If a positive determination is given by the EAT in this case, my Department will be able to make payment directly to the employee concerned shortly thereafter.

I understand however that in relation to the area concerned in the case of this individual, there is currently a 43 week waiting period for EAT hearings. Given this backlog of cases pending, it is estimated that a hearing in this case should take place in July 2010.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body under the aegis of my Department. Secretarial and administrative support is provided by Departmental staff. I understand that the number of claims to the Tribunal up to November 2009, compared with the same period last year, has doubled. Additional administrative resources have been allocated to the Tribunal, both last year and this year, to help it process claims. I will be keeping the matter under review and will take further action if possible within the constraints which exist in relation to resources.

National Asset Management Agency.

Michael McGrath

Question:

73 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a matter (details supplied) regarding the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009. [46433/09]

NAMA's commercial mandate is to obtain the best achievable financial return on the assets acquired by it. I am advised by the interim NAMA management that in a scenario such as outlined NAMA has the ability to give its agreement to security sharing for any additional advances if it makes commercial sense to do so. This is a commercial decision for NAMA and any such decision will depend on contractual terms.

Michael McGrath

Question:

74 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to a matter (details supplied) regarding the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009. [46434/09]

NAMA's commercial mandate is to obtain the best achievable financial return on the assets acquired by it. I am advised by the interim NAMA management that in a scenario such as outlined the position will depend on the terms of the security. These are commercial and legal decisions for NAMA and any such decisions will depend on the relevant contracts.

Tax Code.

Tom Hayes

Question:

75 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance his views on a policy for the Revenue Commissioners of requiring an invoice for registering an imported used tractor purchased in Northern Ireland or in Great Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46442/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an invoice for the purchase of the vehicle must be produced at the time of registration in the State of all imported means of transport, including used tractors purchased in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. The production of the invoice is necessary in order to ensure compliance with the Value-Added Tax law governing the importation of means of transport.

Tom Hayes

Question:

76 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if the wear and tear allowances for agricultural vehicles will be increased from 12.5% to 40%, as is the case for taxis, in view of the fact that this would improve vehicles being used on farms and would encourage investment in the best technology for our agricultural sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46443/09]

A wear and tear allowance is available to persons who incur capital expenditure on the provision of machinery or plant for the purposes of a trade. For expenditure incurred on or after 4 December 2002, wear and tear allowances are granted on a straight-line basis over 8 years at the rate of 12.5 per cent per annum of the actual cost of the machinery or plant. This rate applies for both general machinery and plant and road vehicles. However, for taxis and cars provided for short-term hire to the public, the rate of the wear and tear allowance is 40% per annum on a reducing balance basis. This higher rate recognises the more rapid depreciation in the value of vehicles in use for these purposes.

Tom Hayes

Question:

77 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if the negative impact of a VAT margin scheme on the agricultural vehicle sector has been analysed; the special arrangements that will be made for this sector; if the possible job losses brought about by introducing this scheme to the agricultural vehicle industry has been assessed. [46444/09]

A VAT Margin Scheme is being introduced with effect from 1 January 2010 in respect of second-hand means of transport and agricultural machinery. The move to the Margin Scheme was announced on 14 September 2009.

Under the Margin Scheme, dealers will account for VAT on their profit margin, that is, on the difference between the cost of acquiring the means of transport and agricultural machinery and its reselling price. This will apply to all second-hand means of transport and agricultural machinery sold on or after 1 January 2010.

Currently, all EU Member States apply the Margin Scheme to second-hand vehicles with the exception of Ireland and Denmark. When the Margin Scheme was introduced under the EU VAT Directive in 1994, Ireland, following strong representations from the motor industry, negotiated a derogation in the form of the current Special Scheme, which is also provided for under the VAT Directive. Introducing the VAT Margin Scheme will bring Ireland into line with the vast majority of other Member States.

As regards any impact on the agricultural vehicle sector due to the introduction of the scheme, appropriate transitional arrangements are being introduced to take account of the fact that the move to the Margin Scheme will mean that dealers will no longer be able to reclaim or deduct the amount of VAT that under the Special Scheme is taken to be included in the price of the second-hand vehicle or agricultural machinery at the time of its acquisition by the dealer.

Pending the introduction of the Margin Scheme, second-hand vehicles or agricultural machinery acquired by dealers before 1 January 2010 and resold after 1 July 2009 will be taxed on their resale price. In effect this means that there will be no clawback of VAT in the case where such vehicles vehicle or agricultural machinery are sold at a loss. In addition, for second-hand vehicles or agricultural machinery purchased in the first six months of 2010, dealers will be entitled to claim limited VAT relief on the purchase of these second-hand vehicles or machinery at a reducing scale.

Flood Relief.

Michael Creed

Question:

78 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he will make arrangements for the Office of Public Works to organise a cleaning of the river bank and river bed downstream of Ballingeary village, County Cork, at the ford, in order to prevent recurrence of recent flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46458/09]

Given the unprecedented magnitude of the rainfall in recent weeks, it is the expert opinion of the Office of Public Works that cleaning of the river bank and bed downstream of Ballingeary would not have prevented the flooding that occurred in the town.

The OPW now provides funding to Local Authorities for localised minor flood mitigation works, subject to specific economic and environmental criteria. It would be open to Cork County Council to put forward proposals for mitigation works to address the problem in Ballingeary.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

79 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has tax entitlements for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46476/09]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are awaiting a completed return of income for 2007 from the person concerned. On receipt of that return the liability will be reviewed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

80 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if and when charitable tax exemption under section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46502/09]

A tax exemption for charities is available under section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act (TCA) 1997. In order to avail of this exemption a body or trust must be established for charitable purposes only and must also apply all of its income for charitable purposes. The administration of this scheme is the responsibility of the Revenue Commissioners.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they received an application for charitable tax exemption, signed by the person concerned, in November 2007. Revenue sought certain additional information in support of the application but despite several requests from Revenue, the requested information has not been provided.

Until such time as the information requested is provided, the Revenue Commissioners are not in a position to make a final decision on whether or not the body in question meets the necessary criteria for a charitable tax exemption.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

81 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to allow the recently introduced non private principal residence levy of €200 to be assessed as a business cost or expense for an organisation (details supplied); if this business expense will be tax deductible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46541/09]

I refer to Parliamentary Question 62 which I answered on 19th November 2009. Under the provisions of the Tax Acts, a person in receipt of rental income is assessed to income tax on the net amount of the rents received (i.e. the gross rents less allowable expenses incurred in earning those rents). In computing the net amount of the rents received, only those deductions that are specified in section 97(2) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 are allowable. The main deductible expenses are:

Any rent payable by the landlord in the case of a sub-lease;

The cost to the landlord of any goods provided or services rendered to a tenant;

The cost of maintenance, repairs, insurance and management of the property;

Interest on borrowed money used to purchase, improve or repair the property;

Payment of local authority rates in the case of rateable properties used for commercial purposes.

As payment of the local authority charge for residential properties is not included on the list of allowable deductions, it is not an allowable expense in computing taxable rental income. Any proposal to amend the deductions specified in section 97 (2) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 will be considered as part of the ongoing budgetary process.

Bank Levies.

Frank Feighan

Question:

82 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the decision of a bank (details supplied) to impose premium levies on borrowings on thousands of businesses here which will result in hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs losses. [46547/09]

As I have said previously the cost of credit is a matter determined by financial markets. The Deputy will appreciate that I have an "arms-length" relationship with the named covered institution. Accordingly, it is a matter for that institution to determine its lending policy and charges subject to any necessary regulatory approval.

Medical Cards.

Ulick Burke

Question:

83 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46389/09]

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

Hospital Staff.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

84 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a podiatrist available for diabetes patients at a hospital (details supplied) in County Offaly; if so, if this podiatrist is linked to the local diabetes service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46392/09]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

85 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [46395/09]

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 to the Deputy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

86 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are no clinical services available for a child (details supplied) in Dublin 24; her plans to address the needs of this child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46397/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

87 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [46401/09]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Jack Wall

Question:

88 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 126 of 3 December 2009, if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be facilitated at another hospital to have their operation under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46403/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the scheduling of hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant and hospital concerned and is determined solely on the basis of medical priority. The question of the treatment appropriate to the circumstances of each individual patient is a matter of clinical responsibility over which I have no control. The scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is in each case determined on the basis of clinical need. Therefore, should the general practitioner consider that this person's condition warrants an earlier appointment, then he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved.

Hospital Services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

89 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the future plans for the Tallaght Hospital breast care unit, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46406/09]

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

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

90 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hip replacement operations that took place at a hospital (details supplied) in County Dublin from January 2009 to June 2009; the projected number for same for July to December 2009; the work consultants that are deployed to when hip replacements are not being performed; the person who is responsible for managing such budgets in order to keep consultants working throughout the year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46417/09]

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

Hospital Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

91 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of employees in the management, administrative and clerical section of Bantry General Hospital, County Cork; the number of nurses and doctors employed in this hospital. [46423/09]

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

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

92 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the position regarding the postponement of surgery in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [46425/09]

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

Patient Private Property Fund.

Denis Naughten

Question:

93 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 158 of 15 October 2009, the value of payments made to date; the number of payments which have been issued; when repayments will be made in the western region and in the remaining regions; the timetable for the completion of this process and the reclaim procedure for the next of kin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46430/09]

The task of calculating and preparing payments of interest previously retained on invested patient private property funds by the HSE is continuing. The first payments of interest have now been made in the HSE South in respect of funds invested during 2005. To date interest of €60,900 in total was distributed to 1,120 clients. It is envisaged that payments to clients in the HSE West region will commence in early 2010 and payments to clients in the remaining regions will also commence later in 2010.

The HSE is identifying the amount of retained interest due in each individual case and the recipient of each payment from records retained at each of the local Care Centres. There is no requirement for clients or next of kin to submit an application to receive a payment of retained interest.

Health Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

94 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposal to develop a primary care centre at a location (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46459/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received documentation appertaining to extension, improvement or refurbishment works at a health centre (details supplied) in County Kildare; the full extent of works required; when her attention was drawn to this requirement; when it is expected to respond to such requests in view of the situation prevailing at present; if she will enter into dialogue with the local general practitioner and health centre staff with a view to expediting the process having particular regard to the population increase in the area and that the current facilities were provided to meet the existing population demands 40 years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46509/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 103 together.

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

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

95 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when the medical card renewal application for persons (details supplied) in County Mayo will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46460/09]

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

Mary Upton

Question:

96 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding chiropody charges to the holders of medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46472/09]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

97 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a medical card has not been renewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [46487/09]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

98 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [46488/09]

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

Child Protection.

Alan Shatter

Question:

99 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the budget allocated for child protection in 2006, 2007 and 2008; the amount of this budget spent in each of these years by the Health Service Executive and other organisations mandated to carry out work in regard to it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46493/09]

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

Departmental Bodies.

Alan Shatter

Question:

100 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of meetings of the national youth work advisory committee held in 2009; the criteria for membership of this body; the remuneration its members receive either by way of salary or expenses; if she will provide minutes of these meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46494/09]

The National Youth Work Advisory Committee met on five occasions in 2009. The current Committee was appointed by the Minister for Education and Science in 2007 for a period of five years under Sections 17 and 18 of the Youth Work Act, 2001 and comprises 32 members with equal representation from the voluntary youth work sector and statutory agencies. In addition, a Chairperson was appointed by the Minister for Education and Science. The Deputy's request for minutes of Committee meetings in 2009 has been forwarded to the Chairperson. The Schedule of the Act provides that members are entitled to be remunerated for travelling and subsistence expenses incurred. A total of €2,930.51 was provided to members in this regard in 2009.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

101 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an independent assessment of need under the Disability Act 2005 will be undertaken in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46507/09]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46508/09]

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

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 94.

Marine Accidents.

Brendan Kenneally

Question:

104 Deputy Brendan Kenneally asked the Minister for Transport when a report into the sinking of a boat (details supplied) will be concluded and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46418/09]

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), in the exercise of its function, is independent from me as Minister for Transport.

I have been given to understand that the MCIB investigation is advancing with the aim of finding out what may have caused this accident. Accordingly, it is inappropriate for me to comment on their investigation at this time

Light Rail Project.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

105 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport the final actual costs per kilometre to build the Luas in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46449/09]

I am informed by the Railway Procurement Agency that the cost per kilometre of providing the original Red and Green Luas lines was approximately €30 million.

Mobile Phones In Prisons.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

106 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in installing mobile phone signal blocking technology in prisons here. [46448/09]

In a prisons context, mobile phones are viewed as highly valuable commodities which can assist in illegal activity and eliminating their supply is one of the major challenges facing prisons worldwide.

The Irish Prison Service is dealing with this problem through a multifaceted approach which incorporates measures to prevent the smuggling of mobile phones into prisons, search and find operations aimed at locating and removing phones from within the prisons and the installation of mobile phone blocking technology.

Airport style scanners and x-ray machines are now in operation at the entrances of all closed prisons (excluding the Training Unit and Arbour Hill). Cell and area searches for contraband such as mobile phones take place in all prisons on a daily basis. These include random, targeted and intelligence led searches. These searches have been particularly effective and local intelligence indicates that the availability of mobile phones has decreased across the prison system.

In relation to mobile phone inhibition, the Irish Prison Service is currently undertaking trials of three different types of mobile phone inhibition systems at 3 separate locations namely Mountjoy and Limerick prisons and the Midlands / Portlaoise Prison Complex.

All three systems are currently undergoing a rigorous evaluation process which includes external independent analysis. The systems in Midlands, Mountjoy and Limerick Prisons are still live and working with varying degrees of success. The inhibition system at Portlaoise is still under development involving refinement of software which is unique and site specific.

All three trials will continue. No decision has been made by the Irish Prison Service to plump for any particular mobile phone inhibition provider or technology.

Security of the Elderly.

Jack Wall

Question:

107 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community alert schemes in County Kildare; the number nationally; his plans to develop these schemes in view of the role they play in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41632/09]

The Community Alert Programme is a community-based initiative in rural communities, set up in 1985 by Muintir na Tíre in association with the Garda authorities. The Programme is dedicated in particular to improving the quality of life of vulnerable people in rural communities, especially the elderly, by:

crime prevention

neighbourliness and self-reliance

general community safety and well-being

accident prevention

promotion of personal safety, and

awareness of social inclusion.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are 1,351 Community Alert schemes in operation throughout the country. I am also informed that there are currently 51 schemes in operation in County Kildare.

Community Alert Schemes operate under a strategy which covers the period 2007 to 2011 and which was launched by the then Minister in October 2007. The strategy was developed following a root and branch review of the programme by a sub committee of the Community Alert Management Committee, which consisted of representatives of Muintir na Tíre, An Garda Síochána and Development Officers. The review took account of the social and demographic changes that have taken place since 1985.

In recent years my Department has provided funding to Muintir na Tíre for the Community Alert Programme of €150,000 in 2004, €120,000 in 2005, €175,000 in 2006, €200,000 in 2007, €200,000 in 2008 and €200,000 in 2009. Funding is also provided by the Health Service Executive.

The funding covered the costs associated with running the Programme, including salaries, travel and subsistence, staff training and administration. Funding is not provided directly by my Department to schemes, but resource material, including booklets, stickers and survey and related material, is provided by An Garda Síochána, in addition to advice.

Personal Debt.

Joan Burton

Question:

108 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has read the Law Reform Commission’s recent report and recommendation on debt enforcement; if and when he intends to implement these recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44876/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

109 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposals envisaged under the revised programme for Government to help those in debt; if he will elaborate on proposals to introduce personal insolvency regulations allowing for a statutory non-court based debt settlement system; when he expects these new regulations to come into force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44882/09]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

118 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the commitment to create a new system of personal insolvency regulations allowing for a statutory non-court-based debt settlement system in view of the fact that the courts are still being used in instances of personal debt resulting in the jailing of debtors; the action he proposes to take to suspend the use of the courts and of prison sentences as a sanction in personal debt cases, pending the introduction of the promised new method of dealing with personal debt or insolvency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46484/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 109 and 118.

The Government is committed to implementing substantial reform of the system, legal and administrative, as it affects those in personal debt. The reform commitment is based on the work of the Law Reform Commission who having published its Consultation Paper entitled "Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement", intends to finalise its recommendations as a matter of priority. To date, the Commission has made a total of 123 provisional recommendations that include: replacement of legislation on enforcement of debt, new insolvency regulation laws, regulation of debt collectors and the basis for an out of court settlement approach as soon as possible.

I can inform the House that the Government has approved the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Working Group on Personal Debt Management and Enforcement to

(a) consider the commitment under "Helping those in Debt" envisaged in the revised Programme for Government;

(b) agree a plan for implementation where appropriate of the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission;

(c) assist in the development of a coherent and comprehensive administrative and legislative response to the issues arising; and

(d) determine those measures, administrative and legislative, that can be implemented in a cost efficient manner, for early effective results.

The Deputies will recall that, with the cooperation of the House, I recently promoted to enactment the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009. I brought this forward following a High Court judgment earlier this year, and it provides that certain safeguards will apply to the provisions under which a court may hear an application or grant an imprisonment order against a debtor who has failed to comply with an instalment order. The Act ensures that the court will not imprison the debtor unless it is satisfied that he has the means to pay and may also postpone the execution of an imprisonment order until such time as it thinks just. In addition, the court will inform a debtor of the risk of imprisonment and of his entitlement to apply for legal aid. The Act gives the court a clear power to vary the terms of an order to pay by instalments or alternatively to refer the parties for mediation.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

110 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the recent signing of the contract with a company (details supplied) to provide 6,000 hours per month of speed camera monitoring as was mandated to occur by the second quarter of 2008 under Action 26 of the Road Safety Strategy 2007 to 2012; the date for the full roll out of the national speed camera programme; the reason there has been a delay in signing this contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45865/09]

Following a tender and evaluation process, the contract for an outsourced safety camera network was signed by the Garda Commissioner and me with the preferred service provider on 20 November. As this is the first contract of its kind where enforcement activity currently carried out by An Garda Síochána is to be outsourced to a service provider, the discussions were detailed and took some time. Furthermore, the cost and value for money aspects of the project had to be carefully examined, against the background of the financial resources available to the Government.

Following the selection of the preferred bidder, one of the unsuccessful tenderers requested clarification. The issues raised were addressed, but it took a certain amount of time to do so.

An Garda Síochána will have overall responsibility for the service. The service provider, under their direction, will carry out speed checks with mobile safety cameras and "before and after" speed surveys and will provide all personnel and equipment to carry out these tasks. The service provider will provide the details of detections resulting from this activity to An Garda Síochána, who will then take enforcement proceedings against the offending drivers. An Garda Síochána will retain its speed enforcement capability.

The service provider will be paid according to the level of service contracted for. The number of speeding drivers detected will have no effect on the level of payments to the service provider. The purpose of the contract is to reduce speed, and so increase road safety, and not to generate revenue either for the State or the service provider.

It is expected that the service will be rolled out in mid 2010.

Firearams Licences.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

111 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if those who applied for a pistol licence before November 2008 and who meet the new licence criteria will be granted their licences in view of the Committee Stage debate on the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46393/09]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

116 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his policy and that of the gardaí not to renew any centre-fire pistol licences; if not, the number that have been granted under the new firearm licensing legislation; the conditions a refusal would be expected for an active competition shooter, who is a member of an authorized range, has met the security requirements as laid down in S.I. 307/09 Firearms (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 2009 and has held the firearm prior to 19 November 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46452/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 116 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which was commenced on 1st August 2009, introduced changes to the procedures for the certification of firearms — including Restricted Firearms. The remaining sections of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006, relating to firearms licensing were also commenced on 1st August 2009 and introduced the distinction between a Firearm Certificate and a Restricted Firearm Certificate.

Applications for Restricted Firearm Certificates, whether they be for handguns, rifles or shotguns, must now be considered by a member of the Garda Síochána holding the rank of Chief Superintendent. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there is no policy to refuse to grant licences for centre-fire pistols. It is important to realise that under the new legislation, arising from both statutes referred to above, all applications for Firearm Certificates are regarded as new applications and not renewals.

The Deputy will recall that a person applying for a Firearm Certificate for target-shooting must now be a member of an authorised rifle or pistol club as laid down in the Firearms (Authorisation of Rifle or Pistol Clubs) Regulations, 2009 (S.I. 308 of 2009). In addition, persons who held a Firearm Certificate prior to 19th November 2008, for a firearm which now requires a Restricted Firearm Certificate, must satisfy the issuing authority that the firearm is the only weapon suitable for the purpose for which it is required. This requirement is in addition to satisfying the Chief Superintendent that the Applicant has good reason to possess, use and carry the firearm; is not disentitled to hold a firearm certificate under the Firearms Acts; and is not a danger to public safety or to the peace.

Furthermore, all firearm owners must also comply with the security requirements as laid down in S.I. 307 of 2009 Firearms (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 2009. The minimum security standards required at a dwelling is dependent on the number and calibre(s) of firearms held by an individual. This requirement applies to owners of all firearms.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there have been 87 Restricted Firearm Certificates issued in respect of short firearms, as of 7th December, 2009. Under the Firearms Acts, each application, restricted or otherwise, is adjudicated upon by the issuing person on its own individual merits and I have no role in the granting of these certificates.

It should be noted that section 15A of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006, provides that an appeal may be made to the District Court by a person aggrieved by a decision to refuse to grant or renew a firearm certificate.

Garda Deployment.

Finian McGrath

Question:

112 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [46402/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is in the Santry Garda District. Local Garda management is aware of difficulties being experienced by residents in the area as a result of anti-social behaviour and a District strategy targeting this type of activity has been introduced. I am also informed that an active Neighbourhood Watch Scheme is in place and that the local community Garda attends its meetings. Any issues arising are addressed. In addition, a monthly information clinic is run in conjunction with the local authority for residents in the area.

The area is subject to regular patrols by uniform and plain clothes personnel, including the Community Policing Unit, the Garda Mountain Bike Unit and the District Detective and Drug Units, supplemented as required by the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel. Persons and vehicles are regularly stopped and searched in the area, and a number of persons have been arrested in relation to public disorder incidents and other anti-social behaviour in the area. Local Garda management closely monitors patrols and other operational strategies in place, in conjunction with crime trends and policing needs of the communities, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Current policing plans in the area are designed to address issues of crime and public order offences, including the prevention of crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life of residents. This strategy is central to the delivery of the policing service to the area in question.

Legal Aid Service.

Jack Wall

Question:

113 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a free legal aid application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46409/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that in respect of queries concerning the provision of legal services to any person, the solicitor/client relationship is protected by privilege in accordance with the terms of Section 32 of the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995. The Legal Aid Board cannot therefore provide information to third parties regarding a person who may or may not be a client of the Board.

I am informed by the Legal Aid Board that the Board is required to consider and make decisions on all applications received in its law centres for legal aid. When deciding to grant legal aid, the Board issues a legal aid certificate to the applicant setting out the services to be rendered on that particular matter. In the event that the Board decides not to grant a legal aid certificate, the applicant is directly informed of the decision and the reasons supporting that decision. In addition, the applicant is advised as to their rights to have the decision reviewed and, if required, heard by the Appeals Committee of the Board. In that context, a decision arrived at by the Appeals Committee is final.

Registration of Title.

Bernard Allen

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will investigate the reason the Land Registry will not accept an application by persons (details supplied) in County Cork; and if the Land Registry will send one of its personnel to the site to confirm that matters are in order so that the sale will be allowed to proceed. [46411/09]

I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round. I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the PRA for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Departmental Correspondence.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

115 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on correspondence from a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46419/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the correspondence in question relates to S.I. No. 471 of 2009 which specifies that Section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 will come into force on 28 February 2010. The making of that S.I. follows on from repeated undertakings given by me concerning my intention to commence the section once an appropriate period of time had passed. This was to enable the market to factor in the very significant changes which were being introduced on foot of the section.

The Section 132 provision was introduced to encourage a more equitable and flexible approach to rent review clauses which, traditionally, have been of the upward only variety. I have noted the various points made in the correspondence to which the Deputy refers and I would not share the analysis which is contained therein.

Question No. 116 taken with Question No. 111.

Garda Operations.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

117 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount used in the policing of the feud involving members of the Traveller community in Tralee, County Kerry to date in 2009 in overtime, reinforcements and redeployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46469/09]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that for reasons of security, detailed information about Garda deployments in the Tralee area cannot be divulged. However, they have advised me that the policing measures in place in Tralee are deemed necessary by local Garda management and have resulted in a significant number of arrests and convictions. The amount spent on overtime from May to the end of November this year related to the operation is approximately €140,000.

Question No. 118 taken with Question No. 108.

Garda Vetting Services.

Alan Shatter

Question:

119 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure of the Garda vetting unit in checking the criminal records of persons who apply to it to be vetted; the length of time this procedure takes; the method used to check records of persons convicted prior to the introduction of the Pulse system; the length of the backlog in the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46497/09]

Alan Shatter

Question:

121 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is mandatory for youth workers or those with unsupervised access to children and young people to be vetted by the Garda vetting unit; if not, whether he proposes to make it mandatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46499/09]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for a large number of organisations in Ireland which employ people, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity, to work with children and/or vulnerable adults. These organisations are registered with the GCVU for the purpose of employment vetting. The GCVU conducts checks on the Garda Criminal Records Database in respect of each individual applicant and discloses the results to the registered organisation which submitted the application in respect of the individual concerned. The Garda Criminal Records Database contains criminal records which significantly predate the introduction of the PULSE System.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the average processing time for valid vetting applications received at the GCVU is 4 to 5 weeks. The processing time fluctuates depending on seasonal demands and the volume of applications received. The timeframe may be longer in cases where further enquiries need to be made.

A very large number of organisations who engage persons for roles where they may have unsupervised access to children and young people are registered with the GCVU and these organisations systematically avail of Garda vetting in accordance with best practice in child protection. It is not mandatory for youth workers or those with unsupervised access to children and young people to be vetted by the GCVU, save as provided for in section 8(2) of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006, which stipulate that employees be subjected to Garda vetting when the Garda Síochána has set down procedures to make such vetting available. Such Garda vetting procedures are available to the pre-school services sector.

Legislative proposals to provide an enhanced statutory framework for vetting are currently being developed by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in conjunction with my Department. A wide range of issues related to vetting and information sharing will be taken into account in this context.

Alan Shatter

Question:

120 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda Vetting Unit has in place a system of checking criminal records of persons who may have offended in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46498/09]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) has in place a reciprocal vetting arrangement with the Police Service of Northern Ireland. This provides the GCVU with a system of checking the criminal records of persons who may have offended in Northern Ireland.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 119.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the upgrading of Garda stations here currently deemed to be in need of such facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46510/09]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána. This programme is brought forward in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works, which has the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

Over the past number of years significant investment has been made in An Garda Síochána's accommodation programme. Since 2008 new Garda Stations have been completed in Irishtown, Claremorris, Finglas, Leixlip, Ballymun, Ballymote and Buncrana. In addition, significant refurbishment programmes have been completed at a number of locations throughout the country including, Dunmanway, Granard and Navan. Refurbishment works have also commenced at a number of Stations, including Kilkenny, Delvin, Craughwell, Blanchardstown, Ronanstown, Newbridge and Tuam and additional accommodation has been provided for Gardaí in Tallaght adjacent to the Garda Station. Funding for capital works is a matter for the Office of Public Works with a separate maintenance budget included in the Garda Vote.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prison spaces available here; the number of spaces required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46511/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that as of 7 December there was 4,031 prison spaces available throughout the prison estate. A review of prisoner population projections is currently being finalised by the Irish Prison Service. The outcome of this review will inform the Irish Prison Service and my Department on matters relevant to the prison estate going forward.

As the Deputy will appreciate the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts into its custody and does not have the option of refusing committals. It is the case that there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 379. This represents a 10% rise in the number in custody.

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,670 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise and Castlerea prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

Current projects will see a further 250 prison spaces provided in the short term by means of:

a new block in Wheatfield Prison which will accommodate approximately 200 prisoners;

the re-opening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy which will provide an additional 50 spaces and these progressive measures contrast starkly with the failure of the Deputy's Party, when last in Office, to construct prison places.

In addition, work is expected to commence in 2010 on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces. Despite this significant investment, it is quite clear that in some of our prisons we are operating in excess of our bed capacity at this time. In the longer term, the Government remains firmly committed to replacing the prisons on the Mountjoy complex with modern prison accommodation at Thornton Hall. Building new prison facilities at Thornton Hall on a green field site will open up new opportunities for the development of structured regime activities that support rehabilitation and resettlement of prisoners.

In developing its design concept for Thornton Hall the Irish Prison Service sought and continues to seek to deliver a modern, operationally efficient and cost effective facility which will provide decent living conditions for prisoners with appropriate support programmes including the provision of modern facilities for prison staff. The Irish Prison Service accepts that a number of our prisons are in a fairly poor state and this is being remedied by constructing new facilities. The new facilities will, in addition, offer significant improvements in the areas of work training, education and medical services as well as providing predominantly single cell accommodation with in-cell sanitation facilities. These are major undertakings involving replacement of close to 40% of the entire prison estate. They will take a number of years to complete but it is my intention that they will proceed as quickly as possible.

Garda Communications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the degree to which all Garda stations here have been provided with pulse and or other up to date communications facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46512/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Garda stations on the Garda Information Systems (GIS), which includes PULSE, Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS) and Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), has been increased to 347 locations out of 703 locations and these account for over 85% of incidents. The PULSE system and email facilities are available at all Divisional, District Headquarters and 24 hour stations.

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 much longer periods in visible, front line policing roles across our communities.

Prisoner Releases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners granted day, special, compassionate or other release in each of the past three years and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46513/09]

It is not possible to provide figures to the Deputy as requested as this would require the manual examination of records going back over a considerable time period. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

The Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that the Minister may approve the temporary release of a sentenced prisoner. On 7 December 2009 there were 747 prisoners on temporary release. This represented 15.5% of the overall prisoner population for that day. In contrast, the equivalent percentage of prisoners on temporary release for the years 1994 to 1997 was as follows: 1994 — (22.2%), 1995 — (20.2%), 1996 — (17.9%) and 1997 — (19.2%). The daily average figure to date in 2009 for prisoners on temporary release is 519 and this represents 13% of the average daily population figure.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of known members of criminal gangs released from prison in each of the past five years to date in 2009 prior to serving their full sentence; the number of crimes committed by such persons while on early or special release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46514/09]

Prisoners on committal to prison do not declare their allegiance to individual gangs. Unlike, for example, paramilitary organisations, membership of criminal gangs fluctuate on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated. Accordingly, I wish to inform the Deputy that it is not possible to provide the information requested. However, I can say that the granting of temporary release is determined in accordance with a number of factors, including:

the nature and gravity of offence,

the potential threat to the safety and security of the public,

the persons prior criminal record.

The emergence in recent years of criminal gangs has had implications for the management of our prisons. Rivalries and feuds which develop on the outside are being carried over into our institutions. Prison management have to ensure that the various factions are kept apart and, as far as possible, that gang members do not have influence over other inmates or criminal activities outside the prisons. Gang members are being managed on a daily basis through segregation and separation throughout the prison system.

The Irish Prison Service is committed to continuing to implement all appropriate measures to deal with prisoners who may be engaging in criminal activity from inside prison cells and to ensure that the prisoner's contact with the outside world is tightly controlled and monitored in an appropriate way. I can nevertheless advise the Deputy that a number of recent initiatives have been introduced with a view to preventing identified gang leaders from conducting their business while in custody. For example, a number of serious criminal gang members are now segregated in a specific area of Cloverhill Prison.

The Irish Prison Service is currently undertaking trials of three different types of mobile phone inhibitor at 3 separate locations namely Mountjoy and Limerick Prisons and the Midlands / Portlaoise Prison Complex. All three systems are currently undergoing a rigorous evaluation process which includes external independent analysis. The systems in Midlands, Mountjoy and Limerick Prisons are currently live and are working with varying degrees of success. The inhibitor at Portlaoise is still under installation and is currently inactive pending further refinement of software which is unique and site specific. All three trials are continuing and no decision has been made by Irish Prison Service for or against any one mobile phone inhibition provider.

Other security initiatives have been introduced which make it more difficult for prisoners to engage in illegal activities while in prison. These initiatives include the introduction of passive drug dogs, the installation of airport style security including scanners, x-ray machines, etc., and the establishment of an Operational Support Group. A core function of this group is to gather and collate intelligence information on criminal gang members in our prisons and to carry out intelligence led searches on them.

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it has been established that criminal gang members or leaders have moved to other jurisdictions since the passing of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 and the Criminal Justice Provision Bill 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46515/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he has taken or proposes to take to monitor and restrict or challenge the activity of organised criminals that have moved from the city centre to adjoining counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46537/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 147 together.

I assure the Deputy that the Government attaches the highest priority to tackling serious crime and bringing those involved in such activities to justice. Garda activity in pursuing criminals and preventing criminal acts is and will continue to be relentless irrespective of the location where such activity is carried out.

In this regard, one of the main priorities I have set for An Garda Síochána in 2009 is to target gun crime, organised crime, and drug related crime through a range of measures, including the use of Garda specialist units such as the Organised Crime Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Successful operations continue to be carried out by the Gardaí to deal with such crime such as Operation Anvil. Operation Anvil commenced in May 2005 in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, and was extended nationwide in 2006. The primary focus of this operation is the disruption of serious and organised criminal activity.

Operation Anvil has, to date, resulted in approximately 1,332 firearms being recovered in Dublin and 1,500 in the rest of the country (up to 29th November 2009). In addition, the value of property recovered under this Operation to date is approximately €37 million and Anvil has led to a significant number of arrests and prosecutions.

Operations and intelligence led initiatives are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure their effectives. In addition the situation is being closely monitored and kept under constant review by senior Garda management in conjunction with Regional Assistant Commissioners and Head of Units. With regard to the issue of criminals moving abroad since the introduction of recent legislation, while I am aware of anecdotal suggestions in this regard, I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is difficult, of its nature, to ascribe with certainty a motive for any criminals moving from Ireland. Related to this point, An Garda Síochána maintains close liaison with law enforcement agencies throughout Europe and elsewhere, exchanging information and intelligence on Irish criminals living abroad. In addition Ireland is a party to various International Conventions which provide for assistance in criminal matters between jurisdictions. This ongoing liaison has led to a number of successful joint operations targeting attempted importations of drugs and firearms resulting in a number of significant arrests here and in other jurisdictions.

Where intelligence supported by evidence is available, law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions put operations in place, as appropriate, to prevent and detect such criminality. Furthermore where information exists that a person who is wanted in relation to a particular crime in this jurisdiction is living abroad, and where the particular legal requirements apply, extradition is sought or a European Arrest Warrant is applied for.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons interviewed by the gardaí in the course of the past 12 months to date in 2009 who are known to be associates of or directly involved in criminal gang activity; the action taken under legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46516/09]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crime.

I can assure the Deputy that members of An Garda Síochána will continue to utilise all available measures, including all the additional legislative provisions recently introduced by the Oireachtas relating to organised crime, to develop and implement strategies to continue to dismantle and disrupt criminal networks. Records are not maintained in a manner that would enable the statistics sought by the Deputy to be provided.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons imprisoned arising from the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 and the Criminal Justice Provision Bill 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46517/09]

As the Deputy will appreciate, the legislation in question has only recently been enacted and contains a wide range of measures, including amendments to the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003, measures relating to the Schengen Information System and amendments to the Firearms Acts.

Given the wide range of measures contained in the legislation, the information requested is not readily available and could not be compiled without the use of a disproportionate amount of staff time and resources. If the Deputy wishes to write to me with specific queries I will respond to them.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of known members of criminal gangs who have been charged, sentenced or have charges pending arising from the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provision) Bill 2009 and the Criminal Justice Provision Bill 2009 to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46518/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 32 of 10th December 2009.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 206 of 26 November 2009, when the Garda report, hard copy of which has not issued, was transmitted electronically to Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46519/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 206 on 26 November, 2009. The position remains unchanged.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes committed, reported and recorded in County Kildare in each of the past three years to date in 2009; the number of prosecutions taken, pending or concluded; the number of convictions as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46520/09]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46521/09]

I refer the Deputy to my Reply to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 670 of Tuesday, 6 October 2009. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if updated travel documents will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46522/09]

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) informs me that the person in question was refused Refugee Status and is therefore not entitled to be issued with an Irish Travel Document. The person concerned was granted temporary permission on 01 July 2009 to remain in the State for one year until 01 July 2010.

In exceptional cases an application for an Irish temporary travel document may be considered. In all such cases INIS must be satisfied that there is no alternative open to the applicant before an Irish temporary travel document will issue. An application for an Irish temporary travel document will only be considered by the Immigration Services Section in INIS on receipt of a fully completed application form. Supporting documentation accompanying any such application should include original correspondence from the relevant consular authority outlining the steps necessary to be followed by the person to facilitate the procurement of a national passport if their presence is required outside the State.

The Immigration Services Section of INIS have advised that they have no record of having received an application for a temporary travel document from the person concerned. It remains open to the person in question to submit an application accompanied with the relevant supporting documentation to the Travel Document Unit of INIS which is located at 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46523/09]

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 November 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. 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:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when travel documents will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; if requirements for application in respect of naturalisation and citizenship have been complied with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46524/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 187 of 26th November 2009. The position remains unchanged in relation to the possible issuing of a travel document.

The Citizenship Division of my Department have advised that they have no record of having received an application for citizenship from the person concerned.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must—

be of full age

be of good character

have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years

intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation

have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include—

periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State

periods granted for the purposes of study

periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.

It is open to the person concerned to lodge an application for a certificate of naturalisation with the Citizenship Division of my Department if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements. Information detailing the requirements for citizenship can be found on the INIS website — www.inis.gov.ie

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan 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 15 and family reunification in the case of their brothers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46525/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to his previous Parliamentary Questions Nos. 700 of 3 November 2009 and 332 of 24 November 2009.

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy made a Family Reunification application in December 2007. A decision in this case issued to the applicant on 15th September 2009 and a copy of the consideration detailing the reasons for the decision was also provided. As I previously pointed out it is open to the applicant to submit any further documentation or new information in relation to her application and this will be taken into consideration. To date INIS has not received any new documentation or new information from the applicant.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency and citizenship status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46526/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that Section 6A as inserted by section 4 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004 provides that a person born in the island of Ireland shall not be entitled to be an Irish citizen unless a parent of that person has, during the period of 4 years immediately preceding the person's birth, been resident in the island of Ireland for a period of not less than 3 years or periods the aggregate of which is not less than 3 years. This section does not apply to certain persons including those born to parents one of whom is at the time of the persons birth an Irish citizen, British citizen or a person entitled to reside without restriction.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46527/09]

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 June 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. 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. Officials in the Citizenship Division 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding eligibility to apply for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46528/09]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must—

be of full age

be of good character

have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years

intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation

have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include—

periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State

periods granted for the purposes of study

periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that charges against them were struck out by the courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46530/09]

The person concerned claimed asylum in the State on 16/10/1998 and had his claim examined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, following which it was recommended that he should be recognised as a refugee on 6 November 2000. The person concerned was advised of the decision to issue him with a formal declaration of refugee status and was also advised of the rights and entitlements accompanying refugee status in the State. The person concerned continues to hold the status of refugee in the State. An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in November 2009.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. One such condition is that the person in question intends in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation. In the application submitted, the person concerned answered Question 6.1 by stating that he did not intend to reside in the State after naturalisation, therefore he does not comply with this condition. Consequently, the Citizenship Division of my Department have deemed his application ineligible. The person in question was informed of this decision in a letter issued to him on 4 November 2009.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46531/09]

Valid applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in November 2004.

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 both applications is ongoing and the files will be submitted to me for a decision in the near future.

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.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the recommendation in his Department for deportation in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46532/09]

The persons concerned entered the State on 30 July 2008 and were granted permission to remain until 30 October 2008. By letters dated 6 October 2008 and 4 December 2008 the persons concerned were informed their permission to remain in the State would not be extended.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the persons concerned were informed, by letters dated 24 February 2009, 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 a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Their case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended). Consideration was given to representations submitted on their behalf by their legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 18 November 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed Deportation Orders in respect of them. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the persons concerned to leave the State by 14 December 2009. I am satisfied that the applications made by the persons concerned for temporary leave to remain in the State, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, therefore, the decision to deport them is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the persons concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Orders is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 in view of the fact that they have submitted all documents required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46533/09]

I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy is currently stamped in accordance with her stated activity in the State. Her current permission on Stamp 2 is valid to 1st June 2010.

The person referred to applied for a change of her current status in October 2009. This application is currently under consideration and a decision will issue shortly.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 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 Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46534/09]

I refer the Deputy to his earlier Parliamentary Question No. 146 of Thursday, 21 May 2009, and the written Reply to that Question.

As I advised the Deputy in my earlier Reply, the position in the State of the person concerned now falls to 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.

Garda Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda cars available to each Garda station in County Kildare; the degree to which these are available in the catchment area of the stations concerned on a 24 hour basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46535/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is a total 57 vehicles (both marked and unmarked), comprising cars, vans and motorcycles allocated to Kildare Garda Division. The number of vehicles assigned to each station is set-out in the table below.

While these vehicles are primarily utilised by personnel at the Garda Station to which they are allocated, such vehicles are District and Divisional resources and when deemed necessary by local Garda Management can be reallocated to meet varying operational requirements. Accordingly it is not possible to provide a precise breakdown of the number of vehicles available on a 24 hour basis in the catchment area of each station concerned.

Station

Total

ATHY

5

BALLYMORE EUSTACE

1

BALLYTORE

1

CARBURY

1

CASTLEDERMOT

1

CELBRIDGE

2

CLANE

1

ENFIELD

1

KILCULLEN

1

KILCOCK

2

KILDARE

4

KILL

1

LEIXLIP

4

MAYNOOTH

2

MONASTEREVIN

1

NAAS

19

NEWBRIDGE

8

RATHANGAN

1

ROBERSTOWN

1

TOTAL

57

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 127.

Firearms Licences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which hunting or game licences, gun or rifle, have been restricted in 2009 with particular reference to previously established practice; the number of restricted or unlimited licences in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46538/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, with the passage of legislation earlier this year there have been significant changes in the way in which firearms are licensed in this jurisdiction. One of the changes has been the classification of firearms into two categories: restricted and non-restricted. This was done by the Firearms (Restricted Firearms and Ammunition) Order (S.I. 21 of 2008) and the Firearms (Restricted Firearms and Ammunition) (Amendment) Order 2009 (S.I. 307 of 2009).

As the Deputy will appreciate, hunting and wildlife matters do not come within my portfolio but the comprehensive set of Guidelines on Firearms Licensing, which the Garda Commissioner has published, should assist prospective applicants and answer any queries they may have.

Local Sports Partnerships.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

149 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the success of the sports inclusion disability officer programme in increasing the participation of persons with disabilities in sports and physical activity; and if that funding will remain in place for the continuation and expansion of the programme. [46471/09]

Special funding of €2.5 million was allocated from the dormant accounts fund for the appointment of 20 Sports Inclusion Development Officers (SIDOs) in Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs) in 2008. The SIDOs were appointed on two-year contracts to provide opportunities for persons with a disability to participate in sport and physical activity.

A network of 33 LSPs have been set up throughout the country by the Irish Sports Council (ISC) to coordinate and promote sport at local level especially amongst specific target groups such as older people, girls and women, people with disabilities, unemployed people, and those who live in identified disadvantaged communities. The special dormant accounts funding was in addition to the annual funding provided to the LSPs by the ISC for programmes and initiatives aimed at increasing participation in recreational sport. The ISC has allocated €6 million to the LSPs in 2009.

The continued funding of the SIDO scheme is a matter for the ISC in the context of the distribution of its budget for 2010, supplemented by a provision of €395,000 in the Vote of the Department, and the Council's priorities within its ongoing funding of the LSP network. The priority is to build on the significant progress by the Council in achieving its statutory objectives of increasing participation in recreational sport and improving high performance levels.

Community Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if all funding and operation structures of community development programmes will continue in the same manner as in recent years for County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46501/09]

As I outlined previously to the House, my Department has seen the need to redesign its community development/social inclusion programmes, particularly the Local Development Social Inclusion (LDSIP) and Community Development Programmes (CDP), drawing on best international practice, and to support the ongoing evaluation of the programmes.The LDSIP and the CDP are my Department’s two main social inclusion/community development programmes. Both have a community development element and are currently delivered through separate local delivery structures. These Programmes come to an end on 31 December 2009 and will be superseded by a new Programme, the Local and Community Development Programme.

The aim of the new Programme is to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership and constructive engagement between Government and its agencies and people in disadvantaged communities.

The new Programme will preserve elements of good practice from the existing CDP/LDSIP Programmes and will enhance monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

Earlier this year my Department commenced a review of the performance of Community Development Projects funded under the Community Development Programme. This work is now completed and I understand that all concerned will be notified of the outcome very shortly.

I acknowledge that the past while has been a time of uncertainty for CDPs. It is my wish that CDPs will have early clarity on funding and on implementation arrangements for the new programme.

It is also my intention that CDPs and Partnership/Integrated company structures should align so as to minimise structures and provide a single integrated delivery structure for all areas. An implementation strategy, involving the stakeholders, is underway in preparation for Programme roll-out in 2010. This will build on discussions with groups at an Information Session, on Wednesday 25th November and subsequent contacts.

I am committed to the new Programme and to implementing it in the best possible way. My Department will engage positively and constructively with all stakeholders in this process.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard Allen

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has their domiciliary care allowance terminated. [46412/09]

Domiciliary Care Allowance can be paid in respect of children under 16 years of age who 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.

The child in question in this case reached 16 years of age in October 2009 and accordingly received their last payment of Domiciliary Care Allowance in that month.

In cases where the Domiciliary Care Allowance ceases due to the child in question reaching their sixteenth birthday, the child is invited to apply for Disability Allowance. An application for Disability Allowance has been issued in this case.

Jack Wall

Question:

152 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason persons (details supplied) in County Kildare had an application for a rent subsidy payment refused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46466/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

154 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason an application for a rent subsidy payment was refused in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46473/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 154 together.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for a weekly or monthly supplement to be paid in respect of rent or mortgage interest to any person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered by the community welfare service of the Health Service Executive, on behalf of the Department.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Similarly, mortgage interest supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only.

The Executive has advised that the person concerned made an application for mortgage interest supplement last week. The Executive advised that they are currently processing the application for mortgage interest supplement and a decision is expected shortly. The Executive further advised that the person concerned did not make an application for rent supplement but did make enquiries regarding rent supplement if they were to relinquish possession of their residence to their lender.

School Transport.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

153 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her views on granting free travel to children under 16 years of age when a carer’s allowance is being paid in respect of the child in view of the fact that the carer requires free travel. [46470/09]

Carer's allowance is a social assistance payment which provides income support to people who are providing certain older people or people with a disability with full time care and attention and whose incomes fall below a certain limit. Persons who are in receipt of carer's allowance also receive the annual respite care grant, the household benefits package and the free travel pass.

In the majority of cases, persons who are being cared for will be in receipt of a payment in their own right (for example a state pension or disability allowance) and will be entitled to have a free travel pass. This includes anyone aged over 16 who qualifies for disability allowance.

For a child requiring full-time care who is under age 16, a domiciliary care allowance may be paid to the parent or guardian. This payment is not means tested and is to provide for the additional costs involved in providing care and supervision that is substantially more than that normally needed by a child of the same age. This may include additional travel costs. A child who is attending school may be eligible for assistance under the Department of Education and Science's school transport scheme.

I have no plans at present to review the qualifying criteria for the free travel scheme or to provide free travel passes for children other than those who are in receipt of a qualifying payment from the Department.

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 152.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if and when basic supplementary welfare and rent allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46503/09]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

The Executive has advised that an application for supplementary welfare allowance and rent supplement from the person concerned was refused on 4 September 2009, on the basis that he failed to fully disclose his means.

The person concerned appealed to an Appeals Officer of the Health Service Executive and the appeal has not been decided to date. He will be advised of the Appeals Officer's decision in due course.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the full entitlement to retirement or old age pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46505/09]

The Department does not provide forecasts on pension entitlements.

As the person concerned has reached pension age she has been advised to submit an application for State Pension (Transition). On receipt of the application her entitlement, based on all her period of employment will be assessed and she will be notified of the outcome.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be awarded jobseeker’s benefit or assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46506/09]

The person concerned applied for a Jobseeker's Allowance on 31 March 2009, but as he failed to furnish details of his means to the Social Welfare Investigator his claim was disallowed. The decision, with a right of appeal within 21 days, was sent to the person concerned on 23 September 2009. No notice of appeal has been received in the Department.

The person concerned is in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance at the full rate.

Willie Penrose

Question:

158 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the social welfare payments received by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin from 1 January until 31 December 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46548/09]

The person concerned did not receive any social welfare payments during the period from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2008 as he had no claim. He is not currently in receipt of a social welfare payment.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

159 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the procedure for calling out and using the members of the Reserve Defence Force to assist in emergencies; the extent to which use was made of them during the recent flooding difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46539/09]

In accordance with Defence Forces Regulations members of the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) may, with their own consent, be employed in Aid to the Civil Authority, with the approval of the General Officer Commanding a Brigade or the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, at such times and at such places as the Officer Commanding the Brigade RDF or Officer Commanding Shore Operations Naval Service may determine.

In respect of the recent floods, the Defence Forces have met all requests for assistance, received from the civil authorities, from within the existing capacity and resources of the Permanent Defence Forces without the need to call on the Reserve.

Flood Relief.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

160 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the flood planning guidelines published in November 2009 will apply to a project (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46394/09]

The finalised Guidelines to Planning Authorities on the Planning System and Flood Risk Management, which I published on 30 November 2009, have been issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, which requires planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to them in the performance of their functions. This includes taking appropriate account of these guidelines in assessing and deciding on planning applications on or after the date of publication of the statutory guidelines.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

161 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not received their de-stocking payment for 2009. [46404/09]

I understand that payment has been approved and will issue in the coming days.

Flood Relief.

Jack Wall

Question:

162 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if funding is available from his Department, the State agencies under his remit or the EU to local authorities or communities who have suffered flood damage to their properties, residential and commercial; if he will investigate particular problems attached to the flooding in these areas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46475/09]

I recognize the hardship that has been caused in many parts of the country as a result of the serious flooding over recent weeks and I am appreciative of the professional and rapid response by local authorities and their staff and other agencies in dealing with the many difficult situations encountered. I also recognize that local authorities are of necessity incurring immediate and exceptional expenditure in responding to this situation and the difficulties this may pose for them in light of the constraints on their finances at this time. It has been decided, therefore, to allocate supplementary funding of up to €10 million towards exceptional expenditure directly related to flood relief activities by the local authorities concerned.

The Government has also allocated an initial sum of €10 million to fund a humanitarian assistance scheme, which is being administered by the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. My colleague, the Minister for Finance yesterday announced that in excess of €70 million will be provided over the remainder of 2009 and into 2010 to help those affected and fund work to minimise the risks of future flooding incidents.

I have recently requested reports from local authorities on the effects of the flooding in their areas and an assessment of the measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of such flooding in the future. The reports will be considered in the context of funding allocations for 2010 and will also be forwarded to other Government Departments and Offices, including the Office of Public Works, to consider the matters for which they are responsible. When the reports are received from the local authorities and other relevant agencies on the extent of the flooding and urgent remedial works required, the question of seeking EU funding having regard to the limited eligibility criteria for such funding will be undertaken.

The Office of Public Works, as lead agency for implementing the National Flood Policy, is working with Local Authorities and other state bodies to reduce the risk of future flooding both through the provision of defences to best practice standards and by taking steps to mitigate or reduce future risk of flooding. In accordance with this Policy, and in compliance with the EU Floods Directive, the OPW is undertaking a programme of Flood Risk Assessment and Management Studies for each catchment in the country. These studies will identify and map the areas where there is significant flood risk, and will produce a plan of prioritised measures to manage that risk. In assessing risk, significant contributing factors such as drains, dykes, underground waterways, culverts and flood plains will be considered, where appropriate. The studies will consider both capital works and non-structural measures. In a parallel exercise, a screening process is currently under way by OPW to identify other areas where the flood risk may be significant. This exercise includes a review of past floods, and the recent flooding around the country will be taken into account to help the identification of high risk areas and solutions.

Local Government Elections.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

163 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to progress the commitment in the revised programme for Government to examine the feasibility of extending the franchise for Local Elections to those aged 16 and over by 10 October 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46479/09]

The Programme for Government, agreed in 2007, contains a commitment to the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission which will, inter alia, take responsibility for electoral administration and oversight and implement modern and efficient electoral practices. The Renewed Programme for Government, agreed in October 2009, reaffirms this commitment and states that within 12 months, the Commissionwill also propose reforms to the electoral system, including make recommendations on the possibility of extending the franchise for Local Elections to those aged 16 or over.

In implementing the commitments as set out in the 2007 Programme for Government, and to assist in consideration of the wide range of issues involved, I commissioned a report by an expert group from University College Dublin. I published the report, entitled A Preliminary Study on the Establishment of an Electoral Commission in Ireland, for consultation in February 2009. The report is available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie. Written submissions received to date as part of the consultation process are currently being considered. While the formal closing date for written submissions has passed, I will still welcome and consider any views and observations that are put forward by interested individuals and organisations.

In developing and bringing forward proposals for the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission, based on the commitments contained in the Programme for Government and the Renewed Programme for Government, I will take into account the report prepared by the UCD group and views put forward as part of the consultation process.

Local Authority Charges.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

164 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the appeals process for those who wish to lodge an appeal against a demand for the non-principal private residence charge by a local authority; if they can appeal the charge to the relevant local authority or the appeals commissioners in view of the fact that the charge is a form of taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46480/09]

The Non-Principal Private Residence charge is a self assessment measure as it is, in the first instance, a matter for the owner of the property in question to assess whether he or she is liable to pay the charge. The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 places the collection of the charge under the care and management of local authorities. Liability to pay the charge in individual cases should be discussed with the local authority in whose area the property is situated.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

165 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the low levels of inspections being carried out by some local authorities regarding the enforcement of standards in the private rented sector in 2008 in view of the fact that only 17 of the 34 local authorities inspected less than 5% of registered tenancies; if he will take measures to ensure local authorities increase inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46481/09]

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 (as amended), made under section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations. Responsibility for enforcing the regulations rests with the relevant local authority, supported by a dedicated stream of funding allocated by my Department from part of the proceeds of tenancy registration fees collected by the Private Residential Tenancies Board. The allocations of this funding to local authorities increased significantly between 2005 and 2008, rising from €1.5m to €4m. The latter figure is being maintained in 2009, bringing total funding allocations since 2004 to €15m. The methodology for the payment of funding is kept under review by my Department and the majority of the funding is paid based on each local authority's inspection performance. Details of the amounts paid to each local authority in respect of the years 2004 — 2008 and of the first funding tranche for 2009 are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie and in the Oireachtas Library.

Improved enforcement is a key element of the Action Programme to improve standards in the private rented sector, introduced on foot of a commitment in the partnership agreement Towards 2016, and it is also key to promoting compliance with the regulations. In general, local authorities have significantly expanded their inspection activity in recent years with the number of inspections more than doubling — from 6,815 to 17,202 — in the period 2005 to 2008. More detailed information on the number of inspections carried out each year up to and including 2008 is included in my Department's Annual Housing Statistics Bulletins, copies of which are also available on my Department's website. The 2008 data, published in August 2009, indicate an increase in activity of approximately 23% in a single year, with over 17,200 inspections completed in 2008. This is further evidence of the positive impact of the overall Action Programme on Standards, including increased funding, and the ongoing progress with the implementation of the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

It is a matter for each individual local authority to decide on the specific details of its inspection arrangements. However, in discharging their responsibilities in relation to the private rented sector, my Department encourages authorities to have regard to the report — Good Practice Guidelines for Local Authorities on Standards in the Private Rented Sector: Strategic Planning, Effective Enforcement — published by the Centre for Housing Research in November 2007, which makes a range of recommendations on matters relevant to inspection procedures such as identifying and targeting inspection requirements. It is not envisaged that local authorities would inspect all private rented accommodation. The type and quality of accommodation provided by the private rented sector varies and a substantial proportion of such accommodation is relatively new and of good quality and would not warrant priority for inspection. To target best use of resources, local authorities are asked to concentrate on categories of rented accommodation more likely to be non-compliant with the regulations, such as older properties.

Following the commencement on 1 December 2009 of relevant provisions in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, local authorities will now have a strengthened sanctions regime available to them to enforce the minimum standards regulations and the Act also significantly increases the penalties for non-compliance with the regulations. In addition, a one day seminar entitled Standards for Rented Houses: Enforcement Practitioners' Seminar, hosted by Dublin City Council and sponsored by my Department, will take place on 15 December 2009. This seminar will provide an important opportunity for local authority staff involved in the enforcement of standards in rented accommodation to discuss the implementation of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 and to further develop inspection performance so as to ensure effective enforcement of standards in the rented sector.

Departmental Agencies.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

166 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the State agencies under the aegis of his Department to which the new code of practice for the governance of State bodies applies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46482/09]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

167 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all the boards of State agencies under the aegis of his Department, which are required to implement the new code of practice for the governance of State bodies, have formally adopted the code at a board meeting; if they have undertaken training to ensure proper implementation of this code; if they have in place monitoring procedures to ensure proper compliance with this code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46483/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

My Department takes seriously the governance arrangements of agencies under its aegis. Agencies are required to confirm that they comply with the up-to-date requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies (published May 2009), and are regularly reminded of the corporate governance provisions contained in both their own specific and other relevant legislation. There are currently 20 agencies of varying size and function operating under the Department's aegis. In line with recent Government Decisions, work is ongoing to progress the amalgamation of some of these agencies, including the Local Government Management and Computer Services Boards and a number of housing-related agencies (including the Affordable Homes Partnership and National Building Agency). The Code makes provision for certain requirements to be applied proportionately to smaller bodies. In particular cases, the Code is considered to have a disproportionate effect on such bodies because of either the nature or scale of their activities, the resources available to them, or their governing statutes. In other cases, some agencies within my remit have particular governing structures (e.g. tribunal structures) which differ from the conventional Board structure of state agencies. This group of agencies include the Building Regulations Advisory Board, Designated Appeals Advisory Board, Comhar, Fire Services Council and the Rent Tribunal. My Department is working with these organisations to agree the extent to which the requirements of the Code might suitably be adopted in each case. The table sets out the position regarding the adoption of the revised Code of Practice in all of the agencies under the Department's remit. My Department will continue to work with all the agencies concerned to ensure that both the internal practices of the bodies and their external relations with the Government, the Oireachtas, the Minister for Finance and my own Department, meet the highest standards of corporate governance.

Agency

Revised Code adopted at Board Meeting

Training Undertaken

Monitoring In Place

Affordable Homes Partnership

Yes

Yes Executive training has been provided in relation to performance management. Advice has been received on implementation issues for new areas of the Code including risk and performance management.

Yes The Board has requested that the Audit and Risk Committee ensures that, as part of the annual audit plan, procedures are put in place to provide assurance on compliance with the Code. A Chief Risk Officer has been appointed.

An Bord Pleanála

Not as yet

Yes Staff from the agency have received training and the IPA have been engaged to provide guidance on a strategy framework for the organisation.

Yes There are monitoring procedures in place through the Director of Corporate Affairs, Board Secretary and Internal Auditor to ensure compliance with the previous code of practice. The Board is fully aware of the new Code and is reviewing its procedures to determine what changes, if any, are required to these.

An Comhairle Leabharlanna

Not as yet Scheduled for next meeting of the Board

Not as yet Training being arranged with the LGMSB.

YesExisting procedures will be reviewed after formal adoption of revised code.

Building Regulations Advisory Board

*see earlier note in relation to the application of the Code being proportional to the size and structure of the body

n/a

n/a

Comhar

*see earlier note in relation to the application of the Code being proportional to the size and structure of the body

n/a

n/a

Designated Appeals Advisory Board

*see earlier note in relation to the application of the Code being proportional to the size and structure of the body

n/a

n/a

Agency

Revised Code adopted at Board Meeting

Training Undertaken

Monitoring In Place

Dublin Docklands Development Authority

Yes

Not as yet

YesInternal controls are in place, overseen by the Board, to ensure proper compliance. Some of these controls are being enhanced.

Fire Services Council

*see earlier note in relation to the application of the Code being proportional to the size and structure of the body

n/a

n/a

Local Government Computer Services Board

Not as yet

Not as yet Full adoption planned post merger. See note below.

Not as yet See note below

Local Government Management Services Board

Not as yet — see footnote above

Not as yet Full adoption planned post merger. See note below.

Not as yet See note below

Environmental Protection Agency

Not as yet Adoption planned after training is completed in early 2010.

Not as yet Training planned for January 2010.

Yes Current monitoring structures will be reviewed after adoption of new code

Heritage Council

Not as yet Scheduled for next meeting of the Board in February 2010

Not as yet The Board will consider this at its meeting in February

Yes Current monitoring structures will be reviewed after adoption of new code

Housing Finance Agency

Yes

Yes Directors of the agency receive induction training on corporate governance matters, including the Code. Further training is planned.

Yes

Agency

Revised Code adopted at Board Meeting

Training Undertaken

Monitoring In Place

Irish Water Safety

Yes

Not as yet The requirement for training is under review by the Board

Yes Ongoing monitoring by the Finance Committee

Limerick Northside Regeneration Agency

Yes

Not as yet A suite of Governance Manuals (10) have been prepared and circulated within the agency to reflect the revised Code

Yes Internal compliance mechanisms in place

Limerick Southside Regeneration Agency

Yes

Not as yet A suite of Governance Manuals (10) have been prepared and circulated within the agency to reflect the revised Code

Yes Internal compliance mechanisms in place

National Building Agency

Not as yet Formal adoption scheduled for next meeting of the Board in mid-December 09 — 2 presentations given to date to Board on new procedures

Yes CEO and Company Secretary have received formal training and have presented outcomes to Board

Yes Monitoring being overseen by current Board. However new range of monitoring procedures will be adopted once final decisions have been made on merging of housing agencies and new structures in 2010.

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Yes

Yes

Yes

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

Not as yet Scheduled for Board meeting in early 2010

Not as yet The Executive of the agency are reviewing changes in the new code and preparing to update their Corporate Governance Manual

Yes The RPII Audit Committee regularly reviews compliance with the Code.

Rent Tribunal

*see earlier note in relation to the application of the Code being proportional to the size and structure of the body

The LGMSB will shortly be merged with the LGCSB to form the LGMA, which will comply fully with the new Code. Pending the enactment of the necessary legislation, both Boards have appointed the same members to their respective Boards and continue to comply with the 2001 Code.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

168 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when funding will be allocated for the completion of schemes (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46540/09]

The Waterville Water Supply and Sewerage Schemes are included for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 — 2009.

The water main and sewer networks contract is substantially completed. Kerry County Council has submitted to my Department a tender recommendation to procure the water and wastewater treatment plants under a single Design Build Operate (DBO) contract and this is currently under examination. A decision will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible.

Local authorities were asked in July to submit an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services to my Department by 23 October last. My Department has commenced consideration of these assessments, which will form a key input to the development of the 2010 to 2012 Water Services Investment Programme. In conducting their assessments, local authorities were asked to prioritise schemes and contracts for progression over the coming years based on key environmental and economic criteria. It is anticipated that the Water Services Investment Programme 2010 to 2012 will be published in early 2010.

National Parks.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

169 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the equine devices intended for use on the jarveys’ horses in Killarney National Park, County Kerry, are health and safety compliant; if the Health and Safety Authority is satisfied with the proposed use on the two wheel carriages in the national park; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46542/09]

During consideration of the dung catcher option, contact was made by an outside Health and Safety Advisor contracted to my Department with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). The HSA advised that no specific guidance was available on dung catchers but suggested that a risk assessment by a competent person be carried out and that in addition, best practice from other jurisdictions be taken into account.

The subsequent practical trials and demonstrations undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of my Department were overseen and risk assessed by competent persons, one of whom is a leading veterinary expert in Irish equine matters, and the other of whom is a UK-based expert with extensive knowledge of international practice in relation to dung catcher use and who facilitated the successful introduction of such devices in Blackpool in the UK. These trials which used two-wheeled carriages, demonstrated the successful and safe use of the devices. The trials were also attended by an independent locally-based veterinary officer and a representative of the Kerry Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I am satisfied that the devices are suitable from a health and safety perspective and indeed, if used by the jarveys, would contribute to an improvement in the health and safety aspect of Killarney National Park for all visitors.

Fishing Licences.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

170 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to grant restricted licences to traditional salmon fishermen (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46491/09]

The harvest of salmon by any means is permitted in those rivers that are meeting their conservation limits and which have an identified surplus following appropriate assessment and scientific advice. Such rivers are specified in the Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme Regulations.

The allocation of salmon fishing licences on rivers where fishing is permitted under the Regulations is provided for in the Control of Fishing for Salmon Order. The current Control of Fishing for Salmon Order, 2009 (SI No. 142 2009) provides for the issue of fishing licences to persons who previously held fishing licences and who did not avail of the Salmon Hardship Scheme.

Inland Fisheries.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

171 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the salmon stocks on the Munster Blackwater for 2006, 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46492/09]

The Standing Scientific Committee in its draft Report on the Status of Irish Salmon Stocks in 2009 and Precautionary Catch Advice for 2010, has advised that stocks of salmon in the Munster Blackwater (including the Glenshelane and Finnisk) is estimated to reach 37% above its conservation limit in 2010. Any excess over the Conservation Limit is classified as surplus and determines the total allowable catch (TAC) available for harvest by both commercial and recreational users on an annual basis.

The TAC anticipated in the draft Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme Regulations for 2010, currently the subject of a public consultation process, is estimated at 5,054. The river had a TAC of 4,433 in 2009, 7,787 in 2008, 4,463 in 2007 and for the Lismore Fishery District, which also includes the Rivers Bride, Lickey, Tourig, and Womanagh, the quota was 3,928 in 2006.

Pigmeat Sector.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

172 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of compensation awarded to the various interests arising from the contamination of pig feed by dioxin in 2008; the persons who benefited; the amount in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46405/09]

Two schemes were introduced by the Government to assist those affected by the dioxin contamination of 2008: these were the Pigmeat Recall Scheme and the Pig and Cattle Disposal Scheme.

To date, a total of €69m has been paid to qualifying applicants under the Pigmeat Recall Scheme, €35m in 2008 and €34m to date in 2009. Of this, €30m has been paid to primary processors and €39m to secondary processors. Payments are still continuing and it is not possible to provide a final list of all beneficiaries, or the total sums involved. However, a list of the applicants who have received payment to date is being supplied separately to the Deputy.

Under the Pig and Cattle Disposal Scheme a total of €28.3m has been paid to producers and general creditors to-date. Compensation amounting to €17.6m has been processed and paid to 13 pig producers, €6m has been processed and paid to 27 cattle producers and €4.7m has been paid to general creditors. I am not in a position to provide the names of beneficiaries under this scheme.

Primary Processors

BALLON MEATS

FINNS MEATS

GARBALLY MANUFACTURING LTD

GREEN PASTURE MEATS

McCARREN & CO LTD

MICHAEL MCHALE

QUEALLY PIG SLAUGHTERING LTD

ROSDERRA IRISH MEATS GROUP LTD

STAUNTON FOODS LTD

Secondary Processors

AIBP CAHIR LTD

ANTNONY CONSIDINE T/A HANLEY

ARTHUR MALLON FOODS LTD

ASHGROVE MEATS LIMITED

ATHEA HOMEMADE PUDDINGS LTD

BALLAGHADERREEN BACON LTD

BALLINEEN FINE FOODS LTD

BILL CUMMINS MEATS LTD

BILLY MURPHY

BRADY FAMILY LTD

BREEO FOODS LTD

C & M FOODS

CAHERBEG FREE RANGE PORK LTD

CALLAN BACON CO

CARROLL MEATS

CLONAKILTY FOOD CO

CO HERLIHYS (BACON) LTD

CONNOLLY MEATS

CONTINENTAL SAUSAGES LTD

COUNTRY STYLE FOOD LTD

CROWE MEATS (DUNDRUM) LTD

DALE MEATS LTD

DAWN FARM FOODS

DAWN MEATS (EXPORTS) LTD

DEMPSEY MEAT PRODUCTS LTD

DEW VALLEY FOODS LTD

DIVILLYS LTD

DONAL LORDAN

DROVER FOODS LTD

DUFFY MEATS T/A KERRY FOODS

DUFFYS PORK AND BACON LTD

DUNLAVIN BACON COMPANY LTD

F X BUCKLEY LTD

FARNEY FOODS LTD

FELDHUES GMBH

FERBANE PORK & BACON LTD

FINOLA FOODS LTD

FIRRIN FOODS LTD

GERMAN SALAMI CO DDALK LTD

GERRY DORAN BACON COMPANY

GILLIGAN FARM FRESH MEATS LT

GLEN AINE FOODS

GLENSIDE BACON CO

GLOBAL FINE FOODS LIMITED

GRANBY LTD

GREEN FARM FOODS LTD

GUBBEEN FARMHOUSE PRDCT LTD

HEANEY MEATS CATERING CO

HILTON MEATS

HODGINS SAUSAGES LTD

HOMESTYLE MEATS

IRISH BACON SLICERS LTD

IRISH CASING CO LTD

J HICK & SONS GOURMET FOODS

JM FOOD SERVICES LTD

JOYCES IRISH LEAN COUNTRY BA

KEENAN & KENNEDY BUTCHERS LT

KELLY BROS BUTCHERS LTD

KELLY MANUFACTURING

KENNELLY QUALITY MEATS LTD

KEPAK CORK

KEPAK GLASNEVIN

KIELY MEATS LTD

KIERAN HARTNETT PORK & BACON WHOLESALE LTD

LEEWAY FOODS LTD

LOUGH ALLEN FOODS LTD

LOUIS HERTERICH

LUNDY FOODS LTD

M & M WALSHE LTD

MALONE FOOD PRODUCTS

MCCAUGHEY FOODS

MCCONNON MEATS LTD

MCLOUGHLIN BUTCHERS LTD

MEERES PORK PRODUCTS

MEYLERS BUTCHERS

MICHAEL CARR MEATS

MICHAEL CULL

MICHAEL WALDRON MEATS LTD

MILLMEATS LIMITED

MOYCULLEN MEATS

NEWBRIDGE FOODS LTD

NEWBRIDGE MEATS

NOLAN BUTCHERS

NORTHERN DELIGHTS

O DONNELL MEAT DISTRIBUTOR

OAKPARK FOODS LTD

OLHAUSENS LTD

OLIVER CARTY

O’MAHONY MEATS LTD

P & A QUINN LTD

PIDGEONS LTD

PRESTIGE FOODS LTD

RANGELAND FOODS LTD

RUDDS FINE FOODS LTD

SEAN LOUGHNANE (GALWAY) LTD

STRAIGHT SAUSAGES LTD

TENDER MEATS LTD

TOM WHELAN MEAT PRODUCTS LTD

TONY BUTLER MEATS

TULLAMORE MEATS CO-OPERATIVE

UNA O DWYER

WALSH FAMILY FOODS LTD

WEST CORK MEATS

WHELANS OF DUBLIN MANUFACTURER

Grant Payments.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

173 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment of a REP scheme will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [46453/09]

A REPS 3 payment to the person named has been approved and he will receive it in the coming week.

Schools Building Projects.

Finian McGrath

Question:

174 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [46396/09]

The project to which the Deputy refers is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. Representatives from the school and its design team recently attended a briefing by my Department on the requirements for completing stage 2(b) of architectural planning, following which the project was approved to progress to stage 2(b).

The proposed building project will be considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme for 2010 and subsequent years. 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 delivery of the project at this time.

Higher Education Grants.

Richard Bruton

Question:

175 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the restrictions that apply to grant eligibility for undertaking study at undergraduate level; his plans to introduce other tailored re-skilling or back to education programmes for graduates in job arrears in which demand has collapsed. [46424/09]

Under the terms of my Department's student grant and free fees schemes, students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants and free tuition fees where they satisfy the prescribed conditions of the individual schemes, including those relating to means, residency, nationality and previous academic attainment. In general, students who previously pursued a course of study are not eligible for grant assistance or free tuition fees in respect of a second period of study at the same level, irrespective of whether or not a grant or tuition fees were paid previously.

The main objective of this policy is to assist as many students as possible in obtaining one undergraduate degree and in progressing, where appropriate, to a postgraduate course of study. Subject to the conditions of the individual schemes, free tuition and grants are available where students are progressing to a course at a higher level.

An approved course for the purposes of the Schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years duration and a full-time postgraduate course of not less than one year duration pursued in an approved institution.

While I have no plans at present to change the current progression requirements of the existing schemes, since the beginning of the year the Government has launched a number of new initiatives to support unemployed people return to education and engage in upskilling. In the higher education sector this includes the provision of 2,500 places to enable unemployed people to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate courses on a part-time basis. All 2,500 places are on courses that support the goals of the "Smart Economy" and particularly those relating to specific skills needs of exporting sectors identified by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. The scheme is open to people who have been on the Live Register for at least six months or who have been awarded statutory redundancy. Participants on the scheme are not required to pay the €1,500 registration fee and, while postgraduate students may be required to pay a nominal charge, students are not charged tuition fees. Participants who continue to meet all Department of Social and Family Affairs criteria on eligibility for Job Seekers Benefit and Job Seekers Allowance are entitled to retain their payments while studying on these programmes.

The scope to introduce further labour market activation initiatives is under consideration by my Department in the context of ongoing discussions with other Government Departments on developing appropriate upskilling training and education responses for unemployed people.

Schools Refurbishment.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

176 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application under the summer works scheme 2010 in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46427/09]

I can confirm that the Department has received an application under the Summer Works Scheme from the school to which the Deputy refers. Following an assessment process, projects will be selected for funding from all valid and approved applications on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria published with the Scheme. In keeping with the timetable published with the governing Circular letter, I expect to be in a position to publish the list of successful applicants in March 2010.

School Textbooks.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

177 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to regulate the re-use of schoolbooks from year to year and move away from the use of workbooks to enable families to reduce the cost of schoolbooks and allow for recycling of existing schoolbooks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46428/09]

My Department does not approve or prescribe types of textbook or workbook to be used by schools. I can assure the Deputy that I have consistently urged schools to implement book rental schemes, which are the most effective means of lowering costs for parents and ensuring that books are recycled.

Decisions on which books to use are taken at school level. School authorities have been advised regularly that textbooks should be changed only to the extent that is absolutely necessary. Syllabus planners are conscious of the need to avoid over-frequent changes, primarily in order to minimise increases in the cost burden for parents. Textbooks have to be changed periodically, however, to enable teachers to keep their own and their students' work educationally stimulating and to ensure that content and methodology are kept up to date. It is unavoidable, therefore, that some textbooks will become obsolete over time.

The Deputy will be aware that the Renewed Programme for Government provides for funding to be made available to allow schools to provide grant assistance for books. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that €7.65m of additional grant support has been made available as a result of the Budget for 2010, which is in addition to the €7m that was allocated for books to DEIS schools in 2009.

My officials will be consulting with the management bodies to consider the details of how these funds will be channelled to schools having regard to the desirability of streamlining grant payments. Schools will be advised of the arrangements following this process. I will continue to encourage schools to use this funding to establish book rental schemes.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael McGrath

Question:

178 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the allocation of a special needs assistant in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Cork. [46435/09]

I can inform the Deputy that the school in question has applied to the National Council Special Education for an SNA. The Special Educational Needs Organiser will advise the school of the outcome of the application once it has been fully considered.

Home-School Liaison Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

179 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science when arrears of home tuition will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46450/09]

The home tuition scheme provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement. Home tuition grants are paid to the parents, who in turn make payment to the home tuition provider.

Following the introduction of an increased rate of pay to suitably qualified home tuition providers, arrears payments may be due to some tuition providers. My Department is currently examining the matter. Officials from my Department will be in contact with the tutor referred to by the Deputy in due course.

School Transport.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

180 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review a decision to rescind a bus ticket issued to a person (details supplied); if he will consider overturning the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46486/09]

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Scheme, on behalf of my Department, are responsible for the day to day operation of services including the designation of pick up and set down points. Bus Eireann has advised that the designated pick up point in this case is considered to be as safe as other pick-up points being used by pupils travelling under the School Transport Scheme throughout the country.

Teaching Qualifications.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

181 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if the State funded Bachelor of Education Programme for primary teachers requires student teachers to take courses in religion or religious education and to teach religion on teaching practice; the provision made for student teachers who belong to a denomination which is not Christian, that is Muslim or Jewish, or who are humanists or atheists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46489/09]

The Colleges of Education accept students of all faiths and none on the Bachelor of Education programmes. Places on the programme are allocated, in the main, through the CAO system. While actual course content varies from college to college, the B.Ed prepares students to teach in a range of school settings and this is reflected in teaching practice placements and in the content of the religious education modules, which aim to equip students to teach religious education in accordance with the wishes of the particular school in which they are employed.

Given the largely denominational nature of primary school sector, traditionally Religious Education methodology's have been included in the content of the B.Ed. As with all elements of the B.Ed programme this area evolves and is reviewed in accordance with the changing educational landscape. The Colleges work with the various school patron bodies and Religious Education course content tends to include approaches and methodology's relevant to diversity and all major world religions. For example, a number of the Colleges of Education are currently working collaboratively with Educate Together to better equip student teachers to teach in that setting.

The Colleges may also provide an optional and separate Certificate Course in Religious Studies, which is a qualification for teaching religion in catholic primary schools. Responses received from some the Colleges in relation to the question of provision being made for student teachers who belong to a denomination which is not Christian have indicated that this has not arisen to date.

The situation in the Church of Ireland College of Education is somewhat different as its remit is to provide teachers for the Protestant primary school sector and it may reserve places on the B.Ed for students from Protestant backgrounds. In CICE, Religious Education is provided as a core subject in the B.Ed and students are expected to teach Religious Education on teaching practice unless they are placed in a non-Protestant school and that school requests that they be excused from teaching Religious Education. As part of the B.Ed's Religious Education programme students are provided with lectures in comparative religions, and also have access to a programme of lectures on the Educate Together sector. Students are also required to study education and equality legislation, which includes an exploration of the rights of those of minority faith (including those of personal beliefs) in denominational schools.

Question No. 182 withdrawn.

Schools Building Projects.

Phil Hogan

Question:

183 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he received an application in respect of additional funding for the replacement of an existing prefab with a permanent structure from a school (details supplied) in County Carlow; when a decision will be made on this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46552/09]

The school referred to by the Deputy was approved €120,000 in grant-aid for the replacement of a prefab with a permanent classroom in 2008. The project was completed and the funding issued in 2008. Earlier this year the school was approved for further funding, this time under the Emergency Works Scheme, to replace some of the school windows. These works have also been completed and the approved grant amount has issued to the school. A further application for funding was subsequently received to replace the balance of the school windows. This application was also approved.