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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 16 Feb 2010

Vol. 702 No. 2

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 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 69, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 70 to 77, inclusive, answered orally.

EU 2020 Strategy.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

78 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding achieving agreement on the EU 2020 Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7313/10]

Given the backdrop of the most severe economic and financial crisis seen in generations, the need for a renewed approach on the part of the EU and its Member States, cannot be overstated.

The EU's Lisbon Strategy on growth and jobs did not achieve all of its targets but had its positive impact. There are useful lessons from it to be applied, as the EU works towards agreeing a successor strategy, which is currently being referred to as the "EU 2020" Strategy.

We welcome and support the priority that has been attached to this work, both by the new President of the European Council and by the Spanish Presidency.

We are of the view that any new Strategy must be effective in steering the comprehensive exit strategy from the financial and economic crisis in the short term, while also equipping the EU towards a higher sustainable growth potential, accompanied by job creation, in the medium to long term. In short, for us the primary focus for the EU 2020 Strategy should remain firmly on sustainable jobs and growth.

The new EU 2020 Strategy needs to provide the EU with an ambitious vision for the years ahead. The experience of the Lisbon Strategy has shown the need for a new strategy to have a sharp focus and concentrate on a limited number of key objectives to deliver jobs and growth. These should include: competitiveness, R&D, innovation, completion of the Single Market, employment activation measures and training, the sustainable use of resources, including the development of agriculture and food resources, as well as global trade.

The Taoiseach was last Thursday in Brussels at an informal meeting of the European Council, which began consideration, under President Van Rompuy's chairmanship, of the new strategy. There was substantial buy-in to the overall approach and to the prioritisation of the task.

Last month, the Government made a submission to a European Commission consultation process on a future EU 2020 Strategy. The Commission will now bring forward formal proposals in advance of the Spring European Council meeting which will take place towards the end of next month (25-26 March), at which those proposals will be the subject of detailed discussion.

We look forward to continuing our close engagement with EU partners on the development of this important new Strategy and I have every confidence and expectation that agreement will be achieved on a dynamic and effective new forward-looking strategy during the course of the first half of this year.

Democratic Accountability.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

79 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on development, democratic accountability and equality in Angola; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7170/10]

Angola has undergone major development since the end of its civil war, one of the longest-running civil wars in Africa, in 2002. It has achieved rapid economic growth, thanks to a boom in oil production and high international oil prices. As Africa's largest oil producer, Angola's economic boom continues today, notwithstanding a temporary downturn in 2008/09.

Hopes that the ending of Angola's civil war would lead to more political openness have only partially been fulfilled. Angola's first parliamentary election since 1992, and only the second since 1975, took place in September 2008. While an EU election observation mission welcomed the peaceful conduct of the elections it did not, however, go as far as describing them as free and fair. Indeed, in January the ruling MPLA party used its two thirds majority in parliament to push through a new constitution which reinforces the position of President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled Angola for over thirty years, including by abolishing the provision for the election of the President by popular vote and allowing him to serve for two further five year terms.

Ireland-Angola relations are limited, and there have been few opportunities for political dialogue in recent years. However, conscious that the country's rapid economic growth masks huge inequalities, Irish Aid does provide some funding to the Angolan people, amounting to almost €7.6 million since 2006. This funding is channelled through Irish and international NGOs including Trócaire, Concern and Christian Aid and through Irish missionaries. These funds have been employed in programmes combating HIV & AIDS, reducing food insecurity and promoting good governance as well as on various humanitarian assistance projects.

On a broader level, the promotion of democratic accountability and equality in order to ensure equitable and sustainable development is a policy priority of the Irish overseas aid programme. Our work in this area includes participation in election monitoring and support; support for parliaments and parliamentary reform; support for strengthened public financial management systems and oversight bodies; and support for civil society, including independent media. Irish Aid will continue to prioritise support to this important area and help to ensure effective, equitable and accountable governance in developing countries, particularly in Africa.

Departmental Property.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

80 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the values of properties held by Irish embassies abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7075/10]

The State owns 37 properties abroad. Their estimated value is currently in the order of €153 million. However, I would caution that this estimate is subject to the price volatility of the current property market across the globe.

These properties have been acquired for use as office premises and official Residences of Heads of Mission. They provide platforms to enable our Missions to raise Ireland's international profile and fulfil their varying responsibilities. These include providing services to the public, promoting Irish economic interests abroad and representing the State in international organisations. Properties are purchased with the approval of the Department of Finance in circumstances where it makes good business sense to do so and where funds are available.

UN Conventions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

81 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, Article 11, he will ensure that issues of disability will be included in all aspects of planning and relief through humanitarian intervention. [7173/10]

The Government fully recognises the importance of ensuring that the specific needs of people with disabilities are taken into account in all humanitarian planning and programming. Our approach is entirely consistent with the provisions of Article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which relates to the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including humanitarian emergencies.

In such situations, people with disabilities may, for example, encounter specific difficulties in accessing services and support. They may face additional risks as a result of dislocation and displacement. They may be overlooked in the provision of assistance as a result of the breakdown of their usual social support networks. In some cases, humanitarian emergencies not only increase the vulnerability of people already living with disabilities, but add to their number, through serious injury. The recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, for instance, has resulted in at least 1,000 amputees, with many others suffering serious long term injury.

It is important to recognise that experience has shown that people with disabilities, and indeed disaster-affected populations more generally, are remarkably resourceful in the face of emergencies, developing their own coping and recovery strategies. Our approach, as a donor responding to humanitarian emergencies, is to make sure that our assistance is channelled to projects and programmes which encourage and support these coping strategies.

Internationally, the agreed professional standards for humanitarian action in crisis situations, such as that in Haiti in recent weeks, are clearly set out in a document known as the Sphere Handbook. These standards were developed through an extensive global consultation process which began in 1997 and drew on the expertise of more than 400 Non-Governmental Organisations, UN agencies and academic institutions. They are based on the obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. The objective is to ensure that the needs of vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, are taken fully into account in all emergency programming. Ireland, through our overseas aid programme, funded this initial consultation exercise. We are also supporting an ongoing review and update of the standards.

In the context of Ireland's assistance to the people of Haiti following the earthquake, Irish Aid has emphasised to all agencies the importance of ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities are taken into account. The Irish Aid technical team which I asked to travel to Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake has reported on its assessment of priority needs at this stage. The team specifically identified people with disabilities, including those wounded in the earthquake, as a vulnerable group in need of particular attention. I was pleased to note recently that, as part of the operational coordination mechanisms on the ground in Haiti, a sub-group on disability has been established. I believe that this will help focus additional attention on the needs of people with disabilities in Haiti.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jack Wall

Question:

82 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the evidence of a person (details supplied) at the Goldsmith inquiry into the invasion of Iraq, that a consensus of legal opinion held that going to war in Iraq was a clear breach of international law, and that in so far as statements by the then Taoiseach to Dáil Éireann, in relation to the Iraq war, relied on similar materials and arguments as those used by then British Prime Minister, his further views on whether the answers to questions, and the discussion of motions in Dáil Éireann, was also relying on false information. [7163/10]

Speaking in Dáil Éireann on 20 March 2003, at the commencement of the debate on a Government motion tabled by the Government noting the imminence of military action by a United States led coalition against Iraq, the then Taoiseach said the following in relation to the interpretation of Security Council Resolution 1441: "Ireland made its position clear in the Security Council, immediately after the vote [to adopt Resolution 1441]. We said it was for the UN Security Council to determine what action should be taken in the event of continued Iraqi non-compliance. Other members of the Council, including most notably the United States, stated their view that a second resolution was not a precondition for military action. They pointed to their strong conviction that there was an outstanding mandate for the use of force based on previous resolutions. They were not willing to bind themselves to the obligation of waiting for a future resolution which, in their view, might unreasonably be denied.

There is no clear legal consensus on whether such a mandate exists. The arguments advanced by the coalition are supported by a number of countries which are not participating in military action. Ireland, however, cannot participate in a military campaign without an explicit, further UN mandate."

It is clear from the above that the then Taoiseach was simply recognising the fact, very much evident at the time, that there was no consensus on the legality of the invasion of Iraq, while making very clear the position of the Government that Ireland could not and would not participate in military action against Iraq in the absence of a further Security Council Resolution endorsing such action.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 77.

Tax Code.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

84 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the reputational damage to Ireland by the use of Ireland as an effective tax haven for five of the world’s top arms manufacturers; and his further views on the reported comment in a publication (details supplied) that the location of such firms here is based on an assumption of not asking foreign countries about their affairs. [7171/10]

It is important to note that Ireland is not regarded as a tax haven by either the OECD, the United States or any of the other major industrialised countries of the world. This is evidenced by the large and growing network of tax treaties that Ireland has in place with other countries around the world.

Ireland has now signed comprehensive Double Taxation treaties with 56 countries. Our Treaty network is rapidly expanding and now includes agreements with non-EU and non-OECD members. Ireland has also recently signed 14 Tax Information Exchange Agreements with other jurisdictions. These allow Revenue to request information (bank account or beneficial ownership information), which is relevant to an investigation here directly from the parties to these agreements.

Furthermore, Ireland does not encourage the establishment of brass plate operations which seek to simply avail of our low corporate tax rate. For this reason, while our corporation tax rate on trading activity is 12½%, our corporation tax rate on passive income is 25%.

There is no special treatment for arms manufacturers in Ireland. All of the companies referred to by the Deputy are registered in Ireland with the Companies Registration Office and are part of multinational corporations which are engaged in a wide range of activities internationally including the production of commercial building products, telecommunications and civilian aircraft manufacturing and leasing.

As the Deputy will be aware from the publication to which he has referred in his question, the companies mentioned do not manufacture military material or equipment in Ireland, nor are they involved in the export of such items from Ireland.

Exports of military equipment and dual use items from Ireland are regulated by the Export Control Act of 2008. Accordingly, any company or individual wishing to export military equipment must apply to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for a licence to do so. In addition, Ireland fully subscribes to the EU Common Position defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment adopted in December 2008. Ireland is also an active member of the main international export control regimes.

Ireland has been and continues to be at the forefront of developments in International Humanitarian Law and our reputation as a leading proponent for international disarmament is well established. I do not believe that our reputation in this regard is in any danger and I can assure the Deputy that it is my intention to continue to strongly support this aspect of my Department's work.

Emigration Issues.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

85 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he has made and the prospects or progress in legalising the status of the undocumented Irish community in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7160/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

106 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made to date on resolving the issue of undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7232/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 106 together.

Finding a solution for our undocumented citizens in the United States continues to be an important priority for this Government. We are also committed to enhancing our bilateral migration arrangements with the US through the establishment of a reciprocal two year renewable visa scheme, known as the E3 visa, and the further development of the recently agreed working holiday programme.

The issue has featured in a significant way in my recent contacts with the US Administration and members of Congress, including during my meeting with Secretary of State Clinton in Dublin last October. On my visit to Washington and New York on 14-17 October, I held extensive discussions on the prospect for progress on immigration reform with a significant number of key Democrats and Republicans in Congress. These included the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Bob Casey, the Chair of the House Sub Committee on Immigration, Zoe Lofgren and the members of the House of Representatives Friends of Ireland Group. I also discuss the matter on a regular basis with Ambassador Rooney, including during our most recent meeting on 22 January.

There remains considerable support among key political figures in the United States for efforts to find a solution for the Irish undocumented and for the E3 visa initiative. However it has been made clear to us that the undocumented can only be provided for through comprehensive immigration reform.

Supporters of reform had hoped that a comprehensive bill, which would address the concerns of the undocumented, would be introduced and make progress in Congress early this year. However, the outcome of the recent senate election in Massachusetts, the ongoing effort to pass health care legislation and the forthcoming mid-term elections, could combine to complicate the political prospects for the passage of immigration reform.

Our Embassy in Washington continues to maintain very close contact with the Administration and key contacts in Congress to ensure that Irish interests are considered as part of the ongoing debate over immigration reform. The issue will also be raised by the Taoiseach and I during our St Patrick's Day visit to the United States.

The Government also continues to maintain close contact with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform to which we have provided a total of $285,000 in funding under the Emigrant Support Programme since 2006.

Diplomatic Representation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

86 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he was informed that the Swedish Embassy is due for closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7072/10]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

103 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent decision by the Swedish Government to shut its embassy in Dublin. [7149/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 103 together.

On 21 January, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Swedish Government had decided to close a number of Embassies, including its Embassy in Dublin.

The Irish Government very much regrets this decision, and I made this clear to my Swedish counterpart, Mr. Carl Bildt, when he telephoned me to communicate the decision on the evening before the official announcement was made.

Ireland and Sweden share a wide common agenda, through our EU membership and through our very similar outlook on foreign, security, disarmament and development issues, as well as serving together on a number of UN peace keeping missions. That was exemplified most recently in particularly effective communication and cooperation during the recent Swedish Presidency of the EU Council. Against the background of the increased pace and scope of EU integration it is our view that the conduit provided by bilateral Embassies has particular value. We intend to use all available channels, including our Embassy in Stockholm, to pursue our cooperation in these priority areas. In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, exports of Irish goods and services to Sweden were worth over €2bn, more than twice the value of imports from Sweden. Over a dozen Swedish companies have operations in Ireland employing about 2,000 people. Some 83,000 tourists visited from Sweden during 2008.

Ireland makes its own decisions on where we locate embassies on the basis of an assessment of what best serves the interests of the State and our people. Our view is that, given the extent to which decisions taken by the EU increasingly impact on Ireland and the daily lives of our people, it is in our interest to maintain a resident Ambassador in EU capitals to promote and pursue our policy interests directly with the governments and the parliaments of our EU partners. Our Embassy in Stockholm, which was established in 1946, is a very valuable component of our network.

Product Labelling.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

87 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the issues surrounding the labelling of products from illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory; and the steps he will take, in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to deal with this issue. [7237/10]

As I have stressed in this House on many occasions, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories represents a primary impediment to the two-State solution. It both prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations and undermines the fundamental viability of a Palestinian State. I also firmly believe that it weakens the standing of moderate Palestinian leaders and plays into the hands of extremists on both sides. These are points that both I and my officials have made directly and repeatedly to the Israeli authorities.

Within the EU, Ireland has long been among the most active Member States in ensuring that we convey our serious concerns about settlement expansion to the Israeli Government at every opportunity. The EU has made it very clear to Israel that settlement construction in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.

With regard to the issue of labelling of produce, I have been following the measures taken by the UK Government who in December issued new voluntary guidelines for retailers and importers to enable them to distinguish more clearly between produce grown in the occupied Palestinian territories and produce originating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

I believe that many Irish consumers might also wish to be aware if they are buying produce originating in illegal settlements and I support the introduction of a similar measure here in Ireland. Minister of State Dick Roche T.D. delivered a statement during an adjournment debate on the matter in the Dáil on 21 January which outlined in some detail our position on introducing guidelines in Ireland.

Product labelling is not the responsibility of this Department but rather is primarily a matter for other Government Departments. However, I have requested officials from my Department to discuss with the relevant other Government Departments how Ireland might follow the example of the new UK guidelines. This process is ongoing.

Foreign Conflicts.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

88 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding Darfur where the recent International Criminal Court decision to charge a person (details supplied) may lead to a charge of genocide. [7143/10]

The persistence of the conflict in Darfur, albeit at a lower level than the intense violence of 2003-2004, and the ongoing suffering of the people in the region are of grave concern. The UN estimates that the past seven years of conflict there have resulted in the deaths of over 300,000 people and the displacement of nearly three million.

In March 2009, a Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir with two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, torture and rape, in Darfur. At the time, the Pre-Trial Chamber determined, by a 2-1 majority, that there was insufficient evidence of the specific intent required in order to demonstrate the crime of genocide, namely an intention to destroy, in whole or in part, the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups, and so genocide was not included in the arrest warrant. Earlier this month, on the application of the Prosecutor of the Court, the Appeals Chamber unanimously reversed this ruling on the grounds that the Pre-Trial Chamber had used too high a standard of proof. The Pre-Trial Chamber will now reconsider whether to add three counts of genocide to the arrest warrant for President Bashir. As an independent judicial body, we fully respect both the independent process that led to the Court proceedings in relation to the issuing of an arrest warrant for the President and the proceedings themselves.

Ireland urges the Government of Sudan to cooperate in full with the International Criminal Court. We condemned the decision of the Sudanese Government to expel thirteen international NGOs from the country in response to the issuance of the arrest warrant last March. The decision to arbitrarily deprive innocent people — already victims of conflict — of basic humanitarian assistance was truly appalling. While the relationship of Ireland and the EU with the Sudanese Government is obviously affected by its failure thus far to cooperate with the ICC, it is important that we remain engaged in order to promote and support ongoing peace efforts and to provide whatever assistance we can to the large numbers of people displaced by the conflict in Darfur who are dependent on international aid.

Haiti Earthquake.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

89 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of funding that was allocated to the relief operation in Haiti; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7078/10]

Martin Ferris

Question:

90 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the ongoing support, both financially and in terms of resources and personnel, he will make available to help rebuild Haiti’s shattered infrastructure and economy after the devastating earthquake. [7242/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

99 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if additional support will be made available from official aid as opposed to from voluntary subscriptions to the non-governmental organisations to assist in the recovery and reconstruction of Haiti. [7138/10]

John Deasy

Question:

104 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of relief aid provided to Haiti following the recent earthquake; the nature of the aid provided; the way it was distributed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7174/10]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

108 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will be making further humanitarian aid available to Haiti; his plans to ensure future support through Ireland Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7079/10]

John O'Mahony

Question:

112 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the relief efforts in Haiti; the Irish contribution to that relief effort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7248/10]

David Stanton

Question:

127 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has provided personnel to assist with the relief effort in Haiti; the number of such personnel provided and their areas of expertise; the length of time they will be available to continue with the relief effort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7175/10]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

147 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to provide aid for the long term reconstruction effort in Haiti; the amount and the nature of such aid; the time period covered by such aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7176/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 90, 99, 104, 108, 112, 127 and 147 together.

A major international relief effort is continuing in Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 12 January. The Government of Haiti estimates that well over 200,000 people died in the earthquake. Approximately 1.2 million people are believed to be living in temporary shelter in and around Port au Prince, while a further 480,000 are estimated to have left the city for rural areas.

The challenges to the international relief effort have been formidable. Haiti was already an extremely vulnerable country, and much of its key infrastructure was destroyed in the quake. Initially, the relief effort struggled with the sheer number of people in urgent need of assistance. However, an estimated two million people have now received vital emergency food aid.

At this stage, the priorities for the relief effort include food, provision of post-operative medical care, shelter and sanitation services for the displaced, protection of vulnerable groups, particularly children, and livelihood support, including cash for work. With the imminence of the rainy season, the provision of interim shelter, with adequate water and sanitation facilities, is particularly urgent.

So far, the Government, through Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs, has committed more than €3 million to the relief effort in Haiti. This includes our largest-ever humanitarian airlift, involving the chartering of a Hercules C130 and two DC 10 aircraft to transport more than 130 tonnes of essential humanitarian supplies from Irish Aid stockpiles. Sufficient shelter, water and sanitation equipment has been provided for 12,000 families, for distribution by three of our key NGO partners, Goal, Concern and Trócaire/Caritas.

In addition, an ICT specialist, an electrical engineer and a civil engineer were deployed from Ireland's Rapid Response Corps, to support the World Food Programme operation in Haiti. A fourth has deployed to work as a logistician with Concern. Two further members of the Corps are due to leave for Haiti in the coming days. The Corps consists of a roster of volunteers with highly-specialised skills in areas such as logistics, engineering, water and sanitation, who are available for secondment to the UN and other humanitarian organisations in need of their particular skills. It was established following the 2004 tsunami to enable members of the public with specific skills to make themselves available to assist in a humanitarian crisis.

Our direct bilateral support has been in addition to funding which the Government pre-positioned with the United Nations' Central Emergency Response Fund, which was available to the UN for immediate use in the aftermath of the earthquake. The Fund was established in 2006 to provide a pool of funding from which the UN could draw without delay during humanitarian emergencies. Ireland has provided a total of €73 million to the Fund since 2006, including €20 million in the past year.

I also sent a small technical team to Haiti to undertake an analysis of priority needs and to make recommendations for action by Irish Aid in the medium and longer term. The team has reported back to me and its recommendations are informing our examination of the role Ireland should play in assisting the recovery in Haiti.

A Post-Disaster Needs Assessment is now being carried out in Haiti by the Government of Haiti, the UN, the EU, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It will be critical in identifying needs for the country's recovery over the medium to longer term, and will provide an important framework for international support.

The findings of the assessment will be considered in preparation for an international conference on the reconstruction of Haiti, which will be held in April. Ireland will make a significant additional multi-annual pledge at the conference, demonstrating our firm commitment to supporting the people of Haiti as they undertake the difficult task of rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.

Foreign Conflicts.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

91 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has made a request to the Israeli authorities to visit Gaza; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7076/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

146 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the role Ireland is playing in putting pressure on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7240/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 146 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Question 72 of today.

"I have paid particular attention to the worsening conditions in Gaza, even before the conflict one year ago. I have stressed the humanitarian needs of the population, and the urgent necessity to end the blockade and open the border crossings, not only to unrestricted humanitarian aid, but also to reconstruction materials and ordinary commercial traffic.

The blockade of Gaza is unacceptable in itself but also politically counter-productive. It enriches militants through their control of smuggling, but prevents ordinary citizens from rebuilding their homes and businesses. Virtually no reconstruction has been possible, and families have been unable to rebuild their homes, or even replace windows and doors. Economic life is virtually impossible, so that an ever growing population is almost entirely dependent on outside aid.

The continuing blockade of Gaza is in this sense the collective punishment of a population of one and a half million for the unacceptable actions of a small minority in their midst in launching indiscriminate and deadly attacks into Israel. It is also difficult to understand why, in periods such as now when the level of such attacks has been greatly reduced or minimised, the blockade continues unchanged.

I discuss these issues regularly with my EU colleagues. The Foreign Affairs Council in December adopted detailed Conclusions on the Middle East, including clear language on Gaza and the need for an immediate and unconditional opening of the crossing points. High Representative Ashton now has responsibility, under the Lisbon Treaty, for clearly articulating the EU viewpoint on the Middle East, and the need for urgent progress towards a negotiated two-state solution.

It has always been my intention to visit Gaza and see the problems there for myself. I have also wished to see the impact and effectiveness of the substantial assistance we give to Gaza from Irish Aid. My interest in a visit was only strengthened by the disastrous course of events in Gaza over the last year. I sought to make a visit last December which would have included Gaza as well as Israel and the West Bank. As Deputies know, the Israeli authorities refused to allow me permission to cross into Gaza. Israel contends that a visit to Gaza would serve to legitimise Hamas (irrespective of whether meetings with Hamas representatives took place). I found, and continue to find, this explanation quite unconvincing.

It is clear that they are refusing all political level visits to Gaza at this time. Supposed security considerations have also been cited.

This is a matter of deep disappointment and concern to me. It is still my intention to make such a visit and I would hope to be given a positive response in future. However, the main issue for me remains the unacceptable restrictions placed on the people of Gaza."

Holocaust Commemoration.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

92 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his reflections on the 65th anniversary of the closing of Auschwitz; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7139/10]

The 65th anniversary of the liberation of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945 by the Soviet army, which fell on 27 January, recalls one of the darkest periods of European history and also reminds us of how far Europe has come since then.

The Holocaust serves as a constant reminder of the need for all countries to work together in the protection and promotion of human rights, to promote tolerance and respect and to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

Ireland has held an annual National Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration since 2003 organised in association with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which is the principal funder of the event. This year's event, held at the Mansion House in Dublin on 30 January, was attended by the Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen TD, and also by the Minister of State with responsibility for Integration, Mr. John Curran TD.

This ceremony seeks to cherish the memory of the millions of Jewish and other victims who were murdered because of their nationality, ethnicity, disability, religious belief, political affiliations or their sexual orientation. It is a reminder of the dangers of racism and discrimination and provides lessons from the past that are relevant today. The Government is actively committed to promoting an inclusive society and to eliminating all forms of racial intolerance in Ireland.

The Government is also fully committed to complying with our international obligations in the area of discrimination and anti-racism, in particular, in relation to the work undertaken within the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in this regard.

As a sign of Ireland's commitment to international remembrance of the Holocaust, Ireland became an Observer Member of the Task Force on International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) in December 2007. The ITF was established at the initiative of the then Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, in 2000.

Membership of the ITF involves a three-stage process and last year Ireland progressed from Observer to Liaison Member status after completion of a baseline study detailing national activities and policies in relation to anti-Semitism. Ireland is represented, at official level, at the biannual meetings of the Task Force. Preparations are now underway for Ireland to become a Full Member of the ITF as soon as possible.

EU Council Meetings.

Liz McManus

Question:

93 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the most recent Council of Ministers meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7141/10]

The Deputy will recall that under the Lisbon Treaty, the General Affairs and External Relations Council has now been divided into two parts: the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Councils. Due to the Hillsborough talks, I was unable to attend the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday, 25 January, which was chaired by Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Minister of State Roche attended the meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council and the General Affairs Council. Minister of State Power joined the Foreign Affairs Council for discussion of the EU response to the disaster in Haiti.

At the General Affairs Council, there was discussion of the Spanish Presidency Programme which is focusing on the cross-cutting themes of innovation and equality. We have welcomed the Spanish Presidency Programme which is particularly important in helping Europe to achieve economic recovery and create jobs. This was discussed in more detail by the Taoiseach and his EU colleagues at the informal meeting of the European Council which took place on Thursday last, 11 February.

The Foreign Affairs Council discussed the coordination of the EU response to the disaster in Haiti, following-up on the meeting of Development Ministers at which my colleague Minister of State Power represented the Government. As the Deputy will be aware, the EU is providing substantial humanitarian assistance of some €122 million to the relief operation and the above-mentioned meeting of Development Ministers agreed to contribute a further €300 million in the medium to long term. In addition, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed that the EU would provide 300 police personnel to reinforce the UN effort in Haiti. The EU also pledged to set up a central point in Brussels — EUCO Haiti — to coordinate contributions by Member States of military and security support to the UN effort.

Minister of State Power briefed our European colleagues on the support provided to Haiti through Irish Aid, which has included the shipment of 83 tonnes of emergency materials which are being distributed by Concern and Goal, the disbursement of funds to the World Food programme for emergency feeding, the deployment of members of the Rapid Response Corps and an Irish Aid technical team. In addition, the United Nations is drawing down funding from Ireland's contribution to the Central Emergency Response Fund.

On the Iranian nuclear issue, Ministers discussed the continuing unwillingness of the Iranian government to engage in a meaningful way with the international community over its nuclear programme. The Council also considered how the European Union can most appropriately support further action by the UN Security Council should this arise.

The political situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina was also on the agenda. Ministers called on Bosnia-Herzegovina to speed up key reforms. The Council approved a non-executive capacity-building and training mission to start within the framework of the existing EU military operation, Operation Althea. Parallel to this, Althea will maintain the current executive presence in Bosnia during the course of elections planned for October this year, and will remain at least until November, when the current UN Security Council Resolution expires. The EU may extend the current executive military role beyond 2010 should the situation require it; this would require the authorisation of a new Security Council resolution.

Ministers also focused on developments in Somalia and, in response to a number of United Nations Security Council resolutions, agreed to set up a Common Security and Defence Policy operation to contribute to the training of the Somali Transitional Federal Government forces.

Ministers looked forward to the International Conference on Afghanistan which was held on 28 January in London and stressed the importance of having specific outcomes and commitments with actions and deliverables on the part of the Afghan Government and the international community.

Unfortunately, I was unable to join the Conference because of my involvement in the Hillsborough Castle negotiations. I was pleased, however, to have an opportunity to discuss the outcome with Foreign Secretary Miliband during our bilateral meeting in London on 4 February. Our discussions also included an exchange of views on the situation in Yemen, in the context of an international meeting which had been held in London on 27 January on the eve of the Afghanistan Conference. I welcomed the focus on a comprehensive strategy for Yemen by the international community which will help to tackle all of the challenges facing the country. I also drew attention to the country's humanitarian needs and the fact that Irish Aid has recently provided some €200,000 in funding.

Human Rights Issues.

John Perry

Question:

94 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views regarding the recent presidential elections in Sri Lanka; if his attention has been drawn to the recent protests and allegations of irregularities in the election; if these issues will be resolved ahead of the parliamentary elections which are due to take place in March or April 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7249/10]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

144 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the progress made towards the establishment of an international tribunal to hear evidence on human rights abuses during the recent war in Sri Lanka. [7157/10]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

145 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will respond to the proposals made to him by the Permanent People’s Tribunal regarding recent military action in Sri Lanka. [7151/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 144 and 145 together.

I am aware of the findings of the Permanent People's Tribunal on Sri Lanka, the independent, NGO-led exercise held in Dublin last month which concluded that the Government and military of Sri Lanka were guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war and that other charges should be followed up through further investigation. These conclusions reinforce the widely held view that serious breaches of international humanitarian law occurred during and after the final stages of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

The Tribunal, however, considered only the actions of the Government and military of Sri Lanka. While it did not deny that war crimes were also committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), it did not examine the actions of LTTE forces. The Tribunal has provided a legal explanation as to why its mandate was focused exclusively on the Sri Lankan State and not on the LTTE, but it is regrettable that, as a result, the Tribunal's work is being written off as one-sided and biased by the Government of Sri Lanka and by others.

A key recommendation of the Tribunal is for a UN-led inquiry to be conducted into war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the final stages of the war between the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the LTTE, and during the war's aftermath. Other recommendations relate to the need for: displaced people and detainees to be returned to their homes without delay; reconstruction and rehabilitation to get underway; measures to be put in place to promote national reconciliation, equality, democracy and justice; work to begin on a sustainable peace process addressing all issues of concern; and an international role in monitoring and supporting such developments.

As reported to Deputies previously, all of these measures have already been strongly advocated by the Government and by the EU. The EU led efforts last year to secure the agreement of the UN Human Rights Council to an independent international inquiry into breaches of international law during the closing stages of the war but, very regrettably, we were unsuccessful. While not optimistic that such an inquiry will be authorised anytime in the near future, we are still firmly of the view that one is essential.

It is likely that EU GSP+ privileges will be withdrawn from Sri Lanka due to its breaches of the human rights provisions in their Agreement with the EU. The EU has also made clear its readiness to support reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation efforts. We are very much of the view that long-term peace and stability in Sri Lanka can only be established on the basis of full justice and rights for all the inhabitants of the island.

As regards the recent elections in Sri Lanka, although all pre-election forecasting had predicted a very tight race, in the event incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse won 57.8% of the total votes cast, as compared with 40.2% for former Army Chief of Staff, Sarath Fonseka. Some 10.4 million voters — 70% of Sri Lanka's 14 million-strong electorate — turned out to vote, although the turnout in the Tamil areas in the north-east was less than 30%.

Although a number of violent incidents took place on election day, mainly in the Tamil North, voting was conducted in a relatively peaceful manner in most of the country. No external election monitors were permitted to observe the elections, but the local independent Centre for Monitoring Election Violence reported that, while they had received some reports of irregularities from some parts of the country, there was no evidence to suggest large-scale fraud during the vote. The United Nations, expressing satisfaction that the election had been conducted relatively peacefully, urged the country's political parties to abide by the official results.

The leading opposition candidate, General Fonseka, however, rejected the election results and announced that he will be challenging them in court. In addition to what he believed was threatening action against him by the military on the day after the elections, he has accused incumbent President Rajapakse of using the state media to attack him, of misappropriating public funds for his campaign and of preventing displaced minority Tamils from voting. Whether a case based on these allegations actually comes to court remains to be seen but, given the size of his electoral majority, there is virtually no chance that President Rajapakse's victory will be overturned.

A number of incidents since the elections have raised concerns as to the intentions of President Rajapakse and his Government, including in relation to the media. Also, on 8 February, General Fonseka was arrested and is facing a court martial, standing accused by the Government of working with anti-government forces and planning a coup and assassinations. Although Government representatives have stated that his arrest is unrelated to his entering politics and standing as an opposition candidate in the presidential election, the arrest of General Fonseka at this time raises many questions and concerns.

Following his electoral victory, President Rajapakse has said he will sit down with the Tamil minority to discuss devolution of power and he has called on all the people of Sri Lanka to unite in the task of rebuilding the nation. I very much hope that this will be the case.

As regards the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to be held on 8 April, it is hoped that they will be conducted in a peaceful and free manner. There seems little prospect, however, that international observers will be invited to monitor the elections and Government parties can be expected to avail of the same significant advantages they enjoyed in the Presidential elections in terms of access to media and resources. We in the EU will be pressing for the elections to be fully free and fair. They will provide an important opportunity for the Tamil population to vote in parliamentary elections for the first time in thirty years and to elect a new generation of leaders to represent them. It is hoped that they will be permitted by the Government and their own community to engage in the electoral process on a fair and equal footing.

Middle East Peace Process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

95 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he continues, in co-operation with his EU colleagues, to positively influence developments in the Middle East with particular reference to ensuring continuous positive pressure in respect of a peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7230/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

364 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps that are being taken at EU level to encourage the development of a peace process in the Middle East; the extent to which the primary issues have been identified and are likely to be resolved; if he plans, alone or in conjunction with other EU representatives, to visit Gaza, the West Bank or Israel in the context of a peace process in the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7836/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

365 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which he, directly or together with the EU and UN, is engaged with the various sides involved in the Middle East conflict with a view to establishing common ground towards a peace process; the degree to which the various issues have been identified and isolated and or addressed in the context of any discussions taking place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7837/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

366 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the EU and the UN are committed to the peace process in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7838/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

367 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he together with his EU colleagues can report progress in respect of the advancement of peace in the Middle East; the degree to which the EU has engaged permanently with all sides and groups involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7839/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 364 to 367, inclusive, together.

The search for peace in the Middle East is a major foreign policy priority for Ireland and for the European Union. Ireland, and its EU partners have been to the fore in promoting the vision of a settlement which will result in two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, co-existing side by side in peace and security. While clearly difficult to achieve, that vision is now almost universally accepted as the only future which can ensure peace, and as the objective towards which the peace process must work.

Over the past twelve months the administration of President Obama has given renewed impetus to the peace process. Senator George Mitchell is leading the effort on the ground to bring the parties to final status negotiations. A number of US proposals to enable direct negotiations to resume are now being considered. These include a proposal that Israeli-Palestinian talks begin at official level, on the basis that official talks on practical issues could create sufficient traction and momentum to enable direct political level talks to eventually get underway. President Abbas has continued to publicly call on Israel to comply fully with its Roadmap obligations before agreeing to re-enter negotiations.

The key issue at the moment is to create sufficient confidence in both parties to allow them to enter into negotiations.

The EU's main focus has been on how to help this effort to begin talks, while ensuring that negative factors such as settlements, evictions and the Gaza blockade, which have the capacity to destroy any talks process, are not lost sight of. The Foreign Affairs Council in December adopted substantive Conclusions setting out EU policies on the MEPP, including the key final status issues of borders, Jerusalem, and settlements. Ireland played a very active role in devising these Conclusions which the EU will use as a basis for continued and deepened engagement with all parties to the talks. The Quartet also has a strong role to play and the EU has consistently called for a vigorous role for the Quartet in any future negotiations. The UN is active as a member of the Quartet, Secretary General Ban has urged all parties to abide by existing commitments, and called on Israel in particular to end the blockade of Gaza.

I have given the Middle East a very high priority since I became Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have made two visits to the region, as well as attending the international conference on Gaza held in Egypt last March. While I was unable to visit Gaza as I had hoped last December, it is still my intention to go there and see the position for myself. I have been able to discuss the position directly with key leaders in Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, and Syria. I also met UN officers and agencies in the area, including former Commissioner Karen Abu Zayd of UNRWA and Gaza Director John Ging. I used these meetings both to hear at first hand the assessment of the main players and offer Ireland's support for all those working towards a lasting solution. Both Ireland and the EU are also significant donors to the Palestinian people and to groups working for peace and justice. I will continue my efforts, both bilaterally, at EU level and in the UN in support of achieving urgently needed progress in the peace progress.

EU Matters.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

96 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps taken, since the ratification of the Lisbon treaty in October 2009, to keep the general public informed and fully aware of all aspects of the operations on the EU and especially those affecting Ireland. [7137/10]

Seán Barrett

Question:

114 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures he is introducing, in addition to the citizens initiative, to make the European Union more accessible and relevant for persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7302/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 114 together.

My Government colleagues and I are committed to the ongoing task of keeping the public informed of the operations of the EU and supporting increased engagement by our citizens with European issues. The revised Programme for Government agreed in October contains a express commitment to further enhance Ireland's place at the heart of Europe by encouraging the deepening of engagement by civil society at a European level.

There are many civil society organisations working to promote greater awareness and understanding of the European Union, and I welcome and support their efforts. The European Union institutions provide extensive public information about their work. The Lisbon Treaty contains important advancements in regard to transparency and openness which will give citizens direct access to EU information.

My own Department's Communicating Europe Initiative provides financial support to non-governmental and educational bodies for events and activities which aim to raise awareness of the EU in their community. A call for such proposals for 2010 was advertised last weekend in the national and regional press. I would encourage organisations to respond with their proposals by the deadline of 5 March. The application form is available from my Department or from our website, www.eumatters.ie , which provides easily accessible and reliable information about the EU.

Human Rights Issues.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

97 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on proposed anti-gay legislation by the Ugandan Government; if this will have an impact on the country’s status as an Ireland Aid target country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7077/10]

Uganda is one of the nine Programme Countries where Ireland has a commitment to long term strategic assistance. The programme is focused on supporting the poorest and most vulnerable in Uganda while a central component of our work is support for good governance and respect for human rights. I am very concerned about the implications of the Private Members Bill which was tabled in the Ugandan Parliament in October, which is described by its proponents as an ‘anti-homosexuality bill'.

I have followed this issue closely and Minister of State Peter Power has discussed it in detail with our Ambassador to Uganda. Through our Embassy in Kampala, the Government has expressed our deep concerns about the Bill to the Government of Uganda. We have also coordinated closely with our EU partners in order to raise our concerns with the Ugandan authorities as a human rights issue. On 3 December, through the Swedish Presidency, the European Union formally raised its concerns about the draft Bill in a meeting with the State Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Our Embassy in Kampala has also been engaging with the Uganda Human Rights Commission on issues relating to discrimination against sexual minorities. It has also sought the views of local human rights and representative groups on how the international community can most effectively support efforts to oppose such discrimination.

In that context, it is a welcome development that President Museveni — in a statement to his party on 12 January — emphasised that the Bill was a private members motion, and was not sponsored by Government or his party, the NRM. He also acknowledged the concerns which have been expressed by the EU and other donors.

I can assure you that, along with our EU partners, Ireland will remain actively engaged with the Government of Uganda, pressing it to ensure that the Bill does not pass into law.

UN Resolutions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

98 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7084/10]

Ulick Burke

Question:

137 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the nuclear threat posed by Iran and the possibility of further UN sanctions being introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7246/10]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

140 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States regarding reports of the build up of a missile shield in the Gulf by the US which follows on a recent ballistic missile defence review that described Iran’s intermediate and short range missiles as a threat. [7161/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 137 and 140 together.

International concerns about the nature and aims of Iran's nuclear programme, which are shared by Ireland, have been the focus of diplomatic efforts for some years. The EU has been actively engaged with the Iranian authorities since 2004 in trying to reach a satisfactory resolution of this issue. This EU commitment was repeated in the Declaration on Iran which was issued by the European Council in December. An intrinsic element of this approach has been the need to introduce progressively stronger measures which might persuade Iran to reconsider its position. This need is reinforced by the continuing refusal of Iran to comply with its obligations under both IAEA and UN Security Council Resolutions, and by the current stalemate in the negotiations. Consistent with this dual-track approach, the European Council Declaration stated that the Union would support action by the UN Security Council if Iran continues to ignore its obligations.

In line with our consistent support for the efforts of the E3+3, Ireland has always made clear that, in the event of continuing non-compliance by Iran, we could contemplate the adoption of further restrictive measures against Iran. Our strong preference would be for this to be agreed at UN level. If this cannot be achieved, we would be ready to support EU action.

Recent developments have not been helpful. Iran in recent weeks seemed to revive interest in a confidence building measure to have its existing stockpile of low enriched uranium sent out of the country for further processing for medical use. However, this possible opening now appears to have been closed by the latest pronouncements of the Iranian Government, which confirm its intention to enrich the existing uranium stocks to a higher level and to build ten further uranium enrichment plants — facilities for which there is no civilian use in Iran's planned nuclear power programme.

Iran's own neighbours, especially its Gulf Arab neighbours, have long made clear their extreme concern at the implications of Iran's nuclear programme, and indeed have raised the possibility that they may feel obliged to follow a similar path, which would be most unwelcome in an already tense region. It is in this context that recent reports of possible defensive measures, including by US forces based in the Gulf, should be seen. However, it is important to stress that all sides, including the United States, have made clear that they are committed to a peaceful resolution of this issue through diplomacy. This remains the priority for Ireland and our EU partners. President Obama's efforts to engage with Iran in the past year have been noteworthy, and it is deeply regrettable that Iran has so far failed to respond positively.

I am also seriously concerned by the continued suppression, including by violent means, of political demonstrations and dissent in Iran, and by the efforts of the Iranian authorities to link internal dissent with supposed international interference, and thus to demonise — rather than encourage — contact with the outside world. More generally, I have reported to the House on a number of occasions of my efforts to engage with the Iranian authorities, both bilaterally and through EU action, on the steady deterioration of human rights protection in Iran in recent years. Regrettably, these efforts have met with little response.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 89.

European External Action Service.

Billy Timmins

Question:

100 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the implications the European external action service has for Irish foreign policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7074/10]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

143 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the position regarding the staffing of such diplomatic posts representing the European Union which will arise as a result of the Lisbon treaty; the arrangements for the filling of these, and the expected Irish involvement. [7168/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 143 together.

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, Irish Foreign Policy will continue to be conducted within the overall context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The European External Action Service (EEAS) is an important innovation under the Lisbon Treaty to support the work of the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton. The High Representative's role is to conduct the Common Foreign and Security Policy and to contribute to its development.

The EEAS will be formally established under a Council Decision which it is hoped will be adopted at the latest by the end of April 2010. The High Representative is currently preparing a proposal for that Council Decision and is being assisted by a High-Level Group which includes representatives from the Member States.

As regards the staffing of EU diplomatic posts, the Treaty provides that the EEAS will comprise staff from three sources: the national diplomatic services, the Council Secretariat and the Commission. The forthcoming Council Decision on the EEAS will define the arrangements for filling these posts but, under guidelines already agreed, staff from all three sources should be treated equally, with staff from Member States having the same opportunities, rights and obligations as those of staff from the Council and Commission.

We have stressed the need for the staffing of the EEAS to be representative of the diversity of the Union. The recruitment process should be open, transparent and merit-based. I am confident that we will be able to place very high-calibre Irish candidates within the new Service. Current indications are that recruitment to the EEAS proper is unlikely to begin before this autumn.

The overall size of the EEAS is still under consideration and it will be some years before it reaches full operational strength. Staffing from the member States, including Ireland, is likely to start modestly. However, over time there will be a real benefit to the State through the experience gained by Irish public servants who have served with the EEAS.

The work of the EEAS will be complementary to the work of national diplomatic services. In countries outside of the European Union, European Commission Delegations have now become European Union Delegations which will form part of the EEAS structure. EU Delegations will work in close cooperation with Embassies from EU member States, including the Irish Embassy. EU Delegations will also take on work in international organisations which is currently done by the rotating Presidency, although the details of how this will work in practice have yet to be agreed.

The EEAS does not have responsibility for key areas of the work of my Department and Irish Embassies, in particular, promotion of Ireland's trade and economic interests, the provision of consular assistance to Irish citizens and liaison with Irish communities, and the administration of our overseas development assistance programmes. The EEAS may play a role in regard to consular assistance in emergency situations but this would be subsidiary to the work of national Embassies.

The European External Action Service will of course not play any diplomatic role within EU Member States and the work of my Department on developments within the EU and in promoting bilateral relations with these states will not be affected.

Haiti Earthquake.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

101 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the recent and current aid efforts in Haiti have demonstrated the need for such a restructuring of the Office of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations in such as way as to enable a civilian leader to be available, in an emergency, to give leadership on behalf of the United Nations. [7147/10]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

118 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he agrees that the response to the tragedy in Haiti underlines the need for a higher level of teamwork between various agencies seeking to assist those suffering in the aftermath of natural disaster. [7156/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

136 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans that are being put in place to co-ordinate international aid following lessons learned from the earthquake in Haiti. [7239/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 118 and 136 together.

The tragic consequences of the earthquake in Haiti on 12 January have underlined the importance of early and sustained coordination in the response of the international community to humanitarian emergencies.

The international humanitarian system has undergone fundamental reform since 2004. Important lessons have been learned from the shortcomings of the response to the Asian Tsunami, with the aim of improving effectiveness, predictability and accountability to affected populations.

Central to that reform process has been the strengthening of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), which coordinates the international response in the event of a humanitarian emergency. OCHA is headed by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who has responsibility for oversight of all emergencies requiring UN humanitarian assistance. At local level, the role of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator was strengthened. In addition, a Cluster System was developed to bring together agencies working in sectors such as shelter, nutrition, water and sanitation. This system aims to minimise duplication and gaps in the relief effort by ensuring that agencies in each sector share information and work together more effectively. Its effectiveness depends on UN leadership but also on the active participation of agencies and NGOs.

The challenges faced in responding to the Haiti earthquake were exceptionally serious. Haiti was already an extremely vulnerable country, and much of its key infrastructure was destroyed in the earthquake. The ability of the Government and the UN to respond was severely affected initially by the tragic loss of key personnel in the disaster. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti have received vital humanitarian assistance since the start of the relief effort.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, OCHA deployed members of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team to support the Haitian Government and the UN staff already in the country. The team rapidly established a coordination system in Port-au-Prince which has now been supplemented by coordination hubs in two other affected cities in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic.

Day-to-day coordination of the Haiti international relief effort is the responsibility of the civilian UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. In order to ensure full oversight and coordination with the military relief effort in Haiti, a Coordination Support Committee has been established. It is co-chaired by the Government of Haiti and the UN, and involves representatives from humanitarian organisations and from the international military.

Ireland has played an important role internationally in developing the effectiveness of international humanitarian coordination. At an early stage, the Government allocated €300,000 to support OCHA's coordinating role in Haiti. I have also authorised the deployment of a member of Ireland's Rapid Response Corps to assist OCHA with its civil-military coordination responsibilities in Haiti. This support is in addition to our regular funding for OCHA's core budget and to Ireland's ongoing strong support for humanitarian reform.

The lessons learned from earlier emergencies, including the 2004 Asian tsunami, have helped shape the international response in Haiti. However, there will be further lessons from the handling of the disaster in Haiti. Ireland will play an active role in ensuring that these lessons contribute to improved and more effective humanitarian coordination in future emergencies.

Democratic Stability.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

102 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the present position in Honduras and the prospect for democratic stability in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7158/10]

On 29 November 2009, Presidential elections took place in Honduras. The National Party (PN) candidate, Porfirio Lobo, was declared the winner with 56% of the vote and took office on 17 January. The elections took place against the backdrop of a military coup, which saw then President Manuel Zelaya forced out of office and then President of the National Congress, Roberto Micheletti declared interim President. While the electoral process took place under abnormal circumstances, Ireland and the EU viewed the elections as a significant step forward in solving the crisis in Honduras.

President Lobo took a number of encouraging steps in advance of his inauguration, including the signature of the Accord for National Reconciliation and for the Strengthening of Democracy in Honduras and he has since formed a Government of National Unity.

It is vital that the process of national reconciliation continues. In this regard, the prompt establishment of the Verification Commission as set out in the Tegucigalpa/San José Accord is essential.

The EU remains committed to lend its support to the re-establishment of constitutional and democratic order and to the process of national reconciliation in Honduras. This would allow the full normalisation of relations between the EU and Honduras.

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 86.
Question No. 104 answered with Question No. 89.

EU Treaties.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

105 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of jobs that have been created here as a direct result of the ratification of the Lisbon treaty. [7235/10]

The Lisbon Treaty is in force for little more than two months but the question is timely. The European Council met last Thursday, at the initiative of its new President appointed under the Lisbon Treaty, to frame a strategy for Europe's economic recovery. Under the Treaty, the European Council sets the EU's strategic priorities and gives them political impetus at the highest level. President Van Rompuy has been right to identify the securing of economic recovery as one of the main challenges facing the Union.

A discussion is now beginning of EU 2020, a framework to succeed the Lisbon Strategy. Ireland believes that its primary focus should be on sustainable jobs and growth. To attain this it should use a range of policy tools, including measures on competitiveness, support for R and D and innovation, exploiting the full potential of the Single Market and, particularly, employment activation measures and training.

The European Union has been central to economic development and to job creation in Ireland over the nearly four decades of our membership. The impact of the current crisis has been alleviated through coordinated response at the EU level and membership of the eurozone. In January the EU outlined the active labour market measures being put in place to assist redundant workers at the DELL computer manufacturing plant at Raheen, Co. Limerick and at ancillary enterprises in the Mid West region. Funding has been secured by the Government from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) for a package of personalised measures to retrain, upskill and offer further entrepreneurial and educational opportunities to up to 2,400 affected workers. The EU Budgetary Authorities recently approved the Irish Government’s application for €22.8m, of which the EU will contribute €14.8m and the Government €8m.

This is just one practical example of assisting workers in terms of business start up and other entrepreneurial supports Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards will provide business start up, business development and other entrepreneurial supports in terms of advice and financial assistance subject to normal eligibility criteria. The timeframe under which EGF funding can be drawn down in these particular circumstances extends until June 2011. An annual EGF budget of €500m is in place until 2013. Since accession to the European Treaty in 1973 Ireland has received European Social Funding of circa €5 billion for training and education programmes under which hundreds of thousands of Irish people have benefited.

I look forward to adoption, probably in March, of the EU 2020 Strategy as a means of positioning the EU, and Ireland, to benefit from international recovery when it comes, and thus create employment.

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 85.

Economic Forum.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

107 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the high level recommendations of the global Irish economic forum that will be implemented; the main headings of this work that will be advanced; the role of the innovation task force in this process; if there is a departmental implementation team working on initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7083/10]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

134 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the countries in which the 280 global Irish network members reside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7081/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 134 together.

The Global Irish Economic Forum marked a new phase in active and practical engagement with some of the most influential members of the Irish abroad. I was deeply encouraged by the level of commitment and support for this country demonstrated by those who travelled to Farmleigh.

The Government has moved quickly to build on the success of the Forum and to take forward the valuable work begun there. Following the publication of a comprehensive Report of the Forum on 13 October, a high level inter-Departmental Committee chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach has been conducting a detailed examination of the proposals contained therein. These include initiatives on innovation, culture, tourism, agriculture, financial services and developing new practical links with the global Irish.

The Committee will present a report to Government shortly and I intend to issue a detailed public statement on progress made since the Forum in advance of St. Patrick's Day.

While the progress report will highlight the extensive work being undertaken on the ideas generated at the Forum, a number of significant initiatives have already been implemented. On 4 February, I was delighted to formally announce the establishment of the new Global Irish Network, which was one of the key recommendations contained in the report of the Forum, at the Irish Embassy in London. The Network will formalise the relationship that developed at Farmleigh among those highly influential figures who, though mainly resident abroad, now have a formal framework in which they can contribute in delivering renewed economic growth in Ireland. The table contained in this reply includes a list of those countries in which the members of the Network reside.

Other initiatives already announced include: the provision of funding of €2.3 million for a new landmark Irish Arts Centre in New York; further support for Irish business networks abroad such as the Irish Technology Leadership Group in California; and the establishment by each of our Embassies of detailed local diaspora strategies aimed at ensuring that we cultivate and refocus our engagement with our communities abroad across a range of key sectors. Tourism Ireland's marketing campaign abroad in 2010, particularly around St Patrick's Day, has also benefited considerably from the views expressed by participants at the Forum.

Some of the proposals arising from Farmleigh were more suitably taken forward by the private sector, and I am aware that a number of participants are in contact with my Department in relation to these, including plans for a new Irish portal website and a Farmleigh graduate placement programme.

The post-Forum process complements the important work already underway across many of the areas discussed at Farmleigh, including through the Innovation Task force and the implementation of the "Building Ireland's Smart Economy". The Innovation Task Force was provided with a comprehensive briefing on the outcome of the Forum and officials involved in both processes are in close contact to help ensure that appropriate synergies can be identified and developed.

Global Irish Network: Countries where members reside

Country

Argentina

Australia

Belgium

Brazil

Britain

Canada

China

France

Germany

India

Indonesia

Ireland

Italy

Japan

Kazakhstan

Republic of Korea

Libya

Malaysia

Netherlands

New Zealand

Oman

Philippines

Poland

Qatar

Russia

Saudi Arabia

Singapore

Slovakia

South Africa

Sweden

Turkey

United Arab Emirates

USA

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 89.

International Agreements.

Mary Upton

Question:

109 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the suspension of the free trade agreement negotiations between the EU and Columbia. [7153/10]

EU relations with Colombia are conducted in the framework of regional relations between the EU and the Andean Community, comprising Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. In 2007, negotiations aimed at concluding a comprehensive Association Agreement between the EU and the Andean Community were formally launched. Such Agreements cover all facets of relations between the EU and these countries, including political dialogue, economic cooperation and trade. However, as not all member states of the Andean Community were in a position to proceed with free trade negotiations, the decision was taken to commence negotiations on a multiparty Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and two member states of the Andean Community — Colombia and Peru — within the overall framework of the Association Agreement. The negotiations are being carried out by the European Commission on the basis of a mandate from the Council.

Colombia faces many challenges. It has experienced the longest period of terrorist violence of any country in Latin America. The Colombian people have endured relentless suffering reflected in the more than two million internally displaced persons, a number second only to that of Sudan.

There is no single solution for promoting peace in Colombia; the various social and economic elements underlying the conflict have to be tackled simultaneously. Our approach and that of the European Union is to assist and influence the Colombian Government in a manner that results in economic and social development while progressively improving human rights standards. The conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Colombia will contribute significantly to the social and economic development of Colombia, which is imperative if it is to emerge from its violent past.

I am aware of and share the deep concern that has been expressed at the manner in which trade union activists, human rights defenders and journalists have been treated in Colombia. I wish to assure the Deputy that there is no question of strengthening economic ties with Colombia at the expense of human rights. I am of the view that continuing the FTA negotiations with Colombia at this time offers the best opportunity to ensure that the concerns of EU Member States at the human rights situation in that country and, in particular, the treatment of trade union activists are fully addressed by the Colombian government.

I would like to put on record the steps which Ireland has taken over the past year in addressing human rights issues directly with the Government of Colombia and together with the European Union.

Firstly, in December 2008, at the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia at the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva Ireland made a set of strong recommendations inter alia on the protection of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia. Foreign Minister Bermudez subsequently wrote to me outlining in detail the steps that Colombia has undertaken particularly in response to Ireland’s recommendations at the Human Rights Council.

Secondly, the Irish Ambassador to Colombia met with President Uribé, Foreign Minister Bermudez and senior officials in Bogota in November 2009 and raised a range of human rights issues, in particular the question of the number of trade unionists killed in recent years. The Colombian side acknowledged the difficulties they are facing with regard to the protection of human rights but outlined the steps being taken such as trebling the budget of the Protection Programme for Human Rights Defenders to $47 million in 2009. This permitted the extension of the Protection Programme to cover trade unionists and journalists. Indeed in the first half of 2009, the Protection Programme benefited 1,430 trade unionists.

Thirdly, Ireland has insisted on the inclusion of a clause committing both the EU Member States and Colombia to the implementation of their human rights responsibilities with the proviso that failure to do would result in the suspension of the Agreement.

Fourthly, I wrote to the EU Trade Commissioner in January to underline the importance I attach to the inclusion of a strong and effective human rights and suspension clause as an essential element of the Agreement.

In addition to the bilateral track, the European Union has stepped up its human rights dialogue with the Colombian authorities who have been left in no doubt about the seriousness of our concerns regarding the human rights situation and the extent of the improvements needed.

I can assure you that the Government will continue to closely follow the human rights situation in Colombia and take the steps we consider necessary bilaterally as well as in cooperation with our EU partners.

Foreign Conflicts.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

110 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the role Ireland will play in the closure of Guantanamo Bay. [7236/10]

In March 2009, the Taoiseach in Washington offered to assist the United States in implementing their commitment to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. In this context, two former detainees have been received for resettlement in Ireland. They arrived in Ireland in late September 2009.

Together with our EU partners, Ireland continues to encourage the US to bring about the closure of Guantanamo Bay in the shortest possible time.

Diplomatic Representation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

111 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current contacts between the Government and that of the Cote d’Ivoire. [7172/10]

Ireland does not have a resident embassy in Cote d'Ivoire, but is accredited to Cote d'Ivoire through our Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. The Ambassador of Cote d'Ivoire in London is also accredited to Ireland on a non-resident basis. The most recent visit to Ireland at Ministerial level was 22 February 2007, when Côte d'Ivoire's Minister for Economy and Finance and Minister for Communications visited Dublin and met with a group of Ministers and Deputies including Minister of State Lenihan and Mr John Cregan, T.D.

Elections were due to be held in Cote d'Ivoire in 2005 but have been postponed several times, for a variety of reasons including disputes over rebel disarmament and voter registration. Most recently they were scheduled for February or March 2010, but in December last they were postponed once more. The EU plans to send an Election Observation Mission to cover the elections, which it is hoped will be held sometime this year.

Since 2007, Irish Aid has provided over €2.5million to Cote d'Ivoire. €800,000 was provided in long-term development funding to a partner organisation, The Leprosy Mission and missionaries working in Cote d’Ivoire. These funds have supported basic education and health programmes and capacity building. In addition, €1,756,931 was provided for a range of projects operated by UN agencies under the Consolidated Appeals Process as well as for a Gender Based Violence project operated by an international NGO, in 2007.

Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 89.

Haiti Earthquake.

Mary Upton

Question:

113 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the request of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs for debt cancellation to Haiti; if he has communicated his support to the Department for Finance; and if he is concerned at the absence of debt cancellation from the agenda of the most recent board meeting of the International Monetary Fund. [7152/10]

The Government shares the concern of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs that the tragic earthquake of 12 January should not lead to further indebtedness for Haiti, and that vital resources should not be diverted from the response to the disaster. More broadly, the Government remains strongly committed to international efforts to cancel or ease the debt burden on developing countries. In Ireland's case, of course, all of our development assistance is provided in the form of grants and not loans.

Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and other international financial institutions delivered a total of $1.2 billion in debt relief to Haiti through the main multilateral debt relief initiatives. At the end of 2009, Haiti's total multilateral debt stood at $677 million. In addition, $507 million was owed to bilateral creditors, primarily Venezuela and Taiwan.

Following the earthquake, the IMF Executive Board discussed the situation in Haiti at its meeting on 27 January. It decided to augment its existing Extended Credit Facility to Haiti, which stood at $165 million at the end of 2009, by an additional $102 million. This helped provide the Government of Haiti with urgently needed cash resources to acquire emergency imports, support essential services, and make cash available to banks and transfer houses. This emergency assistance is interest-free, with repayments not due for just over five years. Following the meeting on 27 January, the IMF Managing Director gave a commitment that the Fund would now work for the deletion of all of Haiti's debt, including the IMF emergency loan.

I warmly welcome the statement by the G7 Finance Ministers at their meeting in Canada on 6 February that they will cancel the remaining bilateral debt owed by Haiti to G7 countries and work towards the cancellation of Haiti's remaining multilateral debt.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Finance are in contact in relation to the handling of Haiti's remaining debt and are monitoring developments at the IMF in coordination with our constituency at the Fund, which is led by Canada. I also expect that the issue of Haiti's debt will be discussed at the donor conference on the reconstruction of Haiti this spring, at which Ireland will participate.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 96.

Rapid Response Corps.

Phil Hogan

Question:

115 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the equipment that is available to the rapid response corps; the location of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7082/10]

Phil Hogan

Question:

142 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of members in the rapid response corps; the specialties of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7080/10]

Martin Ferris

Question:

148 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will put in place a plan to co-ordinate a non-military quick response group to ensure civilian resources such as nurses, doctors, fireman and policemen will be mobilised and transported quickly from Ireland to disaster zones anywhere in the world. [7241/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115, 142 and 148 together.

The Government established a Rapid Response Initiative following the 2004 Tsunami in order to build Ireland's capacity to respond quickly to humanitarian crises and to provide a mechanism for the seconding of skilled volunteers to humanitarian organisations in emergency situations. The Initiative involves the establishment of a Rapid Response Corps, together with the pre-positioning of stocks of humanitarian supplies.

The Rapid Response Corps is a roster of skilled and experienced volunteers who make themselves available to deploy at short notice to work in humanitarian emergency situations. At present, there are 130 people on the roster, with specialised skills in logistics, engineering, public health, humanitarian coordination and protection. Most have previous experience of humanitarian and development work abroad. Individual members of the Corps are deployed at the request of the UN and other humanitarian organisations which have identified a need for their specific skills.

Skills in the Corps can be broadly divided into several categories. There are 50 volunteers with humanitarian skills; 20 in the areas of engineering and environment; 13 in logistics; 12 in protection; 11 in public health; and 24 with skills in other areas. Since 2007, there have been more than 60 deployments of the Corps to more than 20 countries. Members of the Corps are at present working in Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Membership of the Corps is open to members of the public. The Department of Foreign Affairs is planning a new recruitment campaign, beginning in March of 2010. In advance of this campaign, Irish Aid is examining the possibility of expanding the range of skills within the Corps.

One of the important lessons learned from the international response to the devastation caused by the 2004 Tsunami was that the mass deployment of volunteers, while well-intentioned, can often hamper relief efforts. The Rapid Response Corps has been designed to provide highly-specialised skills as rapidly as possible, as and when requested by those leading the relief effort. This model is regarded as best practice internationally in responding to humanitarian crises.

The second element of the Rapid Response Initiative is the stockpiling of humanitarian supplies at three United Nations Humanitarian Response Depots, in Brindisi in Italy, Accra in Ghana and Dubai. These three international depots are part of a UN network which provides storage, logistics support and services for humanitarian supplies. The network is operated by the World Food Programme and used by Governments, UN Agencies and NGOs to store humanitarian supplies for rapid deployment.

The type of equipment which Ireland has stockpiled includes tents, blankets; plastic sheeting, soap, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, large water tanks and jerry cans. In recent weeks, the Government organised the transport of more than 130 metric tonnes of supplies to Haiti from these stocks, our largest-ever humanitarian airlift. These supplies were sufficient to provide shelter, water and sanitation to more than 12,000 families.

World Trade Organisation Negotiations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

116 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the prospect for the advancement of the development issues which were discussed at Doha in the present World Trade Organisation negotiations; the approach he will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7159/10]

The Government's policy approach toward international development issues is based on our strong commitment to the fight against global poverty and hunger. Our aid programme is focused on some of the least developed countries in Africa. However, we recognise that development assistance alone will not eradicate poverty. The development of global trade will play an essential role, and it is therefore important that the poorest and weakest countries are not marginalised from international trade. The Doha Development Agenda round of talks at the World Trade Organisation, launched in 2001, is seeking an agreement that would lower trade barriers around the world, and thereby allow developing countries to fully participate in the global market on an equal and fair basis.

Ireland has an important role to play in the WTO negotiations, at EU and global levels. We argue for a just and equitable outcome, not just in Ireland's interests, but also to provide the greatest opportunities for those countries most in need. We, and our partners in the EU, are seeking a balanced and ambitious outcome across all the core areas of the negotiations. This is essential for the delivery of economic growth and development gains for all participants, allowing real benefits for the world's poorest countries.

However, a number of high level efforts in 2009 to resolve the impasse in the talks failed to lead to the breakthrough we have long been working towards. At the Seventh WTO Ministerial meeting in Geneva in December last, Ministers reaffirmed the need to conclude the Doha Round in 2010 and called for a stock-taking exercise in the first quarter of this year to help set out a roadmap to make this happen. The G20 Summit in Pittsburgh last September agreed on a commitment to conclude the Doha trade round in 2010.

The urgency of completing the talks has been highlighted further by the confirmation of a massive decrease in global trade volumes in 2009, with serious implications for hunger and poverty in some of the poorest of the developing countries. It is clear that we need to intensify our efforts across the board if there is to be a realistic prospect of advancement in the trade talks. As my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr. Billy Kelleher T.D, stated at that WTO Ministerial meeting in Geneva, we need a comprehensive, balanced agreement in the Doha Development Round now more than ever. Ireland will continue to play its part, and we will work to ensure that the needs of those most in need are protected, including through our continued support for the concept of special and differential treatment for the developing and least developed countries.

Human Rights Issues.

Joe Costello

Question:

117 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on recent talks between the Dalai Lama and the Government of China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7166/10]

As stated on many previous occasions in this House, I am firmly of the view that dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama is the best way to address differences and tensions in Tibet over issues of culture, language, religion and identity. While our Government firmly adheres to the ‘One China' policy, I believe that dialogue on Tibet is as much in the interests of China, its stability and its harmony, as it is of Tibetans. Consequently, we avail of every appropriate opportunity to convey these views to the Chinese authorities, along with our concerns about aspects of the situation in Tibet.

I therefore welcome the fact that a ninth round of dialogue took place recently between representatives of the Dalai Lama, and the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department, which handles Tibet issues. This dialogue began in 2002 and the last round, prior to the recent one, took place in November 2008. That round had ended in acrimony after proposals presented by the representatives of the Dalai Lama, including a proposal for greater autonomy for Tibet, were rejected on grounds that the Dalai Lama continued to be a ‘splittist', threatening the unity and territorial integrity of China.

At a press conference on 2 February, after the round of dialogue had concluded, Vice Minister Zhu Weiqun of the Chinese United Front Work Department expressed similar sentiments to those indicated after the previous round — essentially that the Dalai Lama's call for greater autonomy for his homeland was in reality a call for Tibetan independence; that it represented a threat to China's territorial integrity and national dignity; that the Chinese government sees no room for negotiation or concession on this issue; and that the Dalai Lama must ‘redress his mistakes' and renounce his calls for ‘independence'. In addition, Minister Zhu warned the United States that there would be negative repercussions if President Obama proceeded with his plans to meet the Dalai Lama, when the latter visits Washington in mid-February. The representatives of the Dalai Lama did not comment immediately on the discussions but early reports indicated that they felt that the dialogue had produced no results.

I have on many previous occasions expressed concern about the pace, seriousness and lack of results of the Tibet dialogue, and the initial feedback from the latest round provides little in the way of assurances that very much has changed in this regard.

However, there were a few positive dimensions to the most recent round of talks. Firstly, the Chinese took the Dalai Lama's envoys on some field trips — to two minority areas to demonstrate aspects of the government's regional ethnic autonomy policies, and to the birthplace of Mao Zedong in Hunan province. Secondly, Minister Zhu, in his press conference, while heavily critical of the Dalai Lama in many respects, nevertheless addressed some words of goodwill to him, wishing him a long life, and indicating that China does not want him to be on foreign soil at the end of his life. And thirdly, there was the formal Chinese press conference itself, very much in contrast to the complete silence and secrecy which has surrounded the previous rounds of dialogue, the existence of which had largely been denied.

It would be unwise to rush into speculation that these departures from standard practice represent a likely change of direction on the part of the Chinese authorities towards the Dalai Lama and Tibet, but they are worthy of follow-up monitoring.

For their part, the Tibetan envoys, while insisting that the ‘baseless accusations' against the Dalai Lama must cease, have reiterated the Tibetan commitment to continuing the dialogue with the Chinese government, while making clear that it must begin to produce some results. I very much hope that this will be the case and that the dialogue will serve to address the issues of serious concern in Tibet.

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 101.

Overseas Development Aid.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

119 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way the cuts to overseas aid funding announced in budget 2010 will be implemented; the details of the projects and programmes that will be affected; the amount by which they will be cut; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7177/10]

For 2010, the Government has provided an overall allocation for Official Development Assistance (ODA) of €671 million. Of this total, €536 million will be administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and a further estimated €135 million will come from other Government Departments, together with Ireland's share of the EU Development Cooperation budget.

The allocation involves a relatively small reduction of €25 million on the allocation for ODA in 2009. Based on current projections, it should stabilise Ireland's expenditure on ODA at approximately 0.52% of GNP. This level of funding will ensure that we exceed our commitment as an EU Member State to spend 0.51% of GNP on ODA in 2010. It will also confirm that Ireland remains one of the more generous donors internationally on a per capita basis. This is a significant achievement in the difficult budgetary situation we face. The decision to maintain our funding is also a reflection of the Government's determination, supported by the Irish people, to help those in the world who are most in need.

The process of allocating expenditure in detail across the aid programme, within Vote 29 of the Department of Foreign Affairs, is now under way. The allocations will be included in the Revised Estimate Volume, to be published by the Department of Finance at the end of February. As in previous years, the primary focus on the programme will be on the reduction of global poverty and hunger and the promotion of sustainable development by addressing the fundamental human needs of food security, basic education, primary health care and access to a safe water supply.

I expect that allocations to our nine priority countries this year will be broadly in line with the 2009 allocations. In 2010, the fight against global hunger will continue to be a programme priority and we estimate that we will spend up to 20% of the total allocation on actions to alleviate and eradicate hunger. We will also maintain the Government's commitment to spending at least €100 million on tackling HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases.

The Irish Aid programme is internationally recognised for its strong support to Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs). In 2010, we will continue to support development NGOs and Missionary Organisations and will provide in excess of €100 million to their development efforts.

The Government is determined that our aid programme will maintain a sharp focus on poverty reduction, concentrating on a limited number of very poor, mainly African, countries. In the current difficult economic environment, we will work to ensure that we continue to deliver the programme so that it has maximum impact and is rigorously focused on achieving clear results for the lives of the poor and the hungry.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

120 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the drift towards the militarisation of aid in the European development discourse. [7155/10]

I appreciate the concerns of the Deputy, but I want to assure him that in my discussions on all aspects of development with my EU colleagues, there has been no drift towards the militarisation of aid. The European Union, through the Member States and the European Commission, is the largest provider of development aid internationally, providing over half of all Official Development Assistance worldwide. The overarching goal of the European Union's development policy is the eradication of poverty in a sustainable way, in the framework of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by international leaders in 2000. Ireland plays a strong role in the formulation of EU development policy, and, together with other EU partners, we have ensured that the focus on hunger and poverty is maintained. This will be confirmed when the EU plays a leading role at the summit to review progress towards the MDGs at the UN in New York in September.

Insecurity and conflict, globally and in developing countries, remain among the most significant obstacles to the reduction of poverty. It is estimated, for example, that fifteen of the twenty countries with the highest under-five mortality rates are experiencing conflict related emergencies; 50% of children not attending school live in countries affected by conflict; the cost of conflict in Africa between 1990 and 2005 is believed to be equivalent to total international aid in the same period. At the same time, poverty, and poor governance are recognised as contributing factors to conflict and insecurity.

It is essential, therefore, that peace and security are at the heart of the EU's development policy. The European Security Strategy and the EU Consensus on Development acknowledge that there cannot be sustainable development without security, nor can there be sustainable peace without development.

Within its development assistance programmes the EU supports conflict resolution and prevention through negotiations, demobilisation, and demilitarisation. In post-conflict states, the EU supports disarmament and arms-control measures in the framework of the UN Conference on Disarmament. EU development assistance also supports the rule of law, good policing, civil administration and civil protection. The European Union has undertaken a number of steps to improve coherence in security and development policies, through the adoption of Council Conclusions on Security and Development in 2007, the establishment of the Africa-EU Peace and Security Partnership, and improved cooperation between security and development bodies in the Council, the Commission and the Member States.

The EU and the Member States recognise the different roles and mandates of humanitarian, development and military bodies. We and our EU partners remain determined to ensure that, despite the increasing complexity of global development challenges, the impartiality, neutrality and independence of humanitarian and development action will be maintained.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

121 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the impact of the global recession, climate change, the energy and food crisis has disproportionately impacted on developing countries; his assessment of Ireland’s role, with partner countries helping manage such impact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7169/10]

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the already difficult circumstances faced by the world's poorest people are being exacerbated by global challenges, including economic recession, climate change, and serious fluctuations in food and energy prices. The poorest populations are inevitably the least well equipped to cope with these multiple development challenges, as a direct result of their low level of development, particularly in the key area of basic social services. These are the very people that Ireland seeks to help, through the Government's aid programme, which focuses sharply on the fight against hunger and poverty in some of the poorest countries in Africa.

The eradication of hunger is a cornerstone of Ireland's aid programme. We are committed to implementing the recommendations of the Government's Hunger Task Force, which reported in 2008. Through the aid programme, Ireland is focusing in particular on maternal and infant under-nutrition and supporting smallholder farmers, especially women, to intensify their agricultural productivity by improving their access to inputs, advice and infrastructure. We also support Non-Governmental Organisations working with poor farmers to increase their productivity. Irish Aid provides substantial funding for agricultural research to ensure that top quality agricultural science will benefit the poor. We support initiatives to improve poor smallholder farmers' access to research and ensure that such research meets their needs.

We also recognise the need to focus more effectively on helping developing countries to cope with the devastating effects of climate change. At the Copenhagen Summit in December last, the Taoiseach stated that Ireland will contribute up to €100 million to support the climate change needs of developing countries over the three-year period 2010-2012. In cooperation with our international partners, Ireland's support will be used to increase poor people's ability to deal with the effects of climate change and to secure clean, reliable sources of energy.

We are also working to ensure that the complexity of global development challenges is addressed to maximum effect through our bilateral aid programmes in Africa and elsewhere. For instance, in Ethiopia we are supporting a productive safety nets programme, through which millions of the poorest people receive support and engage in activities that increase their ability to cope with climate change, such as through tree planting, soil conservation and water harvesting. In Malawi, we are supporting local authorities to improve their disaster risk preparedness, putting in place plans and resources to ensure that they can respond to the increasing incidence of adverse weather events such as flooding and storms.

Over the past year, aid budgets in all developed countries have been under pressure as a direct result of the international economic crisis which has increased the burden of need on developing countries. In these circumstances, it is all the more important for international aid donors to redouble their efforts to make aid more effective, to target their assistance more effectively on the poorest countries and communities and to focus more clearly on key priority areas of need. These will be important themes at the major international summit to be held at the UN in New York in September 2010 to review progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Foreign Conflicts.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

122 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the peace process in Sudan. [7150/10]

The north-south peace process in Sudan is at a critical juncture as the country prepares for national, parliamentary and presidential elections in April. The elections are envisaged by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which brought an end to the north-south conflict in Sudan. The CPA also provides for a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan, which is due to take place in January 2011. Ireland and the EU believe that full implementation of the CPA is fundamental to securing peace and stability in Sudan as a whole and in the region.

There have been some positive developments in the implementation of the CPA in recent months, including the registration of voters over a five week period at the end of last year and the passing of legislation in January to govern the referendum in the South. An EU electoral observation mission, the biggest such mission for this year, will deploy to Sudan at the end of this month.

However, there remain significant challenges which are putting increasing strain on the peace between north and south the closer we get to the elections. The security situation in southern Sudan is a serious concern in the face of ongoing tribal violence. The results of the voter registrations have produced some considerable divergences with the results of the 2008 census and this will remain a point of contention between both sides. Concerns over national security legislation passed by the National Congress Party last December have also been expressed in the south and the wider international community. Meanwhile, both north and south are reportedly re-arming in the expectation of future confrontations along the disputed north-south border. The continuing conflict in Darfur and the associated tensions with the international community over the ICC arrest warrant against President Bashir also impinge on the north south peace process.

Ireland and the EU is strongly committed to support the development of a democratic, peaceful and prosperous Sudan and believes that only through an agreed approach which is inclusive of all Sudanese, can these objectives be met. Taking into account the interdependent and complex nature of the political challenges facing Sudan, the Union will remain engaged during this pivotal year for Sudan.

Climate Change Conference.

Liz McManus

Question:

123 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland will seek movement towards a sustainable common position regarding climate change in view of the disappointing outcome of the Copenhagen conference; if Ireland supports the achievement of such within the framework of the UN. [7140/10]

Ireland had hoped that the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen would result in a comprehensive legally binding agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. This did not happen, but we remain committed to achieving a binding climate change agreement within the UN framework as soon as possible.

Ireland will continue to work within the EU, and in our bilateral contacts, to advance the climate change agenda with our international partners. We are leading by example — Ireland and all EU Member States have made an ambitious emissions reductions pledge, with a conditional offer to increase our pledge even further, and the Government has announced a contribution of up to €100 million for fast-start funding for climate change action in the developing world for the period 2010-2012, as part of an overall EU pledge of over €7 billion.

We have also associated ourselves with the Copenhagen Accord, which represents a useful first step and includes important positive elements, such as recognition of the scientific advice on the need to limit the increase in global temperature to within 2 degrees Centigrade of pre-industrial levels. More than 90 countries — including the EU Member States — have associated themselves with the Accord, with many either making pledges relating to emission reductions, or providing information on nationally appropriate mitigation actions.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

124 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his role in the negotiations for the devolution of policing and justice in Northern Ireland; his views on the outcome. [7238/10]

Pat Breen

Question:

141 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the agreement reached in Northern Ireland in February 2010; his views regarding same; if this agreement on the devolution of justice and policing powers is the last piece of the jigsaw to secure a lasting peace in Northern Ireland or if there are other remaining issues which must be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7244/10]

I propose to take Questions 124 and 141 together.

Over a period of several months, I have been involved in intensive efforts with my British counterpart, Shaun Woodward, to assist and encourage the Northern Ireland parties to complete the devolution of policing and justice and to address other outstanding aspects of the St. Andrews Agreement that still require implementation.

Towards the end of last month, it became clear that the parties themselves were unable to agree on how to move ahead. The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister met in London on 25 January and decided to travel directly to Hillsborough where they convened all party talks. During the course of those talks, which concluded on Friday, 5 February, I met with the leaders of all of the political parties in Northern Ireland and with members of their Assembly Groups. We worked hard to establish common ground, to build dialogue between the parties, and to re-establish the trust necessary to complete the devolution of policing and justice in Northern Ireland.

On 5 February, the DUP and Sinn Féin finalised a comprehensive agreement which will ensure that policing and justice powers will be devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly by 12 April of this year. The agreement also includes provisions to identify a Justice Minister, who will be a full member of the Executive, and to expand the Programme for Government to take account of the work of the new Department of Justice. The agreement reached is extremely significant and will complete the process of devolution as envisaged in the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements. Devolution of policing will allow Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, who have a clear understanding of the needs of the community, to identify the best local solutions to local problems. This will make government more accessible and accountable.

The evil, criminal attack on PSNI Constable Peadar Heffron and recent attacks on police stations are a stark reminder that there remains a tiny minority intent on destroying all that has been achieved. The best response to give to such people is the early implementation of the agreement reached on devolving policing and justice, thereby securing the stability of the devolved institutions, and showing that the democratic political institutions are delivering for all of the people of Northern Ireland.

At Hillsborough, the parties also agreed to develop an improved framework to regulate and adjudicate on public assemblies and parades. A working group, set up by the First and deputy First Ministers, will bring forward agreed outcomes on parading issues. These will feed into the preparation of draft legislation on parading. Following a period of public consultation on a proposed Bill, it is intended that legislation will be in place by the end of 2010. As the agreement announced by the parties makes clear, the aim is to bring forward agreed outcomes which can achieve cross community support. Any improved framework agreed will be based on the core principle of local people providing local solutions, with respect for the rights of those who parade and those who live in areas through which they seek to parade. Given the history of parading and the potential it has to destabilise communities, this agreement between the parties has the potential to transform the situation. The Parades Commission will continue to operate until new arrangements are agreed and in place.

During the talks, agreement was also reached on improving the functioning of the Executive and on clearing outstanding Executive business. This will enable the Executive to get back to work in a spirit of genuine partnership. The First and deputy First Minister are also tasked with looking at all areas from the St. Andrews Agreement which are yet to be implemented. The Government welcomes the agreement to set up an Executive working group to identify how progress can be made on these outstanding issues, including the key issue of the protection and promotion of the Irish language and implementing the other outstanding North/South commitments from St. Andrews.

Both Governments will continue to encourage, and work with, the parties to ensure that all aspects of the agreement reached on 5 February, together with outstanding issues from the Good Friday Agreement and St. Andrews, are implemented. This agreement provides the basis for the stable and sustained functioning of the devolved institutions into the future, in a renewed spirit of partnership to deliver success for the entire community.

OECD Enhanced Engagement.

Joan Burton

Question:

125 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the guiding principles of the ongoing discussion between the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and third nations as part of the enhanced engagement programme; and if he favours a change on any of these. [7145/10]

The OECD agreed in 2007 to launch programmes of ‘Enhanced Engagement', with a view to possible membership, with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa (EE5), and to expand the OECD's relations with regions of strategic interest, starting with Southeast Asia.

Enhanced Engagement was a unilateral initiative by the OECD with no pre-determined path. The starting position was that Enhanced Engagement would entail "strengthened co-operation" going beyond the country programmes that had hitherto existed with Brazil, China and India, with significantly increased participation in the work of the substantive bodies of the Organisation.

Enhanced Engagement aims to serve the mutual interests of OECD Members and the EE5. For the EE5, Enhanced Engagement supports their reform and development process by making available knowledge of OECD policies, guidelines and instruments that have served existing Members' development processes. Enhanced Engagement also offers the five partners the opportunity to influence international policy development on issues such as trade and investment, corporate governance, employment, social protection, and taxation, while extending the scope and relevance of existing instruments.

Considerable progress has been made since 2007 and the EE5 are increasingly involved in specific elements of the Organisation's work along five main strands: (a) engagement in Committees and horizontal projects, (b) inclusion of EE5 data into the OECD statistical databases, (c) participation in OECD Economic Surveys and other peer review series, (d) reaching common understandings on policy principles, including adherence to OECD instruments and participation in the development of new ones, and (e) temporary assignments of EE5 experts in the OECD Secretariat. Substantial country-specific work programmes have also been developed.

Ireland fully supports the Enhanced Engagement process and sees no need for a change in the way it is proceeding.

Human Rights Issues.

Denis Naughten

Question:

126 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress being made to date to ban female genital mutilation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7233/10]

The practice of female genital mutilation is a clear violation of the human rights of women and girls. It has serious social, health and psychological consequences, and it infringes on children's rights to special protection. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 100 million and 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital mutilation. In Africa alone, it is estimated that three million girls are at risk annually.

The Government is active in global policy development, funding and research to address this appalling practice. We recognise that it is a form of gender-based violence, and that it must be an important element in our comprehensive approach to tackling such violence, through our overseas aid programme. The Government's 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid includes a firm commitment that Ireland will build its support for measures focused on preventing and responding to gender-based violence.

Irish Aid, the Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs which manages the Government's aid programme, is a founding member of the Joint Consortium on Gender Based Violence, which brings together representatives from Government Departments and Irish development, humanitarian and human rights Non-Governmental Organisations to promote a coordinated response to all forms of gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.

Internationally, we are cooperating with United Nations agencies in a concerted effort to end the practice of female genital mutilation. Last year, the Government provided core funding of €8 million to the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) and €3 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to support their work on child protection, gender equality, reproductive health, maternal mortality and HIV and AIDS. These agencies operate a joint programme to counter female genital mutilation with the aim of ending the practice in seventeen countries by 2012. Ireland contributed €0.5 million to this specific programme in 2007. In addition, in 2009 a total of €1.1 million was provided specifically for support of gender equality and women's empowerment, including through support for the UN Trust Fund for actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

Progress is being made towards ending the practice of female genital mutilation, but detailed international coordination and consultation remains essential. Earlier this month, on 6 February 2010, which has been designated the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation, UNICEF and the UNFPA reported that there has been success in reducing the incidence of the practices in several countries where it was once highly prevalent. They noted that it is important to focus on encouraging change from within societies, and that where communities have chosen to make public declarations against the practice, for example in Senegal, declines of up to 65 per cent have been recorded.

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 89.

US Tax Policy.

Pat Breen

Question:

128 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views regarding the recent state of the union address by US President, Barrack Obama; the implications that a change in the US tax policy would have for US multinationals based here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7243/10]

President Obama gave a wide ranging State of the Union Address with a core focus on restoring the US economy. The address covered issues such as the need for innovation, the stabilisation of the financial system, tackling unemployment and addressing the Government deficit.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama reiterated his commitment to end "tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas". This was followed up by the publication on 1 February of the US Administration's budget proposals for 2011. As they did last year, these include several proposed changes to the US international corporate tax framework.

The proposals in this area, if implemented, could affect the overseas operations of all US multinational companies, including in Ireland. However, it is important to note that any such proposals, in order to take effect, would have to be legislated on by Congress.

The Embassy in Washington, in close coordination with the IDA and the Department of Finance, has been monitoring these issues closely since the time of the Presidential campaign. Over the last year, there has been engagement at every level on this issue. The Taoiseach and I used the opportunity of our visit to Washington last March to raise our concerns in this regard with President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. The Tánaiste met with Treasury Secretary Geithner last year to follow up on these discussions.

The Embassy in Washington has also been liaising actively with the US business community which has itself been engaging intensively in Congress on these proposals. Through this comprehensive programme of outreach with contacts in the Administration and Congress, the Department of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the Department of Finance and IDA, aims to ensure that the mutual benefits of our existing relationships with the U.S. and U.S. companies in Ireland are fully understood and that this feeds into consideration of this issue by the Administration and Congress.

In our engagements in the US over the St Patrick's Day period, the Taoiseach and I will be emphasising the strong economic relationship between Ireland and the US which provides vital trade and business opportunities for both countries.

Foreign Conflicts.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

129 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the militarisation of aid to Afghanistan. [7154/10]

The prospects for sustainable development in Afghanistan are directly linked to the establishment of peace and security in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Decades of conflict, combined with frequent natural disasters, have left much of the Afghan population in a very vulnerable position. It is estimated that 42% of the population lives on less than US$1 per day. Clearly, Afghanistan will require substantial humanitarian and development assistance for many years to come.

The primary role of the international military forces now in Afghanistan is to assist the Afghan Government in establishing a secure and stable environment. International military forces also support security sector reform through, for example, mentoring and training of the Afghan National Army. In providing this type of assistance, the military have a clearly defined role.

International military personnel in Afghanistan are also engaged in some areas of development and humanitarian assistance normally conducted by civilian actors, primarily at the provincial and district level through Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). In certain circumstances, the use of military structures and assets to channel such assistance may be appropriate. For example, in very insecure environments, PRTs may provide the only available option to deliver much-needed aid.

Ireland's clear position is that military assets and capabilities should only be used to channel humanitarian assistance in very limited circumstances, where there is no comparable civilian alternative and where only the use of military assets can meet a critical humanitarian need.

Last year, Ireland supported the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as it re-established a presence in Afghanistan. This was in recognition of OCHA's role both in humanitarian coordination and as an advocate for the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Ireland's humanitarian and development funding to Afghanistan is provided through UN and Non-Governmental Organisation partners, as well as through a World Bank administered Trust Fund in support of the Afghan Government. Irish Aid does not use military structures to channel assistance in Afghanistan. Through Irish Aid, the Government allocated a total of €5.2 million to Afghanistan in 2009, including support for mine clearance, food assistance and the security of humanitarian personnel.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

130 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans for greater efficiencies with our foreign diplomatic corps; the percentage saving his Department is seeking to make in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7073/10]

In the 2010 Estimates for Public Services and Summary Public Capital Programme, published on 9 December 2009, total savings of over €10m were announced for the Administrative Budget of my Department.

A further €6.2.m in savings will accrue as a result of the reductions in public service pay announced on the same day.

Taken together the reduction of €16.2m represents an 8% cut in the Administrative Budget compared with 2009. The 2009 allocation similarly included a cut in resources of €15m compared with 2008.

The reduced resources affect the budgets of my Department at home and in our missions abroad. In addition to efficiencies at home such as smaller allocations for travel and for office machinery, my Department has reduced the budgets of our missions abroad by about 13.5%. This includes reductions in salaries and allowances, travel, postal and telecommunication services, office machinery and premises expenses.

I have also decided, on a trial basis, to make structural changes with regard to some of our embassies in the European Union. I intend to put in place in a number of capitals a lighter model of representation.

Such missions will be staffed by a single Irish diplomat with appropriate local support and backup from Dublin and other missions in the region. They will be explicitly tasked to prioritise our work on EU affairs and the promotion of our economic interests.

Development Assistance Committee.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

131 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the development of the China development assistance committee study group, whose avowed aim is to provide a forum where central development issues might be discussed; the role which Ireland may play in this forum; the principles which guide, or the specific terms of reference upon which the DAC is structured; and the role he envisages Ireland to play in this forum. [7146/10]

The establishment of the China-Development Assistance Committee Study Group in 2009 was a joint initiative by the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD and the International Poverty Reduction Centre in China, which itself is a joint initiative of the Chinese Government and the UN Development Programme. The OECD Development Assistance Committee is the key international development forum comprising the main aid donor Governments, including Ireland, and multilateral organisations such as the World Bank and the UN.

The purpose of the Study Group, which brings together representatives of donor Governments and Chinese officials and academics, is to share experiences and promote learning in relation to economic growth and poverty reduction. Its work is focused on China's own experience of growth and poverty reduction and its relevance for other developing countries, in particular in Africa. The Group is also examining China's increased economic cooperation in Africa, and its impact on poverty reduction.

In recent years China has become a major economic global player and has focused very significant trade, economic investment and development aid on African countries. China's engagement in Africa has the potential to contribute significantly to economic growth and to poverty reduction across the continent. We regard the Study Group as a valuable initiative in terms of bringing China into dialogue with other donor countries, sharing lessons and experience and discussing ways to ensure that development aid is delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Ireland supports and participates in the work of the study group, as appropriate. In addition, in 2009, a delegation from the International Poverty Reduction Centre in China visited Ireland in order to meet with officials from Irish Aid, in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and to discuss the priorities and impact of the Governments aid programme, especially in our priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the year ahead, the Study Group will organise a series of international workshops on a series of development issues, including agriculture and food security, infrastructure, and the enabling environment for enterprise development. It will also produce a set of key recommendations for the attention of the Chinese authorities and the OECD Development Assistance Committee members, which will be presented and discussed at an important workshop, to be held in Beijing in early 2011.

Combating Piracy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

132 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the efforts being made at EU level to heighten awareness of the ongoing threat being posed by pirates off the Somali coast; if his attention has been drawn to additional measures which the international community will put in place to combat this threat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7247/10]

EU NAVFOR Atalanta is the EU's naval mission acting in support of a series of UN Security Council Resolutions calling for international community action to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. Under its mandate, Operation Atalanta contributes to the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia; to the protection of vulnerable vessels cruising off the Somali coast; and to the deterrence and prevention of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast. Ireland seconded two naval officers to Operation Atalanta in 2009. NATO and a number of individual countries also conduct naval operations against piracy.

Between the various operations established, significant co-operation has developed in response to the piracy threat off the coast of Somalia.

The EU has signed agreements with Kenya and the Seychelles providing for regional prosecution of suspected pirates detained by Operation Atalanta. Through the efforts of the EU and other international partners an International Recognised Transit Corridor has been established for commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden, along with a Maritime Security Centre to provide anti-piracy advice and alerts to commercial shipping more generally in the region.

However, further efforts are required by the international community to address the root causes of piracy in the region. Somalia needs ongoing international support to restore peace and security, as a basis for development. These international efforts are focusing on supporting the development of indigenous Somali security forces, in partnership with the UN-recognised Transitional Federal Government.

The African Union maintains an international military presence in Somalia, AMISOM, which was deployed in March 2007. Its approximately 5,000 troops provide security for specific tasks in and around Mogadishu, but it is not in a position to provide wide-area security for civilians. The EU is also keen to play its part in helping to improve the Somali security sector. To this end, at the January Foreign Affairs Council meeting EU Ministers agreed to set up a new military mission to contribute to the training of Somali security forces. This mission will take place in Uganda which will also facilitate the coordination of the EU action with AMISOM. The mission is expected to commence in spring 2010.

Human Rights Issues.

Willie Penrose

Question:

133 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on recent sectarian killings in Nigeria; the way he assesses the stability of that country and the security of its citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7165/10]

I have been very concerned by the most recent violence in and around Jos in Plateau State, Nigeria, which saw hundreds killed and thousands displaced from 17-21 January. It follows on from violence in November 2008 and earlier, and is a result of ongoing tensions, which the government has been attempting to settle. Since the violence in 2008 inter-religious dialogue has been pursued and an assessment of the crisis was produced by Nigeria's House of Representatives. In addition, a military presence was maintained in the town, and a limited curfew enforced. Although the violence has been predominantly between Christians and Muslims, the root causes are not sectarian, but rather political with deep rooted and complicated ethnic and land issues involved. The State and Federal governments need to address the root causes in order to prevent a recurrence.

In relation to the stability of the country, President Umaru Yar'Adua of Nigeria has been receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia since the end of November, without having formally transferred power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. This had created some uncertainty in respect of exercise of authority by the President and Vice-President. During the Jos crisis the Vice President deployed troops to Plateau State to restore order and order was gradually re-established. However, it had been debated that legally he did not have the power to do this. In addition, unrest in the Niger Delta has threatened to escalate due to delays in the amnesty programme caused by the President's absence.

However, on February 9, faced with growing public dissatisfaction at the situation, both houses of the National Assembly adopted resolutions which formally recognise Vice-President Jonathan as the acting President with full and formal presidential powers, pending President Yar'Adua's return to Nigeria. This shows a respect for the Nigerian constitution and strengthens the Vice President's position in running the country.

The Irish Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, remained in daily contact with all Irish citizens in and around Jos throughout the violence, and visited the area when conditions allowed. None of the Irish citizens contacted wished to leave and all remained safe. The Embassy has provided some humanitarian funding to help victims of the violence, and is investigating, along with EU partners, other ways to be of assistance.

Since 2007, Irish Aid has provided over €4.3 million in long-term development funding to NGO partner organisations working in Nigeria. The main recipients of this funding have been Irish missionaries working in Nigeria. These funds have assisted a variety of programmes including provision of basic education, promotion of human rights, and provision of primary heath care, rural development, and development of water and sanitation sectors.

Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 107.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jack Wall

Question:

135 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in the recommendations of the Goldstone report on Gaza; and his response to the statements made so far following publication of the report. [7162/10]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

151 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the Goldstone report on the conduct of the Gaza war. [7142/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 151 together.

As I have reported to the House on previous occasions, I consider the Goldstone Report to be a serious and important contribution to efforts to determine the truth of allegations about events in Gaza a year ago, to establish accountability for them, and to seek to prevent a recurrence of such alleged infringements of international law. I have commended Judge Goldstone and his colleagues, including retired Defence Forces Colonel Desmond Travers, for their work.

The UN General Assembly in October adopted a Resolution, supported by Ireland, which called on the parties to the conflict to report within three months on their implementation of the Resolution, and particularly the requirement to establish independent and transparent enquiries into allegations relating to the conduct of their forces during the conflict. UN Secretary General Ban has at the end of last week sent to the General Assembly the reports he has received from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. SG Ban has noted that the reports do not provide enough information to be clear yet if the General Assembly Resolution has been complied with, or is in the process of being complied with. It is also reported that the Hamas movement has forwarded a report to the UN, although the status of this document is unclear.

It should be noted that, in a separate development to the Goldstone Report, Israel has also recently paid compensation of $10.5 million to the UN for damage to UN property, notably UNRWA facilities, caused by Israeli forces during the conflict.

The process of following up on the Resolution is ongoing. Following the Secretary General's report, it is now for the UN to decide what is the next step. This may take place at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which originally commissioned the Goldstone Report, although it may be more likely that the General Assembly, which passed the Resolution, will consider this first.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 101.
Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 98.

Overseas Development Aid.

Dan Neville

Question:

138 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of the overseas aid budget that was spent in each of the programme countries in 2009; the amount that will be spent in each of these countries in 2010 following the cuts announced in budget 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7178/10]

Through the overseas aid programme the Government provides assistance to over ninety countries worldwide. Nine have been designated as Programme Countries for Irish Aid, where we have a commitment to long term strategic assistance. These are Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.

In 2009, direct programme funding of €198 million was provided to these countries under the bilateral aid programme. The breakdown by Programme Country was as follows:

€27.84 million was provided in Ethiopia.

€11.42 million was provided in Lesotho.

€8.88 million was provided in Malawi.

€40.5 million was provided in Mozambique.

€33.5 million was provided in Tanzania.

€3.42 million was provided in Timor Leste.

€35.5 million was provided in Uganda.

€13.75 million was provided in Vietnam.

€23.21 million was provided in Zambia.

The Government channels additional funding to the Programme Countries in response to emergencies and humanitarian disasters, as necessary. Significant funding is also provided each year for the activities and programmes of development Non-Governmental Organisations, and through contributions to UN and other international agencies. In the case of Timor Leste, additional funding is allocated for conflict resolution activities.

For 2010, the Government has provided an overall allocation for Official Development Assistance (ODA) of €671 million. This represents a relatively small reduction of €25 million on the allocation for 2009, and ensures that Ireland will remain one of the most generous donors internationally, on a per capita basis. Detailed allocations across the aid programme are now under consideration, and the figures will be included in the Revised Estimates Volume, to be published by the Department of Finance at the end of February. I expect that the direct programme budgets for Irish Aid's priority countries will be broadly in line with the 2009 allocations, although there will be some relatively small reductions. We will ensure our overall commitments to our nine Programme Countries are met.

The people of Ireland can be proud that we are delivering an internationally recognised aid programme which is sharply focused on the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger in some of the poorest countries, especially in Africa. I can assure the House that the standards achieved by the programme will be maintained in 2010 and subsequent years.

Foreign Conflicts.

Joe Costello

Question:

139 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the escalating situation between North and South Korea following a recent arms transaction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7167/10]

The hostilities on the Korean Peninsula on 27 January to which the Deputy refers have involved exchanges of artillery fire between the North and the South along the disputed western sea border between the two countries, the so-called Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea. It is both regrettable and counter-productive for the North Korean side to have initiated this exchange and to have indicated its intention to continue its military activities in the area.

These incidents have occurred in the context of a series of setbacks which include the decision by the DPRK to withdraw from the Six Party Talks process, to cease cooperation with the IAEA, to carry out a nuclear test and a missile test, and to restore its nuclear facilities in contravention of UNSC Resolution 1718. The testing of the nuclear device in May 2009 resulted in the adoption by the Security Council of UNSC Resolution 1874 which imposed a tighter arms embargo and new financial restrictions.

At the same time, paradoxically, the DPRK has also signalled its desire to engage in talks. This has encouraged key regional players to explore the potential for a resumption of the Six Party Talks process. The US Special Envoy for North Korea, Mr Stephen Bosworth visited Pyongyang in December. Last week, Mr Lynn Pascoe, UN Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs and Mr Wang Jiarui, Director of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party visited Pyongyang. President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea has also signalled his willingness to engage in direct talks, including the possibility of a summit meeting.

With our partners in the EU, we have consistently called on the DPRK, including through a Declaration by the European Council on 18/19 June last, to refrain from any violations of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and to engage in dialogue and cooperation, including through the early resumption of the Six Party Talks.

The resumption of dialogue is the only way to achieve peace, stability and cooperation on the Korean peninsula. We must also keep to the forefront the suffering of the people of North Korea who face systematic, widespread and grave human rights abuses and endure sustained food insecurity and widespread malnutrition. Hope for relief for them lies in a successful talks process.

Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 98.
Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 124.
Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 115.
Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 100.
Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 94.
Question No. 145 answered with Question No. 94.
Question No. 146 answered with Question No. 91.
Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 89.
Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 115.

Willie Penrose

Question:

149 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the situation in Iraq; if he accepts recent reports that there has been real progress towards peace and the withdrawal of occupying forces; his views on whether the oil contracts awarded in recent months have been in the best interests of the communities of Iraq. [7164/10]

I have been pleased to be able to report to this House on a number of occasions on the substantial improvement in security in Iraq which has taken place over the last three years. While incidents of violence are still an all too frequent occurrence, they have been reduced significantly and preparations for Iraq's national elections in March are underway.

The continuing violent attacks in recent weeks and months clearly remind us, however, of the very significant problems, including security concerns, that Iraq continues to face. Large scale violent attacks are now principally confined to Baghdad and the ethnic interface areas of Mosul and Kirkuk. In particular, it seems clear that large scale bombing attacks in Baghdad by militant groups, aimed at high civilian casualties as well as at the police, are intended to try and reignite the dreadful sectarian violence of a few years ago, from which Iraq has only painfully emerged.

During 2008, security control of almost all Iraqi provinces was returned to Iraqi forces, and the overarching security role of the UN-mandated MultiNational Force in Iraq came to an end. The Iraqi Government and its security forces are now responsible for security in Iraq. Iraqi security forces have demonstrated significantly improved capabilities, but are not yet able to cope with the serious continuing threats without outside assistance. The presence and the rules governing the remaining international forces in Iraq, principally from the United States, are now established in bilateral arrangements between Iraq and these countries. Furthermore, it is envisaged that the security role of these forces will be progressively reduced, with forces ceasing day-to-day operations on the streets, and instead operating from bases at the request of and in support of Iraqi forces. At present it is envisaged that this reduced role will end in 2011.

The election preparations underway within Iraq have been marked by some controversy following a recent court ruling overturning a ban imposed by the Iraqi Government on up to 500 election candidates with alleged links to the former ruling Ba'ath party from standing. Nonetheless it is also clear that election preparations are bringing different groups in Iraq to peaceful negotiations. Indeed Iraqi society is actively participating in the debate and preparations and this is a very positive indication of how far Iraq has come. Nonetheless, the authorities in Iraq continue to require the encouragement of the international community, and the EU has committed to provide support to the elections, including by sending an enlarged team of electoral experts as well as through the engagement of EU diplomatic missions in Iraq.

The Iraqi oil ministry has recently awarded contracts to international companies, from a number of countries, to develop production in the country. International expertise and investment is thought to be crucial to the development of Iraq's oil industry, which has suffered from many years of isolation. The awarding of such contracts is a matter for the Iraqi government.

Overseas Development Aid.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

150 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the interconnection between issues of aid trade and debt, he will sympathetically respond to requests for basic funding of the debt and development coalition and the Latin American solidarity campaign, to enable them to stay in existence and do their work of advocacy. [7148/10]

The provision of debt relief and aid for trade are both important elements in the fight against global poverty. All of Ireland's assistance to developing countries is in the form of grants rather than loans. Ireland has played a significant role in multilateral initiatives to relieve the burden of debt on developing countries, and through the aid programme, the Government also provides assistance to help developing countries to benefit from the global trading system.

I recognise the contribution to the debate on these issues which is made by a number of Irish Non-Governmental Organisations, including Debt and Development Coalition Ireland and the Latin America Solidarity Centre. The Government's aid programme, managed by Irish Aid, does not provide support for the core running costs of these organisations or for political campaigning and advocacy work. However, limited resources have been provided to support participation in international conferences. This allowed Debt and Development Coalition Ireland, for instance, to attend a major European conference of the network of debt organisations last year.

In addition, both the Debt and Development Coalition and the Latin America Solidarity Centre have benefited from significant support under Irish Aid's development education funding scheme in recent years.

The Debt and Development Coalition has received annual funding under the scheme for a number of years, most recently in 2008 when funding of more than €79,000 was provided. The organisation was unable to apply for a grant in the second half of 2009 as only one funding round was held, due to budgetary constraints. However, I understand that an application has been received from the organisation for the 2010 round of Irish Aid development education grants. The application will be considered in the normal manner.

The Latin America Solidarity Centre is currently receiving multi-annual funding from Irish Aid totalling €271,000 for the three years up to March 2012. This support is for a comprehensive education programme which focuses on social justice and food security, and which includes an exploration of themes relating to international debt and to trade practices in agriculture.

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 135.

Census of Population.

Finian McGrath

Question:

152 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Taoiseach if he will make a further amendment to the 2011 census document (details supplied). [7655/10]

As I indicated in the House on the 2nd February, the Government agreed in December last on the topics to be covered in the next census of population, in line with the advice of the Census Advisory Group. The Government also agreed that Census Day will be Sunday, 10 April 2011.

This followed comprehensive public consultation by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), and careful evaluation by the Census Advisory Group of the results of the Census Pilot Survey carried out in April 2009, including a specific focus on ensuring an appropriately balanced approach to the questions on disability-related issues. The final list of topics and the report of the Census Pilot Survey are available on the CSO website.

Successful delivery of the national census of population is a significant undertaking for which responsibility rests with the CSO, not least in so far as methodological issues are concerned. The carefully designed fieldwork that is necessary to test new questions means that it is not possible to consider amendments at this stage.

I am advised by the CSO that the content and layout of the census form have now been finalised. The contracted printer is scheduled to commence printing the 2 million English language household forms next month for delivery to the CSO warehouse between June and August 2010. Any disruption of these arrangements would compromise census preparations as well as give rise to financial penalties.

Ministerial Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

153 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the fees or charges set by him by way of ministerial order for the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8036/10]

No fees or charges are set down by me by way of Ministerial Order for the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

154 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the charges levied by his Department or agencies under his Department in respect of the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; the anticipated income from such charges in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8048/10]

No charges are levied by my Department or agencies under the aegis of my Department in respect of the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses.

Departmental Agencies.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

155 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the number of bodies and agencies under his aegis; and his proposals for the rationalisation of same. [8202/10]

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) is the only agency currently under the aegis of my Department. It is an umbrella body for i) the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), ii) the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF), and iii) the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP). NESDO and its constituent bodies (the NESC, NESF and NCPP), have played an important role in the development of national policy and through support for the social partnership process. However, the profoundly changed national and international context which has emerged in the past eighteen months has thrown up challenges that must shape the role of the NESDO and its constituent bodies in the coming years.

In order to maximise both effectiveness and value for money, the Government has decided to streamline the work of policy advice within the NESDO by amalgamating the three constituent bodies through absorbing the NESF and NCPP into the NESC. In consequence of this, the NESF and the NCPP will be dissolved with effect from a date to be specified in an order which will be made shortly under the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006.

Innovation Fund.

Joan Burton

Question:

156 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made to date, with respect to the €500 million State backed venture capital fund announced in December 2008, of implementing this initiative; when the first disbursements of funds will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7604/10]

Discussions are continuing between officials of my Department, other Government Departments, Enterprise Ireland, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and the various parties whose cooperation and participation will be required before this Fund becomes operational.

The Innovation Fund Ireland concept is a Department of An Taoiseach initiative and Enterprise Ireland and the NTMA have provided advice to the Department of An Taoiseach at its request on how the concept might be developed, given the experience of both agencies in the area of venture investment.

Unemployment Statistics.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

157 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of career guidance counsellors that are unemployed; the number of career guidance counsellors on the live register; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7674/10]

Based on their own records, FÁS has informed me that there are eleven persons identified as ‘career guidance counsellors', who are registered as unemployed with FÁS.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs has responsibility for the Live Register and the Deputy is advised to contact this Department for information on the number of career guidance counsellors' on the Live Register.

Asia Strategy.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

158 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to develop a new Asia strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7712/10]

The Government's Asia Strategy operated for the period 1999-2009 and has been very successful in developing Ireland's Trade and other links with the key Asian economies.

Ireland's exports to the eight priority countries of the final phase of that Strategy have risen from €4.0bn in 1999 to €10.3bn in 2008, well ahead of the target of €9bn set for 2009. Full year export data for 2009 is not yet available but is likely to be broadly similar to 2008. The number of Irish companies with a presence in these countries has risen from 54 to 267, well ahead of the target of 215.

In addition, substantial growth has been achieved on other targets relating to Tourism, specialist food exports, developing inward student numbers, academic partnerships and a range of other links and developments. These outcomes, together with progress in wider awareness-raising, have been greatly assisted by focused high-level visits.

Over the last five years, Taoiseach-led Trade Missions have been organised to China, India and Japan and other Ministerial-led Trade Missions have taken place to China, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. In addition, the Department of Foreign Affairs has expanded their network of Embassies and Consulates in the region.

The Government are committed to developing and expanding this engagement, as the key Asian economies represent an exciting and continuously developing market for Irish goods and services. To this end and in response to the Smart Economy Framework, my Department is both reviewing the achievements of the Asia Strategy, as well as working with the Development Agencies and other Departments to develop a new Strategy for Trade and Investment. The new strategy will focus on high growth emerging markets such as China, as well as on our existing key trading partners and its aim will be to increase our exports/investments in and from these markets. The new strategy will also bring further focus and coherence to Ireland's single-minded pursuit of our international economic and commercial interests. The inter-departmental and inter-agency consultations to date, point to the need for a new research based strategy that will run for 3-4 years in a fluid and changing trade and investment environment. It is intended to finalise this new Strategy later this year.

Labour Market Activation Fund.

Billy Timmins

Question:

159 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7714/10]

The Deputy may wish to draw the attention of the correspondent to the announcement of the establishment of the Labour Market Activation Fund, 2010, published by my Department on Friday 12th February 2010 in the national press. Details were also posted, on that date, on the Government E-tenders website at www.e-tenders.gov.ie.

The Labour Market Activation Fund is intended to assist those offering to provide substantial innovative training and activation interventions over and above mainstream measures, targeting specific priority groups among the unemployed. The purpose of the press notice was to advise those who might be interested in providing these interventions that my Department will, in the near future, issue a Call for Proposals for such services from public, private, voluntary, and not-for-profit education and training providers.

Full information on tender requirements will be published at the time of the Call for Proposals and will be accessible electronically on http://www.etenders.gov.ie/. Notice of the Call for Proposals will also be published in the national press.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

160 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will reply to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7715/10]

My Department submitted a provisional application to the European Commission in October 2009 for co-financing support from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) towards the cost of a personalised package of retraining, upskilling, entrepreneurial supports and educational opportunities for workers made redundant at the SR Technics facility in North County Dublin.

Subsequently in mid-January 2010 the European Commission sought additional information in relation to the EGF application. My Department is preparing a response to the Commission's request.

The EGF application process from initiation to final decision is a lengthy procedure involving not just the European Commission but also the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. In the case of the EGF application in relation to redundant workers at the DELL plant in Co. Limerick the approval process took some six months. Strict eligibility criteria apply and there is no guarantee of success if a sustainable case for EGF assistance cannot be made in support of a Member State's application. My Department is seeking to ensure that such a robust case is made and sustained.

In the interim State agencies such as FÁS and Enterprise Ireland have made, and continue to make, the full range of their employment, training, guidance and advisory services available to all workers made redundant at SR Technics. I understand that the person in the correspondence mentioned by the Deputy is himself participating in a tailored FÁS Joint Aviation Regulator course in electrical components, one of 100 former SR Technics workers to do so.

Furthermore, with a view to ascertaining those interventions, including in further and third level education, that redundant SR Technics workers might avail of in the event of a successful EGF application being made, an information event was held by a wide range of service providers in Dublin Airport in December 2009. I know that the full range of education programmes provided by the VEC and third level sector are also available to redundant SR Technics workers and that the education sector is also working to develop additional upskilling responses in anticipation of the approval of the EGF application. However, while every effort is being made to ensure such programmes can proceed as soon as possible, the further progression of any interventions to be funded specifically by the EGF must await the completion of the EGF application process.

Employment Subsidy Scheme.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

161 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to have a third call for applications for the employment subsidy scheme; if so, her further plans to amend the qualifying criteria to take into account the difficulties by some companies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7739/10]

Applications under the second Call of the Employment Subsidy Scheme are being processed by Enterprise Ireland. There are currently no plans to have a third call for applications for the Employment Subsidy Scheme.

Employment Regulation Orders.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

162 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workers within the scope of employment regulation orders in agriculture, catering, contract cleaning, hotels, retail grocery and security; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7742/10]

Reliable data on the number of workers that come within the scope of Employment Regulation Orders are not available.

The absence of systematic data on the number of workers covered by the joint labour committee (JLC) system is acknowledged as an information gap and has been noted, for example, in a review of the operation of the JLC system for the Labour Relations Commission undertaken by the University of Limerick. Since the data relied upon in that study is now out of date, I propose to ask the Labour Relations Commission to advise me on the feasibility of undertaking a further study of the operation of the system having particular regard to the significant changes that have taken place in service sector employment in the past decade.

Redundancy Payments.

Phil Hogan

Question:

163 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a redundancy refund will be awarded to a company (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [7816/10]

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 rebate claim for the company concerned on 4 September, 2009. In respect of rebate applications filed online, such as in this instance, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from July 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 2009 of 77,001. This figure exceeds the claims lodged for 2008 (40,607) by 90% 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.

It is clear that these interventions are having an impact in that for example the numbers of claims processed and paid by the Redundancy Payments Section in 2009 and 2010 respectively amounted to 29,802 and 50,664.

The Tánaiste and I are monitoring closely the impact of these changes against the continuing influx of redundancy claims. However, it is clear that additional measures are required to help reduce the backlog of claims, which currently stands in excess of 40,000. The Department is currently actively engaged in efforts to secure up to 16 additional staff resources deployed to the area in the first quarter of 2010.

Labour Court Recommendations.

Chris Andrews

Question:

164 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a company refuses to comply with a Labour Court recommendation, the next steps that can be taken by the employees’ union. [7847/10]

Chris Andrews

Question:

165 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is any recourse for companies that refuse to comply with Labour Court recommendations. [7848/10]

Chris Andrews

Question:

166 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there are structures in place to force a foreign owned company to comply with a Labour Court recommendation; if not, the reason. [7849/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 to 166, inclusive, together.

Responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes between employers and workers rests with the employer, the workers and their representatives. The State provides the industrial relations dispute settlement machinery free of charge to assist this process, which, in line with the general principles of industrial relations in Ireland, is voluntary in nature. The system of industrial relations and collective bargaining in Ireland is designed to help and support parties in their efforts to resolve their differences, without the intervention of the State.

Institutions that have been established to assist in the resolution of disputes between employers and workers include the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court, independent statutory bodies that act independently in carrying out their functions.

If the issues in a trade dispute cannot be resolved at local level or at conciliation in the LRC, the Labour Court may be called upon to issue its recommendations for resolving the matter. The Labour Court does not issue legally enforceable decisions in disputes referred to it under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. In making recommendations on the terms on which disputes can be settled, the Court relies on its moral authority and integrity as an independent dispute resolution body rather than any legal powers of enforcement to support its recommendations. It is expected that the parties come to this process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the Court's recommendations.

Ultimately, however, responsibility for the resolution of trade disputes is a matter for the parties involved.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

167 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason non-social welfare recipients are now precluded from receipt of a training allowance when attending a FÁS course regardless of whether or not they can afford to pay for child care; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this is having the effect of preventing women from entering such courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7860/10]

FÁS training allowances are aligned to a person's entitlement to supports for jobseeker's and Department of Social and Family Affairs rules. Consequently, where a trainee is entitled to a DSFA benefit at course commencement he/she will receive a FÁS training allowance for the duration of the training course. If a trainee is not entitled to a DSFA benefit at the commencement of the training course then he or she will not receive a training allowance.

Redundancy Payments.

Niall Collins

Question:

168 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a redundancy rebate will issue to an employer (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7863/10]

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 lump sum claim for the individual concerned as well as claims for other former employees of the company concerned on 5 August 2009 claiming inability to pay on behalf of the employer. These applications are awaiting processing. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees, such as in this instance, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from July 2009.

Under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2007, the objective is to ensure that statutory redundancy payments, due to eligible employees on being made redundant, are made in accordance with the legislative provisions. The legislation places the onus, in the first instance, on the employer to discharge the obligation to pay redundancy entitlement to employees. On so doing, the employer is entitled, by virtue of the pay related social contributions made to the State, to recover 60% of the lump sum redundancy payments paid out to employees.

In instances such as this, where the employer does not formally wind the company up but goes into informal insolvency and is unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the Department seeks from the employer evidence of inability to pay the entitlements to the employees. This involves requesting a statement from the company's Accountant or Solicitor attesting to the inadequacy of assets to make the redundancy payments and, the latest set of financial accounts for the company. The employer is also asked to admit liability for the 40% liability attaching to the company arising from the redundancy payments. If this information is provided to the Department, the employees are paid their redundancy entitlement from the Social Insurance Fund. Upon payment, the Department pursues the company for the 40% share which the company would ordinarily have been expected to pay to the employees.

If supporting information required from the employer is not provided to my Department the employee will be advised by my Department to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) against the employer to seek a determination establishing the employee's right and entitlement to redundancy. Once such a determination is available, the Department is then in a position to make the payment to the employee concerned. Should the outstanding documentation be provided by the employer during the period while the case is pending a hearing before the EAT, this would allow the claim to be processed by my Department in the usual way.

Military Exports.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

169 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the value of military exports and military export licences issued in 2008 and 2009. [7915/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

170 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the value of dual-use exports and export licences issued by the Government in 2008 and 2009. [7916/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

171 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of military licences refused in 2008 and 2009; the companies refused; and the basis for refusal. [7917/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

172 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of dual-use export licences refused in 2008 and 2009; the companies refused; and the basis for refusal. [7918/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 to 172, inclusive, together.

The data which the Deputy has requested regarding the number of export licences issued in 2008 and 2009 is set out in the table.

Individual dual use licences are issued for a 12 month period for exporting goods up to a specified amount to a specific end-user. Global dual-use licences, which are valid for a six month period, can be issued for dual-use goods up to a specified amount for a number of destinations from a specific exporter.

Military licences are issued for a 12 month period for the export of goods up to a specified amount to a specified end-user.

This data will be elaborated upon in the forthcoming First Report on the Operation of the Control of Exports Act 2008. The report is in the final stages of preparation.

It is important to note that the information regarding the value of goods set out in the table does not represent the actual value of goods exported, rather it represents the value of goods in respect of which an export licence was granted.

In relation to military licences, the EU publishes annual reports according to Operative Provision 8 of the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. This includes data on military licences issued by each Member State. However data regarding denials is only published in this report at an EU aggregate level. In relation to dual use licences, there is no publication of data on denials at EU level. At this stage it is not intended to publish national denials data.

Preliminary

Number of licences granted in 2008

Value of licences in 2008

Number of licences granted in 2009

Value of licences in 2009

Individual dual-use licences**

369

1,058,192,142

345

5,196,705,403

Global dual-use licences**

47

1,329,975,156

45

1,557,717,388

Military licences

92

30,689,637

119

32,518,591

**For export control purposes, dual-use goods refer to products which, though manufactured for civilian use, could also have a military application.

Company Closures.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

173 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the liquidation of a company (details supplied) in County Wicklow will be completed; if a particular difficulty within her Department or any other Department is delaying the completion of the liquidation process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7931/10]

The liquidation of Irish Fertilizers Industries (IFI) is solely a matter for the liquidator and is not a matter in which I, or my Department, have a responsibility. The liquidator has advised my Department that the liquidation process is at an advanced stage and that all of the assets of the company have been realised. The liquidator has made payments of 48.5% of the claims made by unsecured creditors. A recent payment of 1%, made by the liquidator in October 2009, was effectively the final payment to creditors and the liquidator does not anticipate the payment of any further material dividend to creditors.

The liquidation of IFI is, therefore, substantially completed. One issue remains to be resolved relating to the company's liability for its proportion of rent increases in respect of leases on the Marino Point site in Cork for periods prior to the liquidator's sale of the lease interest in April 2006. When the rent payable under these leases was reviewed and increased in 2003 and 2004 the tenants, Port of Cork Company, appealed the increase in rent. Resolution of this process rests with the current tenants and head landlord which, since January 2010, is the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was the head landlord prior to the recent transfer of this function). Neither my Department nor the liquidator is a party to the rent appeal process.

Consumer Protection.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

174 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the introduction of legislation governing vouchers with unfair expiry dates in view of the European Commission’s response to a person (details supplied). [7972/10]

As advised in the European Commission's response referred to by the Deputy, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (No. 2005/29/EC refers) harmonises the laws in member states on unfair commercial practices affecting the economic interests of consumers. The Directive, which was transposed into Irish law by the Consumer Protection Act 2007, provides consumers with a general protection against unfair commercial practices, including misleading and aggressive practices, as well as protections against over 30 specific practices, which the Directive has deemed to be unfair in all circumstances.

The Deputy in referring to vouchers with unfair expiry dates has not explained what specifically he means by an unfair expiry date. Insofar as the Consumer Protection Act is concerned, the Act provides that a commercial practice is unfair if it is contrary to the general principle of good faith in the trader's field of activity, the standard of skill and care that a trader may reasonably be expected to exercise and would be likely to cause an appreciable impairment of the average consumer's ability to make an informed transactional decision and to make a transactional decision he would not otherwise make. The Act further provides that in determining whether a commercial practice is unfair, the commercial practice shall be considered in its factual context, taking account of all its features and circumstances.

In addition to providing a general prohibition on unfair commercial practices, the Act also prohibits traders from engaging in misleading commercial practices, including practices which involve the concealment or omission of material information that the average consumer would need to make an informed transactional decision and which could cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision he would not otherwise make. Accordingly if the Deputy is aware of instances of traders selling gift vouchers by means of false representation, such as incorrect information in relation to the date of expiry of the voucher or by the omission/concealment of material information, such as the date of expiry of the voucher or if he is of the view that the sale of particular vouchers is unfair having regard to the criteria previously mentioned, he may wish to bring such instances to the attention of the National Consumer Agency who are responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007.

The European Commission in the reply cited by the Deputy referred to the maximum harmonization nature of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. As pointed out by the Commission, it was not open to Ireland in transposing the Directive to adopt stricter rules than those provided for in the Directive. It was for this reason that the Government was not in a position to support the Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2009, which sought to unilaterally extend the list of practices prohibited in all circumstances by the addition of a provision prohibiting the sale of gift vouchers where the redemption period from the date of sale of the voucher was less than 5 years. Notwithstanding the strictures of maximum harmonization, the Government, as advised in the second stage debate on the aforementioned Bill in the Seanad, is concerned that the terms and conditions attaching to the sale of gift vouchers are as transparent as possible. Accordingly my Department is currently examining the possibility of making Regulations under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, which would require that specific information be given in relation to the terms and conditions attaching to the sale or the advertisement for sale of gift vouchers, particularly in relation to the redemption periods/conditions attaching to the voucher. Insofar as the reference in the Commission's reply to the Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights is concerned, my Department is coordinating Ireland's position in the discussions on this measure. I would wish to assure the Deputy that Ireland would fully support the inclusion of any appropriate and proportionate measures in this proposal which would build on the existing levels of consumer protection law in this area.

Work Permits.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

175 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permits granted in exceptional cases for occupations with an annual salary below €30,000 in 2009 by sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7989/10]

The trend in the number of work permits granted has reduced significantly over the last number of years as is evident from the following table in line with Government Policy of restricting access to the labour market for Non EEA Nationals. The information sought by the Deputy concerning the number of permits granted in exceptional circumstances for occupations with an annual salary below €30,000 is not readily available and I have asked that it be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Year

New

Renewal

Group

Issued

2007

10,134

13,457

13

23,604

2008

8,481

5,086

13,567

2009

4,024

3,938

7,962

Departmental Agencies.

Billy Timmins

Question:

176 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the locations at which Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority have foreign offices; the plans to open new offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8005/10]

The locations of the overseas offices of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are set out in the following statement. Both agencies have informed me that, at present, they have no plans to extend their overseas office network.

IDA Overseas Offices are located as follows:

Europe

London, Frankfurt and Paris

USA

New York, Boston, Mountain View and Irvine (both in California), Atlanta and Chicago

Asia Pacific

Russia, Brazil, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China and India

Enterprise Ireland Overseas Offices are located as follows:

Amsterdam, Brussels, Glasgow, London, Paris, Stockholm, Budapest, Dusseldorf, Moscow, Prague, Warsaw, Dubai, Madrid, Mexico, Milan, Riyadh, Sao Paulo, Boston, New York, Silicon Valley, Toronto, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumper, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

177 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will contact FÁS to ascertain the reason it will not sanction a community employment scheme at a location (details supplied) in County Meath which has a significant level of unemployment and has suffered a factory closure in recent years despite the local community groups seeking to have a scheme to accommodate 14 participants put in place; if same will be sanctioned in view of the fact that some locals are prepared to provide the necessary utensils to allow the scheme to progress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8063/10]

The information requested is being researched and I will reply substantively to the Deputy in the matter as soon as possible.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

178 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her plans to assist persons on lone parent allowance living in social housing who need to transfer to another area in order to have any realistic prospect of employment. [8079/10]

FÁS, in conjunction with an inter-agency steering group comprising the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Irish Vocational Employment Authority and Lone Parent Representative Groups — "Treoir", "One Family" and "OPEN", is currently overseeing the testing of a pilot programme, involving two groups of lone parents in two locations in Dublin, designed to support socially disadvantaged groups who are experiencing barriers to accessing training, education and ultimately accessing the labour market.

In addition to this, work has also commenced on mainstreaming a training programme, recently piloted, that was developed and delivered on behalf of FÁS by the one parent family organisation "One Family." The programme, featuring input from family support services including parenting and counselling, was designed to help a group of lone parents to re-engage with society and progress into training, education and employment. Finally, I would add that during 2009 more than 10,000 lone parents were placed in either a FÁS training or employment scheme or into employment.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

179 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if vacancies existed in training places for young persons provided by FÁS at the end of December 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8083/10]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

180 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of training places for young persons that were provided by FÁS at the end of December 2009; if there was an increase in the number of training places for young persons in January 2010 in view of the reduction in jobseeker’s payments for claimants under 25 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8084/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 180 together.

11,600 trainees under the age of 25 completed FÁS full-time training programmes in 2009. This equates to 36% of trainees who completed FÁS full-time training programmes last year. Those under 25 years of age will continue to be a high priority cohort in 2010 for bridging foundation and skills programmes to help further both the technical and personal development of participants. FÁS expects that similar numbers of under 25s will avail of training places in 2010.

This year my Department will fund the provision of approximately 147,000 training and work experience places for the unemployed. This compares to the 130,000 places, which were provided in 2009 and the 66,000 provided in 2008. FÁS training courses are filled through FÁS Employment Services Gateway process, where FÁS and the client agrees an individual learning plan and the client is offered FAS training options accordingly. This year FÁS will also be placing a strong focus on providing training to priority cohorts of the unemployed including those who are under 35 years of age. In addition, I should point out the new Labour Market Activation Fund is specifically intended to assist in the creation of substantial training and education provision targeting specific priority groups among the unemployed, namely — the low skilled, and those formerly employed in declining sectors — such as construction, retail and manufacturing sectors, with particular emphasis on the under 35s and the long-term unemployed.

Departmental Agencies.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

181 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of bodies and agencies under her aegis; and her proposals for the rationalisation of same. [8195/10]

The following is a list of Bodies or Agencies which come under my Department's remit:

1. Patents Office

2. Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

3. Companies Registration Office (CRO)

4. Registry of Friendly Societies (RFS)

5. National Employment Rights Authority (NERA)

6. Labour Court

7. Employment Appeals Tribunal

8. Labour Relations Commission

9. Personal Injuries Assessment Board (trading as InjuriesBoard.ie)

10. FÁS

11. Forfás

12. Science Foundation Ireland

13. IDA

14. Enterprise Ireland

15. Shannon Development

16. InterTradeIreland

17. National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

18. County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs)

19. Health and Safety Authority

20. Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority

21. The National Consumer Agency (NCA)

22. The Competition Authority.

In terms of the rationalisation of the Offices and Agencies under the aegis of my Department the following is the position:

Work is continuing in my Department on the preparation of Heads of a Bill to provide for, inter alia, the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. My intention is to bring proposals to Government shortly and to publish the legislation during the course of 2010.

The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes recommended the formal merger of the Companies Registration Office (CRO) and the Registry of Friendly Societies (RFS) and this recommendation is under consideration by Government.

Similarly, the Group called for a streamlining of the policy framework for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) including a rationalisation of the number of bodies delivering STI and this issue is currently being considered by the Interdepartmental Committee on STI.

Finally, my Department is examining proposals made by the Special Group for the rationalisation of some services provided by my Department's agencies.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

182 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the new effective income tax rates which will apply in a graduated manner to high income individuals earning between €125,000 and €400,000; the way these graduated rates have changed from the previous graduated range of €250,000 to €500,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7677/10]

The latest information available with regard to the impact of the restriction of reliefs measure on effective income tax rates of those earning in excess of €250,000, and using restricted reliefs, is set out in the report "Analysis of High Income Individuals' Restriction 2007" which is available on my Department's website at http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/publications/reports/2009/analytaxrestrict09.pdf. The particular circumstances of each taxpayer will determine the effective income tax rate in any year. It is estimated that the effective income tax rates for those high income individuals who are subject to the restriction and who earn between €125,000 and €400,000 will, from 2010, range from approximately 8% to around 30%. A full analysis of the effective income tax rates on incomes between €125,000 and €400,000, arising from the extension of the restriction as announced in the 2010 Budget, will be published after the relevant tax returns for 2010 are filed by the individuals affected, including individuals brought within the scope of the measure for the first time.

Flood Relief.

Joe McHugh

Question:

183 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the drainage of the River Shannon and its tributaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7702/10]

The Office of Public Works has no statutory responsibility for the maintenance of the River Shannon. However, the OPW has responsibility for a number of arterial drainage schemes in the Shannon catchment area. These include the Brosna, the Inny, the Boyle and a number of localised schemes including Knockroghery and two sections of the Mulcair. These schemes are now maintained by the OPW under the Arterial Drainage Acts. This office has no proposals for any further Arterial Drainage Schemes in the River Shannon catchment.

A number of public bodies have an involvement in the management of the Shannon watercourse. These include the ESB, Waterways Ireland and relevant local authorities. The OPW has no information on the maintenance plans of these bodies. In line with the requirements of the EU Floods Directive and national flood policy, the OPW will this year commission a Flood Risk Assessment and Management study of catchments throughout the country including the Shannon, and this process will involve extensive participation by all significant stakeholders.

The Shannon FRAM study will map areas of the catchment that are at risk of flooding and, for areas where flood risk is significant, a prioritised list of mitigation measures will be produced. The range of measures that will be investigated, and which may well be found to form part of the overall solution, will include managing the water level regime on the river as well as carrying out structural protection or channel excavation works in some areas, the development of a flood forecasting system and the use of the cutover bogs for flood storage.

John McGuinness

Question:

184 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance his views on the decision of certain insurance companies not to offer insurance cover to businesses located in areas not deemed to be high risk for flooding in spite of having a history of never flooding or claiming for flood damage; if companies are obliged to offer ongoing cover to existing customers in such circumstances; the options available to these businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7789/10]

The question of providing cover to new policyholders or renewing it for existing ones is a matter for each insurance company to decide on a case by case basis as this allows a company to properly assess the risk it is considering accepting. Consequently I am not in a position to comment on particular cases as neither I nor the Financial Regulator has any influence over such matters. However, it should be noted that the industry has informed my Department that it is reluctant to discontinue flood cover for existing policyholders, and would generally only do so where there have been repeated claims. The best option open to a person who is unable to get cover or to renew it is to contact the Irish Insurance Federation which operates a free Information Service in order to discuss the matter. Their service can be contacted at (01) 6761914 or by email at iis@iif.ie.

Cycle to Work Scheme.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

185 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons availing of the cycle to work scheme since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7588/10]

The cycle to work scheme came into operation on 1 January 2009. With a view to keeping the scheme simple and reducing administration on the part of employers, there is no notification procedure for employers involved. Accordingly, the Revenue Commissioners do not have statistics on the uptake of the scheme. The scheme operates on a self-administration basis, and relief is automatically available provided the employer is satisfied that the conditions of their particular scheme meet the requirements of the legislation.

The purchase of bicycles and associated safety equipment by employers for employees or directors is subject to the normal Revenue audit procedure with the normal obligations on employers to maintain records (e.g. delivery dockets, invoices, payments details, etc.). The employer is also obliged to keep all salary sacrifice agreements entered into between the employer and employees/directors, together with all signed statements from employees/ directors regarding use of the bicycles and safety equipment.

It was estimated at the time of the introduction of the scheme that approximately 7,000 employees would avail of it over the first five year period of its operation (the exemption may apply only once in any five year period in respect of any employee).

Tax Code.

Chris Andrews

Question:

186 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Finance his views on the consideration of a reduction in, VAT for a period of 24 months, in biodegradable packaging, to encourage the sale of that product and reduce the use of non-biodegradable packaging. [7596/10]

Packaging, including biodegradable packaging, is liable to VAT at the standard rate of 21%. However, where goods are supplied packed for sale and no separate charge is made for the package in which the goods are contained, the rate of VAT chargeable on that packaging is the rate that applies to those goods. With regard to incentivising environmentally friendly goods or packaging, there is no provision in European VAT law that would allow the application of a reduced VAT rate, on a temporary or permanent basis, on supplies of goods or services based on their environmental impact per se.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to examine the current VAT classifications with a view to reducing the rate of VAT applied to certain environmental goods and services from the standard VAT rate to the reduced VAT rate of 13.5%. While the scope for reduced rates is limited, the Finance Act 2008 provided for the VAT rate applicable on the supply of miscanthus rhizomes, seeds, bulbs, roots and similar goods used for the agricultural production of bio-fuels being reduced from the standard VAT rate to the reduced rate of 13.5%. This and other measures under the Programme for Government clearly demonstrate the Government's commitment to addressing the environmental challenges which we face.

I would also draw to the Deputy's attention that in 2008 the EU Commission undertook a study of the possibility of using reduced VAT rates as a tool to support the climate change agenda. Ireland expressed support for such a study. However, at a Council of Finance Ministers meeting in March 2009 the Ministers noted that reduced VAT rates as a tool for achieving environmental policy objectives are relevant only to a certain extent.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

187 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will reply to recent media reports of a meeting held between himself and officials of the International Monetary Fund who are set to join the National Assets Management Agency Board of Directors in May 2010, in which the IMF states that they did not believe that NAMA will result in a significant increase in bank lending here; his views on this assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7601/10]

The meeting referred to in recent media reports took place in April 2009, almost 10 months ago. At that meeting, I agreed with the IMF delegation that a surge in lending designed to re-inflate the property market to near "boom" levels was not going to happen and neither was it desirable. Furthermore the IMF delegation agreed with me that NAMA was critical to the Government's objective of creating a healthy banking system that would make credit available to viable, sustainable businesses and households. The IMF has given its full backing to the establishment of NAMA. Mr. Steven Seelig, will be appointed to the Board of NAMA in May 2010, when he retires from the IMF. In the meantime, he is available to provide advice, in a personal capacity, to the NAMA Board.

Joan Burton

Question:

188 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of reports of an exclusive arrangement between Anglo Irish Bank and a company (details supplied) for the latter to acquire a portfolio of properties, this arrangement was subject to a competitive tender process; his views on this assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7602/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, Anglo Irish Bank is run on an arm's length commercial basis. Consequently, decisions which relate to the normal business of the bank are a matter for the Board of Anglo, and the Board is responsible for making such decisions in the best commercial interests of the Bank. I understand from the bank that in order to reduce its exposure on certain property assets it has engaged with a number of property companies concerning certain assets. On foot of these approaches the bank has identified its preferred option, and is finalising the details of the transaction, which will be subject to regulatory and legal approval, as appropriate. Because of commercial sensitivity, I am not at liberty to provide further details on the nature of the proposed transaction, which remains under consideration by the bank.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

189 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the current functioning of the credit bureau market here; if he is in agreement with the World Bank that competition in the credit bureau market can improve its effectiveness in ensuring that borrowers do not take on credit commitments which they cannot afford; if he is satisfied with the level of competition in the credit bureau market here; his further views that it is necessary to have measures, legislative, regulatory or otherwise to enhance competition in this market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7603/10]

The Irish Credit Bureau (ICB) is an independent, commercial organisation which provides credit history information to its members and helps credit institutions to be better informed when making decisions on the provision of credit. I, as Minister for Finance, have no role in determining its operations or the scope of its activities. However, my officials have been in consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to the kind of issues highlighted in the Deputy's question and will report to me on how best practice can be achieved in relation to credit history. I will then consider the options available to ensure that an appropriate structure and fair practices in consumer credit can be maintained.

As the Deputy is aware, consumer credit, including hire purchase, together with money lending and home loans, is governed by the Consumer Credit Act 1995. This legislation sets out important consumer protection measures, including the form and content of the credit agreements in respect of those types of loans. The Consumer Protection Code requires that before providing a product or service to a consumer, a regulated credit institution must gather and record sufficient information from the consumer to enable it to provide a recommendation on a product or service appropriate to that consumer. Further, there are suitability provisions in the Consumer Protection Code which are designed to ensure that lending institutions make responsible decisions based on all of the information which it has gathered in the process.

Fiscal Policy.

John Perry

Question:

190 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo who wishes to trade their car under the scrappage scheme is entitled to avail of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7610/10]

The provisions of the car scrappage scheme, as set out in Section 102 of the Finance Bill as published on 4 February 2010, provide that the car being scrapped:

must be registered in the State in the name of the registered owner of the new car for at least 18 months previous to the date of scrappage;

must be 10 years old or more from the date of first registration;

must be scrapped on or after 10 December 2009 and not later than 31 December 2010;

must be scrapped within 60 days of the date of the new car being registered, or have been scrapped within 60 days immediately before the date of the new car being registered;

must have a valid NCT test certificate, or one that has expired no more than 90 days immediately before the date of scrappage or documentation to indicate that it has been presented for and failed an NCT roadworthiness test in the previous 6 months;

must have been insured for use on the road in the name of the registered owner for at least 12 months in the 18 months immediately prior to the date of scrappage.

The legislation as published therefore requires that the person to whom the scrappage allowance is paid must be the same as the person to whom the policy of insurance is issued in respect of the car being scrapped. I have, however, received a number of representations concerning the position of spouses as outlined in the question, and that issue is being further considered as part of the Finance Bill process.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

191 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm recent media report that a person (details supplied) appointed as an independent expert to conduct a preliminary investigation into the banking crisis is on the board of a hedge fund; the interests he has in banking; if these interests are in conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7617/10]

I announced the appointment of Mr. Klaus Regling to conduct one of the preliminary investigations into the crisis in our banking system on 29 January 2010. Mr Regling brings extensive experience of senior economic and financial positions in the German Ministry of Finance and the European Union to this role which will ensure a robust preliminary report that identifies the key causes of the crisis and provides a firm basis for the work of the statutory Commission of Inquiry.

Mr Regling's previous roles include, inter alia, various positions with the International Monetary Fund; Director General in the German Ministry; and Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission. Mr. Regling is currently a member of the Issing Commission, appointed by Chancellor Merkel in 2008 to advise the German Government on reform of financial regulation.

Mr Regling is currently chairman of KR Economics in Brussels, an economic and financial consultancy which he founded in September 2009. He is non-executive director of the following hedge funds; Winton Futures, Brevan Howard Offshore Management Limited and Brevan Howard Investment Product Limited.

On the basis of my Department's discussions with Mr Regling, I am satisfied that his current positions do not give rise to any conflicts with the role that he has agreed to undertake on behalf of the Government and that his lengthy experience in senior public sector economic and financial positions makes him ideally suited to this role.

Consumer Protection.

Joan Burton

Question:

192 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the transfer of the consumer information and education functions of the Financial Regulator to the National Consumer Agency to be completed; the interim arrangements that have been made to ensure that consumers are not in any way put at a disadvantage while this process is being completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7618/10]

The consumer information and education functions currently carried out within the Consumer Directorate in the Financial Regulator are to be transferred to the National Consumer Agency (NCA) in the forthcoming Bill to reform the structures for financial regulation. I expect that the Bill will be published in the current session.

In the interim, and in the interests of making the transfer of function as seamless as possible, the Financial Regulator and the NCA have agreed that the NCA will carry out the consumer information and education role of the Financial Regulator on its behalf, with effect from 1 March 2010. The parties have agreed that staff from the Financial Regulator will be seconded and will be transferred to the NCA with effect from that date.

As a result of the secondment arrangement the skills of the financial regulator staff will be available to consumers via the NCA. To ensure all customer contacts have been catered for, arrangements are in place to ensure that consumers can continue to access information about personal finance via the "itsyourmoney.ie" website and can make enquiries about their personal finances by phone.

Financial Services Regulation.

Joan Burton

Question:

193 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the terms of reference of the strategic review of the credit union sector to be carried out by the Financial Regulator; the details of the tendering criteria; the process for the recruitment of an external consultant to conduct this review; if and the reason the tender limits applications to consultancies with a minimum turnover of €2.5 million per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7620/10]

I have requested the Financial Regulator to carry out a strategic review of the credit union sector in Ireland. This will involve an examination of the structure, operation, regulation and legislation of the credit union sector with a view to providing a report making recommendations, including specific proposals to strengthen prudential soundness, which will advise and inform an assessment of the future strategic direction of credit unions. The Terms of Reference have not yet been finalised.

The Financial Regulator is currently undertaking a tender process, in accordance with the public procurement guidelines, to select the most suitable candidate to undertake the strategic review. The initial stage of the tender process, inviting Expressions of Interest, has recently concluded. The criteria that candidates are required to meet to progress to the next stage of the tender process were designed to ensure that the candidates selected have the necessary financial, economic and technical capacity to carry out such work and have sufficient skills, experience and levels of resources available.

Joan Burton

Question:

194 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the establishment of an independent credit union regulator under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as proposed by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7621/10]

Credit unions are regulated by the Registrar of Credit Unions within the overall framework of Financial Services Regulation. In the programme of reform of financial services regulation the Government decided that the Registrar would continue to operate in the context of the proposed new structures. These arrangements are intended to ensure that regulation of credit unions is carried out in a manner that is supportive of the unique structure of the credit union movement while also addressing the appropriate regulatory and consumer protection requirements that arise. It must be acknowledged that the sector has grown exponentially in recent years. It now has 14.4 billion euro in assets and a large proportion of credit unions have grown into large operations which are significant providers of services of a financial nature.

I have requested the Financial Regulator to initiate a strategic review of the credit union sector in Ireland. This will involve an examination of the structure, operation, regulation and legislation of the credit union sector. Its conclusions and recommendations will inform the development of policy in relation to credit unions, including an appropriate regulatory framework. This comprehensive review is to be an objective assessment carried out by independent experts in consultation with all of the stakeholders and I look forward to the outcome.

Joan Burton

Question:

195 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the establishment of a credit union review group under the auspices of his Department proposed by an organisation (details supplied) to conduct a review of Irish financial regulation as they apply to the credit sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7622/10]

I have requested the Financial Regulator to initiate a strategic review of the credit union sector in Ireland. This will involve an examination of the structure, operation, regulation and legislation of the credit union sector with a view to providing a report making recommendations, including specific proposals to strengthen prudential soundness. Its conclusions and recommendations will inform the development of policy in relation to credit unions, including an appropriate regulatory framework.

This comprehensive review is to be an objective assessment carried out by independent experts in consultation with all of the stakeholders and will feed into a review of credit union legislation.

Fiscal Policy.

Joan Burton

Question:

196 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer for 2007, 2008, 2009; and the expected cost for 2010 for all areas and property based tax incentives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7683/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available on the cost to the Exchequer of each of the property and area based tax reliefs is based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers and corporation tax returns filed by companies for the year 2007, the latest year that this information is available. These are set out in the following table:

Costs to the Exchequer of each Area/Property based tax relief

Scheme

2007

€m

Urban Renewal

109.3

Town Renewal

34.6

Seaside Renewal

8.0

Rural Renewal

48.5

Multi-storey car parks

9.6

Living over the Shop

3.0

Enterprise Areas

2.8

Park & Ride

1.4

Holiday Cottages

12.4

Hotels

118.0

Nursing Homes

18.3

Housing for the Elderly/Infirm

2.6

Hostels

0.72

Guest Houses

0.02

Convalescent Homes

0.5

Qualifying (Private) Hospitals

12.0

Qualifying Sports Injury Clinics

1.8

Buildings used for childcare purposes

9.8

Psychiatric Hospitals

0.1

Mental Health Centres

0.0

Student Accommodation

42.0

Total

435.4

I am advised by Revenue that they are not yet in a position to provide data for 2008 in respect of tax costs of area and property incentives, as all tax returns filed for that year have not been processed. For the same reason, I am not in a position to provide the data requested by the Deputy for the year 2009.

As regards projections for 2010, projections for income tax receipts are based on assumed movements in macro-economic parameters and not by reference to the costs of individual tax reliefs. Accordingly, I am not in a position to provide the projected cost data requested by the Deputy for the year 2010 in relation to the above-mentioned reliefs.

Cigarette Smuggling.

Phil Hogan

Question:

197 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he received information of factors other than the high price of cigarettes which is contributing to the rise in cigarette smuggling; if he has received information which indicates that the introduction of point of sale display ban on tobacco in July 2009 has led to the increase in cigarette smuggling and illicit cigarette trades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7689/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that as regards the point of sale display ban that was introduced last July, there is no evidence that this has contributed to increased cigarette smuggling and illicit cigarette trades. Prior to the introduction of the ban, counterfeit and contraband cigarettes were not on open display in the retail outlets where they were detected and were usually kept hidden from sight. Furthermore a series of random checks on high street retail outlets have not uncovered counterfeit or contraband cigarettes on sale. On the other hand, inland detections are made primarily at markets, distribution centres and at certain unscrupulous retail outlets.

The high retail price of cigarettes in Ireland does contribute to Ireland being a target for organised crime gangs engaged in smuggling. The availability of cheap tax paid cigarettes in other EU Member States, which are easily accessible via frequent low-cost flights, is another significant factor.

Statutory Instruments.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

198 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if the requirement under section 3(1)(a) of the Statutory Instrument Act 1947, as amended by the Statutory Instrument Act 1955, is still in force; his views on whether this requirement is being fulfilled by the various Departments and State agencies with powers to sign such instruments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7713/10]

The requirement under Section 3(1)(a) of the Statutory Instruments Act 1947, as amended in 1955, is still in force. Since 2007 all Departments and State Agencies with the power to make Statutory Instruments have been obliged to use the electronic Statutory Instruments System (eSIS), and a comprehensive set of user guidelines was produced to accompany the system. It is clearly stated in these guidelines that each Department should arrange to send final print versions of the Statutory Instrument to the bodies named in the Act. It is up to each Department/Agency to comply with this requirement and my Department is not in a position to monitor such compliance.

Pension Provisions.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

199 Deputy Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2 is entitled to in a pension on retirement at the age of 65 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7718/10]

The Minister for Finance has statutory responsibility for civil service pensions and for pensions paid from the Central Fund. Statutory responsibility for other public service pension schemes is a matter in the first instance for the respective Ministers in other Departments, as appropriate. As the person to whom the question relates is an employee of the health sector, the matter should be referred to the Minister for Health and Children for answer.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

200 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the number of outstanding claims for mortgage interest tax relief for top up mortgages; the time it will take for the computer delay in processing these application to be resolved; if mortgage types or tax credits are also affected; if so, the numbers involved; and if a budget has been set aside to provide a back payment to each of the qualifying home owners affected. [7761/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that approximately 2,700 customers, who appear to have taken out top up mortgages, have provided additional information required of them by Revenue. This information is being evaluated by Revenue to decide if there is in fact an entitlement to mortgage interest relief on those top ups. Revenue expects to be in a position during March to determine whether relief is due or not. Where it is decided that relief is due, Revenue will make arrangements for immediate payment, including any back payment that arises.

Tax Relief at Source is applied to all qualifying loans, as distinct from mortgage types, and tax credits are not affected.

Fiscal Policy.

Mary Wallace

Question:

201 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Finance the circumstances in which a person may qualify for the car scrappage scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7804/10]

The provisions of the car scrappage scheme, as set out in Section 102 of the Finance Bill as published on 4 February 2010, provide for a scrappage scheme to run from 1 January to 31 December 2010. VRT relief of up to €1,500 will be available where a person purchases a new category A car of emission Bands A or B (i.e. with CO2 emissions of 140g/Km or less) and an old car is scrapped.

The provisions also provide that in relation to the car being scrapped, the car: must be registered in the State in the name of the registered owner of the new car for at least 18 months previous to the date of scrappage; must be 10 years old or more from the date of first registration; must be scrapped on or after 10 December 2009 and not later than 31 December 2010; must be scrapped within 60 days of the date of the new car being registered, or have been scrapped within 60 days immediately before the date of the new car being registered; must have a valid NCT test certificate, or one that has expired no more than 90 days immediately before the date of scrappage or documentation to indicate that it has been presented for and failed an NCT roadworthiness test in the previous 6 months; must have been insured for use on the road in the name of the registered owner for at least 12 months in the 18 months immediately prior to the date of scrappage.

Tax Code.

Mary Wallace

Question:

202 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Finance the tax-free amount thresholds for capital acquisitions tax in 2010; the way this may apply to the beneficiary of a gift or inheritance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7805/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that for the purposes of both Gift and Inheritance Tax, the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance (i.e. the disponer) and the person who received the gift or inheritance (i.e. the beneficiary), determines the maximum tax-free threshold- known as the "Group threshold" below which gift or inheritance tax does not arise. Apart from the total exemption of transfers between spouses, there are three Group thresholds based on the relationship of the beneficiary to the disponer and these Group thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the Consumer Price Index.

The indexed Group thresholds for 2010 are as follows:

Group A: €414,799 — applies where the beneficiary is a child (including adopted child, step-child and certain foster children) or minor child of a deceased child of the disponer. Parents also fall within this threshold where they take an inheritance of an absolute interest from a child.

Group B: €41,481 — applies where the beneficiary is a brother, sister, a nephew, a niece or lineal ancestor or lineal descendant of the disponer.

Group C: €20,740 — applies in all other case.

When calculating whether a beneficiary has received benefits in excess of his or her Group tax-free threshold, any other gifts and inheritances received by that beneficiary since 5 December 1991 from within the same Group are also taken into account.

Tax Collection.

John McGuinness

Question:

203 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if agreement will be reached between the Revenue Commission and companies (details supplied) in County Carlow, relative to moneys owed by the businesses; and if he will expedite a conclusion to the matter. [7810/10]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by Revenue that the businesses in question have significant debts, some of which are the subject of enforcement action by the sheriff, and that there have been ongoing difficulties with these businesses in securing timely compliance.

A proposal to address some of the debt was made very recently to Revenue. I am advised by Revenue that while the proposals presented are not acceptable as a basis for satisfactorily concluding matters, they will be in direct contact with the businesses concerned over the coming days to see if a basis for clearing the debt can be agreed.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

204 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he or his Department officials have made representations to Anglo Irish Bank on behalf of specific borrowers or other customers of the bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7845/10]

A Relationship Framework, pursuant to Section 3 of the Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Act 2009, specifies the relationship between me as sole shareholder of Anglo, and the bank. Anglo Irish Bank is run on an arm's length commercial basis by the Board of the bank. The commercial relationship between the bank and its customers is a matter for the bank itself.

Flood Relief.

Question:

205 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Finance if legislation is needed to provide a single authority to oversee the management of the River Shannon and its tributaries; the way this new authority will be constituted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7856/10]

A comprehensive management programme for the River Shannon is being addressed now through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme under the direction of the Office of Public Works.

The CFRAM Programme underpins the essentials of the assessment of flood risk and the long-term planning risk management measures for the River Shannon catchment and other catchment areas throughout the country and includes capital, structural and non-structural measures. The CFRAM Programme is being delivered through the CFRAM Studies.

The CFRAM studies are comprehensive catchment-based studies, which focus on and identify areas at risk from flood events for a range of severities and the production of a prioritised plan of measures and actions for dealing with areas where the risk is significant.

The Shannon FRAM study, which is expected to commence in mid-2010, will involve consultation with all of the main stakeholders, including the public, the ESB, Waterways Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service and relevant Local Authorities.

The study will look at all options for dealing with areas of significant flood risk. The objective of this exercise is to determine relative roles and define relative responsibilities of all the main bodies involved with the Shannon with a view to ensuring that all flood risk factors are identified and managed in a coordinated way.

The CFRAM programme meets the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive and the Flood Directive, which provide for a framework for a coordinated approach to the management of the river catchment systems. The EU Floods Directive is in the process of being transposed in Irish Law at present and by which OPW will be appointed as the Competent Authority to meet the requirements of the Directive. This legislation will reinforce the role of OPW in coordinating the management of the CFRAM programme.

Fiscal Policy.

Seán Power

Question:

206 Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Finance his views on a VAT free weekend for the retail sector in view of the negative impact that the recent spell of bad weather has had on retail sales. [7868/10]

In matters relating to the application of VAT, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The EU VAT Directive provides that Member States must apply VAT to goods and services at specified rates, and does not provide for temporary VAT-free arrangements for particular economic sectors such as the retail sector. In this respect, it is not possible to introduce a VAT-free week-end in respect of the retail sector due to bad weather. I would point out, however, that Budget 2010 reduced the standard rate of VAT from 21.5% to 21% with effect from 1 January 2010.

Departmental Expenditure.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

207 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 204 of 9 February 2010, the list of the persons and organisations in receipt of such payments; if he will state for each person and organisation, the number of interview days they participated in; the payments they received; the manner in which those persons and organisations were appointed to such positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7939/10]

I do not consider it appropriate to disclose the level of detailed personal information sought by the Deputy. Details of the total amount paid, the number of interview days and the number of individuals/organisations who received payment during 2009 have already been disclosed in response to Parliamentary Question No. 204 of 9 February 2010. Apart from the payments to individuals who acted as interview board members, payments were made to the following organisations in respect of services provided to the Public Appointment Service:

Organisation Design Consultants — € 1,422

Personnel Assessment Limited — € 5,369.

I can assure the Deputy that these payments are made strictly in accordance with the rates sanctioned by my Department, that appropriate deductions have been made in respect of PAYE/PRSI and that other obligations e.g. abatement rules in respect of retired public servants have been complied with. The accounts of the Public Appointment Service, which include the detail of these payments, are subject to the detailed scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Tax Code.

Michael Creed

Question:

208 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding reliefs available to young farmers taking over a family holding; the consequences for these tax reliefs arising from a forced disposal of lands due to compulsory purchase orders for road building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7942/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that reliefs across a number of taxes could possibly apply in the circumstances outlined in the question as follows:

Stamp Duties

Section 81AA of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 provides for an exemption from stamp duty on the transfer of agricultural land to a farmer who is under 35 years of age and who is the holder of certain educational qualifications. A further condition of the exemption is that the farmer must retain ownership of the land for a period of five years from the date of the transfer.

There is a clawback of the relief in the case of a disposal of the land within the five-year period. There is also a potential clawback of the relief where the disposal results from a compulsory purchase order for road building. However, provided the proceeds from a disposal due to a compulsory purchase order are re-invested in other agricultural land within a period of one year from the date of the disposal, the clawback does not arise.

Capital Gains Tax

A compulsory acquisition is a disposal for Capital Gains Tax purposes and the usual rules apply as regards the calculation of a chargeable gain. The disposal takes place at the earlier of the dates agreement is reached, or the date of entry on the land. The applicable rate of CGT is the rate in force at the date of disposal. However in the case of compulsory disposals of farm land by farmers for road widening or ancillary purposes, the gain accrues in the year of receipt of the compensation proceeds. In such cases the rate of tax is the rate applicable at the date of disposal.

Capital Acquisitions Tax

Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) includes both gift and inheritance tax.

Where a person takes over a family holding by way of gift or inheritance, CAT may apply. For the purposes of CAT, the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance (i.e. the disponer) and the person who received the gift or inheritance (i.e. the beneficiary) determines the maximum tax-free threshold — known as the "Group threshold" below which gift or inheritance tax does not arise.

Apart from the total exemption of transfers between spouses, there are three Group thresholds based on the relationship of the beneficiary to the disponer and these Group thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the Consumer Price Index.

The indexed Group thresholds for 2010 are as follows:

Group A: €414,799 — applies where the beneficiary is a child (including adopted child, step-child and certain foster children) or minor child of a deceased child of the disponer.

Group B: €41,481 — applies where the beneficiary is a brother, sister, a nephew, a niece or lineal ancestor or lineal descendant of the disponer.

Group C: €20,740 — applies in all other cases.

When calculating whether a beneficiary has received benefits in excess of his or her Group tax-free threshold, any other gifts and inheritances received by that beneficiary since 5 December 1991 from within the same Group are also taken into account. If the total value of all gifts and inheritances received by the beneficiary since this date from within the same Group is above the relevant threshold, then a 25% rate of CAT will apply to the excess.

In conjunction with the tax-free Group thresholds, the CAT code contains special reliefs for Agricultural land. Subject to certain conditions, the beneficiary may qualify for Agricultural relief, which reduces the value of the land by 90% for CAT purposes, or alternatively he or she may qualify for Business relief, which also reduces the value of the land by 90% for CAT purposes.

Where Agricultural or Business relief applies, the beneficiary must retain the lands for six years to avoid the relief being clawed back. In a situation where the lands are the subject of a compulsory purchase order for road building, the Agricultural relief will not be withdrawn if the beneficiary expends the proceeds from the compulsory acquisition in acquiring other agricultural property within six years of the compulsory acquisition. Where Business relief applies, the beneficiary must replace the lands within one year to avoid a claw back of the Business relief.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

209 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if persons (details supplied) will be exempted from the public sector pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7968/10]

Public servants who are members of public service pension schemes are liable to pay the pension-related deduction legislated for in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. On this basis, third-level researchers on fixed-term and temporary contracts who are members of the relevant public service occupational pension scheme must pay the deduction. Distinctions between public servants on the basis of whether they are permanent or temporary, and if temporary what contract duration applies, are irrelevant insofar as liability to pay the deduction is concerned.

Section 6 of the Act provides for a refund of the deduction in circumstances where the departing employee has accrued no benefits under any public service pension scheme, has not received a payment in lieu of scheme membership and has not transferred the service to another public service pension scheme. This provision should be of benefit to third-level researchers on short-term non-renewable contracts who have no prior public service employment history and who accrue no pension benefit at the expiry of their contract due to insufficient service.

Section 8 of the Act grants the Minister for Finance a limited special discretion to exempt groups of public servants from payment of the deduction. Specifically, where he is satisfied that due to exceptional circumstances, a particular class or group of public servants are materially distinguished from other classes or groups who are subject to the deduction, then the Minister may fully or partly exempt this group from paying some or all of the deduction, if he believes it would be fair and equitable to do so. A request for such an exemption has been received from a group of research workers and is under examination in my Department. When that examination is completed, I will be in a position to consider whether an exemption should be granted to that group.

Tax Yield.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

210 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the revenue earned from the departure tax in each month since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7987/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the air travel tax arising from travel undertaken in any month is payable by airline operators by the 23rd of the following month. Since the introduction of the air travel tax on 30 March 2009, it has yielded a total of €91.9 million.

The figures broken down on a monthly basis are as follows:

2009

€m

May

9.6

Jun

11.5

Jul

11.9

Aug

12.5

Sep

12.4

Oct

9.4

Nov

9.5

Dec

7.6

Total

84.4

2010

€m

Jan

7.5

Flood Relief.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

211 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance the person or organisation responsible for the maintenance of the banks on the River Shannon at Meelick and towards Tiernascragh and Portumma, County Galway; the minimum legal height of those banks which protects the adjoining lands from flooding from the River Shannon; the amount of maintenance work carried out on those banks over the past ten years; if he is satisfied that the banks are in good condition for the purpose for which they are intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7994/10]

The Office of Public Works has no statutory responsibility for the maintenance of the River Shannon. However, the OPW has responsibility for a number of arterial drainage schemes in the Shannon catchment area, including the Brosna, Inny and Boyle.

There are extensive areas of land on the west bank of the Shannon which are protected by embankments. The embankments in question were constructed as part of the Shannon Scheme. The ESB have responsibility for the maintenance and management of these works. The OPW does not have information on the design standards, maintenance or condition of these works.

Ministerial Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

212 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the fees or charges set by him by way of ministerial order for the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8031/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

213 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the charges levied by his Department or agencies under his Department in respect of the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; the anticipated income from such charges in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8043/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows. Under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 (Fees) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No 264 of 2003), the following up-front fees were introduced for certain Freedom of Information requests, applications for internal review and applications for review by the Office of the Information Commissioner. The fees payable are as follows: €15 for an FOI request (reduced to €10 for medical card holders and their dependants); €75 for a request for internal review of an FOI decision (reduced to €25 for medical card holders and their dependants); €150 for an application for review of an FOI decision by the Office of the Information Commissioner (reduced to €50 for medical card holders and their dependants); €50 for an application, by the third party to whom the records relate, for a review by the Office of the Information Commissioner of an FOI decision to grant public interest access to records, following section 29 consultation procedures. This fee structure applies across all public bodies covered by the FOI legislation.

In relation to my own Department, based on 2009 receipts, it is estimated that approximately €6,300 will be collected in fees in 2010.

My Department is also involved in the Pension Insolvency Scheme (PIPS) which is a three-year pilot scheme offering, as a special measure, payments in cases where a defined benefit pension scheme is winding up in deficit and the sponsoring employer becomes insolvent. As the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2009 requires the scheme to be operated on a cost neutral basis for the Exchequer, under S.I. 04/2010 Pensions Insolvency Payments Scheme 2010 participating pension schemes are charged the sum of €950 per year to cover the Minister's fixed costs. The expected revenue for 2010 is not available as it will depend on the number of pensions schemes who opt to join the scheme.

I have been advised as follows by agencies associated with my Department.

Office of the Appeals Commissioners

I have been advised that Section 941(1) and (3) of the Consolidation Act 1997 sets out the conditions on which fees are charged for the service provided. Section 941(1) states that "Immediately after the determination of an appeal by the Appeal Commissioners, the appellant or the inspector or such other officer as the Revenue Commissioners shall authorise in that behalf (in this section referred to as other officer)", if dissatisfied with the determination as being erroneous in point of law, may declare his or her dissatisfaction to the Appeal Commissioners who heard the appeal.'' Section (3) states "The party requiring the case shall pay to the Clerk to the Appeal Commissioners a fee of £20 (€25) for and in respect of the case before that party is entitled to have the case stated.'' The Appeals Commissioners receives no more than ten applications for Case Stated to the High Court a year, costing €25.00 per application.

Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information

I have been informed by the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information which was established under the European Communities (Access to Information on Environment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007) that up-front application fees for appeals to the Commissioners came into effect with the establishment of the office. The fees payable are €150 for an appeal (reduced to €50 for medical card holders and their dependants and also for people, not party to the original request for access to environmental information, who are appealing a decision to release information which they believe will affect them). The Commission for Environmental Information anticipates receiving €5,000 in fees for 2010.

Valuation Office

I have been informed by the Valuation Office of the following fees levied by way of Ministerial order S.I. No. 64/2002 Valuation (Revisions and New Valuations) (Fees) Regulations 2002. The fee set per Valuation is €250.

S.I. No. 312/2002 Valuation Tribunal (Fees) Regulations 2002 and S.I. No. 63/2002 Valuation Appeal (Fees) Regulations 2002 set out fees dealing with appeals as follows:

Valuation not exceeding €50

95

Valuation exceeding €50 and not exceeding €150

125

Valuation exceeding €150 and not exceeding €650

300

Valuation exceeding €650

500

S.I. No. 54/2007 Valuation Act 2001 (Revaluation Appeals) (Fees) Regulations 2007 sets the following fees:

Valuation not exceeding €20,000

60

Valuation exceeding €20,000 and not exceeding €50,000

125

Valuation exceeding €50,000 and not exceeding €250,000

250

Valuation exceeding €250,000

375

S.I. No. 18/2008 Valuation Tribunal (Revaluation Appeals) (Fees) Regulations 2008.

Valuation not exceeding €20,000

95

Valuation exceeding €20,000 but not exceeding €50,000

125

Valuation exceeding €50,000 but not exceeding €250,000

300

Valuation exceeding €250,000

500

In addition to the fees levied under Ministerial Order the Valuation Office have informed me that they charge the following fees for Public Office Services.

Current Certificates

12.70

Historic Certificates: The cost varies according to a scale as follows:

Previous year

63.49

Previous year back to 1950

101.58

Previous year back to 1900

190.46

Any year before 1900

253.95

Provisional Certificates

126.97

The Valuation Office anticipate that the total income from the charges levied in 2010 will amount to €1,543,000. They anticipate that this amount will be made up of the following receipts:

Valuation Tribunal Appeal Fees

40,000

Valuation Certificates

150,000

Valuation Revision Fees

1,233,000

Appeals to the Commissioner of Valuation

120,000

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

I have been informed by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners that they levy the following charges on persons or businesses in relation to services provided by that Office. These charges are as follows:

Estimated Income for 2010

Charges to traders for the attendance of Revenue staff outside normal hours, (an hourly rate of €26 applies)

200,000

Charges for the reservation of a specified vehicle registration number, (a charge of €1,000 applies for each number)

50,000

Annual charge for collecting light dues on behalf of the Commissioners of Irish Lights

38,000

Office of Public Works

I have been informed by the Office of Public Works that they charge an agency fee of 2.5% on certain deductions made from payroll on behalf of companies. These are mainly where deductions are made from payroll on behalf of outside companies e.g. life assurance companies. Charges receivable are estimated at €2,000 in 2010 based on the fees received in 2009.

National Treasury Management Agency

The National Treasury Management Agency under the Asset Securities Act 2001 expect to receive some €718,000 in Asset Covered Security fees in 2010.

They have no information as yet on how much they expect to receive in respect of the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme fees in 2010.

Tax Code.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

214 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the proposals he has to exempt the retirement gratuities of retained fire fighters from income tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8067/10]

Section 201 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and Schedule 3 to that Act set out the legislation in relation to the exemptions that apply to retirement gratuities, and the taxation of any balance after applying these exemptions. The same rules apply to all employees and office holders.

Statutory redundancy payments are exempt from income tax. In addition, ex-gratia redundancy payments in excess of the statutory redundancy amount are exempt from income tax up to certain limits namely: a basic exemption of €10,160 plus €765 per complete year of actual service in excess of the statutory redundancy; or Standard Capital Superannuation Benefit i.e. 1/15th of the person's annual income (average of the last three years) for each year of employment less any tax-free lump sum which is received or receivable under any approved or statutory pension scheme. It is open to the taxpayer to choose whichever relief is of most benefit.

The basic exemption from income tax as outlined above can be further increased by up to €10,000 if the person is not a member of an occupational pension scheme. This can only be claimed if the person has not made any claims in respect of a lump sum received in the previous 10 tax years.

Any amount of redundancy payment in excess of whichever exemption applies, is liable to income tax. The Revenue Commissioners publication IT21 is a comprehensive guide to understanding how these reliefs apply.

Departmental Staff.

Michael McGrath

Question:

215 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding any current or planned recruitment to the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8074/10]

The Deputy may be aware that I recently sanctioned the filling of up to 200 posts in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, recognising the importance of that Office's role and the significant reduction in staff numbers during 2009. The filling of these posts is within the numbers ceiling set for the Office under the Employment Control Framework. These posts will be filled through a combination of redeployment, internal appointment and open recruitment. Regarding open recruitment, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in the coming months they expect to recruit at entry and more senior levels, for appointments to a variety of positions including positions in the tax and information technology areas.

Departmental Agencies.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

216 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the number of bodies and agencies under his aegis; and his proposals for the rationalisation of same. [8197/10]

There are 14 exchequer funded bodies associated with my Department which are listed in Table A. There are no plans to amalgamate any of these bodies. In addition, there is one commercial state body, Anglo Irish Bank.

Table A

Decentralisation Implementation Group

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal (DDMA)

Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)

Valuation Tribunal

Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector

Civil Service Arbitration Board

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

Independent Mediator for the Civil Service

Outside Appointments Board

National Treasury Management Agency*

State Claims Agency

National Development Finance Agency

National Asset Management Agency

*The NTMA acts as the State Claims Agency, and is the body through which the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) and National Asset Management Agency perform their functions.

Food Safety.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

217 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take regarding the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's admission that they are not able to reach the target of 6gms per person per day; her policy regarding enforcement of the maximum levels of salt in processed foods; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7716/10]

Salt consumption among the Irish population is considerably above the recommended level of 6g/day. The Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition (SLAN 2007) indicates the men consume an average of 8.7g/day and women consume 8g/day. These estimates exclude discretionary salt, i.e. salt added during cooking and at the table, and therefore underestimate the total salt intake by 15-20%.

In 2004, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) initiated a national salt reduction policy and programme aimed at reducing average daily salt intake by Irish adults to 6 grams (one teaspoon) by 2010. In September 2008 the FSAI warned that this target would not be met. While the food industry had made some strides to reduce salt in processed foods, the consumption pattern of Irish adults which favours high quantities of bread and processed meats has made it difficult to reach the 6g/day target. The FSAI estimated that by 2008 average adult salt intake from processed food had reduced by 7%, but projected that it would reach 7g/day from processed food alone by 2010, without taking into account salt use from discretionary sources like cooking and table use.

High salt intake gives rise to significant health risks. Hypertension (raised blood pressure) is a major contributing factor to heart disease and stroke. A reduction in salt intake of 3g/day would reduce stroke mortality by an estimated 13% and coronary heart disease mortality by 10%.

An EU Common Framework on Salt Reduction, developed in 2008 and supported by my Department provides a supportive framework to the FSAI's salt reduction programme and to key organisations who continue to educate the consumer about the health benefits of salt reduction.

The salt reduction programme has been extended to 2012 with European targets of a 16% reduction in salt in certain food categories. This now includes seventeen member states in addition to Ireland and the UK. Therefore the salt profile of key foods across Europe is being reduced and this will affect the salt in foods on the Irish market.

The forthcoming Cardiovascular Health Policy is expected to recommend salt reduction policies for Ireland, encompassing a reduction of salt in processed foods, the labelling of salt content in pre-packaged foods in the retail sector in line with the planned EU food labelling legislation and implementing a public awareness campaign on salt intake.

Departmental Funding.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

218 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the sources and levels of funding that an organisation (details supplied) receives annually from the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7767/10]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

219 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on an organisation's (details supplied) involvement as a provider of local youth services in multi faith Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7768/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 219 together.

The Youth Affairs Unit of my Office provides funding to the CYC for its youth service provision through a number of funding programmes and details of the monies allocated in 2009 are outlined hereunder:

Youth Service Grant Scheme: €1,188,132;

Special Projects for Youth: €1,320,538;

Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund: €554,852;

Youth Information Centres: €225,525.

While the projects are operated at local level by the CYC the funding is paid through the administering agencies of various Vocational Education Committees.

In addition to the above funding, The Irish Youth Justice Service made direct transfers totalling €115,000 to CYC in respect of a youth justice project in Finglas. A further €834,060 was transferred to 10 Garda Youth Diversion Projects, which are operated by CYC.

The process of determining my Department's financial allocations to the Youth Work Sector for 2010 is underway. As in previous years, my Department will be providing support to a wide range of agencies and projects involved with the development and well-being of young people.

Medical Cards.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

220 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [7583/10]

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

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

221 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce a regulation to ensure that persons over 70 years of age with a medical card are not charged by general practitioners for a medical certificate necessary in respect of the renewal of their driving licence; if she will make a regulation to ensure that this charge is covered by the medical card. [7585/10]

The contract between the HSE and General Practitioners for the General Medical Services Scheme stipulates that fees are not paid to GPs by the HSE in respect of certain medical certificates which may be required, for example, "under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences". There are no proposals to alter this provision.

Under Age Smoking.

Richard Bruton

Question:

222 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date in reducing the number of people engaged in under age smoking; the follow-up studies that were conducted, following the enactment of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and the increase in the minimum number of cigarettes that can be sold in a packet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7586/10]

Last July, further provisions of the Public Health Tobacco Act 2002 as amended, were introduced. These included the removal of all display and advertising material in retail outlets, restrictions on the operation of self-service tobacco vending machines and a requirement for all retailers who sell tobacco products to register with the Office of Tobacco Control. It is anticipated that these measures will further denormalise tobacco and protect children and adults from the dangers of tobacco consumption. Given that these measures were introduced less that a year ago, no studies on their impact have yet being undertaken. My Department commissions the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey every four years. It includes a survey of the smoking habits of randomly selected children from 5th class in primary school to 5th year in post-primary schools throughout the country. The next survey is due to be carried out this year. Previous studies indicate that there has been a continuing reduction in the percentage of children who report that they are smokers, from 18.6% in 2002 to 15.3% in 2006. This decrease is seen in both girls and boys and across all ages.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

223 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be facilitated with an earlier hospital appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7592/10]

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

Departmental Agencies.

Joan Burton

Question:

224 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will confirm that letters (details supplied) were issued on 25 January 2010 to both the chief executive officers of the Health Board Executive and the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies outlining a €21.5 million reduction in grant aid to agencies; if she envisaged that the totality of these grant reductions would be passed on in the form of pay cost reductions for employees of these grant aided agencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7619/10]

The Government's decision to reduce its payroll costs in various ways — principally by reducing the salaries paid to public servants and reducing the numbers employed — was deliberately designed to protect existing levels of public services and to provide a more sustainable payroll cost base into the future. I understand that the HSE issued an early warning notice to its grant aided voluntary agencies signalling that the pay reduction for public servants under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 might automatically apply to the agencies. My Department subsequently clarified to the HSE in writing, on 22 January 2010, at their request, that grant aided agencies funded under section 39 of the Health Act 2004 were not directly affected by the pay adjustments provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009. Section 39 agencies are not public service bodies as defined in that Act and their employees are not public servants. A similar letter also issued to the CEO of the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies on 25 January 2010. I believe these are the letters to which the Deputy refers in his question. However, the level of funding being provided to section 39 agencies is being reduced as part of the general efficiency savings for the health sector provided for in the Budget and it is entirely appropriate that notwithstanding these reductions section 39 agencies and other HSE funded voluntary providers take appropriate measures to ensure that they continue to provide the same level of service in 2010 as previously. It is the responsibility of each individual employer to decide exactly what mix of actions should be taken to achieve this goal, to take appropriate legal and other advice, to consult and inform its employees and trade unions as necessary and to manage the HR and industrial relations implications of its decisions. I further understand that the HSE is in the process of confirming this position to the bodies concerned on foot of clarification in the matter from my Department. Budget 2010 requires the HSE to generate non-pay savings of €394 million, €106 million of which is to be met through economies. It is a matter for the HSE to determine how these non-pay savings are to be met, but it is likely that grant-funded agencies will bear some proportion of the savings.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be renewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will expedite this matter. [7628/10]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

226 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7629/10]

I have always accepted the consensus view of the relevant expert bodies that the introduction of a universal high uptake vaccination programme in young girls, in conjunction with population based cervical screening, could significantly reduce overall cervical cancer incidence. The issue was not, therefore, whether the case for a cervical cancer vaccination programme was accepted by myself and the Government — because it always was — but the priority to be accorded to such a programme within the resources available for public health services and for the cancer programme in particular. I recently asked the HSE to initiate a tendering process for the procurement of a HPV vaccine with a view to commencing a HPV vaccination programme for all girls in first year in secondary school and until this process was completed I was not in a position to say if or when I would introduce this programme. This tendering process for the vaccine is now complete. We can now purchase the vaccine at a price much lower than we expected to pay in 2008 and at a price much closer to what is being paid in other countries. In these circumstances, the programme can now be delivered from the extra resources committed in this year's budget to the overall cancer programme. The HSE is committed to starting this campaign during the current school year. This will involve the free vaccination of up to 30,000 girls mainly in school settings. Details of the full programme will be announced by the HSE in the near future and will involve the vaccine being offered each year to all girls in first year in secondary school. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to refund the costs of vaccinations administered privately.

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

227 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 203 of 10 November 2009, the reason her Department has not issued a full refund in respect of an X-ray charge; and if she will expedite this matter. [7645/10]

The HSE confirmed with my Department on 1 December 2009 that the X-ray charge had been collected in error, and would be refunded to the patient concerned. I have again asked the HSE to confirm that the refund has been made, and to reply as a matter of urgency to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

228 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that some parents who are employed are no longer able to afford community child care and are removing their children from child care services due to the increase in fees; her further views on the fact that the fee increase is creating a poverty trap and if this is counterproductive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7646/10]

I have responsibility for the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) which was introduced in January 2008 and provides support funding to community based not-for-profit child care providers to enable them to charge reduced childcare fees to disadvantaged and low income working parents. I also have responsibility for the free pre-school year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which was introduced in January of this year and provides for a free pre-school year for all eligible children prior to commencing primary school. The CCSS is implemented by my office under the National Childcare Investment Programme. A significant level of funding is provided under the CCSS with expenditure of almost €60 million in 2009 in respect of almost 1,000 community childcare services. Parents in receipt of social welfare payments qualify for a reduction of €100 per week for full-time day care while parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS) qualify for a reduction of €70 per week. Parents who are above the FIS threshold, e.g. who hold a GP visit card or a medical card, qualify for a reduction of €45 per week. In budget 2010, the Minister for Finance announced that the CCSS would be succeeded by a follow-on scheme with effect from September 2010. The new Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) scheme will continue to provide support funding to community based child care services to enable them to charge reduced child care fees and will also include a number of enhancements specifically targeted at working parents in receipt of low incomes. Parents in receipt of FIS will receive an increased subvention at the higher rate of €100. Parents marginally above the FIS threshold will receive an increased subvention rate of €50. My office is also consulting with the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with a view to including a new capitation rate under the CCS which will improve the current child care supports available to qualifying parents attending VEC and FÁS courses. In addition to the Community Childcare Subvention schemes, the ECCE scheme which came into effect in January of this year will enable parents to avail of a free Pre-School Year for their children in the year before commencing primary school. The scheme is being provided by some 4,000 pre-school services throughout the country and more than 51,000 children are currently enrolled. Full and part-time day care services can participate in the ECCE scheme enabling parents to benefit from a reduction in their weekly child care costs of €48.50.

Medical Cards.

Joe Costello

Question:

229 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her decision to refuse the medical card to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; if she will consider granting the general practitioner only card to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7652/10]

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

Home Help Service.

Jack Wall

Question:

230 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is only receiving home help for 1.5 hours per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7663/10]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

231 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [7678/10]

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

Residential Institutions.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

232 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence from a group (details supplied); if the former Department of Local Government and Public Health ever acceded to the transfer of women from State, local government or county funded homes into Magdalene laundries despite the lack of a statutory basis for confining women within these institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7684/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

247 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the practice of transferring women from State funded mother and baby homes to Magdalene laundries was State policy, as outlined in the Department of Local Government and Public Health Annual Report 1932-33; the length of time this policy was in place; the number of women that were transferred or referred; the length of time they remained in the laundries; the outcome for their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7764/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 and 247 together.

I have received correspondence from the group concerned. I will be checking the historical position in relation to the matters raised and they will be given consideration, in consultation as appropriate with my Government colleagues. I will revert to the Deputies when this process has been completed.

Hospital Staff.

Frank Feighan

Question:

233 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the appointment of a second consultant neurologist Health Service Executive north west based in Sligo General Hospital in view of the waiting times of more than three years for routine surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7688/10]

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

Hospital Services.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

234 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements the Health Service Executive are putting in place whereby a father can attend all hospital appointments and admittances to the labour ward of the mother of their child. [7695/10]

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

Adoption Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

235 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals within the Adoption Bill 2009 to enable people who were adopted to access their records to ascertain the identity of their birth mother; if this is possible under existing legislation; if the birth mother in deceased, if it is possible for the child of that person to access the records; if not, her views on introducing such an amendment to the Adoption Bill 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7696/10]

The registration of domestic adoptions is governed by section 22 of the Adoption Act 1952, under which an tArd Chláraitheoir (the Registrar General) is required to maintain a register of domestic adoptions (adoptions effected in Ireland, regardless of where the adopted person was born). The register is called the adopted children register. An index to the register is maintained and can be searched by any person. Any person may obtain a copy of any entry in the adopted children register. The legislation also provides for an index linking the birth entry in the register of births (in the case of an Irish-born adopted person) with the entry in the adopted children register. Information from this index may not be given to any person except by order of a court or the Adoption Board. I am aware that the treatment of adopted persons in this regard differs from the rest of the population but consideration of this issue must take place in the context of the complex legal, ethical and constitutional issues arising from the need to fairly balance the rights of all parties to the adoption process. The Adoption Bill 2009, which will consolidate existing adoption legislation, does not seek to make new proposals in this regard. The information and tracing unit in the Adoption Board provides an advice and referral service for those seeking to trace or to obtain medical or personal information. This unit provides services directly to adoptees, natural mothers and birth families. It also works closely with the registered adoption societies and the HSE nationwide information and tracing services. Improvements to this service have been effected by the computerisation of the unique adoption files held by the board. The National Adoption Contact Register was established in 2005 to assist adopted people and their natural families to make contact with each other, exchange information or state their contact preferences. They decide, through a range of information and contact options, how they wish to proceed. Some 440 matches have already been made on the register, representing over 900 individuals who have received a service. The operation of the register was reviewed in 2007 and a major upgrading of it has just been completed. The Adoption Board, together with the societies, the HSE and the support groups, developed the Standardised Framework for the Provision of a National Information and Tracing Service. The framework, which was published in November 2007, sets standards and provides guidance and advice for information and tracing services providers nationally. The standardised framework is being piloted nationally. In relation to information and tracing for people adopted from abroad, the Adoption Board intends to undertake a consultation process with interested parties to determine how best to address the needs of such people.

Primary Medical Certificates.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

236 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a primary medical certificate in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [7707/10]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

237 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical procedure appointment will be provided in respect a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7711/10]

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

Medical Cards.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

238 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in assessing an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny which was submitted on 11 November 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7720/10]

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

Health Service Reform.

James Reilly

Question:

239 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the date the expert group on resource allocation and financing will report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7735/10]

I established the Expert Group on Resource Allocation and Financing in the Health Sector under the chairmanship of Professor Frances Ruane (Director, ESRI) in April last year to examine how the existing system of resource allocation within the Irish public health service can be improved to support better the aims of the health reform programme. As per the Government decision taken last March, the group is due to report to me and the Minister for Finance in April 2010.

Hospital Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

240 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of public pediatric beds in hospitals here including intensive care units, pre or post op or rehabilitative; the number of theatres, consulting rooms, family rooms and so on; and the total square metres of the current pediatric hospitals. [7751/10]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

241 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the design brief and the specification for the proposed national paediatric hospital at the Mater Hospital site, Dublin 7; and her views on whether it can be completed by 2014. [7752/10]

The development of the National Paediatric Hospital is a priority project for the Government. The project is proceeding as planned and is being overseen by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) which was established in May 2007. In October 2009, the board appointed an integrated design team. This team will take the functional design brief completed by the NPHDB project team and approved by the HSE and develop a detailed design brief for the new hospital and ambulatory and urgent care centre. Engagement with the three children's hospitals and other stakeholders, such as academic institutions, paediatric research organisations and children on designing the new hospital has commenced. The concept design will be completed in the first quarter of 2010. The aim is to submit an application for planning permission for the enabling works to Dublin City Council in March 2010. The design development will be completed in 2010. The timetable for the completion of the project is the fourth quarter of 2014 when the hospital is due to open.

Departmental Properties.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

242 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the persons who own the buildings and lands of the current pediatric hospitals. [7753/10]

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

Planning Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

243 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a list of current planning permission applications being sought by each of the paediatric hospitals; if it is intended to complete proposed applications and those previously granted; and the timeframe for each of the planning applications. [7754/10]

Arrangements relating to planning permission applications for the paediatric hospitals are service matters. Therefore, the question has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

244 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of doctors, nursing, catering, administrative, cleaning, security and other staff employed in each of the paediatric hospitals; and the number of contract staff engaged by each hospital on average in the past two years. [7755/10]

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

Ambulance Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

245 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the development of a full paediatric ambulatory service covering the entire State; and if progress has been made on all the proposed locations for those services. [7756/10]

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

Hospital Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

246 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if any contact or discussions have been held with the Northern Ireland Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety regarding the development of a national paediatric hospital on the Mater hospital site, Dublin 7, and the ambulatory service associated with the plans; the conclusions that were reached; and the future plans regarding the development of an all Ireland approach to paediatric care. [7757/10]

I have worked closely with my counterpart in Northern Ireland, Mr. Michael McGimpsey, MLA, to support North/South co-operation in health care. Towards this end, we jointly commissioned a study to develop a strategic framework for collaborative work in health and social care, and in planning and delivering services, as appropriate. The feasibility study was finalised in April 2009 and forms the basis for North/South co-operation in relation to health and personal social services.

There has been no specific discussion regarding the development of the National Paediatric Hospital in Dublin, but there have been welcome developments in particular areas of paediatric care. Last year I was very pleased to welcome the conclusion of a service level agreement for paediatric cardiac surgery involving Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and Belfast City Hospital. The agreement supports the provision of paediatric congenital cardiac surgery for children in Northern Ireland.

The two Departments, North and South, will keep the scope for further collaboration under review, in the context of the feasibility study concluded last year.

Question No. 247 answered with Question No. 232.

Medical Cards.

Mary Wallace

Question:

248 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children the criteria under which a person over 70 years of age may qualify for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7802/10]

Under the Health Act 2008, the income thresholds for entitlement to a medical card for those aged 70 or over is €700 (gross) per week (€36,500 per year) for a single person and €1,400 (gross) per week (€73,000 per year) for a couple. Where the spouse/partner is under 70 years of age, he/she can qualify under the over 70s medical card scheme if the combined gross incomes of the applicant and dependant spouse/partner are within the income threshold limit of €1,400 (gross) per week.

Where a person aged 70 or over does not qualify for a medical card, by virtue of their gross income being over the specified thresholds, the person may apply to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for a medical card or GP visit card under the existing net income thresholds, which allow for medical, nursing and other relevant expenses to be taken into account. The net income medical card thresholds that pertain for a person aged 70 or over are €201.50 per week for a single person and €298 per week for a couple and in the case of a GP visit card they are €302 per week for a single person and €447 for a couple.

Notwithstanding the above, the HSE may issue a medical card on a discretionary basis, if the applicant would otherwise be caused undue hardship in providing general medical and surgical services for himself / herself and any dependants. The Executive takes all social and medical issues into account in determining whether or not undue hardship exists.

The over 70s medical card assessment guidelines are available on the HSE website at www.hse.ie.

Mary Wallace

Question:

249 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children the criteria a person under 70 years of age may qualify for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7803/10]

The assessment of eligibility for a medical card is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants. Under Section 45 of the Health 1970, medical cards are provided for persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. Under Section 58 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, GP visit cards are provided for adult persons with limited eligibility for whom, in the opinion of the HSE, and notwithstanding that they do not qualify for a medical card, it would be unduly burdensome to arrange GP medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

In assessing eligibility, the HSE uses guidelines based on people's means, which includes their income, certain allowable outgoings and the affect of other factors which may impact on people's ability to meet the cost of GP services for themselves and their families.

The following table contains the current income guidelines for medical cards and GP visit cards for persons applying for a medical card under the general medical card scheme.

Notwithstanding the above, the HSE may issue a medical card on a discretionary basis, if the applicant would otherwise be caused undue hardship in providing general medical and surgical for himself / herself and any dependants. The Executive takes all social and medical issues into account in determining whether or not undue hardship exists.

Medical Card Net Weekly Rate

GP Visit Card Net Weekly Rate

Single Person Living Alone

Aged up to 65 years

184.00

276.00

Aged 66 years and over

201.50

302.00

Single Person Living with Family

Aged up to 65 years

164.00

246.00

Aged 66 years and over

173.50

260.00

Married Couple or Persons living together as Husband & Wife/ Single Parent Families with Dependent Children

Aged up to 65 years

266.50

400.00

Aged 66 years and over

298.00

447.00

Allowances

Allowance for first 2 children under 16 years financially dependent on applicant

38.00

57.00

For 3rd and subsequent children under 16 years financially dependent on applicant

41.00

61.50

Allowance for first 2 children over 16 years financially dependent on applicant

39.00

58.50

For 3rd and subsequent children over 16 years financially dependent on applicant

42.50

64.00

For a dependant over 16 years in full-time education and not grant-aided

78.00

117.00

Additional guideline allowances will be given for:

Reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent/mortgage payments;

Reasonable expenses incurred in respect of childcare costs;

Reasonable expenses incurred in travel to work.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards will be based on the combined income of the applicant and spouse (if any) after tax, PRSI and Income Levy have been deducted.

Applicants whose weekly incomes are derived solely from Social Welfare or Health Service Executive allowances/payments, which are in excess of the Financial Guidelines (either at first application or renewal) qualify for a medical card.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael McGrath

Question:

250 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to correspondence (details supplied) regarding the Child Care (Amendment) Bill. [7817/10]

The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009 Implementation Plan states that ‘The provision of aftercare by the HSE should form an integral part of care delivery for children who have been in the care of the state. It should not be seen as a discretionary service or as a once-off event that occurs on a young person's 18th birthday.'

The Report makes the following recommendations in relation to aftercare: The HSE will ensure the provision of aftercare services for children leaving care in all instances where the professional judgement of the allocated social worker determines it is required; The HSE will, with their consent, conduct a longitudinal study to follow young people who leave care for 10 years, to map their transition to adulthood; The HSE and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will review the approach to prioritising identified ‘at risk' young people leaving care and requiring local authority housing; The HSE will ensure care plans include aftercare planning for all young people of 16 years and older; The HSE will ensure that aftercare planning identifies key workers in other health services to which a young person is referred, for example, disability and mental health services; The OMCYA, in conjunction with the HSE, will consider how best to provide necessary once-off supports for care leavers to gain practical lifelong skills.

In line with the Government commitment as reflected in the Ryan Implementation Plan funding of €1.0m was set aside by the HSE in its 2010 Service Plan, for the development of aftercare services in 2010. I will be meeting representatives from Focus Ireland to discuss this matter today (16/02/2010).

Health and Social Care Professions.

Dan Neville

Question:

251 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the designated health and social care professions under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 for which there is statutory registration in place. [7822/10]

Dan Neville

Question:

252 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the legal issues outstanding regarding the registration of psychotherapy and counselling under the Health and Social Care Professions Act 2005. [7824/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 252 together.

The ongoing regulatory programme undertaken by my Department has seen the introduction of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, providing for statutory registration for twelve designated health and social care professional grades, as follows:

Clinical Biochemists;

Dieticians;

Medical Scientists;

Occupational Therapists;

Orthoptists;

Physiotherapists;

Podiatrists;

Psychologists;

Radiographers;

Social Care Workers;

Social Workers, and

Speech and Language Therapists

The structure of the system of statutory registration will comprise a registration board for each of the professions to be registered, a Health and Social Care Professionals Council with overall responsibility for the regulatory system and a committee to deal with disciplinary matters. As a first step in the implementation of the system of statutory registration, I launched the Health and Social Care Professionals Council in March 2007. The CEO and an administrative staff member were appointed in 2008 and an additional two senior administrative staff took up duty with the Council in late 2009. These appointments will greatly assist the Council in their ongoing work in preparing for the establishment of the individual Registration Boards, the first of which (the Social Work Registration Board) is to be established shortly. The Council is currently working to put in place the necessary structures for registration, education and fitness to practise for the twelve health and social care professions designated in the Act and it is hoped to bring additional Registration Boards on stream in late 2010.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council will enable health and social care professionals to practice in a regulated, controlled and safe environment and in a manner which will ensure the provision of high-quality interventions, meeting the challenges of increasingly complex and evolving care for service users. While the proposed system of statutory registration applies, in the first instance to twelve health and social care professions, the legislation empowers the Minister for Health and Children to include, on the basis of specific criteria, additional health and social care professions in the regulatory system by regulation over time, as appropriate. However, the priority for the Health and Social Care Professionals Council is to establish statutory registration for the twelve designated health and social care professions in the first instance. The issue of inclusion of other grades, such as psychotherapists and counsellors, within the scope of statutory registration will be considered after the initial designated twelve professional grades have been fully dealt with.

Medical Cards.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

253 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [7870/10]

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

Hospital Staff.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

254 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if the necessary resources will be provided for the immediate and medium-term development of dermatology services, including the appointment of a second consultant dermatologist and clinical specialist nurse (details supplied), at Waterford Regional Hospital in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7902/10]

As decisions on the allocation of resources and prioritisation of service developments at regional level are a matter for the HSE, this question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

255 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to increase the number of social workers allocated to children in care over the past six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7903/10]

The Implementation Plan for the recommendations of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was accepted by Government and published in July 2009. One of the key recommendations of the Implementation Plan is that an additional 270 additional social workers be recruited by the HSE between 2009 and 2011. This is made possible as the approved Employment Control Framework for the HSE exempts social worker posts from the current moratorium on recruitment and the filling of vacancies. A further key action of the Plan which is currently being implemented is the conversion of temporary social work posts to a permanent basis to address issues of continuity of care and staff retention within the child welfare and protection services.

In order to further develop its Child Welfare and Protection Services an amount of some €14m has been provided to the HSE in the current year to progress the implementation of the recommendations of the Ryan Commission, including the commitment to fill the vacant social work posts over the period 2009-2011. This initiative is being targeted at the area of child protection and children in care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

256 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in care who do not have a written care plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7904/10]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

257 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of preschool facilities inspected by the Health Service Executive during 2009; the number inspected since 1 January 2010; the number that the HSE proposes to inspect over the next ten months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7905/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

258 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of preschool facilities across the State. [7906/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

263 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has appointed an assistant national director with responsibility for children and family services; the details of this appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7911/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257, 258 and 263 together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for the implementation of the Child Care (Preschool Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006 which give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 and provide for notification to and inspection by the HSE of preschool services.

I have been advised by the HSE that 4,766 preschool services were notified to them at the end of 2009. In 2009, 3,013 preschool services were inspected by the HSE in addition to 1,660 advisory visits to potential or existing services. Figures in relation to the number of inspections carried out in January 2010 are not yet available, however, I understand that over the remainder of this year 2,147 inspections are expected to be carried out. Mr Phil Garland was appointed as Assistant National Director for Children & Family Social Services in the HSE, in November 2009.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

259 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of a strategy in place in her Department to deal with the high levels of children who go missing from care each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7907/10]

It is a matter of great concern that a number of children go missing after they enter the State. Separated children going missing from care is not a phenomenon unique to Ireland.

The issue of separated children who go missing from care is complex. There has been a tendency to equate all missing children with trafficking. However the HSE advise that there is evidence to indicate that some of these individuals may be adults who disappeared before a comprehensive age assessment process could be undertaken by the HSE. It has been acknowledged by the HSE and also by other relevant statutory agencies that there are several factors that may contribute to the disappearance of a child from care and these are the following:- The child's appeal for asylum has been refused and he/she is nearing eighteen and is reacting to the pending threat of repatriation. The person has been smuggled into the country to join the workforce on a consensual basis and is availing of the child protection service as a fast track route into the State. The child has been trafficked into the State by traffickers using the child protection service as a route.

The HSE has developed a strong working relationship with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (G.N.I.B.) in relation to missing children. The level of interagency cooperation between the H.S.E. and the G.N.I.B. has been consistently high and has intensified in recent years. A Joint National Protocol on Children who go missing from care has been agreed between the Garda and the H.S.E.. Intensive meetings took place last year between H.S.E. management and the G.N.I.B. and local Garda to adapt this protocol in terms of application to separated children who go missing. The following measures were agreed:- Collaborative interviewing at the ports between social workers and Garda. Fingerprinting of persons presenting as underage at the ports, for tracking purposes. Planned Garda surveillance of those at risk of going missing from the point of presentation at ports to the initial placement period in hostels. Monitoring of the notification system of missing persons to local Garda to be closely monitored by Garda Inspectors. Joint training of H.S.E. staff and Garda/ G.N.I.B. staff in relation to children at high risk of going missing. Sharing of photographic evidence between H.S.E. and Garda.

Of the 47 children who went missing from care in 2009 9 were successfully traced. Garda are currently investigating adults involved with some of these cases. There was a decline in the number of children presenting and remaining missing in the last quarter of 2009. This is the result of intensive interagency efforts throughout that year. No children were reported missing in October / November while one was reported missing in December and was subsequently traced.

My office, the H.S.E. management and staff have been closely involved in collaboration with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the development of the National Action Plan on Anti-Human Trafficking and I am committed to ensuring that we play an active part in combating trafficking as outlined in this plan.

In addition the Implementation Plan for the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009 contains a commitment that separated children will be accommodated in mainstream care, instead of hostels by December 2010. This move from hostel accommodation to residential and foster care should help to ensure that fewer children go missing. The HSE has begun the process of phasing out the hostel arrangements and putting in place appropriate 24 hour care staff arrangements in the remaining hostels until they are closed. Three hostels have already closed and the remaining four are to close this year.

I am satisfied that the efforts made by the HSE and GNIB to address concerns regarding separated children have proved effective. Both agencies are committed to intensifying their joint work in this area with a view to preventing children from going missing and locating those who do. The issue of unaccompanied minors has been prioritised by An Garda Síochána in its Action Plan this year.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

260 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure greater regional equity in the deployment of social workers. [7908/10]

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

Foster Care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

261 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in foster care with relatives throughout the State; the number of these relatives who have received clearance through Garda vetting prior to placing children in their care; the number who received clearance through Garda vetting after children had been placed in their care; and the number who have not been subject to Garda vetting. [7909/10]

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

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

262 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons employed in residential facilities for children in care who have not yet received Garda clearance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7910/10]

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

Question No. 263 answered with Question No. 257.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

264 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in publishing the Dunne report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7920/10]

I appointed Ms Anne Dunne to carry out a Post-mortem Inquiry to investigate post-mortem practice and procedure in all hospitals in the State since 1970. The Dunne Inquiry commenced its work in March 2001 and it submitted a report to me in March 2005. The strong legal advice obtained from the Attorney General was that the report could not be published for legal and constitutional reasons. In May 2005, I appointed Dr Deirdre Madden to examine the key points raised and findings in it in order to provide Government with a final report on post-mortem policy and practice. Dr Madden's report inquired into the policies and practices relating to the removal, retention and disposal of organs from children who have undergone post-mortem examination in the State since 1970. I published Dr Madden's report in 2006. A subsequent report of a Working Group, also chaired by Dr Madden, on other areas of post-mortem practice and procedures was also published in November 2006. An independent audit of all retained organs in the State, which was commissioned by the HSE, was carried out by Ms Michaela Willis and this report was published in 2009.

Departmental Bodies.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

265 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of seed capital that the VHI has provided; and the organisations this seed capital has been given. [7924/10]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

266 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of all loans provided by the VHI; and the organisations to which these loans have been provided. [7925/10]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

267 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the joint ventures that the VHI has entered into; and the level of financial commitment provided by the VHI in these joint ventures. [7926/10]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

268 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the profit or loss generated individually by the ancillary business lines (details supplied) of the VHI. [7927/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 to 268, inclusive, together.

Section 14 of the Health Insurance (Amendment) Act 2001 provided for the Voluntary Health Insurance Board’s involvement in certain specified secondary activities. Arising from that provision, VHI sought and was given consent by the Minister for Health and Children to become involved in a number of ancillary businesses. These include travel, dental and global health insurance, in addition to its two joint ventures, Vhi Swiftcare and Vhi Homecare.

VHI did provide some seed capital for these two joint ventures, which were relatively small investments. For its insurance line of business, i.e. travel, dental and global insurance, Vhi Healthcare is an authorised intermediary and works in partnership with authorised insurance underwriters. For these businesses, no seed capital is required and its underwriting partners maintain capital to meet solvency requirements. Vhi Corporate Solutions has no requirement for seed capital.

No loans have been provided by VHI to any organisation.

VHI operates in a commercial market and, as such, some of the detailed information requested is commercially sensitive and inappropriate for release into the public domain. However, in terms of profit or loss of the ancillary businesses, VHI has confirmed that its diversified products portfolio is a net contributor to the business as a whole.

Medicinal Products.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

269 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to deal with head shops; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7928/10]

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and its associated regulations control the import, export, production, supply and possession of a range of named narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances listed in the Schedules to the Act. Substances are scheduled under the Act in accordance with Ireland's obligations under international conventions and/or where there is evidence that the substances are causing significant harm to public health in Ireland. The list of scheduled substances is kept under ongoing review. For example, in 2006 psychotropic (‘magic') mushrooms were banned and their possession and sale is now illegal. On 31 March 2009, BZP was similarly subjected to legislative control measures and criminal sanctions. In the light of the health risks associated with some of the products being sold in so-called ‘head shops', I intend to have the regulations drafted this month which will introduce controls, similar to those introduced recently in the UK, on a range of substances which are currently on sale in head shops. In accordance with EU law, it may also be necessary to notify the Commission of the proposed regulations in case they impact on legitimate industrial activities and this imposes a 3 month stand still period on implementation of the regulations. These regulations will make the possession and sale of these substances illegal and subject to criminal sanctions. Some of the substances in question have legitimate uses — for example, in the production of plastics and industrial solvents. It will be necessary to assess the level of use of these substances by industry in Ireland and the implications for industry of placing these substances under the ambit of Misuse of Drugs legislation. Minister of State John Curran, who has responsibility for co-ordinating the National Drugs Strategy, has identified head shops as an area of concern, and is currently considering the options available to more effectively control the activities of head shops.

A Research Advisory Group (RAG) has been established to identify possible options for the regulation of head shops. The RAG held its first meeting on 13 January 2010. It has representatives from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children, the Health Research Board, Revenue Custom's Service, the Forensic State Laboratory and other relevant stakeholders. The RAG will report incrementally until its work is complete.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

270 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on recent dealings with a union (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7929/10]

I met with the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) on 3 December last. Among the issues discussed were the implications for pharmacists of reductions in drug prices and prescription charges, the impact of the fee reductions that took effect in July last and the operation of the Drug Payment Scheme. More recently, a working group, comprising of officials from my Department and the HSE, met with the IPU to discuss the introduction of a system of reference pricing combined with generic substitution under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

271 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if it will be processed. [7962/10]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

272 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; and if same will be processed. [7964/10]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

273 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, and if same will be processed. [7966/10]

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

Hospital Procedures.

Michael McGrath

Question:

274 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of out patient hospital appointments in the Health Service Executive nationally in 2009 in which the patient did not show up; and the estimate of the cost to the HSE of this non attendance. [7967/10]

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

Medical Cards.

Michael McGrath

Question:

275 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an over 70 years medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [7969/10]

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

Child Protection.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

276 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the two special rapporteurs for child protection have submitted their 2009 reports to her; when these reports will be made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7995/10]

The Government appointed two Special Rapporteurs for Child Protection, Mr Geoffrey Shannon and Professor Finbarr McAuley. Mr Shannon has produced reports for each of the three years, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The 2007 and 2008 reports were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and were published. Mr Shannon's 2009 report is in the process of being brought before the Government with a view to presenting it to the Oireachtas. Professor McAuley submitted one report, in 2007, and this was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published.

Medicinal Products.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

277 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if in the case of expensive medicines that have been prescribed and supplied under State-funded schemes, it is possible for the State to recoup the cost of medicines in cases in which the treatment changes and the medicines are unused and are returned to the dispensing pharmacist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8013/10]

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

Health Service Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

278 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the moratorium on hiring staff in the Health Service Executive will be waived in the case of staff who took up the HSE sponsorship scheme which trained them as nurses on condition that they signed up to a service agreement that they would return to work in the service and who cannot work as nurses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8016/10]

The Health Service Executive operates a sponsorship scheme for eligible and experienced public service employees who wish to train as nurses/midwives. This scheme was introduced in 2002 to provide a career development pathway for health care assistants and other support staff who are involved in the delivery of care to patients and clients of the public health service. The implications of the moratorium on recruitment and promotions for this particular sponsorship scheme are currently the subject of discussions between my Department and the Department of Finance.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

279 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Health and Children if the vacancy for chairperson of the national working group on the regulation of complementary therapists has been filled; if not, when she plans to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8018/10]

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

285 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the vacant position of facilitator for the therapists working days; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8073/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 and 285 together.

There are no vacant positions of Chairperson or Facilitator, as referred to by the Deputy, as these roles have already been provided for by my Department. The Report of the National Working Group on the Regulation of Complementary Therapists in 2006 made recommendations on strengthening the regulatory environment for complementary therapists. The Report of the National Working Group outlined guidance for professional associations and provided examples of codes of ethics and good practice, including grievance and disciplinary procedures. To support the development of robust voluntary self-regulation, my Department has facilitated the provision of work days to facilitate different therapies to come together to undertake a process of harmonisation and development with regard to common basic standards of practice, education and training.

Among the recommendations contained in the Report of the National Working Group on the Regulation of Complementary Therapists was that the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) take a role in the accreditation of programmes of higher education and training for complementary therapists. HETAC has now determined and published a set of standards for complementary therapies to be used in the accreditation of any programmes submitted by providers of education and training in complementary therapies. These standards will be a valuable tool in the accreditation of relevant education and training programmes. In adopting these standards, HETAC has identified a requirement that each programme within a therapy should only be validated when there is federation into one representative organisation for that therapy.

Federation of individual professional therapy associations into one representative organisation for that therapy is a key component required for the development of common standards of education and training for complementary therapies. This approach is essential to ensure harmonisation of standards and to eliminate variations in standards of education and training or codes of practice within each complementary therapy discipline. The complementary therapy sector is currently engaged in forming the solid frameworks and federations with which to link and to govern the sector, and it is hoped that further progress in this area can be achieved over time.

Ministerial Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

280 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the fees or charges set by her by way of ministerial order for the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8033/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

281 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the charges levied by her Department or agencies under her Department in respect of the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; the anticipated income from such charges in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8045/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 and 281 together.

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to fees or charges set by my Department for the provision of services to businesses is currently being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Charges levied by agencies under my Department's aegis is an operational matter for the agencies themselves and my Department does not routinely compile or hold this information. My Department has referred the Deputy's question to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive for its attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

282 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that 4,000 applications for renewal of medical card are being renewed in the Waterford community care area on a monthly basis pending processing due to the staff shortages which only allow for new cases to be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8062/10]

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

Michael McGrath

Question:

283 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the means test for a medical card for persons under 70 years regarding the treatment of savings and investments. [8070/10]

Under the Health Service Executive's Medical Card / GP Visit Card National Assessment Guidelines, savings or similar investments up to the first €36,000 for a single person and up to the first €72,000 for a couple are disregarded in the assessment process for eligibility to a medical card. The Guidelines also state:

The next €10,000 is assessed at 1 euro per week per €1,000.

The next €10,000 is assessed at 2 euro per week per €1,000.

Savings in excess of the above are assessed at 4 euro per week per €1,000.

Alternatively, where an applicant wishes, he/she can have the actual rate applied by the bank/ institution if he/she provides a certificate of interest paid on savings in the last full calendar year and the HSE will apply this method of assessment. In respect of fixed term or long term savings products that apply the interest after a fixed number of years, and if the applicant so wishes, the Executive can take account of the interest earned in the year of maturity of the investment or can apply its notional rate to determine the income. The HSE's Central Application Unit reviews the notional rate on a quarterly basis.

Thalidomide Survivors’ Compensation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

284 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the supports available to thalidomide survivors to address the extra needs not covered by their current supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8071/10]

There are 32 Irish victims of thalidomide, 28 of whom currently reside in the State. Thalidomide preparations were marketed in Ireland from May 1959 to January 1962 when they were withdrawn from sale by the manufacturers. The preparations on sale in this country were manufactured by Chemie Grunenthal of Germany. Irish victims of thalidomide receive compensation from the foundation set up under German legislation to provide compensation for victims of thalidomide. The Irish Government decision of January 1975 granted, to each Irish victim of thalidomide, a lump sum of four times the equivalent German lump sum and a monthly allowance for life equivalent to the German monthly allowance. The Irish monthly allowance, which has increased over the past 35 years, is paid by the Department of Health and Children and is currently between €514.59 and €1,109.46 per month. The German and the Irish monthly allowance is tax-free and is not reckonable for State benefits. Each individual is entitled to a medical card and health services. The Minister and Department officials have met with the Irish Thalidomide Association (ITA) on a number of occasions. The Association has made submissions to the Minister seeking additional compensation in the form of an additional lump sum payment, a substantial increase in their monthly payment and retrospection.

In May 2009, the Minister for Health and Children asked the Irish State Claims Agency to assess the ITA's requests in the context of Irish and International provisions for victims of thalidomide and in the context of Irish case law and precedent; and to advise the Minister accordingly. It is expected that the State Claims Agency will report before the end of February. Any proposal which comes out of this process will need to be considered by Government.

Question No. 285 answered with Question No. 279.

Health Service Staff.

Michael McGrath

Question:

286 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a list of public health sector employers who have been instructed to apply pay adjustments in accordance with the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009. [8075/10]

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009, provides for the application of a reduction in remuneration for all public servants. For the purposes of the Act, a public servant includes a person who is employed by, or who holds any office or other position in a public service body. The Health Service Executive and bodies funded under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004 are public service bodies, as defined in this Act. My Department circulated a revised version of the Health Sector Consolidated Salary Scales in December 2009 to reflect the required reduction in remuneration. These were sent to all public health sector employers, including the HSE and all Non-Commercial State Sponsored Bodies under the aegis of this Department.

My Department has also clarified to the HSE, at their request, that Bodies funded under Section 39 of the Health Act 2004 were not directly affected by the pay adjustments provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009. Section 39 agencies are not public service employers, nor are their employees public sector employees. However, there have been corresponding cuts in the Exchequer funding for these bodies and their grants have been reduced by €21.5m overall. The HSE were advised that it was a matter for each individual employer of a Section 39 body to determine how to effect the reduction in the grant to their organisation, without impacting on service delivery.

Medical Cards.

Michael McGrath

Question:

287 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [8076/10]

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

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

288 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8089/10]

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

Child Care Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

289 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the exceptional circumstances, he will review the decision to exclude a facility (details supplied) from the early childhood care and education scheme; and if he will sanction funding under the four day week arrangement. [8180/10]

I have responsibility for the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which was introduced in January of this year. This scheme provides for a free pre-school year for all eligible children prior to commencing primary school.

To provide for the flexible delivery of the new free pre-school provision, childcare services participating in the scheme can choose to provide the free pre-school year from a range of options. For example a full or part-time daycare service will normally provide the place for 2 hours 15 minutes a day, five days a week over 50 weeks. A playschool sessional service will normally be required to provide a pre-school service for 3 hours a day, five days a week over 38 weeks. However, where for good reason a sessional service is unable to operate over 5 days, it may participate in the scheme by providing a place for 3 hours 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week over 41 weeks.

Further flexibility is provided for in that, a full or part-time service may choose to provide a sessional service over 38 weeks of a year (or 2 sessional services each day) while a sessional service may choose to provide 2 hours 15 minutes per day over 50 weeks. Also in cases where children attend a full or part-time daycare service for 3 days a week only, consideration will be given to allowing the service to participate in the scheme on the basis of providing the pre-school year to those children for 3 hours 45 minutes a day for 3 days a week. In such cases, a service will be required to provide the pre-school year over 50 weeks.

I regret to advise the Deputy that the pre-school service in question could not be accepted into the ECCE scheme due to its rental agreement with the local community centre. The service was not in a position to meet the scheme's requirements to provide the pre-school year on the basis of either the 38 week model (5 days a week for 3 hours each day) or the alternative 41 week model (4 days a week for 3 hours 30 minutes each day).

Family Support Services.

David Stanton

Question:

290 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 50 of 8 December 2009, if she has received the final draft of the report on the study of children as carers being undertaken by the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI, Galway; when she will publish same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8184/10]

The report on the study on Children as Carers being undertaken by the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI, Galway has not yet been finalised. A final draft is expected in early 2010. It is envisaged that this report will be launched at the annual conference of the Carers' Association, which will be held on 7th May 2010.

Cancer Screening Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

291 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of letters issued to women for screening under the cervical check programme; the number of these women that have presented for a test; the number of payments issued to registered smear takers as a result; the length of time it takes for payment to be processed and issued to registered smear takers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8185/10]

David Stanton

Question:

292 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of women who have had smear tests carried out each month respectively under the cervical check scheme since it began on 1 September 2008; the average amount of time it takes to process results under the scheme; the number of referrals to colposcopy clinics as a result; the numbers seen to date; the average amount of time it takes to get an appointment at these colposcopy clinics; the number and location of these clinics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8186/10]

David Stanton

Question:

293 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of eligible women aged between 25 years and 60 years who have been contacted by or have contacted the cervical check service since it began; when she expects all 1.1 million eligible women to have been contacted by the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8187/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 291 to 293, inclusive, together.

The matters raised by the Deputy are the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, I have requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Agencies.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

294 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of bodies and agencies under her aegis; and her proposals for the rationalisation of same. [8199/10]

The number of non commercial State sponsored bodies established currently under the aegis of my Department is 24.

The primary aim of the programme of agency rationalisation within the health sector is to streamline service delivery, professional registration and policy making in a number of areas, through the integration and/or amalgamation of functions. The rationalisation programme involves a significant legislative programme and a considerable amount of work is ongoing in this area at present and considerable progress has been made in implementing the programme. In parallel, discussions with the agencies concerned is ongoing with a view to progressing the programme. The progress to date is as follows—

The Post Graduate Medical and Dental Board was successfully rationalised into the HSE on 1 January 2009. The National Council on Aging and Older People and the Women's Health Council were successfully subsumed into the Department of Health and Children in 2009. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency was subsumed into HSE in January 2010 and the Drug Treatment Centre Board is due to follow early in 2010.

Legalisation is required to facilitate the rationalisation of the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council, the National Social Work Qualifications Board and the Opticians Board into the Health and Social Care Professionals Council. It is envisaged that the legislation will be finalised during 2010.

The Government approved the inclusion of provisions in the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 to disestablish the Children Acts Advisory Board (CAAB) and to subsume some of its functions into the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on an administrative basis. The Bill was published on 16 September 2009 and it is expected that the Bill will be brought forward in 2010. It is intended that the CAAB staff will move to the Department on an administrative basis until such time as the Bill is enacted.

Legislation is already in place to facilitate the rationalisation of the National Cancer Screening Service into the HSE in April 2010 and arrangements are under way in this regard.

The dissolution of the National Cancer Registry and the transfer of its staff to the HSE will be dealt with under the Health Information Bill.

Legislative provisions for the dissolution of the National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery will be contained in the proposed Nurses and Midwives Bill.

Parking Regulations.

Chris Andrews

Question:

295 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Transport his views on granting city and county councils the discretion to regulate partial footpath parking in areas in which parking shortage is an issue. [7658/10]

Under the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 it is an offence to park a mechanically propelled vehicle on any part of a footpath.

Footpaths are provided for the safety of pedestrians to segregate them from passing or parking traffic. Mounting of footpath kerbs by vehicles is potentially an unsafe practice.

It is also important to have a minimum width of passable footpath for the safe passage of wheelchairs or prams/buggies, and to bear in mind that footpaths have been constructed to a certain weight bearing standard and provide access points for utilities.

Local authorities have other options including, for example, restricting parking to one side of a street or the indenting of the footpath to provide on street parking.

Accordingly, I have no proposals to amend the Traffic and Parking Regulations insofar as they relate to parking of vehicles on footpaths.

Ministerial Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

296 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the fees or charges set by him by way of ministerial order for the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8037/10]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. It will be compiled for the Deputy and will be forwarded to him in due course.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

297 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the charges levied by his Department or agencies under his Department in respect of the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; the anticipated income from such charges in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8049/10]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. It will be compiled for the Deputy and will be forwarded to him in due course.

School Transport.

Michael McGrath

Question:

298 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the way schools may apply for funding under the green schools travel programme in 2010 for the provision of a bicycle shelter on campus. [8072/10]

The Green Schools Travel Programme, which has delivered a 22% reduction in reliance on the private car for school travel among participating schools, is module 4 of An Taisce's Green-Schools Programme. The Green Schools Programme adopts a structured approach and it is necessary for a school to have successfully completed the first three modules relating to litter and waste; energy; and water before participating in the travel module.

There is a high level of awareness of, and participation in, the overall Green Schools Programme and I understand from An Taisce that almost 80% of all schools in Ireland are registered.

Funding for cycle parking through the Green Schools Travel programme has proven to be an effective method of encouraging and facilitating students cycling to school. However, research indicates that the provision of cycle parking must be combined with other activities to generate an increase in the number of students cycling to school. These activities include the provision of cycle training and engagement of the wider school community in the decision making process on an ongoing basis.

Schools that participate in the Green-Schools Travel Programme may discuss cycle parking proposals with An Taisce's Environmental Education Unit who will consider these in the context of competing demands on the funding that is made available to that programme by my Department through the National Transport Authority.

Gaming and Lotteries Act.

Tom Hayes

Question:

299 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding fixed odds betting terminals; the impact of these machines in other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7708/10]

The Deputy should be aware, from the many statements I have made in this House on the matter, of my opposition to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). I can assure the Deputy that I have no plans to change the law in this area as it currently stands.

In the current regulatory environment, I am advised that FOBTs, if they were introduced in bookmakers' premises, would be illegal as they would be classified as gaming machines. The Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 as amended prohibits gaming except in limited circumstances, for example in a licensed amusement arcade; at a circus or travelling show; or at a carnival — and then subject to limitations. Furthermore, the Betting Act 1931, which falls to the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Finance severely restricts what business — other than the business of bookmaking — that can take place in a licensed betting office.

As the Deputy may be aware, the major review of gambling under way in my Department is aimed at developing a new and comprehensive legal and organisational framework governing the gambling architecture in the State. Player protection will be an important consideration in developing any new regulatory environment for gambling. The initial consultation phase of the review process is now completed and my Department is now finalising an examination of the submissions received. Based on that examination and taking account of the Report of the Casino Committee, Regulating Gaming in Ireland, I hope to be in a position to seek Government approval of policy proposals for a new gambling architecture in the State.

Technological innovations, including fixed odds betting terminals are to be found in many jurisdictions. I understand, for example, that there are some 25,000 FOBTs installed in betting offices in the United Kingdom, where they are classed as B2 gaming machines, with a maximum stake of Stg £100, and a maximum prize of Stg £500. The most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 commissioned by the UK Gambling Commission found that while those gambling on FOBTs represented only 3% of overall gambling, the prevalence of problem gambling in those who used FOBTs was 11.2%. The message that I take from this finding, is to proceed with caution in relation to FOBTs.

Technological advances over recent years have changed the face of the world in which we live and consequently the various forms of gambling cannot be immune to such technological advances. However, foremost in my mind is the protection of young people and the vulnerable.

Asylum Applications.

Chris Andrews

Question:

300 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to streamline the appeals process for asylum seekers; his views on whether the protracted appeal system has any impact on the decision making process for asylum seekers; and the amount of money that has been spent by the State in 2008 and 2009 when defending deportation orders in the High Court and Supreme Court. [7595/10]

My proposals in relation to the future of the asylum appeals system are set out in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 which is currently before this House.

I am not clear on what the Deputy means by ‘whether the protracted appeal system has any impact on the decision making process for asylum seekers'. Based on the latest information available to me to the end of December 2009, the median waiting time in the tribunal to process and complete a substantive oral appeal is 24 weeks and nine weeks in the case of a paper appeal. Cases taking longer than this to complete arise for many reasons such as adjournments, postponements, availability of interpreters, judicial reviews, etc.. All asylum appeals are processed in accordance with the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), and high quality and fair decision making in all cases continues to be a high priority in the tribunal.

With regard to the Deputy's question concerning the amount of money spent by the State in 2008 and 2009 defending deportation orders in the High Court and Supreme Court, this information is not readily available and would require an inordinate amount of time and staff resources to extract it.

Citizenship Applications.

Dan Neville

Question:

301 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a citizenship application form will be sent to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7597/10]

An application form for a certificate of naturalisation has been forwarded to the person concerned. I wish to inform the Deputy that information on naturalisation and citizenship, application forms and guides are available on the Irish Nationality and Immigration Services website at http://www.inis.gov.ie.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

302 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions for perjury each year for the past five years; the number of convictions that followed as a consequence in each year in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7631/10]

I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the information is available.

Speed Detection Equipment.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

303 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to correspondences from a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7634/10]

The Road Traffic Acts provide that speed detection equipment may be used for the establishment of prima facie proof of the constituent of an offence, including the speed at which a person was driving. The issuing of fixed charge notices and the initiation of court proceedings follow the establishment of such proof of speeding. The use of such equipment by An Garda Síochána, as proposed in the correspondence referred to by the Deputy, would require amendment of road traffic legislation, which is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Transport.

Citizenship Applications.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

304 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7680/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. The information sought will be provided at a later date.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

305 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will expedite an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7681/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. The information sought will be provided at a later date.

Garda Investigations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

306 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 254 of 13 October 2009, if he has received a report from the Garda regarding his views on the opinion of retailers that the recently introduced public display ban makes it easier for criminals and rogue shopkeepers to infiltrate the legitimate trade channels with contraband and counterfeit packages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7690/10]

I have received reports from both the Garda and Revenue authorities in relation to this matter. The Revenue Authorities advise that there is no evidence that the point of sale display ban, that was introduced last July, has contributed to the problem of cigarette smuggling. Prior to the introduction of the ban, counterfeit and contraband cigarettes were usually not on open display in the retail outlets where they were detected and were usually kept hidden from sight. Furthermore a series of random checks on high street retail outlets have not uncovered counterfeit or contraband cigarettes on sale. On the other hand, inland detections are made primarily at markets, distribution centres and at certain unscrupulous retail outlets. An Garda Síochána, separately and in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners, will continue to target offenders and, where appropriate directions are received from the Law Officers, prosecute any person, whether they are legitimate traders or not, found to be engaged in the sale and / or distribution of counterfeit / contraband cigarettes.

Tobacco Smuggling.

Phil Hogan

Question:

307 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he advised the Department of Finance that the high price of cigarettes was leading to an increase in cigarette smuggling; if this information was made available to the Department of Finance prior to the introduction of budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7691/10]

In October 2009, I wrote to my colleague, the Minister for Finance in relation to cigarette smuggling. In that letter I expressed my concerns about the health and exchequer implications of illegal cigarette smuggling. At no stage, did I refer to the high price of cigarettes leading to an increase in cigarette smuggling. Law enforcement in relation to smuggled cigarettes is primarily a matter for the Customs authorities of the Revenue Commissioners as most offences committed are contrary to the Finance Acts.

Ministerial Statement.

Dan Neville

Question:

308 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [7694/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Tobacco Smuggling.

Phil Hogan

Question:

309 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 714 of 3 November 2009, if the continued rise in the number of cigarette seizures has led to additional Garda resources being put in place to combat cigarette smuggling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7701/10]

As I stated in my reply in November 2009, all members of An Garda Síochána are tasked with enforcing criminal legislation in collaboration with other relevant agencies within and outside the State. The Anti-Racketeering Unit, within the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, provides expert guidance and support to Divisional and District Garda personnel tasked with the investigation of the importation and sale of illicit and counterfeit goods, including cigarettes.

The Criminal Assets Bureau, in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners (Customs & Excise) and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have been involved in a number of operations targeting the large scale importation of cigarettes by organised crime gangs. These investigations have resulted in a number of actions by the Criminal Assets Bureau against individuals involved in this activity. As part of its statutory remit the Criminal Assets Bureau will continue to target the proceeds of this criminal activity.

The Minister for Finance recently approved a derogation from the moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the Public Service and as a result some 170 supervisory and management positions are being filled in An Garda Síochána. In addition to this over 200 student Gardaí will attest as sworn members of An Garda Síochána during the course of 2010.

Responsibility for the allocation of all personnel within the force, including to the National Criminal Bureau of Investigation, rests with the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends and other demands made on An Garda Síochána and the situation is kept under continuing review.

Departmental Agencies.

Denis Naughten

Question:

310 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has a customer service charter that has never complied with the Fitzpatrick report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7703/10]

The 2007 Fitzpatrick report evaluated the customer service charters of some thirty Departments and agencies including my Department's charter which incorporates the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). The charter was updated last year to cover the period 2009-2011 and together with my Department's Customer Action Plan, have been developed in accordance with the Department of the Taoiseach's guidelines taking into account the recommendations in the report referred to by the Deputy.

The new charter has a clearer definition of different customer groups with aspects of the charter tailored specifically to the delivery of INIS services. In addition, as set-out in the Customer Action Plan, a formal consultation process with non-governmental organisations for immigration and related services has been put in place through a Customer Liaison Panel. The INIS meets with the Panel on a regular basis to consider suggestions and proposals put forward. The Charter and Action Plan are published on my Department's and the INIS websites.

Denis Naughten

Question:

311 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures the task force on the public service has taken to improve the service levels of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the Garda National Immigration Bureau following the publication of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, public service review in 2008. [7704/10]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that a number of initiatives are ongoing in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) in the areas of change management, business process improvement and electronic Government in line with the reports of the task force and the OECD.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has a comprehensive change management programme underway since 2007. The programme is focused on restructuring and reforming the business processes of INIS in order to improve the delivery of immigration services to the public and to maximise the overall efficiency of the organisation in the context of the preparations for implementing the new Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill following its enactment. Under the programme, INIS–wide shared services opportunities have been identified in the areas of Corporate services, the management of Court proceedings (Judicial Review), training, customer services, finance and registries. Steps have already been taken to consolidate activities across INIS in the areas of statistical analysis with the establishment last year of an INIS Research & Analysis Unit and the creation of a central corporate services and finance unit.

In line with E-Government initiatives, information systems are being updated in INIS with the roll-out of the Automated Visa Application and Tracking System (AVATS) completed in mid-2009. The system includes an on-line visa application facility and tracks visa applications worldwide. Over 130,000 visa applications were processed through AVATS in 2009. An upgrade to the GNIB information system is also planned to meet ongoing and future requirements.

One of the recommendations in the OECD report concerns further civilianisation in the Garda Síochána, including in the immigration area. In this regard, the number of civilian staff in the GNIB has increased by 124% from 33 to 74 since the report was commissioned in December, 2006.

Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

312 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who were refused leave to land here in 2008 and 2009; the number of these persons who had inadequate documentation to satisfy immigration officers of their bona fides in 2008 and 2009; the number of these persons who were visa required and non-visa required nationals in 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7705/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Denis Naughten

Question:

313 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to ensure that the attention of non-visa required nationals is drawn to the requirements that can be asked of them by immigration officers at point of entry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7706/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Courts Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

314 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he funds the Courts Service from the Vote of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7723/10]

The Courts Service operates under its own Vote — Vote 22 — for which the Chief Executive of the Service is the Accounting Officer. My Department does not fund the Service out of its own Vote.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

315 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if temporary travel documents will issue to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the person has been requested by his Department to produce a passport in order to have stamp 4 issued to them and that this person must travel to the UK to make the necessary arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7724/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

316 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. [7725/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 3 February 2006. In accordance with the provisions of Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) he was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 13 February 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the 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.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

317 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the communications he has had with the Department of Foreign Affairs or the US authorities in respect of accepting former Guantanamo Bay detainees; the nature of that correspondence; and the decisions taken on foot of the correspondence. [7733/10]

The Deputy will be aware that last September Ireland accepted two former detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The decision followed a US request to a number of countries for assistance in bringing about the closure of the facility and the adoption by EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of a framework relating to the resettlement of former Guantanamo detainees. In the context of that EU framework Ireland indicated its willingness to accept the two individuals for resettlement. Since their arrival the two individuals have been receiving support and assistance to help them to adjust to their new circumstances. I hope they will continue to be given the room to help rebuild their lives in Ireland.

Citizenship Applications.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

318 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a citizenship application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7738/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. The information sought will be provided at a later date.

Garda Deployment.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

319 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated number of gardaí deployed on static protection duties; if he will review whether this is the best use of Garda manpower; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7744/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

320 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí deployed on immigration duties; if many of the duties concerned could be done by civilians; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7745/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of Gardaí deployed on immigration duties is not readily to hand in the detail required. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

321 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reforms on offer in respect of the Garda Síochána during the pre-Christmas negotiations between the social partners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7746/10]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

322 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reforms in work practices that are currently the subject of negotiation between the authorities and the gardaí and other grades representative organisations; the reforms he will be implementing in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7747/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 321 and 322 together.

In the talks late last year with public service unions, which as the Deputy knows did not result in agreement, the discussion with the Garda Associations centred on issues such as a revision of the Garda rostering system, the augmentation of Garda civilian staff through redeployment, and the development of performance management in the organisation.

More generally, an extensive Garda modernisation programme is in place under the terms of Towards 2016, and issues relating to this and other aspects of reform and modernisation can be discussed at local partnership level in the Garda Síochána or at the Garda Conciliation and Arbitration Council.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Chris Andrews

Question:

323 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the community closed circuit television scheme; his plans to provide future funding for this scheme; and the amount of funding that was distributed under this scheme. [7759/10]

The Community-based CCTV Scheme was launched in 2005 to provide financial assistance towards the capital costs of establishing a community CCTV system. Two types of grant have been made available. Substantive grants of up to €100,000 have been made available from my Department with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs providing matching funding for successful applications from RAPID areas. Pre-development grants of up to €5,000 have also been made available to assist local communities to develop substantive proposals in their areas.

Two major rounds of the scheme were advertised in 2005/2006 and 2007 with a total of 13 and 30 substantive schemes respectively approved for funding. A further 2 schemes under the Limerick Regeneration programme were approved in 2008. In addition, 54 schemes were awarded pre-development grants over the same period. To date, a total of 26 substantive schemes have been installed with the remaining 19 schemes at various stages of implementation.

Any further plans for extension of CCTV are dependent on a number of factors, including the availability of funding, progression of the schemes already grant aided and overall policy considerations.

Up to date information regarding the amount of funding distributed under the schemes is not readily to hand and I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Chris Andrews

Question:

324 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria under which closed circuit television will be provided to a location; and the number of Garda closed circuit television cameras in operation in Dublin south east. [7760/10]

Applications for Garda CCTV systems are prepared in co-operation and with the support of local Garda District and Divisional Officers before being submitted to the Garda Advisory Committee for consideration and evaluation. All Garda CCTV schemes are planned and implemented on the basis of the Garda Commissioner's identified operational needs and priorities.

I regret that current information with regard to the number of Garda CCTV cameras in operation in Dublin South East is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

325 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of antisocial behaviour orders that were handed down in each year since the introduction of the parent legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7781/10]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

326 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions for non-compliance with an antisocial behaviour order to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7784/10]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

341 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to a matter (detail supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7979/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 325, 326 and 341 together.

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, up to 31 January, 2010, 1,461 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 1,103 to children. Thirteen good behaviour contracts were issued to children. In addition, three civil orders (in respect of adults) and three behaviour orders (in respect of children) have been issued by the courts.

In setting up the regime the intention was that these interventions would address the problem behaviour. If they succeed, there will be no need to apply to the courts for an order. It is only if they fail to lead to a behaviour adjustment by the person in question, that a court order will be applied for.

In relation to statistics on prosecutions, I am not in a position to provide information sought at this time, but will do so as soon as it is available.

Visa Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

327 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he is taking to promote bus tours of Ireland for Asian tourists relative to the visa issues; and if a workable solution can be found to issue visas faster and accommodate tour operators. [7787/10]

The promotion of tourism in Ireland is a matter for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and associated agencies. However, I am aware of recent media coverage in relation to the matter of visas for tourists. As with all visa regimes in all countries worldwide, the central concern is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime, while at the same time not placing unnecessary or unreasonable obstacles in the way of those who intend travelling for legitimate purposes and who are likely to abide by the terms of their visa. Each visa application is decided on its own merits and I believe that, in most cases, my Department achieves this balance. Visa approval rates for some of the countries mentioned in recently media reports bear this out. Approval rates for visas applications of all types processed through some Irish overseas Visa Offices in 2009 were:

New Delhi (serving India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal) — 90%;

Beijing (serving China, Cambodia, Mongolia) — 86%;

London (serving all visa required nationals based in the UK) — 98%.

As always, my officials are willing to meet stakeholders in the tourism sector to discuss areas of interest and concern.

Sex Offenders.

Mary Wallace

Question:

328 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way the register for sex offenders operates; the central location for the register; the way same operates on a day to day basis in relation to decisions by sex offenders to change address; the steps that are taken regarding the new areas of residence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7792/10]

Mary Wallace

Question:

329 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the date upon which the sex offender register commenced; the provision that is made for existing sex offenders that are in prison on that date to be placed on the register and that were aware of their release from prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7793/10]

Mary Wallace

Question:

330 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding sex offenders who are sentenced with community service as distinct from prison service; if this avoids the sex offender having to be placed on the sex offenders register; if so, the steps he will take to rectify this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7794/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 to 330, inclusive, together.

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 contains a comprehensive set of provisions aimed at protecting children and other persons. The Act makes persons convicted of a range of sexual offences subject to notification requirements under its Part 2, including notification of changes of address. The provisions of the Act also extend to any offenders convicted abroad of the same range of sexual offences who enter the State, including from Northern Ireland. The entire Act was commenced on 27 September, 2001.

An Garda Síochána has a system in place for the monitoring of all persons subject to these requirements. The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit monitors and manages the notification provisions and maintains all information relating to persons who have obligations under the Act. There is a nominated Garda Inspector in each Garda Division who has responsibility for the monitoring of persons subject to the requirements of the Act in their Division. As soon as the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit is advised by a relevant authority, such as the Irish Prison Service, the Courts Service or a foreign law enforcement agency, of the impending release or movement of a sex offender, this information is immediately passed to the nominated Inspector.

A High Level Group set up by my Department and also involving An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service and the HSE is examining the arrangements in place for the management of sex offenders with a view to strengthening inter-agency co-operation and further enhancing public protection and safety. The group's remit includes a review of the procedures and legislation relating to the assessment, monitoring and supervision of convicted sex offenders.

I am currently reviewing the criminal law on sexual offences, including the provisions of the Sex Offenders Act 2001. The review is taking into account the relevant legislative provisions in force in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Should the need for changes to the law in this area be identified, I will bring proposals to Government seeking approval for the preparation of appropriate amendments to the legislation.

Garda Stations.

Mary Wallace

Question:

331 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the names of the towns here that have a Garda station and have less than a population of 10,000; the towns here that have a population of greater than 10,000 and do not have a Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7796/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Citizenship Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

332 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason there is a two year wait for naturalisation applications to be processed; and if a more efficient process will be introduced to alleviate this waiting time. [7808/10]

The Deputy will appreciate that the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is an honour and applications must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is given only to persons who satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

The average processing time for applications for certificates of naturalisation is currently 26 months and this is primarily due to the significant increase in the volume of applications received in recent years, highlighted by a 155% increase in applications in 2009 over 2008. Despite improvements in 2009 to citizenship forms, guidance notes and web-pages a significant volume of invalid or ineligible applications continue to be received and the processing of these applications takes valuable resources away from the processing of valid applications. To help reduce the levels of invalid and ineligible applications a number of enhancements will shortly be introduced on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Services website at www.inis.gov.ie. These include an online residency checker, which allows prospective applicants to input their residency permission periods to check if they satisfy the statutory residency conditions, along with enhancements to the presentation of information on the site and changes to guides and forms.

I am assured by my officials that the procedures involved in processing an application are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are conducted as efficiently as possible. However, there is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved whilst maintaining the integrity of the system.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

333 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications awaiting naturalisation as of 31 December 2007, 2008 and 2009. [7809/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Prison Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

334 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to be in a position to publish the preliminary observations of the recent visit to Ireland from 25 January to 5 February in 2010 by the committee for the prevention of torture investigating conditions of detention in prisons, and examining the safeguards in place in Garda stations and also the findings of their investigation of the conditions in psychiatric institutions and an establishment for the intellectually disabled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7818/10]

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which operates under the aegis of the Council of Europe, was established under the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in 1997.

The Committee visited Ireland for the fifth occasion from the 25th January to the 5th February, 2010. The CPT submits a formal report of its visit to the Irish Government, which is subsequently published along with the Government's response. The timing and content of the publication of the observations of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is a matter in the first instance for the Committee itself. The Committee made an oral presentation of its preliminary observations at the end of its recent visit to Ireland and indicated that it received excellent cooperation both before and during the visit. The CPT issued a press statement on the 9th February indicating the places visited during the visit and to the best of my knowledge this will be the extent of their public communication on the visit until later in the year.

The Committee has advised that it will submit its detailed report later this year and seek a written response from the Government. As the Deputy and the House will be aware it has been the practice for Ireland to request that the Committee publish simultaneously its observations and the State's response.

Garda Operations.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

335 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda central vetting unit will process an application in respect a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7828/10]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that an employment vetting application was received at the Garda Central Vetting Unit with regard to the person to whom the Deputy refers and a response issued on 5 February 2010.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

336 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 231, 232 and 233 of 4 February 2010, when Garda liaison officers were first based in London, The Hague, Madrid, Parish, Europol and Interpol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7853/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

337 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7855/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

338 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if closed circuit television systems in RAPID areas will be joined to gardaí CCTV systems; if there is a regulatory basis in place for such connection; the areas that are being considered for such connection; and when such connections will occur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7864/10]

Section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 regulates the operation of closed circuit television in public places.

CCTV systems installed as aids to policing fall into two distinct categories: Garda CCTV systems and Community Based CCTV Systems. The Community Based CCTV Scheme was not intended as a replacement for Garda CCTV systems but rather as a means to assist communities to install their own local CCTV system.

While An Garda Síochána do not have responsibility for monitoring community CCTV systems arrangements can be made for Garda personnel to view images from these systems. This is a matter which is dealt with in line with Garda operational requirements.

Departmental Correspondence.

Finian McGrath

Question:

339 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [7913/10]

I am not in a position to respond to the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the relevant information is available.

Garda Operations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

340 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the gardaí have requested information from insurance companies regarding data gathered using global positioning systems installed in vehicles for the investigation of complaints; the number of requests made during each of the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009; the number of these investigations which resulted in conviction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7971/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is not the policy of An Garda Síochána to comment on or disclose techniques utilised in criminal investigations.

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 325.

Crime Levels.

Chris Andrews

Question:

342 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions for aggravated and non-aggravated burglaries in 2008; the sentences handed down for each of those crimes nationally; the average sentence received for each of these crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7993/10]

I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as relevant information is available.

Visa Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

343 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Garda national immigration bureau cards will be renewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [8010/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Judicial Appointments.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

344 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of judges serving in the Circuit Courts her; if vacancies exist; if so, when they will be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8017/10]

The Circuit Court is comprised of a President and 37 judges (increased from 33 under the provisions of section 3 of the Courts and Court Officers (Amendment) Act 2007). There are no vacancies in the Circuit Court at present.

Ministerial Orders.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

345 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the fees or charges set by him by way of ministerial order for the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8034/10]

I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the information is available.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

346 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the charges levied by his Department or agencies under his Department in respect of the provision of goods or services to persons or businesses; the charge; the anticipated income from such charges in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8046/10]

I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the information is available.

Garda Stations.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

347 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the timescale for the refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street Garda station, Dublin 1; the alternative arrangements for staff and the community; if he will give a commitment to the reopening of Fitzgibbon Street Garda station. [8065/10]

The Garda accommodation programme is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and it is brought forward in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. Garda accommodation requirements are considered in the context of the Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and in light of available resources.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that, due to its condition, it is necessary to vacate Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station to facilitate refurbishment of the premises. I want to emphasise that this is a purely temporary measure, and that the station is not being closed. During this period, the Garda personnel allocated to Fitzgibbon Street will operate from Mountjoy Garda Station. I have also been assured by the Garda authorities that current policing levels will be maintained and that there will be no diminution of the service being provided to the local community. I would emphasise that the measures I have referred to will be discontinued when the necessary refurbishment work at Fitzgibbon Street Station has been completed.

Visa Applications.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

348 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the assistance he will give the tourism industry regarding overseas visitors experiencing difficulty in obtaining holiday visas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8068/10]

The promotion of tourism in Ireland is a matter for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and associated agencies. However, as well as the individual case raised by the Deputy, I am aware of recent media coverage in relation to the matter of visas for tourists which makes largely the same points. As with all visa regimes in all countries worldwide, the central concern is to strike an app