Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Detention Facilities.

Liz McManus

Question:

9 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the report of the expert group on children’s detention services which recommends the development of 167 places for young persons detained by the courts; if the provisions of this number of places is still his objective; if not, the number of places it is proposed to provide and the basis for this figure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12999/10]

Following consideration of the report of the interdepartmental Expert Group on Children Detention Schools, in March 2008 the Government approved the development of new national children detention facilities at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin.

The Office of Public Works has been charged with designing the new facilities and managing the construction stage of the project which will be undertaken in phases. It is anticipated that the first phase will consist of 80 new places which will enable all children ordered to be detained by the Courts to be accommodated in children detention facilities only. The second phase is intended to provide 57 new places with the remaining 30 places being provided in existing facilities. The design stage is well advanced with both concept and sketch designs to deliver the 167 places on the Oberstown campus, having been completed.

The estimate by the Expert Group of likely future capacity demand of 167 places was based on an analysis of trends in juvenile detention along with data sets from An Garda Síochána, the National Juvenile Office, the Courts Service (and others) and general population projections produced by the Central Statistics Office for the under 18 age group. As committed to in the report of the Expert Group, the IYJS continues to keep the capacity requirement under review. The report can be viewed on the IYJS website atwww.iyjs.ie.

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

Garda Reserve.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

10 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Reserve recruited to date; if he will list the stations to which they have been allocated; the number of applicants for the reserve currently in training; if he is satisfied with the rate of recruitment; when he expects that the full complement of 1,500 will be in place; if any restrictions have been placed on recruitment to the reserve arising from budgetary restrictions; if he plans to undertake the review of the operation of the Garda Reserve as recommended in the report of the Garda Inspectorate on resource allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12997/10]

I am pleased to say that there are now 562 attested Reserve Gardaí with an additional 101 student Reserves in training. Reserve members are allocated to Garda stations throughout the country, and I will write to the Deputy with the latest distribution details as soon as they are available.

The Agreed Programme for Government has set a target strength for the Reserve at 10% of the full time strength of the Force. As the Garda Reserve depends on volunteers who undertake their training and other duties during their free time, it is difficult to predict how many people will commence training in any particular period. However, I can assure the Deputy and the House that the Garda Commissioner is continuing to make every effort to reach the recruitment target. The moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the public service does not apply to the Garda Reserve, as members are volunteers and do not draw a salary.

Recruitment is ongoing and the Public Appointments Service has received over 1,700 expressions of interest to join the Reserve in the past year. The Government is strongly committed to the development of the Reserve. It has been a very successful initiative and I am confident that it will continue to flourish into the future.

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for determining the range of powers and duties of Reserve members, and I am sure that he will keep these under review in line with the recommendation of the Inspectorate.

Garda Strength.

Joe McHugh

Question:

11 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the positions vacated by retiring gardaí at assistant commissioner, chief superintendent and superintendent level in 2009 have been filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13190/10]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

35 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications received during 2009 for applications for early retirement from members of the gardaí, broken down by rank; the way this compares with each year from 2002; the number of applications received in 2010 to date; his views on reports that a significant number of senior gardaí are planning to take early retirement; the implications of such retirements for policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13002/10]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

50 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the 170 Garda promotions, for which Cabinet approval has been given to fill vacancies arising from the many retirements now being experienced by the force, have now been made; when he expects this process to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13001/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 35 and 50 together.

While the moratorium on appointments and promotions applies generally to the Garda Síochána, last year I obtained the sanction of the Minister for Finance for a number of senior positions, namely the appointment of 3 Chief Superintendents and 10 Superintendents. In addition, I recently obtained the sanction of the Minister for approximately 170 promotions, covering 9 at the rank of Chief Superintendent, 12 at the rank of Superintendent, 28 at the rank of Inspector and 120 at the rank of Sergeant.

The Commissioner has recently filled a significant number of the posts at the ranks of Sergeant and Inspector and interviews are taking place for filling the vacancies at the higher ranks. As soon as those interviews are complete I will be taking a memorandum to Government to allow appointments to be made.

I will write to the Deputy with details on the latest retirement statistics as soon as they are available.

Garda Equipment.

Ulick Burke

Question:

12 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that correct procedures were followed when a 13 year old Eurocopter AS355N helicopter was sold by the Garda Síochána to a private company for €400,000 in January 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13135/10]

The management and disposal of Garda resources, including Garda aircraft, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

I am advised by the Commissioner that the sale of the AS355N Squirrel helicopter was undertaken in line with the relevant financial requirements and following the advertising of the helicopter for sale. The process which was pursued by the Commissioner was not restricted in any way and it was open to interested parties to bid for the aircraft.

I might mention that the Commissioner has informed me that only two bids were received for the helicopter. The higher bid was originally for €365,000 and it was subsequently negotiated upwards to €400,000.

Crime Prevention.

Enda Kenny

Question:

13 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the budget of the organised crime unit for 2010; the budget for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13181/10]

The organised crime unit was established on a permanent basis in January 2008 to tackle criminal gangs, including those involved in drug trafficking. Since then, the unit has proactively targeted criminal gangs engaged in diverse types of criminality which transcend the traditional Garda unit boundaries. The main functions of the organised crime unit are: to identify organised crime groups that operate within the State through increased profiling, intelligence gathering, overt and covert surveillance and threat assessments; to develop intelligence on highly organised and professional groups of criminals involved in serious crime and whose operations transcend district/divisional and regional boundaries; to develop intelligence and information supplied by confidential sources on major targeted criminals; and, to liaise with other specialist Garda Units in developing intelligence and information from all sources in relation to serious and organised criminal groups.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, for operational reasons, it is not appropriate to release the specific budget for the Organised Crime Unit. In any event, to release the budget for this one unit may be misleading in that a very considerable amount of the Garda allocation of €1.389 Billion for 2010 is allocated to the fight against organised crime. Operation Anvil alone has an allocation of €21 million euro this year.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Organised Crime Unit is but one entity of National Support Services which targets organised crime groups. There are seven other specialist Garda Units within National Support Services including the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda National Drug Unit, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Technical Bureau that work operationally with the Organised Crime Unit in tackling the emerging threat from any organised crime groups. Also, targeted intelligence-led operations such as Operation Anvil continue to result in significant seizures of firearms and property related to criminal activity and have led to the arrests and prosecutions of those involved.

Very significant efforts and resources continue to be directed on an ongoing basis in tackling organised crime and gangland culture and the State will be relentless in its approach in bringing those involved in such activities to justice.

Proposed Legislation.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

14 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to further reform on law on blasphemy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13198/10]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

42 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to propose a referendum on blasphemy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13192/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 42 together.

My views on the question of a referendum on blasphemy are as stated in the House during the debate on 20 May 2009 of Committee Stage of the Defamation Bill 2006. I clearly stated that I hoped that the matter could be addressed by referendum at a suitable opportunity in the near future.

In debates on the Bill in this House I explained the nature of the constitutional obligation imposed on me — in Article 40.6.1.i of the Constitution — in regard to blasphemous libel. The Defamation Act 1961, in section 13, provided for the offence of blasphemous libel which was punishable by monetary and prison penalties (up to 2 years imprisonment was possible). Successive Attorneys General had advised the Government that until the Constitution is amended, by referendum, it is necessary that blasphemous libel remain a crime and that legislation must make provision for punishment of this crime. This presented a certain difficulty if we were to proceed to repeal the 1961 Act and bring to a conclusion the lengthy process of reforming our defamation legislation.

Having regard to the constitutional obligation, I was faced with essentially two choices. The first was to put on hold the reform of defamation legislation and to seek the approval of the Government to conduct a referendum to delete the provision on blasphemous libel from the Constitution. This choice would have involved considerable expense as a "stand alone" referendum and would I believe have been an unwarranted diversion and would have attracted significant criticism as such. I made clear at the time that I felt that this was not a viable option given the current circumstances.

The approach I favoured mirrored that of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, which in its Report in 2008, recommended that the specific reference to blasphemy in the Constitution should be deleted. They were of the view that if there is a need to protect against religious offence or incitement, it is more appropriate that this be dealt with by legislative intervention with due regard to freedom of expression. However, the Committee saw no need, nor did I, for a Constitutional amendment in the short term and, pragmatically, were of the view that any appropriate opportunity should be availed of in the future. The matter, in other words, was not of immediate importance.

The approach, therefore, which I felt had significant support, was to proceed with the reform of our defamation legislation, and to make minimum provision in regard to blasphemous libel in the new Act. Section 36 of the Defamation Act 2009, therefore, removes the possibility of prison sentences and private prosecutions for blasphemous libel. It also provides for a defence to a defendant who proves that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates. I commenced operation of the Act by Order on 1 January, 2010.

I remain of the view that on grounds of cost, a referendum on its own on blasphemy should not be held and that it should instead run together with one or more other referendums. I would be happy to propose to the Government a referendum on blasphemy at the appropriate time.

Private Security Services.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

15 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria used by the Private Security Authority when awarding licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13138/10]

The Private Security Authority, established under the Private Security Services Act 2004 is the regulatory body with responsibility for regulating and licensing the private security industry in the State. The Authority is an independent body under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. My Department has no role, therefore, in the issuing of private security licences. The Authority commenced licensing security contractors in 2006 and this was followed by the licensing of individuals employed in the industry in 2007. There are currently almost 800 licensed contractors and over 23,000 licensed individuals operating in the security industry in Ireland.

I am informed by the Authority that the criteria used by the Authority depends on whether a contractor or individual licence is required. Contractor Licences are required by companies, partnerships and sole traders providing security services in the Republic of Ireland. Those seeking a contractors licence are required to provide a valid tax clearance certificate, evidence of having obtained a standard endorsed by the National Standards Authority of Ireland and a certificate of incorporation, if applicable. In addition all sole traders, partners, company directors and shareholders with a holding of 20% or more are vetted by An Garda Síochána before a licence issues.

Individual Licences are required by all those working in the security sector within the state whether employed by a licensed contractor or directly by a business as in-house security personnel. Individual Licences are backed by a recognised qualification which ensures that all those working in the industry have been trained to a high standard. Once again, all individual applicants are vetted with An Garda Síochána before any licence is issued.

I understand from the Authority that, both contractors and individuals who have resided outside of Ireland for a period of six months or more are also required to provide the Authority with a criminal record certificate from the relevant jurisdiction.

Prison Committals.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

16 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons committed to prison for non-payment of fines and non payment of debt in 2009; if he will provide comparative figures for the previous three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13020/10]

The latest available figures for the number of persons committed to prison for the non-payment of fines in the past four years is contained in the table.

Year

Number of Persons

2006

1,089

2007

1,335

2008

2,154

2009 (to 31/10/2009)

3,366

The latest available statistics pertaining to those imprisoned for civil debt related matters are as follows.

Year

Number of Persons

2006

194

2007

201

2008

276

2009

186 (to June 2009)

In response to a High Court Decision in 2009, I introduced the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act, 2009. The Act ensures that a debtor cannot be imprisoned if he is unable to pay the debt. The debtor must be present at proceedings, he or she is entitled to seek legal aid, the court must be satisfied that the failure to pay is wilful refusal and that there are no goods that could be seized to satisfy the debt. The court can request the debtor and creditor to seek resolution by mediation. Imprisonment is to be used as a final resort, only where the debtor can afford to pay the debt but refuses to obey a court order to do so and only where the alternative of seizing goods to meet the debt is not available.

I also wish to advise the Deputy that the number of such persons held in custody at any one time is a minute fraction of the overall prisoner population. Indeed, I am confident that the number of committals for non-payment of fines will fall substantially once the Fines Bill 2009 has been enacted and brought into force in the near future. As the Deputy is aware the Bill recently completed Report and Final Stage in Dáil Éireann on 3 March 2010. It is now awaiting Second Stage in the Seanad.

I want to take this opportunity to clarify the position regarding the number of committals to prison in 2009 for non payment of fines. The correct figure to end October, 2009 of 3,366 committals for non payments of fines was given in a reply to the Deputy on the 19th January, 2010 (PQ1936/10 refers). However, in reply to a question from the Deputy on the 2nd March, 2010 (PQ10326/10) seeking the same detail as sought in this Question a figure of 62 was given for those committed to prison in 2009 for non payment of fines. This was in fact the figure for committals for the non-payment of fines arising from breaches of the Broadcasting and Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1988 only. I want to avail of this opportunity to correct that error and confirm that the total figure as at 31 October, 2009 (the latest available) should have read 3,366. My Department only became aware of the incomplete answer in recent days. I apologise for the incomplete response given earlier this month.

Garda Investigations.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

17 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress of the Garda investigation into the leak of correspondence between a Member of Dáil Éireann (details supplied) and a member of the gardaí; when he expects the investigation to be completed and the report published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12991/10]

As the matter referred to by the Deputy is currently the subject of investigation by An Garda Síochána it would not be appropriate for me to comment on it at this time.

Rent Levels.

Martin Ferris

Question:

18 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will bring forward the date by which the working group on commercial rents must report to him in view of the fact that the existing situation is crippling small businesses many of which simply cannot afford to wait until summer 2010 for action. [13063/10]

The Working Group I have established "to consider the operation of the current system for determining the rent payable on foot of a rent review clause, with particular emphasis on the arbitration process and the adequacy of the information available to all parties and, if necessary, to make such recommendations for change as may seem appropriate" will, it is envisaged, report by 30 June, 2010. A reasonable timescale is necessary to ensure that the group can properly examine and report on the issues.

Crime Levels.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

19 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun murders that took place in 2005; the number of these that have resulted in prosecutions; the number that have resulted in convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13164/10]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

23 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gun murders that took place in 2006; the number of these that have resulted in prosecutions; the number that have resulted in convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13160/10]

Noel Coonan

Question:

24 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gun murders that have taken place to date in 2010; the number of these that have resulted in prosecutions; the number that have resulted in convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13145/10]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

41 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gun murders that took place in 2008; the number of these that have resulted in prosecutions; the number of these that have resulted in convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13155/10]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

51 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gun murders that took place in 2004; the number of these that have resulted in prosecutions; the number that have resulted in convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13169/10]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

71 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used from 1998 to date in 2010; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases in which convictions were secured; if he has satisfied himself with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13014/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 23, 24, 41, 51 and 71 together.

It is important to emphasise that all of the cases where proceedings have not yet been taken remain under active investigation. The detection rate for murders by its nature increases over time as Garda investigations progress. It is expected that the number of convictions obtained will increase as Garda investigations are concluded and proceedings commenced are finalised by the courts. This applies particularly to murders committed in the most recent years. In addition, directions may be received from the Law Officers to charge persons arrested in connection with such incidents with offences other than murder, for example firearms offences. Furthermore such persons charged and brought before the courts may be convicted of offences other than murder.

Against that background, I am informed by the Garda authorities that during the period 1998 to 2010 (to 21 March) 193 murders involving a firearm were recorded, and to date proceedings were commenced in 57 in these cases and 23 convictions secured.

I am, of course, deeply concerned about the incidence of gun murders and I deplore all such killings. All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána and will continue to be so. In setting the policing priorities for An Garda Síochána in 2010, I have asked the Commissioner to continue the focus of the force on serious crime, in particular organised crime. This priority is also reflected in the Garda policing plan for this year, and specific initiatives, including under Operation Anvil, have been introduced.

While An Garda Síochána have made significant progress in the investigation of a number of killings, the reality is that there can be considerable difficulties for them in obtaining evidence in shootings which are the result of gangland activities from associates of a victim of a gangland killing or indeed from gangland figures even when they themselves are the victims of violence. It has also to be accepted that there is often no connection or personal association between the victim and the perpetrator, which makes it very difficult for An Garda Síochána in their investigation of such a murder. Witnesses may also be subject to high levels of intimidation not to come forward, and it is to assist such witnesses that the Witness Protection Programme is in place.

It was against that background that I introduced greatly strengthened legislation in the area of gangland crime which is being fully utilised by An Garda Síochána. I have also introduced further significant legislative proposals, which are currently before the House, including the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) and Criminal Procedure Bills, and I will not hesitate to introduce further proposals if that becomes necessary. In addition, I have secured Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law.

Garda Operations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

20 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when arrangements will be made to instruct members of the Garda Síochána that it is not necessary to take a longhand note of interviews with persons in custody when such interviews are being electronically recorded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13012/10]

My Department and the Garda Síochána, in consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Attorney General, are considering proposals for a new system which would allow the taking of contemporaneous written notes to cease where interviews are electronically recorded.

There is however a complex range of training, technological and legal issues to be addressed before any changeover to a new system could take place, and of course the financial implications would have to be carefully assessed.

The Garda Síochána are at an advanced stage in developing proposals for the operational aspects of a new system. Because of the complexities involved, it is likely that any new system would initially be introduced on a pilot basis to allow all the operational and legal aspects to be fully tested and evaluated.

Taxi Regulation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

21 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the current multi-agency checkpoints and operations aimed at ensuring compliance by taxi drivers with taxi regulations and tax obligations, in which the Garda Síochána participate, are insufficient to address issues of illegal taxi driving, tax evasion and welfare fraud; if the number of these operations will be increased; and if other steps will be taken by gardaí. [13056/10]

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.

Departmental Agencies.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

22 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to ensure that the 28 agencies and bodies operating under the aegis of his Department perform in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible and that they provide value for money for the tax payer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13019/10]

All agencies operating under the aegis of my Department are subject to the normal Department of Finance rules and Procedures governing the cost effective expenditure of monies provided from public funds. Moreover a number of agencies are selected each year for detailed VFM review. Reports relating to these reviews are available to the Deputy from the Oireachtas Library.

Questions Nos. 23 and 24 answered with Question No. 19.

Disability Strategy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

25 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the six month delay in publishing the National Disability Strategy recession implementation plan promised by the renewed programme for Government 2009; and the responsibilities of his Department that the plan is likely to include. [13062/10]

The key elements of the National Disability Strategy are: the Disability Act 2005; the Citizen's Information Act, 2007; the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004; Sectoral Plans and a multi-annual investment programme that was targeted at high-priority disability support services. The Strategy is, in large measure, being implemented.

The Deputy will be aware that all six Government Departments recently completed reports on the progress of their sectoral plans over the three year period 2006-2009 as provided for under the Disability Act 2005. While the serious Exchequer situation, in so far as its impact on delivery of disability programmes is concerned, is primarily a matter for the Departments which have sectoral plans, the overall situation continues to be reviewed by the Senior Officials Group on Disability as well as the National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group. Implementation of the various legislative measures also continues to be reviewed by the relevant Departments and by the Senior Officials and Monitoring Groups.

The question of an overall strategy will be assessed further in the light of the detailed examination by each of the relevant Departments of their own responsibilities and of the budgetary situation. My own Department does not have direct responsibility for sectoral plans or for implementation of the various legislative measures.

Departmental Schemes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

26 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether that the system of community services orders is under used; and the steps he will take to promote its use as the default sanction for less serious offences in view of its proven cost-effectiveness when compared to penal sanction. [13060/10]

I published a Value for Money and Policy Review of the operation of the Community Service Scheme last October. This independent review found that the Scheme was not being used to the extent that it had been in the past. Furthermore, it found that the Community Service Supervisors then employed, operating at full capacity, could provide supervision services to three times as many offenders as were then on Community Service Orders.

Based on this, and other recommendations contained in the review, the Probation Service of my Department is leading the drive to substantially increase the number of persons that could potentially be placed on Community Service.The Probation Service has restructured the delivery of Community Service nationally under the governance of a dedicated Community Service Unit and has designed a new model of Community Service. The implementation of the new model is being piloted in the Dublin area. The pilot is intended to trial and refine the efficiency of operation.

At present the most common non-custodial sanction used by the Courts, who are independent in the exercise of their functions, is the imposition of a fine. As the Deputy will be aware the new Fines Bill is awaiting Second Stage in the Seanad. The Bill makes provision for the use of non-custodial options for the non-payment of fines such as Community Service. This new legislative provision will provide an extension to the use the Courts can make of the Community Service sanction in less serious offence cases.

I should also add that the most recently published Discussion Document of the White Paper on Crime series, 'Criminal Sanctions', will include an examination of the use of non-custodial sanctions generally, such as Community Service. Submissions on this Document have been invited before the end of May and the opinions received will inform future plans.

Garda Strength.

Mary Upton

Question:

27 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available broken down by full members, the number who have attested but not yet concluded their training and the number in training; the expected number that will be recruited during 2010; the anticipated numbers at each of the categories referred to at the end of 2010; the number of members of the force who are expected to retire during 2010; the number who will be recruited in the first half of 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13016/10]

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.

Garda Training.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

28 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the main findings of the recent report on training and development in the Garda Síochána; the steps that are being taken to deal with the skill training gaps identified in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12993/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

45 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on and response to the recent report commissioned by the Garda Commissioner which found that gardaí are not properly trained for key duties. [13058/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 45 together.

In February 2008 the Garda Commissioner established a group to review training and development for garda and civilian staff in the Garda Síochána.

The review group, chaired by Mr Pat McLoughlin, formerly of the Health Service Executive, carried out an extensive analysis of the training needs of the organisation and consulted widely with staff across all ranks and grades. Consultations were also held with relevant bodies such as the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council and police forces internationally.

The report found significant strengths in the wide diversity of training provided in the Garda Síochána, both to student Gardaí and to serving members and civilian staff. However, it also identified areas where the organisation, management and delivery of training could be further enhanced, with considerable benefits for the Garda Síochána and the public it serves. I am setting out the key recommendations in a note which I am circulating with this reply.

The Commissioner will over the coming months progressively implement these very significant and wide-ranging improvements in Garda training, and he will have my full backing and support in that process.

Key recommendations of the Training and Development Review Group Report

There should be a new training and development model put in place, with an Assistant Commissioner given sole responsibility for overseeing and implementing this;

The training sections in the Garda College should be restructured;

There should be a better training support structure across all garda operational divisions, with divisional training managers;

There should be a standardised process within Garda Divisions that objectively prioritises training opportunities based on developing the right knowledge and skills;

The student/probationer training programme should be radically restructured into 3 phases instead of the current 5. Phase I would be for 32 weeks at the Garda College, at the end of which successful students would be attested (i.e. become members of the Garda Síochána with full police powers). Currently students are attested after 58 weeks. Phase II would be for 65 weeks based in Garda stations, and Phase III would consist of 7 weeks of exam preparation, exams and assessments;

Student training at the Garda College should be more scenario-based and less classroom-based, so as to prepare students better for the policing challenges they will face;

There should be better support for students who, after attestation, are assigned to Garda stations, with new field-training tutors playing a key role;

Driver training should be provided within the student/probationer training programme;

A lifelong learning philosophy should be instilled in the Garda Síochána, with a suite of mandatory and elective courses made available;

A learning management system should be introduced in the Garda Síochána, to manage the administration and oversight of training;

Specialist training facilities, such as firearms ranges, driver training areas and a mock urban structure, should be developed on the grounds of Dromard House in Tipperary, already purchased for this purpose, as soon as possible;

Training for civilian staff in the Garda Síochána should be integrated into the general training structure for members.

The full report is available on the Garda websitewww.garda.ie.

Garda Investigations.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

29 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied); if he will confirm that work is still ongoing on this case between the gardaí and the PSNI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13021/10]

The death of the individual concerned remains the subject of an active investigation. I can confirm to the Deputy that liaison is maintained with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in this regard. I can also assure the Deputy that the Family Liaison Officer appointed in this investigation and a member of the Investigation Team are liaising with the family and keeping them apprised of developments in relation to the ongoing investigation.

Garda Deployment.

Shane McEntee

Question:

30 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí that are allocated to the organised crime unit; the number of gardaí that were assigned to the unit in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13187/10]

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.

Garda Operations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

31 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if industrial action across the public service is impacting on the operational effectiveness of the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12988/10]

The Deputy will be aware of the long-standing legal constraints on the taking of industrial action by members of the Garda Síochána. The limited action announced by the GRA, relating to matters such as the use of personal phones and computers, is expected to have minimal impact. The Deputy will also be aware that talks are presently underway on a wide range of issues, including pay, in the public sector and the Garda Associations are involved in this process.

Proposed Legislation.

Pat Breen

Question:

32 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress that has been made in the review of legislation dealing with anti-social behaviour sanctions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13132/10]

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 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 28 February, 2010, 1,501 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 1,140 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.

My Department is examining, in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and An Garda Síochána, possible approaches to dealing with and preventing anti-social behaviour at the local level, taking into account the financial and personnel resources available to local and national agencies in the current economic environment, and the desirability of using, to the greatest extent possible, existing structures. In addition to this examination, the review of the legislative provisions currently in place is continuing.

Garda Ombudsman.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

33 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the changes he proposes in respect of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13179/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 sets out the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The Act establishes the Ombudsman Commission as a key element of the policing framework.

Some amendments have already been made to the relevant provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 within the Criminal Justice Act 2007. The Ombudsman Commission has also outlined further possible legislative amendments in two reports which were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 1 May 2008. The aim is to promote greater effectiveness in the use of the Commission's resources in the light of its experience to date.

Discussions on the issues involved are ongoing with the Ombudsman Commission, and I will bring any emerging proposals for change to Government.

Garda Investigations.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

34 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a recent newspaper report (details supplied) which reported that estate agents were claiming that they could use the gardaí to illegally access Garda intelligence systems to conduct background checks on potential tenants; if any investigation is planned into these reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12996/10]

I am informed that the matters raised in the newspaper report referred to by the Deputy have been investigated by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, which has no plans to investigate them further.

An Garda Síochána has in place a code of practice for data protection. The code, which was drawn up in close consultation with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and approved by that Office, contains safeguards to prevent the improper disclosure of data.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 11.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Jack Wall

Question:

36 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if all section of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 have now been brought into operation; the number of occasions on which the powers contained in this Act have been used since its enactment and in particular the number of prosecutions transferred to the Special Criminal Court under the provisions of section 8 of the Act; the number of charges that have proffered under the powers contained in this act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13018/10]

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 came into force in its entirety on its signature by the President on 23 July 2009.

The Act enables all organised crime offences to be tried in the Special Criminal Court unless the Director of Public Prosecutions directs otherwise. A new offence of directing or controlling a criminal organisation has been created, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for the offence of participation or involvement in organised crime has been increased from 5 years to 15 years imprisonment. Expert Garda opinion evidence on the existence and operations of criminal gangs is now admissible in evidence. Furthermore, there are significant new provisions relating to bail, sentencing, drawing of inferences by the courts, intimidation of witnesses and jurors and a simplification of the procedures relating to the extension of time for questioning.

I have consistently made it clear that inevitably it will take time for the full effects of the Act and other anti-gangland legislation to become clear. I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner that An Garda Síochána has been making full use of the legislation since it has been enacted to build up criminal cases against gangland figures. They are painstakingly working to gather evidence that will be sufficient to enable the DPP to initiate prosecutions of people in relation to gangland activities. A number of Garda investigation files have already been submitted to the DPP. I am confident that, as the evidence accumulates against individuals, successful prosecutions will be taken.

Legal Aid Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

37 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost in each of the past five years to date in 2010 of free legal aid in criminal cases; the number of cases that received such aid in the past 12 months to date in 2010; his plans to review this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13204/10]

The cost of Criminal Legal Aid in each of the last five years and to date in 2010 is set out in tabular form. The table also gives the number of legal aid certificates granted by the courts in each of those years. It should be noted that expenditure may relate to certificates granted in previous years.

As the Deputy will be aware I have already indicated my commitment to strengthening the provisions in the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme through changes in the administration of the Scheme and initiatives in the area of means testing. Changes are required to the primary legislation and a Bill is currently under preparation to achieve this.

Year

Expenditure

Legal Aid Certificates Granted

€ (’000)

2005

40,170

36,423

2006

42,034

41,582

2007

46,279

46,620

2008

55,172

55,265

2009

60,354

55,664

2010*

7,430

8,741

*To end February 2010.

Prison Building Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

38 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made over recent months on the Thornton Hall project, County Dublin; if any consideration has been given to rethinking the project in favour of a more feasible smaller institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13006/10]

The Government re-affirmed its commitment to developing a new prison campus at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin and also approved the launch of a new tendering process for the construction of a more affordable and better value prison campus at Thornton. The aim is to provide good quality, regime focussed prison accommodation with appropriate support and rehabilitative facilities for prisoners to prepare them for re-integration back into society. The new prison facility will provide accommodation for 1,400 prisoners with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 in a range of security settings.

The development is now proceeding on a phased basis with phase one comprising essential enabling works required for the development including the construction of the dedicated access road, perimeter wall and off-site services. Tenders for the construction of the access road will be issued in the near future. A tender competition for the construction of the perimeter wall of the prison will issue mid-Summer.

An EU wide tender competition for the appointment of technical advisors to the Irish Prison Service is already in progress. The Irish Prison Service is being assisted in this process by the National Development Finance Agency. This will lead to an invitation to tender for the construction of the main prison development at a later stage.

There are no indications that smaller institutions are more feasible. The primary purpose of Thornton is to replace the Mountjoy complex which currently holds over 1,000 prisoners in four institutions on a 20 acre site. Thornton will be a campus development with approximately 1,400 cells on a 130 acre site.

Budgetary Policy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

39 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the recommendations of the special group report on public service numbers and expenditure that he plans to implement during 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12984/10]

The recommendations in the Special Group Report (McCarthy) have been taken into account in the budget negotiations for 2010 for the Justice Sector. The proposed savings in the Report in respect of the Justice Sector were €136.4 million. In monetary terms a significant proportion of the recommendations (€84 million) related to reductions in payroll costs on items such as allowances payable to members of the Garda Síochána and the Prisons Service.

In common with all Departments, there are significant reductions in payroll related provisions in 2010 to take account of the reductions in payroll rates and other factors. The overall reduction in gross payroll budgets for the Justice Sector compared with the 2009 estimate is in the region of €126 million.

In addition to these payroll reductions, the budgets in a number of programme subheads have also been reduced to deliver the level of savings required by Government. A number of theses reductions are also in line with the recommendations of the McCarthy Report.

These amount to reductions of €6.92 million across a range of programme subheads which include Gender Mainstreaming, Graffiti Removal Operations, Equality Monitoring Consultative Committees, European Refugee Fund and Refugee Integration. The McCarthy Report recommended a total reduction of some €5 million in respect of these particular items.

A number of recommendations were made by the McCarthy Group on structural reform and rationalisation across the Justice and Equality Sector. Decisions in respect of many of these recommendations will be a matter for decision by Government in due course and expenditure reductions that may arise will be included in the budget for the Sector in future years.

While it was never the intention that the full €134 million reduction recommended in the McCarthy report would be delivered in 2010, significant progress in this regard has been made. This is through a combination of the recommendation in the report and other measures being taken as part of the Government's budgetary policy.

Crime Levels.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

40 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recorded cases of tiger robberies in which staff or relations of staff of financial institutions were taken hostage in each year from 2005 to date in 2010; the amount of money taken in such robberies; the discussions he has had with the financial institutions about these robberies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12994/10]

To date in 2010 one so-called ‘tiger' kidnapping has taken place and the following table shows the number of similar incidents recorded in the period 2005 -2009. It is the policy of An Garda Síochána not to disclose the amount of money taken during such crimes.

Year

No. of incidents recorded

2010

1

2009

6

2008

1

2007

3

2006

2

2005

1

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner and I jointly met with the Chief Executives of various financial institutions late last year to discuss this issue and to outline our concerns in this regard. Regular meetings are held between An Garda Síochána and financial institutions to discuss bank security issues and in particular tiger kidnapping prevention and response protocols. An Garda Síochána does not, for obvious security reasons, disclose information relating to the nature of security measures. The response procedures in place for dealing with such incidents typically include the establishment of Crisis Management teams and agreed protocols designed primarily to ensure the safe return of those persons held captive during such incidents and thereafter aimed at securing the arrest and prosecution of the culprits involved. Advice on personal security for staff members and on systems and processes in place for the conveyance, storage and dispersal of cash are provided on an ongoing basis and are the subject of regular review.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 19.
Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 14.

Equality Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

43 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide additional funding to the Equality Authority and to the free legal advice centres in response to the evidence that an increasing number of employers are using the current economic climate as an excuse to discriminate against women who are pregnant, on maternity leave or returning to work after having a baby. [13057/10]

It is not proposed to increase the grant in aid provision of €3.2m for the Equality Authority for 2010, which has been maintained close to the 2009 level of €3.329m.

In addition, the State has successfully obtained EU funding of €266,000 for 2010, through the Progress programme, towards a multi-agency project led by the Equality Authority entitled "Promoting equality for all in a time of change: addressing the new challenges of an economic downturn" and which includes a strong focus on public education initiatives on employment rights.

The amount which I have made available in funding to FLAC in 2010 is €98,000. This is the same amount that I made available to FLAC in 2009 and it is a reasonable allocation in circumstances where both my Department and other agencies under my remit have seen significant reductions in their allocations. I am therefore not in a position to provide increased funding to FLAC.

EU Directives.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

44 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility that remain to be implemented; if he will list the directives that are now overdue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13015/10]

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

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

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

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

Part of this Directive is covered by Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. The remainder of it is to be transposed by the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2009 which was published on 9 July 2009. The Bill completed all stages in Dáil Éireann on 24 February 2010 and is awaiting Second Stage in Seanad Éireann.

Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering and terrorist financing; and Commission Directive 2006/70/EC of 1 August 2006 laying down implementing measures for Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the definition of politically exposed person and the technical criteria for simplified customer due diligence procedures and for exemption on grounds of a financial activity conducted on an occasional or very limited basis.

The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009, which will transpose both of these Directives, was published on 28 July 2009. The Bill has completed all stages in Dáil Éireann and is currently before Seanad Éireann. There are two Directives which remain to be implemented but are not overdue.

They are:

Directive 2008/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons; and Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 28.

Code of Ethics.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

46 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a Garda Síochána code of ethics, as provided for the section 17 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13141/10]

Section 17(1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform shall by regulation establish a Code of Ethics that includes standards of conduct and practise for members of the Garda Síochána. Section 17(2) requires the Commissioner to prepare, at my request, a draft Code of Ethics. The Commissioner has submitted this draft Code and the necessary regulations are in the course of being drafted by Parliamentary Counsel.

Proposed Legislation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

47 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to augment fathers’ rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13200/10]

Under the law as it stands — section 6A of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, as inserted by section 12 of the Status of Children Act 1987 — an unmarried father may apply to the court to be appointed a guardian of his child. Alternatively, where there is agreement between the parents, they can make a statutory declaration under section 2(4) of the Guardianship of Infants Act, as inserted by section 4 of the Children Act 1997, conferring on the father the status of guardian. Under section 11 of the 1964 Act, a guardian may apply to the court for its direction on any question affecting the welfare of the child, including directions as to custody and access. In addition, the section provides that the unmarried father of a child, even if he is not a guardian, may apply to the court for orders on custody and access. Section 3 of the Act provides that, in deciding on an application relating to the custody, guardianship or upbringing of a child, the court shall regard the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration.

Where appropriate and practicable, the court will also take into account the child's wishes in the matter having regard to the age and understanding of the child. In addition, the law now places an emphasis in terms of recognising the rights of the child to the society of both his or her father and mother: Section 11D of the 1964 Act (inserted by the Children Act 1997) obliges the court in proceedings relating to the welfare of a child to consider whether the child's best interests would be served by maintaining personal relations and direct contact with both his or her father and mother on a regular basis.

These legislative provisions are comprehensive. They permit the court in cases of disagreement to decide on arrangements for the child's care and upbringing having regard to the child's best interests.

As part of its Third Programme of Law Reform 2008-2014, the Law Reform Commission published in September 2009 a consultation paper 'Legal Aspects of Family Relationships', in which it makes provisional recommendations on the rights and duties of fathers in relation to guardianship, custody and access to their children. The Commission has invited submissions on its provisional recommendations as part of the consultation process. The Commission's final report and recommendations, expected to be published later this year, will help to inform debate on the issues in advance of the formulation of any proposals for reform of the law in this area.

Detention Facilities.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

48 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the proposed closure of a detention centre (details supplied) at Finglas, Dublin 11; his views on whether this decision to take effect from 31 March 2010 is in the interests of children from a child welfare point of view; the staffing implications of this decision in respect of Oberstown; if staff redundancies are anticipated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12992/10]

The position is as set out in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 262 on 10th November, 2009. I have also of course dealt with this matter in previous replies to a number of Parliamentary Questions.

The Deputy will be aware that the Government approved proposals in March, 2008 to develop national children detention facilities to be located on the existing State-owned Oberstown campus near Lusk, Co. Dublin. The Government also approved the establishment of a cross-Departmental Working Group to consider the possible future role for Finglas Child and Adolescent Centre (FCAC), the only children detention school not currently located on the Oberstown campus.

The Working Group presented its report in August 2009 (available at www.iyjs.ie) and I have accepted its recommendations. This decision which has been noted by Government will involve the closure of the Centre which will be completed by the end of March 2010, and the transfer in the meantime of all children, staff and services from FCAC to the Oberstown campus. Preparations are well under way in this regard.

The Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS), an executive office of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and part of my Office, is responsible for managing the four Children Detention Schools. Working with the Directors and senior management of all four Schools, the IYJS is now planning for the development of an integrated unified detention school service based in Oberstown. This is in line with the Government decision to build new children detention facilities there which will provide the full range of remand, assessment and detention services for all young offenders remanded or detained by the courts. It will provide all of the services currently provided by the FCAC which will ensure that the interests of children from a child welfare point of view will continue to be met.

I can also confirm that discussions, facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission, are ongoing with the Unions since September, 2009 on all aspects of the closure, the arrangements to be made, and the transfer of staff and services to positions in Oberstown. This includes arrangements for the redeployment of permanent staff from Finglas to Oberstown and the non-renewal of a number of fixed term contracts in both Centres (in accordance with the terms of their contracts). I am also informed that it was agreed to refer certain matters to the Labour Court for determination, with a hearing scheduled for later this week.

Ministerial Appointments.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

49 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he plans to appoint a Legal Services Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13005/10]

I intend to announce details of the arrangements for appointment of the Legal Services Ombudsman as soon as possible. This will happen when my Department completes its dialogue with the Department of Finance about the matter and when the Minister for Finance is in a position to approve the terms and conditions of the office holder including the staffing structure of that Office.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 11.
Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 19.

Crime Levels .

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

52 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recent figures from the Central Statistics Office showing increases in 12 of the 16 main recorded offence groups between 2004 and 2008; the steps he is taking to counter this upward trend in crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12983/10]

While the CSO publication Garda Recorded Crime Statistics 2004 — 2008 referred to by the Deputy indicates increases in a number of crime categories over the four year period, I am pleased to note that there were decreases of 20% in sexual offences, 15% in robbery, extortion and hijacking offences, 9% in homicide offences and 1% in burglary and related offences. Increases in a number of categories, such as public order and controlled drug offences, can be attributed to the effect of increased Garda enforcement activity.

CSO recorded crime statistics for 2009, the most recent available, show a decrease in nine of the 14 crime groups for which statistics are given, compared with 2008. This indicates that the work of An Garda Síochána and other justice agencies is providing a robust and consistent response to the threat posed by criminal elements. Significant decreases in the numbers of cases of manslaughter and dangerous driving leading to death contributed to a fall in homicide offences of 10.1% during 2009. There were also welcome decreases in public order offences, which were down 7.8% during 2009, and controlled drug offences, which were down 6.3%.

While the number of cases of murder and manslaughter taken together (55 in total) showed no increase between 2008 and 2009, I continue, nevertheless, to be concerned about the levels of such crimes. The Gardaí face severe challenges in dealing with gangland murders. It was partly against that background that last year I introduced two ground breaking pieces of legislation: the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act. Since the legislation was enacted, the Gardaí have been utilising it fully to build up cases against those involved in gangland crime. Some files are with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and more are being prepared for submission to him.

I am concerned by the 2.2% increase in property theft shown in the most recent CSO figures. Everyone will be conscious of the fears of elderly people, many of whom live alone. We have seen a number of cases where elderly people have been subject to bogus callers to their homes. While people should be vigilant, we must do what we can to protect elderly and vulnerable people. I have met the Attorney General about the issue of mandatory sentencing for such crimes, and he has requested the Law Reform Commission to examine the issue. I will consider whether any further measures are required in the context of the examination by the Law Reform Commission and advice from the Attorney General.

The Criminal Procedure Bill 2009, currently before the House, gives effect to the measures contained in the Justice for Victims Initiative. The Bill proposes to end the ban on retrying persons who have been acquitted in specified circumstances and provides for reform of the law on victim impact statements.

I have recently introduced the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2010, which will see the establishment, for the first time, of a national DNA database in Ireland. This represents a major step forward in the fight against serious crime. It will give the Gardaí access to intelligence on a scale and of a quality that has never before been available in this country. When the Bill becomes law, everyone who is arrested for a serious offence can be required to give a sample. Everyone serving a sentence for a serious offence when this law comes into force will also be required to give a sample. Analysis of this material will produce hits that may indicate a link between the person and other offences where that person was previously involved, but no link had previously come to light.

The budgetary allocation for An Garda Síochána in 2010, set against a difficult economic backdrop, amounts to €1.5 billion and gives me the scope to continue to prioritise resources in dealing with crime. Despite the increased Garda retirements in 2009, the force numbered just over 14,500 members at the end of 2009, compared with 14,412 at the end of 2008 and 13,755 at the end of 2007. I recently received sanction for a significant number of promotions in An Garda Síochána, notwithstanding the current moratorium on promotions in the public service. I welcome the recent publication of a Garda Inspectorate report on resource allocation in An Garda Síochána and recommendations which aim to improve the service to the public and the working conditions of frontline Gardaí. The Commissioner is preparing to implement a range of improvements to resource allocation systems. I will work with the Commissioner and all concerned to deliver an even better policing service for communities countrywide.

In addition to the significant capital investment in prisons in recent years additional resources are also being provided for capital works in 2010.

Garda Deployment.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

53 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the creation of 900 civilian posts within the Garda has resulted in the release of only 144 Garda personnel for frontline policing duties, as highlighted in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General; the steps he will take to ensure greater use of civilian personnel, as recommended in the recent report of the Garda Inspectorate on resource allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12998/10]

Increased civilian support for the Garda Síochána does not and never was intended to exclusively take the form of one for one replacement of individual Gardaí with civilians. Suggestions to the contrary are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of civilianisation. In some instances, civilianisation does indeed enable the direct replacement of sworn members, who are engaged in exclusively clerical, administrative or technical duties, with civilian staff. In most cases, however, it allows sworn members who would otherwise have to devote a very substantial part of their working day to performing administrative duties to focus exclusively on front-line policing duties. Civilian staff may also be recruited to perform new or expanded administrative, managerial and professional support roles in the Garda Síochána, for example as crime analysts or IT specialists.

On this account, and because of the significant restructuring of roles, functions and business areas that has taken place at all levels of the Garda Síochána in recent years, it is difficult to quantify the exact number of posts which were occupied by sworn members but which today are held by civilians. I can however confirm that since 2003 the number of civilians in the Garda Síochána has risen to approximately 2,115 whole time equivalents. While this is still a lower proportion compared to some similar police services in other jurisdictions, the Commissioner is committed to increasing this number further as resources allow.

Civilian staff are now involved in the provision of vital support services in a wide range of administrative, professional, technical and industrial areas, including Human Resources, Training & Development, IT and Telecommunications, Finance and Procurement, Internal Audit, Communications, research and analysis, accommodation and fleet management, scene-of-crime support and medical services. In addition, a number of essential operational support areas are now wholly or largely staffed by civilian staff, such as the Central Vetting Unit and the Fixed Charge Processing Office in Thurles and the Garda Information Services Centre which is based in Castlebar. The Garda Síochána Analysis Service, to which I referred earlier, is staffed by qualified and highly trained civilian analysts. Civilian Telecommunications Technicians also provide front-line support to the whole of the Garda organisation across a range of technologies and services. The augmented civilian element in the Garda organisation which has been deployed by the Garda Commissioner in recent years has made a significant contribution to the effectiveness of law enforcement in this State.

The recommendations in the recent report of the Inspectorate on resource allocation are being carefully examined so that the potential for maximising the use of civilians and in turn releasing members of An Garda Síochána for frontline policing can be realised.

Drugs in Prisons.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

54 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drug seizures made in prisons here during 2009; the way this compares with each year from 2005; the number of seizures made to date in 2010; his views on the continuing extensive presence of drugs in our prisons; the steps he is taking to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13003/10]

Prior to May 2008 seizure of drugs was recorded under the generic description "prohibited articles" and a detailed breakdown is not readily available. From May (when new security initiatives were first introduced) to 31 December 2008, there were 351 drug seizures within the Irish prison system and up to and including 13 September 2009, the date for which the most recent figures are available, there were 696 drug seizures within the Irish prison system in that year. Final statistics for 2009 are currently being compiled and along with figures that are available for 2010, will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

It is acknowledged that drugs present a major challenge to the Irish Prison Service and in this context, the Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy, entitledKeeping Drugs out of Prison was launched in May 2006. The implementation of this Policy & Strategy has seen an intensification of efforts in the prison system to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons. The measures include:

Tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons

New visiting arrangements in most closed prisons, with visitors required to be pre-approved by the Governor and required to provide identification on each visit.

Greater use of screened visits.

Greater vigilance in examining mail by prison censors and searching of other items entering the prison.

Increased random searching of cells and their occupants.

Stricter searching of all persons committed to custody and prisoners returning from court, temporary release, after visits or on receipt of intelligence.

Use of modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, under floor boards and other cavities.

Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs. Use of phone detectors and phased installation of telephone blocking technology.

In addition, a number of new security initiatives have been introduced in all closed prisons including:

The introduction of enhanced security screening for all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons.

The establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 30 handling teams.

The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence on illicit material being hidden inside our prisons; they will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific security problem areas.

The Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chair was introduced by the Irish Prison Service in early 2008 and to date eight chairs have been installed.

The new security screening at prison entrances and the measures introduced have had considerable success in preventing the flow of and assisting in the capture of contraband such as illicit drugs. The battle will be an ongoing one in which I an determined to take whatever practical measures are possible to thwart illegal activity. There will be no easing off in relation to the security measures already in place and enhancements and improvements will continue to take place in the future.

There is regular contact between the Irish Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues and the Gardaí will be contacted whenever any suspected criminal offence has taken place.

The Irish Prison Service continues to strive to implement its Drugs Policy and Strategy. Part of the implementation of the Strategy includes continued significant investment in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population as well as meeting prisoners' treatment and rehabilitative needs.

Illegal Immigrants.

Denis Naughten

Question:

55 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons illegally resident here in breach of immigration law. [13024/10]

A foreign national who remains present in the State without permission or in contravention of the terms of a permission is in breach of Irish immigration law. In general, such persons may have entered the State either through covert means or through the use of false documentation at a port of entry or they may have entered lawfully but remained beyond the duration of a permission given or have breached the conditions attaching to their permission.

With regard to the number of such persons present in the State, I would refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 568 of 19th January, 2010. As I indicated in that response, it is internationally accepted that it is very difficult to estimate with any accuracy the number of illegal migrants in any jurisdiction at a particular time. This is due to the clandestine and covert nature of the activity. Having regard to the difficulty in gathering reliable statistics of this nature, there is little to be gained from my providing what would amount to a guess at the relevant figure for Ireland.

At EU level an overall estimate in the ranges 4.5 to 8 million persons has been made. A person who is illegally present in Ireland and who wishes to regularise his or her position is expected to leave the State voluntarily and may then seek to return through the legal channels. Of course, it is open to a person who is illegally present in the State to bring their case to the attention of the immigration authorities at any time.

Garda Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

56 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if arising from comments made by the Garda Commissioner in Templemore, County Tipperary, on 29 October 2009, he will outline the investigations that are underway into allegations that a small number of gardaí may have been providing information to criminal gangs thus potentially jeopardising investigations and putting other members of the force at risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13010/10]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 42 of 4 February 2010. The position remains unchanged.

Legal Aid Service.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

57 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent report from free legal advice centre which was critical of the direct provision system for asylum seekers; if he has plans to review the system in view of the FLAC report’s findings; if, in particular, he will consider some increase in the weekly financial allowance which has not been increased for more than ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12995/10]

This question relates to a publication issued recently by the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC) on the Government's direct provision system, the means by which the State discharges its obligations to provide accommodation and sustenance to asylum seekers while their applications are considered. My general response to this publication was given in my reply to Dáil Questions 217, 218 and 219 on 10 March, 2010.

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers through the policy of direct provision. For the most part, this represents a cashless system with the State assuming responsibility for providing suitable accommodation and certain other services on a full board basis. The direct provision allowance, which is the specific focus of this question, seeks to reflect the value of the above-mentioned services to the asylum seeker and I have no plans to alter the amount currently being paid. The allowance was introduced some years ago and is paid by Community Welfare Officers (operating under the aegis of the Department of Social and Family Affairs) who also have the discretion to make once-off exceptional needs payments in special situations.

I am satisfied that the level of service and support provided to asylum seekers by the State through the direct provision structure caters for all needs and is a generous system which compares very favourably with other similar services provided throughout the EU. The policy and practice of direct provision are effective and ensure that the State can meet its obligations towards asylum seekers.

Prison Committals.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

58 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners in jails at the latest date for which figures are available; the number of occasions during the past five years on which the prison population has exceeded 4,000; the steps that are being taken to deal with prison overcrowding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13009/10]

I am advised that the prison population stood at 4,228 on the 18th March 2010 and that the first time the number of prisoners in custody exceeded 4,000 was in October 2009.

As the Deputy and the House will be aware, the Irish Prison Service has been proactively engaged in an ongoing extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,670 new prison spaces have been provided. In addition, current projects will see a further 250 spaces provided by means of a new block in Wheatfield Prison which will accommodate approximately 200 prisoners and the re-opening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy which will provide an additional 50 spaces. In addition, work is expected to commence soon on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise /Midlands prison complex which will provide further prison spaces.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Government re-affirmed its commitment to developing a new prison campus at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin and also approved the launch of a new tendering process for the construction of a more affordable and better value prison campus at Thornton. The aim is to provide good quality, regime focussed prison accommodation with appropriate support and rehabilitative facilities for prisoners to prepare them for re-integration back into society. The new prison facility will provide 1,400 cells with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 prisoners in a range of security settings.

The development is now proceeding on a phased basis with phase one comprising essential enabling works required for the development including the construction of the dedicated access road, perimeter wall and off-site services. Tenders for the construction of the access road will be issued in the near future. A tender competition for the construction of the perimeter wall of the prison will issue mid-Summer.

An EU wide tender competition for the appointment of technical advisors to the Irish Prison Service is already in progress. The Irish Prison Service is being assisted in this process by the National Development Finance Agency.

This extensive prison building programme shows this Government's continued commitment to improving our prisons and to continued prudent investment.

Drug Seizures.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

59 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity and values of seizures of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and other drugs during 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; the proportion of the overall flow of drugs into the country that is believed to be represented by these seizures; the new initiatives he is planning to control the flow of illegal drugs into this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13013/10]

I am circulating with my reply a tabular statement giving the latest available information in relation to drug seizures for 2007, 2008 and 2009. Seizure data in respect of 2010 is not available as yet from An Garda Síochána. Due to the covert nature of the activity, it is not possible to give a reliable estimate of the proportion of drugs coming into the country that these figures represent. Through ongoing specific initiatives and intelligence-led operations An Garda Síochána continues to seize substantial quantities of illegal drugs destined for the streets in this jurisdiction and disrupting those criminals involved in the importation, distribution, sale and supply of illegal drugs in Ireland.

Drugs and organised crime are being prioritised by An Garda Síochána as a core focus for 2010, through the Commissioner's Policing Plan, 2010, which reflects Government strategies contained in the National Drug Strategy. Drugs units are in place in every Garda division and work in partnership with the Garda National Drugs Unit in tackling and targeting drug-related crime. Divisional and District Policing Plans also reflect the focus of the national Policing Plan in terms of drugs enforcement. As part of a co-ordinated approach, An Garda Síochána makes full use of the international Garda Liaison Network, District and Divisional Drug Units, the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau, as well as other specialist units and uniformed and plain-clothes personnel nationwide, in targeting drug supply reduction.

An Garda Síochána also has in place a number of strategic partnerships at national and international level to address drug trafficking. Recent and ongoing initiatives include:

The operation of the Organised Crime Unit on a permanent capacity,

Ongoing Irish involvement in the work of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre in Lisbon,

The ongoing development and support by CAB of the Divisional Asset Profiler's Programme.

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

However, it is clear that we cannot tackle the problem of drug misuse through law enforcement measures alone. As set out in the Government's new interim National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009 to 2016, it is vital to address the problem in a co-ordinated way across the pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. In this context, I can assure the House that my Department, and all the agencies under its aegis, remain fully committed to this approach and to the implementation of the Strategy.

The Garda authorities advise that the following tables show the quantities of drugs seized in 2007, 2008 and 2009 on the basis of cases reported to the Forensic Science Laboratory (valid as at 29 January 2010). Statistics provided for 2009 are operational, provisional and liable to change.

2009

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

572,333 gms

6,867,996

Cannabis Resin

1,538,226 gms

9,229,356

Heroin

78,668 gms

11,800,200

Cocaine

118,259 gms

8,278,130

Ecstasy

18,711 tabs & 3,288.496 gms

257,979

Amphetamine

36,508.358 gms & 6 tablets

547,625

BZP

4,371 gms; 309,236.5 tablets; 2,360 capsules

1,776,532

Total Value

38,787,818

2008*

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

1,018,594 gms

2,037,188

Cannabis Resin

5,371,426 gms

37,599,982

Heroin

212,619 gms

42,523,800

Cocaine

1,691,387 gms

118,397,090

Ecstasy

119,413 tablets & 1,199.5 gms

1,254,080

Amphetamine

11,794.7 gms, 1698 tablets

202,391

Total Value

202,014,531

2007

Drug Type

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

779,310.871 gms

1,558,622

Cannabis Resin

1,279,759.1 gms

8,957,883

Heroin

148,520 gms

29,704,000

Cocaine

1,769,027 gms

123,831,890

Ecstasy

285,017 tablets, 17,375.362 gms

3,718,920

Amphetamine

58,223 gms, 10,471 tablets

1,030,410

Total Value

168,739,218

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the legislation produced specifically to target organised crime gangs has become operational to date, with particular reference to all such legislation passed in 2009; the number of persons arrested, charged, released or given prison sentences arising directly from this legislation; the extent to which the modus operandi of criminal gangs has been affected by the implementation of this legislation; the number of special court sittings arising; the number of prison sentences imposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13205/10]

As the Deputy is aware the Criminal Justice Surveillance Act 2009, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 entered into force in July last year. The legislation in question represents additional legislative resources that the Oireachtas has made available to An Garda Síochána to facilitate them in their fight against serious and organised crime. Given the serious nature of the offences dealt with under the legislation in question a full and thorough investigation of individuals and their activities is necessary and must be conducted before charges can be brought against them.

Where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crimes. I am advised that as a result of investigations focussing on organised crime a number of Garda investigation files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions for direction. Relevant statistics in relation to the utilisation of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 will be compiled in the context of seeking the renewal of certain of its provisions later this year.

I can assure this House that members of An Garda Síochána will continue to utilise all resources available to them in order to combat the activities of those engaged in criminality of all forms. As Minister, I remain fully committed to supporting them in their ongoing efforts and will ensure that the necessary resources are made available as and when they may be required.

Legal Services Regulation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

61 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the observations of the Competition Authority that the new Legal Services Ombudsman will not introduce independent regulation to the industry. [13061/10]

What the independent Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman primarily provides for is better regulation of the system under which the complaints of clients of barristers and solicitors are investigated. This is the policy as contained in the Legal Services Ombudsman Act 2009. The overall systems under which the legal professions are regulated continue to be reviewed in my Department.

Proposed Legislation.

Joan Burton

Question:

62 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to legislate to restore the offence of misprision of felony; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12986/10]

There is a number of offences on the statute book which address the question of withholding information about serious offences, but let me first of all clarify what is meant by misprision of felony. As the Deputy may be aware, misprision of felony was a misdemeanour under the common law. It was committed by a person who knew that a felony had been committed and who could give information which might lead to the felon's arrest, but refrained from reporting it to the relevant authorities. Some exceptions were recognised, for example, where the information became available within the context of a privileged relationship, such as between lawyer and client, doctor and patient, clergyman and parishioner.

The Criminal Law Act 1997 abolished the categorisation of offences as felonies and misdemeanours, with effect from the commencement of that Act. The 1997 Act also introduced new offences of acting in a way that impedes the prosecution of persons who had committed an arrestable offence (section 7(2)) or of concealing an arrestable offence committed by another person in return for consideration (section 8). I also draw the Deputy's attention to two other provisions. Section 17 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 makes it an offence to administer an oath that requires a person to abstain from disclosing or giving information on the commission of any crime. Section 9 of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 makes it an offence to withhold information concerning serious offences (whether being planned or already committed). The definition of serious offence for the purposes of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 does not include offences of a sexual nature. Section 176 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 deals with a more specific situation. It creates an offence of reckless endangerment of a child. The offence arises where a person is in a position of authority in respect of a child or in respect of a person who is, within the meaning of the section, an 'abuser' and where that person knows that a child is at risk of harm or abuse but fails to take reasonable steps to protect a child from that risk.

Having regard to the statutory provisions already in place, I have no immediate plans for legislation in this area

Restorative Justice Provisions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

63 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Restorative Justice; and if so, the expected timeframe for same. [13059/10]

The comprehensive report on Restorative Justice provided to me by the National Commission continues to be examined by my Department. I will bring my proposals to Government in due course once we have looked at all the issues, including the resource implications. Our focus is to encourage the use, to the greatest extent possible, of the menu of non-custodial options available to the courts. The restorative justice concept has a place in that range of available options. Indeed, my Department, through the Probation Service, already funds two restorative projects — one in Nenagh and a second in Tallaght.

Proposed Legislation.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

64 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he plans to bring forward legislative proposals to change the law on debt enforcement arising from his speech to a Law Reform Commission conference on debt on 18 November 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13008/10]

My speech to the Annual Conference of the Law Reform Commission on 18 November, 2009 was significantly influenced by the Consultation Paper on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement, which the Commission had just published in September 2009. The Consultation Paper contains a very extensive list of provisional recommendations for reform of the law on personal debt. The Commission is aiming to have its Final Report available by the end of August 2010.

At my suggestion, the Commission agreed to focus, where possible, on proposals for publication at an earlier stage than the Final Report. A Working Group under the aegis of the Commission, consisting of a number of policy stakeholders, including my own Department and the Courts Service, is on course to produce an early report on such proposals by the end of April 2010. I can assure the Deputy that the Government intends that early action be taken by the relevant Departments, including my Department, on the reports of the Commission.

Community Policing.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

65 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied with the operation of the local policing committees; the numbers of such committees established to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12987/10]

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

On 24 September, 2008, I launched, with my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, guidelines for the Committees, which took into account the experience gained during a pilot phase and provided for the establishment of Committees in all 114 local authority areas by the relevant local authorities and the Garda Commissioner. I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 4 February, 99 Committees had been established. The operation of the Committees is kept under ongoing review by my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Each Committee is required to submit an annual report of its activities, and these reports inform the ongoing consideration of the operation of the Committees.

Garda Deployment.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

66 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda personnel engaged in providing driver and security services to members of the Government, members of the Judiciary; former taoisigh or former Ministers; if he has plans to review the numbers involved with a view to transferring some of these Garda officers to front-line duties fighting crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13011/10]

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.

Commercial Rent Reviews.

Joe Costello

Question:

67 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the membership and terms of reference of the working group to look at the issue of commercial rent reviews; when he expects this group to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12990/10]

The proposed terms of reference of the Working Group to address the issue of transparency in the area of commercial rent reviews are as follows:

"To consider the operation of the current system for determining the rent payable on foot of a rent review clause, with particular emphasis on the arbitration process and the adequacy of the information available to all parties and, if necessary, to make such recommendations for change as may seem appropriate."

It is envisaged that the Group will report by 30 June, 2010.

The membership of the Group is as follows:

Michael Durack SC (Chairman)

Martin O'Reilly (The Irish Association of Investment Managers)

David Potter (Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute)

Niall Gaffney (Irish Association of Pension Funds)

Barry Smyth (Society of Chartered Surveyors)

Stephen Mackarel (Retail Excellence Ireland)

Gavin Ralston SC

Torlach Denihan (Irish Business and Employers Confederation)

Avine McNally (Small Firms Association)

Mark Fielding (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association)

Grainne O'Carroll (Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment)

Jonathan Buttimore (Office of the Attorney General)

Regina Terry (Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

Mary Joy (Secretary to the Working Group)

Criminal Prosecutions.

Liz McManus

Question:

68 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the report of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Rape and Justice in Ireland, which found that only 7% of rapes reported to the Garda resulted in convictions; his proposals to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13000/10]

As I indicated in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 5591/10 of 4 February, 2010, I am aware of the report on the study commissioned by Rape Crisis Network Ireland entitledRape and Justice in Ireland. The study relates to attrition in rape cases, that is, the lack of progress on to completion of criminal cases and, more specifically, to the stages at which cases drop out from the criminal justice system, that is, from the initial report stage to the final stage of court proceedings. It should be noted that cases may not be progressed through the system due, for example, to insufficiency of evidence.

Earlier in the year Cosc — the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence — completed its priority work on the development of a National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence for the five-year period from 2010 to 2014. The national strategy was approved by Government on 9 February, 2010 and was published on 9 March, 2010. A particular action under the strategy relates to minimising attrition in domestic and sexual violence cases, where this is appropriate. The report to which the Deputy refers will, along with other pertinent research, inform work in relation to that action. The National Strategy can be downloaded from the Cosc websitewww.cosc.ie.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

69 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to revise Irish prostitution laws. [13023/10]

The laws governing prostitution provide a robust regime aimed at protecting society from the more intrusive aspects of prostitution while also protecting prostitutes from exploitation. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 makes it an offence to solicit or importune another person on a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution. The offence can be committed by the prostitute, client or third party. The Act also provides for offences such as organising prostitution, coercing or compelling a person to be a prostitute, knowingly living on the earnings of a prostitute or keeping or managing a brothel. In addition, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 makes it an offence to knowingly solicit or importune a trafficked person in any place, public or private, for the purpose of prostitution.

The present legislation does not distinguish between adult and child prostitution. I am considering providing for specific offences concerning child prostitution which would involve a more severe penalty regime than that provided for in current legislation. When proposals in this area are finalised, I intend including them in a comprehensive sexual offences Bill for which I will be seeking Government approval.

The law on prostitution is kept under continuing review in my Department. Suggestions are made from time to time for amendments to the legislation but, before effecting any changes in this area, apart from those at present under active consideration, I would have to be satisfied that they would be in the interests of the vulnerable people concerned and would not leave them open to greater exploitation.

International Agreements.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

70 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if discussions have taken place with the British authorities regarding the removal of barriers to access for tourists to markets both here and in the UK. [8120/10]

The UK and Ireland operate separate visa regimes and it is the case, therefore, that a person who obtains a visa to enter Ireland may also require a separate visa to enter the United Kingdom. While there could be tourism benefits from operating, for instance, a common visa policy, the issue is not as simple as it might appear. Comparisons are sometimes made with the Schengen area. It should be noted, however, that the operation of the Schengen area is underpinned by years of work on common codes, border control evaluations and IT systems. This does not mean that the two countries cannot explore ways of enhancing their systems to mutual benefit and enhanced cooperation on visa matters is an ongoing discussion item between the UK and Ireland.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 19.

Garda Deployment.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

72 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí stationed in counties Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal; the number provided in the same counties ten years ago; his views on whether there is a threat of violence in the Border region and that it is vital that sufficient personnel are available to ensure the safety of our nation and our people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13022/10]

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.

Departmental Bodies.

Joan Burton

Question:

73 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will list the boards, agencies or other groups operating under the aegis of his Department which he plans to merge or eliminate during 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12985/10]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 188 of 21 January, 2010.

Garda Deployment.

Joe Costello

Question:

74 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the recommendations contained in the latest report of the Garda Inspectorate on resource allocation that will be implemented during 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12989/10]

The latest report of the Inspectorate concerns the allocation of Garda resources and contains a range of positive recommendations on how the fluctuating demand for policing services can be better measured and how Garda resources can be efficiently deployed to meet that demand. Key to this will be the use of technology, such as command and control, computer aided dispatch, and HR systems, and the introduction of new and more effective roster systems. The aim is to maximise the number of front line Gardaí in the right place at the right time, building on the huge investment there has been recently in Garda technology and resources.

These are important and welcome recommendations which should be of significant assistance to the Commissioner and his team as they build on recent progress in making maximum use of resources. Indeed, Garda management already have well developed proposals for many of the key initiatives envisaged in the report, such as a new command and control system, a new computer aided despatch system and a new human resource management system. This ambitious programme builds on the recent and unprecedented investment in Garda technology which has seen the new national digital radio service being rolled out across the force, a new automated finger print and ballistics identification system, a new automated number plate recognition system and significant enhancements to the pulse system. In all, investment in Garda ICT programmes is currently running at approximately €70 million per year.

I will fully support the Garda Commissioner as he continues to implement and expand a wide-ranging programme of reform which effectively addresses the issues identified in the report.

Garda Operations.

Mary Upton

Question:

75 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions in 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010 in which grenades, bombs or improvised explosive devices have been used; the number of occasions in each year when the gardaí called on the assistance of the Army ordnance unit to deal with such devices; the number of prosecutions initiated as a result of the discovery of such devices; his views on the increased use of such devices by criminal elements; the steps that are being taken to curb the use of such devices, particularly having regard to the danger that they pose to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13017/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of times the Garda Síochána called on the assistance of the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team for the years 2007 to 2010 (to 19 March) are as set out in the following table.

2007

2008

2009

2010

98

180

196

34

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the figures for the number of detections, proceedings commenced and convictions for the offences of making explosives, possessing explosives and causing an explosion for the years 2007 to 2010 are as set out in the following table.

2007

2008

2009

2010*

Detections

10

18

14

3

Proceedings commenced

4

8

4

1

Convictions

1

1

0

0

*The figures for 2010 are to 21 March 2010 and are provisional.

Garda strategies in counteracting such activities are firmly focused on disrupting organised criminal groups and where sufficient evidence is adduced, proffering charges and bringing persons before the Courts. One of the priorities I have set for the Garda Síochána in 2010 is combating serious crime, in particular organised crime.

Operation Anvil is an important nationwide operation to deal with serious crime, including murder and other violent crime. The primary focus of this Operation is to target active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static checkpoints by uniform, mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain clothes patrols.

Gambling Laws.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

76 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made on the review of gambling announced by him in May 2009, when he expects this process to be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13007/10]

I have already indicated, in reply to recent Questions on this matter, that I hope to be in a position to seek Government approval of policy proposals for a new gambling architecture in the State. The policy proposals, which I would intend to publish, will be based on an examination of the 70 submissions received to date as part of the review process as well as the recommendations contained in the Report of the Casino Committee,Regulating Gaming in Ireland.

My Department is now finalising an examination of the 70 submissions in question. Following the settling of policy in relation to a new gambling architecture for the State, the Deputy can expect the publication of legislative proposals in the normal course.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

77 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13430/10]

Neither my Department nor the 8 Offices of my Department are currently leasing any properties to commercial businesses and, therefore, the provision of the information requested by the Deputy does not arise.

Job Creation.

Joe Behan

Question:

78 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the supports that are available to a company (details supplied) proposing to employ staff from a firm that is closing down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13466/10]

The Department does not provide direct funding to business or start-ups, rather it provides funding to the enterprise agencies. Assistance for small businesses and services in Ireland is delivered by a number of bodies, including the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland (EI). If the company in question is seeking to expand and requires the assistance of state supports in order to do so it may wish, in the first instance, to approach EI or its local CEB in order to ascertain if its business proposals qualify it for financial assistance.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

79 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans for the structure of the merged competition and consumer agency; its proposed board, executive committee and the division of responsibility between the two; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13480/10]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

80 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the correspondence between his Department, the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency regarding the proposed merger of the two bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13481/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

Work on the general scheme of the legislation to merge the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency is at an advanced stage. My Department is liaising closely with both bodies in relation to the preparation of the legislation. I expect to bring the general scheme of the Bill before Government for its approval in the coming weeks and to publish the legislation itself later this year. The Oireachtas, as part of its consideration of the legislation, will ultimately decide on the corporate structure of the merged body.

Consultancy Contracts.

Noel Ahern

Question:

81 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the website or other source of data that are available for contracts awarded, contracts submitted and under consideration for Departments, agencies and so on; the location at which subcontractors, workers and so on can see the work projects that are likely to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13494/10]

The Government website for invitations to tender for Public Sector contracts iswww.etenders.gov.ie. This is the official website for Public Service contracts and this site can be accessed to view all invitations to tender as well as contracts under consideration and contracts awarded. In line with Department of Finance guidelines all Public Service contracts over €50,000 are advertised on this website and many contracts below this threshold are also advertised on the site.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

82 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his views on changing the practice of paying part-time FÁS trainers only at the end of the contract period in view of the fact that this precludes them from receiving unemployment benefit or assistance for the days they are not working with FÁS and can lead to severe hardship; his further views on the introduction of staged payments as the contract progresses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13509/10]

The question of the conditions of employment of FÁS Instructors is a day-to-day staffing matter for FÁS under its functions as provided for in the Labour Services Act, 1987. I have therefore asked FÁS to contact the Deputy directly in the matter.

Companies Registration Office.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

83 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the length of time it takes to register a new start up company in the Companies Registration Office; his plans to ensure that the processing time is reduced to a same day situation as applies in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13534/10]

The Companies Registration Office processed over 380,000 statutorily required documents in 2009 of which 13,320 were new company registrations. The customer service target deadlines of five, ten and fifteen working days for the three company incorporation schemes operated by the Office were consistently met and regularly exceeded during 2009. I can assure the Deputy that every effort is being made within current resource constraints to ensure that all customers of the Companies Registration Office receive the best possible service.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

84 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13560/10]

My Department and the 8 Offices of my Department do not currently rent or lease any properties from property landlords. All the properties occupied by the Department and its Offices are provided by the Office of Public Works (OPW) without any cost to the Department or the Offices concerned. In many of those cases, the properties are rented or leased by the OPW from property landlords and the information requested by the Deputy, in relation to the number of lease agreements that contain upward rent review clauses etc. could, therefore, only be supplied by the Office of Public Works.

Tax Code.

Joe McHugh

Question:

85 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the reason it is mandatory to put cars through a national car test before scrapping them under the new car scrappage scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13477/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that under the terms of the scrappage scheme, as provided for in section 107 of the Finance Bill 2010, as passed by Dail Eireann, a number of conditions must be satisfied in order for a person to qualify for relief from vehicle registration tax (VRT) when a new passenger car with CO2 emissions of not more than 140g/km (i.e. CO2 band A or B) is purchased and registered and another passenger car, over ten years old, is scrapped.

The principal rationale behind the scrappage scheme was to take older, less environmentally friendly, and less safe cars off the roads. Consequently, many of the qualifying conditions were included to ensure that the cars qualifying for the scrappage scheme were actually in use on the road up to the time of scrappage, as opposed to being vehicles that essentially had already been taken off road and which, for example, were simply being stored in "scrap yards" and other locations.

To this end, one of the conditions to be satisfied for qualification for the scrappage scheme is that the vehicle for scrapping must have a current valid national car test (NCT), or one that has expired no more than 90 days immediately before the date of scrappage. Alternatively, in order to cater for cases where a vehicle may have recently failed an NCT test, the vehicle must have been presented for and failed the NCT in the previous 6 months.

The "NCT requirement" for the scrappage scheme, therefore, is simply a provision to ensure that the vehicles being scrapped as part of the scheme comply with the underlying principle that only vehicles that are genuinely taken off the road are eligible for the scrappage repayment.

Economic Growth.

Joe Costello

Question:

86 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the percentage change in GNP for each year between 2000 and 2010; the percentage change in GDP between 2000 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13385/10]

The annual percentage change in the volume of GDP and GNP each year between 2000 and 2010 is shown in the table. The figures for this year are the projections which underpin the 2010 Budget. The cumulative increase in the level of GDP between 2000 and 2010 is estimated at 30 per cent; the equivalent figure for GNP is 17 per cent. The latest indications are that economic activity is stabilising and most commentators expect a return to positive annual growth in the second half of this year.

GDP

GNP

2000

9.4

9.8

2001

5.7

3.8

2002

6.5

2.9

2003

4.4

5.7

2004

4.6

4.3

2005

6.2

5.6

2006

5.4

6.3

2007

6.0

4.4

2008

-3.0

-2.8

2009

-7.1

-11.3

2010 (f)

-1.3

-1.7

Flood Relief.

Joe Behan

Question:

87 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied) to protect the homes of citizens from future flood damage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13411/10]

The OPW is very aware of the importance of being prepared for a flood event, and of putting in place appropriate measures to mitigate, at a household level, the worst effects and damages. With this in mind, a website, information leaflet and communications campaign entitled PLAN PREPARE PROTECT was initiated in 2005. There is valuable information for members of the public, householders and businesses contained therein. The Office of Public Works will, in the next 12 months, undertake a review of the content and presentation of the website.

National Asset Management Agency.

Mary Upton

Question:

88 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether banks are supporting non-viable hotels in order to keep them open until such time as the assets can be transferred to the National Asset Management Agency; his further views on the impact that this is having on the entire hotel industry; the action that he proposes to take to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13419/10]

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is being established to remove the portfolios of risky assets from the balance sheets of relevant institutions. The loans to be purchased will be the land and development loans of these institutions and certain associated loans. Loans secured on hotels will be eligible only if they fall within these categories.

I would emphasise that, once a borrower's loans are transferred to it, NAMA will engage in a rigorous and extensive assessment of that borrower's viability. This will include an evaluation of the commercial viability of the assets on which the borrower's loans are secured. In terms of supporting or developing assets, NAMA must necessarily target those assets which have the best long-term prospects. It would not be in line with NAMA's commercial remit to support assets which are not viable. Overcapacity in the hotel sector is complex and ideally requires a market response over time. The process of adjustment will gain further momentum over the coming months as more banks seek to clean up their balance sheets and dispose of under-performing loans. These market-led adjustments are necessary in order to restore some level of equilibrium in the hotel market.

With regard to the transfer of loans to NAMA, Section 66(1)(a) of the NAMA Act provides that applicant institutions must continue to administer, service and deal with all of its loans that are eligible for transfer in the same manner as a prudent lender would do.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

89 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13456/10]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

92 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13562/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 92 together.

My Department has no properties which are being leased to commercial businesses.

I have been informed by the Office of Public Works that in the time available they are unable to provide the information requested by the Deputy. As soon as this information is to hand it will forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Question:

90 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if he will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois as to whether they are in receipt of the correct amount of tax relief at source in respect of their mortgage interest payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13462/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, regrettably, due to industrial action by some staff, it is not possible to ascertain the specific details of this case in the time available.

Departmental Contracts.

Noel Ahern

Question:

91 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the website or other source of data that is available for contracts awarded, contracts submitted and under consideration for Government Departments, Government Agencies and so on; the location at which subcontractors, workers and so on can see the work projects that are likely to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13493/10]

The public procurement websitewww.etenders.gov.ie is the national reference point for all matters relating to public procurement in Ireland. Notices of significant contracts to be awarded by public bodies (normally those of €50,000 and upwards but in many cases as low as €10,000) are published on the website. Many contracting authorities publish advance notice of intended purchases (prior information notices) to alert interested suppliers of upcoming opportunities. Information on contracts awarded, mainly those for contracts above value thresholds requiring publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (approximately €5 million for works contracts and €200,000 for supplies and service contracts of most contracting authorities) are also published on the website. In addition, many public bodies provide general information on their procurement requirements on their own websites.

Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 89.

Health Levy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

93 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person earning €26,000 per annum who receives a pay rise can, as a result, have less take home pay in view of the fact that when one's pay exceeds €26,000 per annum one must pay a 4% health levy on all income; her plans to remove this anomaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13472/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

94 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of appropriate intervention services to a child (details supplied) in County Cork by a service provider. [13396/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

95 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be provided for an operation in the case of a person (details supplied). [13398/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

96 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. [13405/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Accommodation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

97 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will guarantee the people of Erris that all 40 beds in Belmullet Hospital, County Mayo, will remain open and will be staffed sufficiently to adhere to health and safety regulations. [13408/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

98 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason that Belmullet Hospital, County Mayo, has not been able to recruit temporary staff to cover annual and sick leave, when other hospitals in the county have been able to bring in temporary staff to cover such leave. [13409/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

99 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of employees across all grades and across all levels who are employed in the Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway, for the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and up to 1 March 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13431/10]

The number of employees (in wholetime equivalents) at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, by grade category is shown as follows.

Portiuncula Hospital

31/12/2007

31/12/2008

31/12/2009

31/01/2010

General Support Staff

82.78

90.83

88.82

88.82

Health & Social Care Professionals

67.63

68.23

62.59

62.59

Management/Administration

108.87

116.09

111.99

111.99

Medical/ Dental

78.58

77.53

76.51

76.51

Nursing

281.28

283.52

279.16

279.16

Other Patient & Client Care

61.72

58.55

58.2

58.2

Total

680.86

694.75

677.27

677.27

The latest data available on the HSE's health service personnel census is for January 2010. However, due to the industrial action, the HSE has advised that some data on the census for January 2010 is incomplete and, in such cases, data for December 2009 has been rolled forward.

Michael Creed

Question:

100 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a surgical appointment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13442/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Funding.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

101 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if direct funding from the Exchequer will be guaranteed for a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork for 2010 and 2011; the nature of the funding; the amount of funding that will be allocated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13443/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

102 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money to be allocated to a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork through the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13445/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

103 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money spent on maintenance and upgrade of the interior of a hospital (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13453/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

104 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of properties that her Department is currently leasing to commercial businesses along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward-only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by her Department to ensure these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13458/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Sean Fleming

Question:

105 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health and Children whether there are instructions to community welfare officers to check whether properties are registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board, which can be done through the published register on the Internet, before persons are approved for rent supplement; the number of rent supplements being provided to tenants who are in properties that are not registered with the PRTB, and the value of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13464/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

106 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13471/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Community Care.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

107 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 was refused payment by the Community Welfare Office. [13474/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Long-term Illnesses.

Joe McHugh

Question:

108 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to recent changes to the Health Research Board criteria by progressing efforts to support sufferers of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13478/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Cancer Prevention.

Noel Ahern

Question:

109 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children if the HPV vaccination programme for girls currently in first year will start before summer 2010 or afterwards; if it applies to girls currently in first year; if it will be administered to girls now in first year who will be in second year this autumn and who may only be reached after the summer; and when the programme will progress to the next stage. [13502/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Medical Cards.

Noel Ahern

Question:

110 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the processing of medical card applications in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; if existing cards are still valid until the renewal process, including appeals, is completed; the reason applications are refused to persons on basic social welfare payments; if basic reasoning has been lost in the new system; and the further reason a renewal application from this person has been refused. [13503/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Staff.

Noel Ahern

Question:

111 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of ear, nose and throat consultants that are attached to Temple Street Children’s Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a 12-month delay for ENT outpatient appointments; if she will prioritise the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13504/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

112 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted for a knee replacement; or, alternatively, if they will be placed on the list for the National Treatment Purchase Fund to have the procedure expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13538/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

113 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 256 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [13544/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

114 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 260, of 16 February 2010 when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [13545/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Foster Care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

115 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 261 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [13546/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

116 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 262 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [13547/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

117 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 18 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [13548/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

118 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 83 of 18 February 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [13549/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

119 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of properties that her Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by her Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13564/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Road Network.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

120 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if supplementary funding will be provided to Cork County Council for necessary roads repair works arising from the recent weather conditions because of the fact that the northern division of the county council has suspended its planned roads restoration programme in view of the emergency maintenance. [13384/10]

When deciding on the allocation of over €412 million in Exchequer regional and local road grants for 2010 my priority was to protect the existing investment in the roads network and to carefully target resources to address, on a priority basis, the most urgently required repairs resulting from the extensive damage caused by the recent severe weather. With that in mind, I simplified the grants structure and gave more flexibility to local authorities to direct funding to these priorities.

These grants, which supplement expenditure by local authorities from their own resources, represent a very significant investment at a time when public finances are under severe pressure. They bring the total Exchequer investment in regional and local roads since 1997 to over €6 billion. There is no additional Exchequer funding available to me to supplement the €42.38 million provided to Cork County Council.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

121 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13461/10]

The Department of Transport has no such leasing arrangements with commercial businesses.

Public Transport.

Michael McGrath

Question:

122 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding funding for the further implementation of a green route (details supplied) in County Cork in 2010. [13467/10]

Yesterday I announced €14 million in grants for bus priority and park and ride in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. This included an allocation of €5.33 million for Cork City Council which manages the Green Route programme in both city and county. The bulk of this funding is for the Ballincollig Green Route which will have significant bus priority. It was not possible to provide funding this year for the Carrigaline Green Route but it can be re-submitted for future funding.

Rail Network.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

123 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport when the new train station (details supplied) will be opened at Hansfield on the new Dunboyne spur; the reason the developer has not been given notice to provide a road to the station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13479/10]

The opening of new train stations is a matter for Iarnrod Éireann, which has been asked to respond directly to you regarding this matter.

Rural Transport Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

124 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the future direction he sees for the rural transport programme in relation to international best practice on the concept for all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13505/10]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

125 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that the rural transport programme will continue beyond 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13506/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Dáil Question No 71 on 24th March 2010.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

126 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the reduction of services in rural areas by Bus Éireann, he proposes that the public service obligations funding involved will be diverted from Bus Éireann to the rural transport programme in order that alternative services will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13507/10]

Since 1st December 2009, the imposition of public service obligations in the provision of bus services is a matter which comes under the remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA). The Oireachtas Liaison Officer for the NTA is Mr. Matt Benville, The National Transport Authority, 59 Dawson St., Dublin 2. Regarding funding for rural transport, the provision for the Rural Transport Programme in 2010 is being maintained at €11million, reflecting the Government's continued commitment to the programme, which plays an important role in combating social exclusion in rural Ireland.

Public Transport.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

127 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the launch of a report on Transport and Access to Social Services by the Department of Social and Family Affairs; the steps that he proposes to take regarding the present situation where State funding in being provided for a range of parallel and fragmented transport mobility supports frequently operating independently of each other and unlikely to be the best use of resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13508/10]

I refer to the Deputy to my reply of Dáil Question No. 244 of 2 March 2010 on the matter.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

128 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13567/10]

The arrangement of property leases, the applicable terms and rental levels etc. in respect of leased buildings used by the Department of Transport is made by the Office of Public Works. I am advised that the information sought by the Deputy will be provided by the Minister for Finance in his reply to this question.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of criminal gang members charged with offences in each of the past three years to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13361/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of criminal gangs on trial at any time during the past three years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13362/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes committed by known members of criminal gangs while on trial in each of the past five years to date in 2010 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13363/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129, 130 and 132 together.

I am advised by the Garda Authorities that it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy. Due to the fluid nature of the membership of criminal gangs it is not always possible to ascribe specific crimes to the activities of members of those gangs.

An Garda Síochána continue to utilise all available legislative provisions available to them in their pursuit of those involved in criminal gangs. The additional legislative provisions introduced by the Oireachtas in 2007 and 2009 which amend the Criminal Justice Act 2006 will greatly assist Gardaí in relation to the problem of organised crime and will help them to further develop and implement strategies to dismantle and disrupt criminal networks through the use of advanced analytical and intelligence methods. The use of targeted intelligence led operations will facilitate the early intervention of Gardaí and help prevent such crimes.

Where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crime. A member of An Garda Síochána must, at all times, have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has been involved in criminal activity before they can arrest and question any person in relation to criminality.

There are currently a number of initiatives underway targeting the activities of Organised Crime Groups, the focus of which is to gather evidence on which it is envisaged that charges under the recently enacted legislation may be directed by the Law Officers. A number of these initiatives are at an advanced stage and investigation files have been submitted to the Law Officers for direction. In other cases, files are being prepared for submission to the Law Officers.

Prisoner Releases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure for the granting of special day accompanied, unaccompanied or other form of prisoner release or early release; the number approved in the past two years to date in 2010; if any such releasee absconded during release; the action taken to prevent recurrence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13366/10]

All temporary releases granted to prisoners, whether it be for a few hours or a more extended period, are governed by the detailed provisions set out in the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003. The statistical information sought by the Deputy is not readily available and could only be compiled by the use of a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort. This could not be justified where there are other significant demands on resources within the Irish Prison Service.

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 129.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners incarcerated in each of the past two years to date in 2010 in tabular form; the number of prison cells accommodating one prisoner only; the number with more than one; the cell or cells recording the highest number of prisoners in the period in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13367/10]

The Irish Prison Service Annual Report for 2008 indicates that there were 13,557 committals to prison involving 10,928 persons for that year. The Report was published on the 14th August 2008 and is available on the website of the Irish Prison Service atwww.irishprisons.ie. Final statistics for 2009 are in the process of being prepared and will be published in the Annual Report for that year in the near future. The other information sought by the Deputy is not readily available.

Temporary Release of Prisoners.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality Law Reform the number of prisoners that have absconded while on special day or other release in the past five years and to date in 2010; if crimes were committed while on such release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13364/10]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available and could only be compiled by the use of a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort. This could not be justified where there are other significant demands on resources within the Irish Prison Service. Statistics in relation to convictions by the Courts, which are the only definitive indicator of crimes committed by particular individuals, are a matter for the Courts Service, which under the Courts Service Act 1998 is independent in the performance of its functions.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the total Garda strength at present; the degree to which this has fluctuated in each of the past two years to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13368/10]

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.

Juvenile Offenders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to augment the Garda JLO service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13369/10]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my answer earlier today to Question No. 6.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the latest crime figures by category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13370/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. The CSO publishes recorded crime statistics on a quarterly basis, which are available on the CSO website www.cso.ie.

The CSO statistics for 2009 indicate that there was a decrease in nine of the 14 crime groups for which statistics are given, compared with 2008. This indicates that the work of An Garda Síochána and other justice agencies is providing a robust and consistent response to the threat posed by criminal elements.

In 2009 there were significant decreases in the numbers of cases of manslaughter and dangerous driving leading to death. This contributed to a fall in homicide offences of 10.1% during 2009, compared with 2008. There were also welcome decreases in public order offences, which were down 7.8%, and controlled drug offences, which were down 6.3%.

I am concerned by the 2.2% increase in property theft during the year. Everyone will be conscious of the fears of elderly people, many of whom live alone. We have seen a number of cases where elderly people have been subject to bogus callers to their homes. While people should be vigilant, we must do what we can to protect elderly and vulnerable people. I have met the Attorney General about the issue of mandatory sentencing for such crimes, and he has requested the Law Reform Commission to examine the issue. I will consider whether any further measures are required in the context of the examination by the Law Reform Commission and advice from the Attorney General.

While the number of cases of murder and manslaughter taken together (55 in total) showed no increase between 2008 and 2009, I continue, nevertheless, to be concerned about the levels of such crimes. An Garda Síochána faces severe challenges in dealing with gangland murders. In some cases persons who have been identified by An Garda Síochána as being at risk not only do not cooperate with Gardaí but instead seek to thwart the Gardaí at every turn so they can get on with their gangland activities. It was partly against the background of the difficulties in obtaining evidence in such cases that last year I introduced two ground-breaking pieces of legislation: the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act. Since the legislation was enacted, the Gardaí have been utilising it fully to build up cases against those involved in gangland crime. Some files are with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and more are being prepared for submission to him.

Sentencing Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions on which known members of criminal gangs were granted bail in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13371/10]

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.

Drugs in Prisons.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions which the introduction of illegal drugs has been detected in each prison, detention or correction centre throughout the country in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; the action taken to combat the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13365/10]

Prior to May 2008 seizure of drugs was recorded under the generic description "prohibited articles" and a detailed breakdown in the manner requested by the Deputy is not available. From May (when new security initiatives were first introduced) to 31 December 2008, there were 351 drug seizures within the Irish prison system and up to and including 13 September 2009, the date for which the most recent figures are available, there have been 696 drug seizures within the Irish prison system in that year. Final statistics for 2009 are currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy along with any available for this year to date as soon as possible.

The Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs out of Prison was launched in May 2006 to deal with the challenge posed by drugs getting into prisons. The implementation of this Policy & Strategy has seen an intensification of efforts in the prison system to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons. The measures taken reflect the many and varied ways in which attempts are made to bring drugs into prisons and include:

Tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons.

New visiting arrangements in most closed prisons, with visitors required to be pre-approved by the Governor and required to provide identification on each visit.

Greater use of screened visits.

Greater vigilance in examining mail by prison censors and searching of other items entering the prison.

Increased random searching of cells and their occupants.

Stricter searching of all persons committed to custody and prisoners returning from court, temporary release, after visits or on receipt of intelligence.

Use of modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, under floor boards and other cavities.

Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs. Use of phone detectors and phased installation of telephone blocking technology.

In addition, a number of new security initiatives have been introduced in all closed prisons including:

The introduction of enhanced security screening for all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons.

The establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 30 handling teams.

The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence on illicit material being hidden inside our prisons; they will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific security problem areas.

The Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chair was introduced by the Irish Prison Service in early 2008 and to date eight chairs have been installed.

The new security screening at prison entrances and the measures introduced have had considerable success in preventing the flow of and assisting in the capture of contraband such as illicit drugs. The battle will be an ongoing one in which I an determined to take whatever practical measures are possible to thwart illegal activity. There will be no easing off in relation to the security measures already in place and enhancements and improvements will continue to take place in the future.

There is regular contact between the Irish Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues and the Gardaí will be continue to be contacted whenever any suspected criminal offence has taken place. The Irish Prison Service continues to work to implement its Drugs Policy and Strategy, which also includes continued significant investment in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population as well as meeting prisoners' treatment and rehabilitative needs.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes by category committed and reported in County Kildare in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; the number of prosecutions arising therefrom; the success or other wise of such prosecutions; the extent of property recovered thereafter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13372/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I will make arrangements, as soon as possible, to forward the Deputy's request to the CSO for direct reply. I draw the Deputy's attention to the publication Garda Recorded Crime Statistics 2004 — 2008, available on the website of the Central Statistics Office www.cso.ie, which includes a detailed breakdown of offences by Garda Division.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the opening hours of each Garda station in County Kildare; the extent to which this has fluctuated over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13373/10]

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.

Prisoner Numbers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drug dealers now in prison or due for release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13374/10]

There are currently 1,079 individuals serving sentences for drugs related offences. The majority of these are sentences arising from prosecution for possession of drugs where the court formed the view that there was an intent to supply. In the case of 777 of these individuals, the drugs related offence represents the only or most serious of the prison sentence(s) they are serving. A further 302 are serving sentences for more serious offences in addition to the drugs offence. All convicted prisoners, other than those sentenced to life imprisonment, are due for release as soon as their sentence expires.

Child Abuse.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

143 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on extending the remit of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin to cover other dioceses in the country; the position regarding the Garda investigation into matters arising from the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13238/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Commission's report on the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin was published last November. The Commission is at present examining the Diocese of Cloyne, and the Government extended the Commission's term to June to allow this work to be completed.

I am informed by my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that the Health Service Executive (HSE) is currently in the process of completing its audit of Catholic dioceses to ensure that it, as the statutorily responsible body, is fully aware of all cases of clerical child sex abuse known to the Church. It is expected that the HSE will submit a comprehensive report to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs by the end of April for his consideration.

The Assistant Commissioner appointed by the Garda Commissioner to examine the findings of the Dublin Archdiocese report relating to the handling of complaints and investigations by both Church and State authorities is carrying out such investigations and inquiries as he deems appropriate. When he reports to the Commissioner with his recommendations, the Commissioner will consult with the DPP as to what issues arise in the context of criminal liability. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Commissioner has directed that the investigation be concluded as early as possible.

Consideration of the results of these investigations will include consideration of what further actions require to be taken, including a possible extension of the Commission's remit. Bringing the perpetrators to justice, whenever and wherever the abuse occurred, must be the absolute priority. I repeat my call for any person, including members of the clergy, who has knowledge of such abuse to contact An Garda Síochána. I am sure all members of the House will support that call.

Departmental Matters.

Dan Neville

Question:

144 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13383/10]

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.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

145 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13459/10]

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.

Residency Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

146 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application to remain in the State in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13484/10]

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.

Visa Applications.

Noel Ahern

Question:

147 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will extend a visa in respect of a person (details supplied) by six weeks in accordance with a medical letter as submitted to his Department. [13490/10]

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.

Citizenship Applications.

Noel Ahern

Question:

148 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for a certificate of naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied). [13492/10]

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.

Higher Education Grants.

Noel Ahern

Question:

149 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the person who sets the nationality requirements of the higher education grants scheme; if they are set here or by the EU; the reason those who have refugee status qualify but those given permission to stay due to the fact they had an Irish born child and may have got refugee status are denied the rights of the scheme for themselves and their children; if an application for naturalisation will be fast-tracked to allow an 18 year old to get their entitlement for a college (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13495/10]

The eligibility criteria for higher education grants does not fall within the remit of my Department. Matters relating to the higher education grants scheme are the responsibility of the Minister for Education and Science.

In the absence of more detailed information relating to a specific case, the Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to provide a definitive response. However, I can advise of the position generally.

Applications for a certificate of naturalisation are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. Additional resources were allocated to the Citizenship Division of my Department to enable certain categories of applicant to be dealt with more expeditiously. These include refugees, spouses of Irish citizens and minors.

The average processing time from application to decision is 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straightforward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of Irish citizenship which is an honour and a privilege is not undervalued or debased and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Citizenship Applications.

Noel Ahern

Question:

150 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for a certificate of naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and when it will be processed and approved. [13499/10]

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.

Garda Strength.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

151 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the numbers of members of the Garda Reserve in each of the Garda stations in Cork south west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13511/10]

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.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

152 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the numbers of community gardaí in each of the Garda stations in Cork south west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13512/10]

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.

Garda Vetting Unit.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

153 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the average time it takes to process applications for Garda clearance; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties in relation to employment arising from delays; and if he will provide adequate resources to the Garda Vetting Office to ensure that such delays are eliminated. [13535/10]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for a large number of organisations in Ireland registered with the Gardaí for this purpose and which employ persons in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or training capacity to positions where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults.

The GCVU has managed a substantial increase over recent years in the numbers of vetting applications it receives — 187,864 in 2007; 218,404 in 2008 and 246,194 in 2009.

The processing time for vetting applications fluctuates during the year due to seasonal demands when the volume of applications received from certain sectors can increase, for training placements for example. Additional time may be required to process an individual vetting application in cases where clarification is required as to the details provided or where other enquiries need to be made, for example, when the person in question has lived and worked abroad. There will always be a reasonably significant time period required to process a vetting application. However, the Gardaí make every effort to reduce this to the minimum possible consistent with carrying out the necessary checks. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the average processing time for valid vetting applications received at the GCVU may vary from four to five weeks in periods of lower demand to up to 12 weeks at times when demand is particularly high.

The allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. There is currently a total of 78 personnel assigned to the vetting unit, including six Gardaí and 72 Garda civilian personnel. This represents a very significant increase in the level of personnel assigned to the unit, which stood at only 13 before the current process of development in Garda vetting began in 2005.

Circumvention of Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

154 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to efforts by landlords to circumvent the prohibition on upward only rent reviews such as ensuring that only the landlord may trigger the rent review; the steps he will take to ensure that the intent of the new Act is not frustrated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13539/10]

The Deputy will be aware that the effect of Section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 is that future rent review clauses will be construed as providing that the rent can go up, down or remain the same by reference to the rent payable immediately prior to the review date. This provision applies even where the future lease has a provision which specifies upward only rent reviews. The provision does not have retrospective effect and will not apply to business leases (or agreements for such leases) which have been entered into prior to 28 February 2010.

My Department has received no representations on the matter adverted to by the Deputy. In any event, I would point out that the question as to who should initiate the rent review process is a matter which has to be settled by all parties to the lease and cannot be determined unilaterally.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

155 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13565/10]

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.

Departmental Investigations.

Chris Andrews

Question:

156 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress that has been made on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13382/10]

The examination of this issue is at a very early stage and we are working in consultation with other Government Departments. It should be noted that in the UK case, consideration of the issues and consultation of interested parties took two years.

Passport Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

157 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied); if this will be processed as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13406/10]

The passport for the person in question will be ready for collection at the Molesworth Street Office on Friday March 26.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

158 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13457/10]

My Department has no such properties.

Passport Applications.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

159 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to ensure that person who apply for a passport through the passport express service receive their passports on time. [13516/10]

As the Deputy is aware customers have been experiencing disruption to passport services as a result of ongoing industrial action in the public service. Unfortunately, this has lead to a significant backlog of passport applications leading to significant delays in processing passport applications in the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department has been advising the pubic of the extent of these problems through media channels, newspaper advertisements and via the Department's website.

On 4 March last the problems being experienced reached a point where the Passport Service had to withdraw the guarantee of turnaround times for all passport applications.

On 16 March last accommodation and equipment in the Passport Office in Molesworth Street were badly damaged as a result of a water leak which occurred through the night before. It was therefore necessary to shut the Molesworth Street operation on that day and services were temporarily provided from some of the Department's other offices in the vicinity. Work on restoring the office is almost complete and over recent days the level of disruption has been kept to a minimum as a result of the contingency arrangements which were put in place.

The Department has contingency measures in place to minimise the disruption to the Passport Service. These include the operation of two production facilities, the primary site based in Balbriggan and a series of passport system redundancy and resilience measures. Additionally the office was able to quickly move staff to work from space in the Department's offices in the city centre.

The industrial action has led to a backlog of nearly 50,000 passport applications in the system and application turnaround time is up to 20 working days. As a result the Department advises that it is not possible to fast-track any application other than in a case of genuine family emergency, in which case proof will be required that travel is necessitated by the death, illness or welfare of a family member. The issuing of passports in such emergencies is not affected by the industrial dispute. Furthermore the public counters and out of hours services should only be used by those who have a necessity to travel for reasons of family emergency. The CPSU have been repeatedly asked to suspend their industrial action by myself and the two main opposition parties.

On Tuesday of this week the CPSU announced their intention to extend the definition of emergency travel to include applications for immediate travel. Unfortunately, the CPSU proposal was not matched by a commitment to suspend or even relax the ongoing industrial action measures so as to allow acceleration in passport production.

Any attempt to implement such arrangements in the absence of a willingness to deal with the causes of the current backlog — the refusal of the unions to allow the deployment of temporary seasonal staff and their ban on working overtime, would result only in the arbitrary prioritisation of some applications at the expense of others and to an increased number of callers at the public office.

Customers are advised to check the expiry dates of passports before making any overseas travel plans and to apply in sufficient time that the new passport can be received before the intended date of travel. In response to the action the Department has temporarily suspended the requirement that applicants submit their existing passport with their application for a new passport. Where the current passport has not yet fully expired customers may include a photocopy of the personal details pages of the current passport with their application for a new passport.

Any member of the public who wants an update on their passport application should use the tracking system on www.passport.ie before attending any passport office.

The Department has also considered the feasibility of automatically extending the period of validity of existing passports. However, international standards on the validity of travel documents prevent this possibility.

The dispute is having major impact on the travelling public. There are very many Irish citizens whose trips abroad have had to be cancelled and holiday and work plans severely disrupted. The resolution of this dispute will occur through the talks processes underway and I call upon the public service unions to defer their action while these talks continue.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

160 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13563/10]

My Department pays the rent on office space in two buildings in Dublin:

Ground floor of Hospitality House, Cumberland Street, Dublin 2. This property is leased directly by my Department. The 20 year lease contains a provision for upward only rent reviews at 5 year intervals. The annual rental cost is currently €144,900. However, the lease on these premises is being terminated this year.

Ground floor of Findlater House, 27-31 Upper O'Connell Street, Dublin 1. This property is leased by the Office of Public Works (OPW) on behalf of my Department. Consequently, all matters in relation to the lease are negotiated by the OPW. The annual rental cost is currently €417,450.

All other rent commitments relating to properties in the State occupied by the Department of Foreign Affairs are discharged by the Office of Public Works.

In addition, 109 properties are rented by my Department outside the State for use primarily as offices and official residences.

Rental agreements vary from country to country in accordance with local law and practice. Leases are usually for a fixed period and many include rent review clauses. Rent increases on renewal of leases are generally in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of the particular country.

Rent levels abroad are reviewed each year. In addition, in the current economic climate, all our Missions are routinely instructed to explore the scope for negotiated reductions, having regard to local market conditions.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

161 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism the number of properties that her Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by her Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13425/10]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

162 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism the number of properties that her Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by her Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13555/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 162 together.

My Department is not currently leasing any properties from property landlords or to business.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

163 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13427/10]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

164 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13557/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department does not lease any properties to commercial businesses, nor does my Department pay rent in respect of properties occupied by its staff. That function, and all matters relating to the acquisition and leasing of property, including rent reviews are the responsibility of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

However, I can confirm to the Deputy that 7 properties are being leased on my Department's behalf by the OPW. These comprise:

my Department's headquarters building in Dublin;

two properties in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, in which staff relocated under the Decentralisation Programme are being accommodated on an interim basis;

two local offices in Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal, and Acaill, Co Mayo from Údarás na Gaeltachta; and

two warehousing facilities in Finglas, Dublin, and Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

165 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in processing a rent allowance application under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare. [13436/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

166 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the Health Service Executive has authority to determine the location at which a couple should reside in view of the fact that such a determination has been given to a couple who sought rent subsidy and were refused on the grounds that the couple should reside in the home of the parents of one of the applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13446/10]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Service Division of the Health Service Executive as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The purpose of the rent supplement is to provide short-term support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

A person (or couple) may be eligible for rent supplement if the accommodation is suitable to their needs, the rent is below the maximum rent level set for their county and the person (or couple) has been:

assessed in the last 12 months by a local authority as being eligible for and in need of social housing, or;

living in accommodation for homeless people for 6 months (183 days) out of the last 12 months, or;

living in private rented accommodation for 6 months (183 days) out of the last 12 months, or;

a tenant of accommodation provided under one of the Social Housing Schemes.

And the applicant(s) satisfies:

a habitual residence test, and

a means test.

Applications for rent supplement are made to the appropriate local community welfare officers who will review the applicant(s) entitlement based on his, her or their personal circumstances. Community Welfare Officers review each case based on the circumstances presented, eligibility to rent supplement are based on the above criteria.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

167 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13376/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Phil Hogan

Question:

168 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an application for carer’s allowance will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13378/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Phil Hogan

Question:

169 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on an application for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13379/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Industrial Disputes.

James Bannon

Question:

170 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the control he has over his Department, as persons who are unemployed through no fault of their own are being refused assistance due to industrial action by his officials, which amounts to dereliction of their duty and his; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13387/10]

James Bannon

Question:

171 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he is prepared to offer his resignation due to his inability to assist those persons who have been driven to despair and in some cases suicide by the lack of essential support from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13388/10]

James Bannon

Question:

172 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will resign due to his inability to run his Department efficiently, with essential assistance being delayed to an untenable level due to industrial action which has left his powerless and paralysed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13389/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 to 172, inclusive, together.

Staff represented by the CPSE, PSEU and IMPACT have been engaged in industrial action in my Department since January 2010. The main purpose of the Department is to provide income maintenance services to the public and consequently, the Department's staff are engaged in work that either directly delivers services to the public or that supports the delivery of those services. Given the nature of the Department's work, it is simply not possible to ensure that services to the public are not affected by the current work to rule and related actions.

The action taken to date has mainly been in the form of not answering phones, not dealing with the public at certain times during the normal working day, not covering for certain staff absences or where there are vacancies and not responding to queries from public representatives by way of telephone or through Parliamentary Questions. The CPSU has, additionally, instituted a ban on overtime working with effect from 15 March 2010. Staff are continuing to take and process claims and while the industrial action is having an increasingly negative effect on service delivery, the impact to date has been relatively limited. The initial impact of the CPSU ban on overtime working has been a 1 day delay in some 22,500 payments, mainly to recipients of Jobseeker and Illness payments.

The overall management response to the industrial action is being managed centrally by the Department of Finance with input from all Government Departments, including my Department, and other public service sectors. It is completely unacceptable to me that people should experience delays in receiving their social welfare entitlements because of industrial action. However, the industrial action is being closely monitored in my Department on a daily basis and the Department's management is maintaining contacts with the unions concerned to ensure, insofar as possible, that the negative impact on the Department's customers is minimised. In the meantime, in circumstances where customers of the Department are experiencing hardship through delayed Social Welfare payments it is open to them to apply for assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

173 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13390/10]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

176 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13395/10]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

178 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13407/10]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

183 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13434/10]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

185 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a file on an appeal for illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13439/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173, 176, 178, 183, and 185 together.

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

174 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13392/10]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

175 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13394/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 175 together.

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 173.

Phil Hogan

Question:

177 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an application for illness benefit will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13404/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Question No. 178 answered with Question No. 173.

Pension Provisions.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

179 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for a non-contributory State pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13410/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Creed

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has received an appeal on a disability allowance claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if, in view of the medical circumstances involved he will look favourably on the appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13416/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

181 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) is not entitled to social welfare. [13418/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

182 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13432/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Question No. 183 answered with Question No. 173.

Pension Provisions.

Phil Hogan

Question:

184 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on a contributory widows pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13438/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Question No. 185 answered with Question No. 173.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Creed

Question:

186 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will have renewal of a family income supplement confirmed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13440/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

187 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for the family income supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13447/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

188 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason carer’s allowance was not awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the person being cared for lives with the applicant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13449/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

189 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a child benefit application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13452/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Joe Costello

Question:

190 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will reconsider his decision to refuse jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13454/10]

Due to the staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

191 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13460/10]

The Department is not involved in the leasing of any properties to commercial business.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Sean Fleming

Question:

192 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the instructions to community welfare officers regarding checking if properties are registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board, which is available on the published register on the Internet, before they approve a person for rental supplement; the number of rental supplements and the value of same to tenants who are in properties that are not registered with the PRTB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13463/10]

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, landlords are legally obliged to register tenancies with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). The Act excludes the following types of tenancies:

1. Business premises, even where partly residential

2. A dwelling to which Part II of the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act 1982 applies (i.e. formerly rent controlled dwelling occupied by the "original tenant" or his/her spouse) or to which Part II of the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1980 applies (i.e. long occupation equity lease tenancies);

3. A dwelling let by a local authority or voluntary housing body;

4. A dwelling occupied under a shared ownership lease;

5. A holiday let;

6. A dwelling in which the landlord is also resident;

7. A dwelling in which the spouse, parent or child of the landlord is resident and there is no written lease or tenancy agreement;

8. A dwelling that is occupied rent free.

The Department is working with the PRTB to ensure that all tenancies where rent supplement is in payment, and are not excluded by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, are registered with the PRTB. To that end, the Department provides details of rent supplement payments to the PRTB to enable them identify tenancies that are not registered and to take any follow-up action necessary.

Landlords are legally obliged to register any new tenancies, barring the exemptions listed above, with the PRTB within one month from the start date of a tenancy or at a later date on payment of an increased fee. Due to this time lag, that Landlords can legally register months after the tenancy comes into effect, it is not practicable for the Department to insist that a tenancy must be registered with the PRTB before payment of rent supplement is approved.

There are a number of tenancy types, e.g. renting a room, sharing a house with an owner occupier, that do attract rent supplement but are not required to be registered with thePRTB.

It is also possible that a tenancy may not yet legally exist (the person concerned has still not paid any rent or moved into the dwelling) when the decision to grant rent supplement has been made by the CWO.

Rent supplemented tenancies which are liable for registration with the PRTB, should be so registered. In that regard, the close working arrangements which the Department has with the PRTB should ensure that over time, all tenancies that come with the area of rent supplementation comply with the statutory system of tenancy regulation and safeguards. The Department, based on the above reasons, does not track tenancies where rent supplement is paid and are not registered with the PRTB.

Pat Breen

Question:

193 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason persons (details supplied) in County Clare have not been facilitated with payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13470/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

194 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a jobseeker’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied); the date by which a decision is expected; and if they have been refused, the reason for the refusal. [13473/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Frank Feighan

Question:

195 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied). [13476/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

196 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an application for social welfare and family income supplement will be determined in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13485/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Question No. 197 withdrawn.

Noel Ahern

Question:

198 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; the type of social payment they have been awarded as this person believes they are currently on non-contributory; if they would benefit on their own contributions as their spouse in on qualified adult allowance; if this person is on double respite care allowance for acting as carers to persons; the reason they are not also on 50% carers allowance; if this person and their spouse have all other entitlements for example household benefit scheme. [13489/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Noel Ahern

Question:

199 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for non-contributory pension in respect of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if decisions have been finalised; if details of same will be provided. [13491/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret I am unable to provide the information sought by the deputy.

Social Welfare Code.

Noel Ahern

Question:

200 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an application to transfer to invalidity pension from disability sickness in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 is under consideration; and if not, if this process will commence. [13497/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Noel Ahern

Question:

201 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; the reason for the delay in making a decision; the average national delay for jobseeker’s allowance; and the average delay on Dublin’s north side. [13498/10]

Due to the staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

202 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is entitled to a companion travel pass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13537/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Agencies.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

203 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to his discussion to close the Combat Poverty Agency, if his attention has been drawn to the lease agreement in place for the Combat Poverty Agency offices prior to this decision; and the reason he did not disclose these details to Dáil Éireann; and if he will provide the details of the landlord of these premises. [13540/10]

With effect from 1st July 2009 (in line with the Government Decision announced in Budget 2009), the Combat Poverty Agency and the Office for Social Inclusion were integrated to form the Social Inclusion Division within the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The Social Inclusion Division combines the experience and expertise of the staff of both bodies. The Government's decision was informed by the findings of a review of the Agency which was undertaken on foot of a Government decision of the 6th June 2007.

The primary reason for the integration of the Combat Poverty Agency with the Office for Social Inclusion was not to achieve short-term savings, but rather to ensure that the strongest possible mechanisms are in place to tackle poverty and social exclusion as recommended in the review of the Combat Poverty Agency.

Savings as a result of the integration include savings that arise in respect of board members' fees, accommodation and savings that arise as a result of the integration of support services such as combined personnel, payroll and ancillary services. Savings also arise on account of the non-filling of a number of short-term temporary staff positions that ended in June 2009 and as a result of the redeployment of a small number of administrative and HR support staff. It was envisaged that the extent and timing of the savings would be identified and dealt with as part of the implementation process with measures that could be advanced quickly to achieve administrative efficiencies and cost savings prioritised.

In accordance with the terms of the lease in place for the offices of the former Combat Poverty Agency, the Department will exercise its rights to break out of the lease in March 2011. There will be no penalty for exercising this option. The Department will use the space for its own Departmental purposes in the meantime.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Creed

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Meath has sufficient contributions made to be entitled to a contributory State pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13543/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

205 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not in receipt of a higher rate of jobseeker’s assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13550/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

206 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on an application for jobseeker’s assistance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13552/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

207 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13566/10]

The Office of Public Works is responsible for most rented properties occupied by the Department. In the case of three properties, however, the Department is directly responsible for the rental arrangements but due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy at this time.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

208 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13428/10]

The Department is currently leasing 30 properties, mainly in the Curragh, Co. Kildare, to a variety of individuals and organizations.

Only 5 of these leases can be regarded as being to business ventures. The terms of these leases vary from year to year to a term of 99 years from 1952. The terms of these leases and the charges associated with them reflect the nature of the businesses and the level of support they provide to the military community in the Curragh. The charges range from €466 to €5,000 per annum. All of these charges are subject to periodic review.

The current charges are not an impediment to the businesses concerned.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

209 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13558/10]

The Department is currently renting 51 properties, 4 on a full-time basis and 47 on a part-time basis, for use by the Reserve Defence Force. 49 of these premises are rented from local authorities, community groups, sports organisations or private individuals.

Two, in Tullamore and Sligo, are rented from commercial entities. The charge for the Tullamore property is reviewed by reference to movement in the CPI while that for the Sligo property is due for review early next year. The total cost of these leases is about €20,000 per annum.

Housing Statistics.

Joe Costello

Question:

210 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of housing units constructed for each year between 2000 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13386/10]

Data on the number of houses built by type of dwelling for each year from 2000 to 2008 are published in the Annual Housing Statistics Bulletins, which are available in the Oireachtas Library or on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. Data for 2009 are currently being compiled, and will be made available on the Department's website once finalised.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

211 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13455/10]

The Department is not currently leasing any property to commercial businesses.

Housing Policy.

Dan Neville

Question:

212 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to bring forward a housing strategy for people with disabilities; if he will ensure that the strategy is published without delay and that the provisions for mental health remain intact and are not watered down; if he will include comprehensive guidelines relating to persons with mental health problems which would include clarifying the agency responsible for providing housing supports for people with mental health problems as well as the way these supports will be delivered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13517/10]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 240 of 3 March 2010. The position is unchanged.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

213 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will confirm that Meath County Council have increased rent contributions under the rental accommodation scheme by 93%; if similar increases have occurred elsewhere; the reason for the increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13518/10]

The level of contributions paid by tenants under the Rental Accommodation Scheme is based on the differential rents scheme for local authority dwellings as set by housing authorities. My Department does not hold information on the contribution levels in each authority. Variations in rent contributions, upwards and downwards, will normally be a consequence of changes in individual household circumstances.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

214 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13561/10]

Rental costs on properties occupied by my Department are, in general, met by the Office of Public Works. However, the following are rented directly by the Department:

Location

Property type

Cost

Galway

Storage Unit

€2,642 per annum

Cork

Storage Unit

€21,870 per annum

Met Éireann, Dublin Airport

Offices

€73,720 per annum, including service charges

Met Éireann, Shannon Airport

Offices

€150,637.03 per annum, including service charges

At the end of 2009, my Department also entered into an arrangement whereby its National Monuments Service will occupy a proportion of an archival and storage facility as a sub-lessee of the National Museum of Ireland.

Arrangements relating to the above do not contain upward-only rent review clauses. Rents are kept under regular review.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

215 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13426/10]

My Department has no properties that are leased to commercial interests.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

216 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13556/10]

My Department occupies or partly occupies a number of leased buildings. They are as follows:

Department HQ, 29/31 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2;

Core Store, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Sandyford, County Dublin;

Elm House, Earlsvale Road, Cavan (partly occupies).

All details in relation to the leases are dealt with by the Office of Public Works.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

217 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13424/10]

Under the 1968 Fishery Harbour Centres Act (as amended) my Department is responsible for the development and management of six Fishery Harbour Centres which are located at Killybegs, Ros a Mhíl, An Daingan, Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Howth. Available properties within the Fishery Harbour Centres are offered for lease, in accordance with the Act and public procurement guidelines. On entering into an agreement with a customer a legally binding lease document is signed by the leaseholder and on my behalf. This document sets out the terms and conditions that apply to the specific lease, including the rent review mechanisms. The most recent audited accounts available for the Fishery Harbour Centre Fund are for 2006. The value for rental income for that year was €1,249,109.

Fisheries Protection.

Liz McManus

Question:

218 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on the commercial ban on bass fishing; the position regarding bass fishing; if he has received correspondence from angling clubs in relation to concerns over bass fishing; his further views on same; the way he proposes to ensure that bass is not over-fished here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13433/10]

The Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) has made a proposal to my Department regarding the possibility of a limited offshore Sea Bass fishery.

The proposal is being given careful consideration taking account of the advice of the Marine Institute and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and being particularly conscious of the necessity to maintain the existing protection afforded to the inshore Sea Bass fishery. This factor is also recognised in the FIF proposal which gives assurances that the inshore Sea Bass fishery around our coast would not be targeted for commercial fishing. Under the FIF proposal, vessels would be permitted to land Sea Bass caught south of (51.30'N) in area VII. This area is approx 50 KM off the SE coast of Ireland.

In order to take account of the views of all stakeholders, including anglers, Minister Killeen wrote to Minister Lenihan in the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources, who has responsibility for inland fisheries, seeking his views on this proposal before making any final decision in the matter. Minister Lenihan's response will be taken into account in the matter.

Grant Payments.

Finian McGrath

Question:

219 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Clare with regard to admission to the early retirement scheme. [13435/10]

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Michael Creed

Question:

220 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be approved for benefit under the early retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13441/10]

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

221 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not been awarded their single farm payment for 2009; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that legal documents have been sent from their solicitor on their behalf to the entitlements section transferring entitlements over to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13448/10]

An application was received on 25 February 2010 requesting the transfer of 38.06 Single Payment entitlements from the late father of the person named to the mother of the person named under the 2009 Single Payment Scheme.

From correspondence and documentation received, it seems the intention is to transfer the entitlements to the person named above.

While the Transfer of Entitlements section has received documentation regarding the transfer of land and entitlements to the person named from his mother, a copy of Will and Probate for the late father of the person named has not been received. Upon receipt of these the requested transfer of entitlements will be processed without delay.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

222 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the 2009 cow welfare scheme will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13450/10]

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

223 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if entitlements are still available in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13451/10]

The position regarding the 2009 Single Farm Payment of the person named has recently been resolved, following which, the payment in question will shortly issue, directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Fishing Fleet Modernisation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

224 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount approved and-or paid out under the fishing boat commissioning scheme to date in 2010; the total capacity that has been commissioned; the number of boats and owners affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13510/10]

Due to Industrial Action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Question:

225 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a decision will be made on an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13536/10]

An appeal from the person named was recently received in my Department and is currently under consideration. The person named will be notified, in writing, immediately a decision is reached.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

226 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not received €9,950 single farm payment in 2008 and 2009 as they received this in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13551/10]

My Department's records show that payments under the 2008 Single Payment Scheme and the 2009 Single Payment Scheme issued directly to the nominated bank account of the person named; the 2008 advance payment issued on 16 October 2008 and the balancing payment on 1 December 2008, while the full payment under the 2009 Scheme issued on 1 December 2009.

Fishing Quotas.

Joe McHugh

Question:

227 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will grant a derogation or some quota to boats under 15 metres in length for spurdog fishing in 2010; his views on whether the cancellation of spurdog quota for 2010 is putting a small but important group of fishermen out of business; his further views on whether that small boats do not seriously affect fish stocks; if he will respond with a constructive accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13553/10]

Due to Industrial Action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

228 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of properties that his Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by his Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13554/10]

The leasing arrangements and rental costs of properties for my Department's use are a matter for the Office of Public Works.

Schools Refurbishment.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

229 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if an application for the summer works scheme by a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13377/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the project for the school referred to by the Deputy.

The timetable for the Summer Works Scheme 2010 has been published as part of the governing Circular Letter for the Scheme. This Circular Letter (0057/2009) is available on the Department's websitewww.education.ie.

Following an assessment process, projects will be selected for funding from all valid and approved applications on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria published with the Scheme.

In accordance with the timetable, it is my intention to publish a list of successful SWS applicants later this month.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

230 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if a summer works scheme application by a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13380/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the project for the school referred to by the Deputy.

The timetable for the Summer Works Scheme 2010 has been published as part of the governing Circular Letter for the Scheme. This Circular Letter (0057/2009) is available on the Department's websitewww.education.ie.

Following an assessment process, projects will be selected for funding from all valid and approved applications on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria published with the Scheme.

In accordance with the timetable, it is my intention to publish a list of successful SWS applicants later this month.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael McGrath

Question:

231 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the number of special needs assistants approved for a school (details supplied) in County Cork for the 2010-11 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13381/10]

My Department is very supportive of the SNA scheme. It has been a key factor in both ensuring the successful integration of children with special educational needs into mainstream education and providing support to pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is at present carrying out a review of SNA allocations in all schools with a view to ensuring that the criteria governing the allocation of such posts are properly met. This exercise may result in the identification of surplus posts which are in the system and which do not meet the current criteria — posts that have been retained when a pupil's care needs have diminished or where the pupil has left. At the same time the NCSE is allocating additional posts where the criteria are met.

There is no question of SNA posts being removed from schools where they continue to meet the scheme's criteria. However, there is also no question of posts being left in schools where they are deemed to be surplus to pupils' care needs. At a time of constrained resources it is essential that we ensure that public resources, both staff and resources, are deployed as effectively as possible. Resources left in an area that are not in accordance with criteria mean public resources are not available for another deserving area.

The NCSE is carrying out this review and the SENO will be advising each school, including the school in question, on the outcome of the review.

Phil Hogan

Question:

232 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the staffing arrangements for the following categories in special needs schools as per the SERC Report — emotional behaviour disturbance, severe emotional behaviour disturbance, autism and moderate learning disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13397/10]

The Deputy is referring to the in the Report of the Special Education Review Committee, 1993, also known as the SERC Report. The Deputy will be aware that the staffing of special classes is determined by reference to the recommendations outlined in the report. In accordance with SERC the minimum staffing ratios for the classes in the disability categories in question are as follows:

Moderate General Learning Disability:

Pupil/Teacher Ratio 8:1;

Class Group / SNA ratio 2:1

Emotionally Disturbed:

Pupil / Teacher Ratio 8:1;

Class Group / SNA Ratio 4:1

Severely Emotionally Disturbed

Pupil / Teacher Ratio 6:1;

Class Group / SNA Ratio 1:1

It should be noted that prior to 1998 children with autism were included in the disability category of severe emotional disturbance. The pupil /teacher ratio for autism is 6:1 and the class group / SNA ratio is 1:2.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support and has the flexibility to allocate additional teaching and SNA support if required.

Pension Provisions.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

233 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if she will provide clarification on salary arrears for the period between 1996 and 2007 and pension increments arrears for the period from February 2004 to 2009 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; the reason these pension arrears were not awarded; and the further reason salary increases were not awarded for those ten years in question. [13412/10]

Andrew Doyle

Question:

235 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the reason the issue of abatement liability has risen in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow in relation to the pensions arrears due to them for the period from February 2004 to February 2009. [13414/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 235 together.

The person in question retired with a public service pension from a post with a College of Education in 1995. She subsequently took up pensionable employment as a primary teacher and has since retired with a separate pension in respect of that service. In 2007, following a request for incremental progression in respect of her service with the College of Education, the person's salary as a primary teacher was reviewed and salary arrears were paid.

During her pensionable primary teaching service she continued to receive payment of her pension in respect of her earlier employment with the College of Education. The rate of that pension was retrospectively revised by the College to take account of a number of appropriate pension increases. The amount of the arrears were determined but not paid. The College, having become aware of the subsequent pensionable employment, has applied the abatement rules since the aggregate of the rate of pay as a primary teacher together with the rate of pension, had for certain periods, exceeded the old rate of pay on which that pension was based, adjusted to current rates.

The matter is now the subject of an appeal to my Department and is under active consideration at the moment. It is expected that a formal determination will issue to the person concerned within the next four weeks. The determination will address the pension issues including the issue of abatement. In addition the question of salary arrears that were paid will also be addressed.

I should add that if the person is not satisfied with the outcome of the determination, when issued, she may refer the matter to the Pensions Ombudsman.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

234 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the rules regarding the abatement process in the context of pension arrears relating to post-primary teachers. [13413/10]

Abatement of pension applies in the case of public servants who, following retirement with a pension, take up public service employment in the same public service sector from which they have retired. This is a standard feature of public service pension schemes generally. Abatement is the mechanism used to ensure that the combined earnings (pension plus pay) do not exceed the pay on which the pension is based, adjusted to current rates.

Under the abatement rules for post primary teachers, pension will be continued provided the aggregate of the rate of pay (for the new employment) and the pension in payment do not exceed the old rate of pay on which the pension was based, adjusted to current rates.

Where the new rate of pay exceeds the old rate of pay, pension is not payable. Where the new rate of pay is less than the old rate of pay but the aggregate of new pay and pension exceeds the old rate of pay, the pension payment is correspondingly reduced.

In the event that pension arrears become payable, in respect of the pension awarded on initial retirement, to a teacher who has resumes employment, the amount of arrears to be paid would fall to be adjusted in line with the application of the abatement provisions

I should also add that, in the case of teachers who availed of the now suspended three-stranded Early Retirement Scheme, pension ceases if the retired teacher takes up employment in any capacity in any area of the public service. The ceased pension will not resume until the later of the date the teacher ceases employment or reaches preserved pension age (age 60, or age 65 in the case of persons categorised as new entrant public servants). Added years previously awarded will not be reckoned in the calculation of the resumed pension. Exceptionally teachers who retired under Strand 3 of the Scheme may undertake substitute or part-time teaching provided it is on a very casual or intermittent basis.

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 233.
Question No. 236 withdrawn.

Schools Building Projects.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

237 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the criteria by which schools are being selected as recipients of the school building projects for 2010; when a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow will receive approval to build their new school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13421/10]

A range of factors are considered before making a final selection of projects to progress to tender and construction as part of the school building programme.

Priority is established primarily on the basis of a project's band rating in accordance with the Criteria for Prioritising Large Scale Projects, details of which are published on my Department's website. However, there is a range of other factors taken into account in the selection of projects.

These factors include:

the need to achieve an appropriate balance of capital expenditure on a multi-annual basis between primary and post-primary building projects

the need to ensure that contractual commitments are not entered into in any particular year which might not be capable of being met in future years

the need to ensure adequate funding is available for the purchase of sites for key projects

the need to provide additional school places in rapidly developing areas to meet increasing demand while at the same time balancing this with the need to maintain investment in the improvement of existing school buildings.

the stage of progression through the architectural design process, that is whether or not the project is technically ready to proceed to tender and construction

All of these factors have to be considered before making a final selection of projects for the purposes of developing a school building programme.

The Deputy will be aware that in February, the Minister made an announcement regarding projects to enter architectural planning and to proceed to tender and construction. Unfortunately, it was not possible to include the school referred to by the Deputy in this announcement.

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the project for the school referred to by the Deputy.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including the project for the school in question, from initial design stage through to construction will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme. However, in view of the level of demand on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

State Examinations.

Michael McGrath

Question:

238 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of reasonable accommodations for a student (details supplied) in County Cork to sit their leaving certificate examination. [13422/10]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations.

I can inform the Deputy that the Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

239 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the number of properties her Department is currently leasing to commercial business along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the income derived from these rents; the efforts that are being made by her Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13429/10]

It is my Department's understanding that such practices do not generally occur on sites under Ministerial ownership. In any event, a central list is not maintained of such agreements. My Department is aware however of a long standing agreement whereby it approved by way of letter of 22 February 1991 the use of a classroom to be used by a Montessori School which operates in the original Scoil Iosagain Building, Greendale Road, Kilbarrack, Dublin 5. No rent is being charged in this case. It is the Department's intention to formalise the necessary legal agreements regarding this case in the coming months

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Question:

240 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question Nos 531 of 23 February 2010 and 153 of 4 March 2010, if she will name the 31 projects currently at tender stage; and if it is her intention that once these projects have passed the tender stage, in view of the fact that they already have planning permission, that the projects will proceed automatically to the construction phase. [13468/10]

Brian Hayes

Question:

241 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the number of projects in the school building programme that have planning permission, completed the tender stage and that are awaiting permission to proceed to construction; if she will name the projects; and if she will provide the date when the tender stage was completed. [13469/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

There are currently 35 schools with major building projects, including those to which the Deputy refers, at tender stage. Of the 35 projects, 32 have planning permission and 3 are awaiting planning permission.

None of the projects that have planning permission in the attached list are awaiting permission to proceed to construction as they have yet to complete the tender stage.

Subject to the necessary statutory approvals and no issues arising it is intended that projects will progress to construction as soon as possible following completion of the tender process.

Roll Number

School Name

Planning Y/N

18363M

SN Muire gan Smal, Green Lane

Y

06998Q

SN Tulach a Mhile, Corlough

Y

16746S

Ballygarvan NS

N (tendered as design and build)

71240U

Stranorlar Vocational School (Finn Valley College)

Y

91409A

Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, Derrybeg, Letterkenny

Y

16964F

Scoil Mhuire Ogh 1, Loreto College, Crumlin Rd, Dublin 12

Y

20139T

Inchicore NS, Sarsfield Road, Dublin 10

Y

19898K

Gaelscoil an Duinnigh, Feltrim, Swords

Y

20095C

Gaelscoil Bhrian Boroimhe

Y

20145O

Swords Educate Together NS

Y

60010P

Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan

Y

76104O

Donabate Community College

N (tendered as design and build)

70030E

Senior College, Dun Laoghaire

Y

62970K

Coláiste Iognáid SJ Bothar na Mara

Y

20196I

Ballybunion NS

Y

11976K

Scoil Choca Naofa, Kilcock, Co. Kildare

Y

17662R

Scoil Bhride Kill NS

Y

20058T

Sc Uí Fhiach, Maynooth

Y

15160G

Marymount N.S., The Rower, Inistioge

Y

13026P

Kilfinane National School

Y

71690F

Ballymahon Vocational School

Y

18069M

Naomh Seosamh, Mell, Drogheda

Y

20205G

St Mary’s Parish School,Drogheda

Y

20046M

Gaelscoil Na Cruaiche, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mayo

Y

19253K

Scoil Naomh Barra, Wilkinstown

Y

20180Q

Scoil Eoin National School, Navan

Y

76103M

Colaiste Na hInse, Laytown

N (tendered as design and build)

18028V

Corr a Chrainn NS, Corr a Chrainn

Y

65610S

Colaiste Choilm, O’Moore Street, Tullamore, Co Offaly

Y

65100S

Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown, Co Roscommon

Y

15696B

Silvermines National School

Y

19629G

Holy Cross School, Ballycarnane, Tramore

Y

20076V

Bunscoil Bhothar na Naomh, Lismore

Y

20050D

Gaelscoil na Deise, Grace Dieu Road, Waterford

Y

20160K

Waterford Educate Together NS

Y

School Curriculum.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

242 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the project maths pilot programme; her plans to roll out the project to all schools in 2010; if she will confirm that the syllabus will be finalised ahead of the new course being rolled out to all schools; if she will confirm if reports that the October 2009 trial exam resulted in grade inflation of up to 150% when compared to the current maths syllabus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13475/10]

The Project Maths initiative is designed to encourage better understanding of Maths, to reinforce the practical relevance of maths to everyday life, and to ensure better continuity between primary and second level, and junior and senior cycle. The initiative started in 2008 and is being piloted in 24 schools. The experience in the project schools is informing the national mainstreaming of the initiative. The curriculum changes will be phased in over three years and mainstreaming is beginning in 2010/11 in all schools. A national programme of professional development for all teachers began in 2009, and will continue to at least 2013.

The NCCA websitewww.ncca.ie. sets out the draft syllabus for Strands 1, 2, 3 and 4 at junior and senior cycle, a draft common Mathematics course for the first year in junior cycle, and a Geometry course. The website www.ProjectMaths.ie sets out additional supports in the form of teaching and learning plans, a forum for teachers, and additional resources. These resources will expand over time. Overall, the changes will be implemented in 5 strands of mathematics over a 3 year period.

Project Maths is being supported by intensive investment in professional development for teachers, with some €5m being invested in this area in 2010.

Strands 1 and 2 will begin in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012 at Leaving Certificate and 2013 at junior certificate. Strands 3 and 4 will begin in 2011. The syllabuses for Strands 1 and 2, already available in draft form, will be finalised in the light of experience in the 24 project schools, and will issue to all schools this summer. The remaining strands will follow in sequence, informed by the experience in the 24 project schools.

In October 2009 the State Examinations Commission undertook a trialling exercise on the draft Leaving Certificate sample papers for Phase 1 of Project Maths in the twenty-four initial schools involved in the project. The purpose of the trialling process was to measure the effectiveness of the draft sample papers and the marking schemes, rather than to test current levels of candidate achievement. As a result of the trialling process and feedback received from relevant parties, the SEC prepared a report, which is available on its websitewww.examinations.ie, and amendments were made to the drafts. The finalised versions of the sample papers were subsequently issued to the twenty four schools along with the report on the trialling exercise. The marked scripts of the candidates involved in the trialling exercise have also been returned to these schools. There is no evidence of any grade inflation in the marks awarded to the students involved in the trialling exercise.

Schools Amalgamation.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

243 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 531 of 2 March 2010 regarding the amalgamation of two schools (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and her Department’s letter to one of the schools in July 2007, the progress that has been made since. [13483/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give the full details sought by the Deputy.

However, I can clarify that there is a standard procedure in relation to applications for the amalgamation of schools. To comply with this procedure, an application to amalgamate schools must be made by the Patron/s or Trustees of the schools concerned. It is necessary for this application to confirm that a consultation process has been carried out by the Patron/s or Trustees among the Boards of Management, parents and teachers. It must also indicate that these parties are in agreement to the amalgamation and that the Patron/s or Trustees consent to it. Correspondence from an individual school would not comply with this procedure and would not, therefore, be considered to be an application.

Schools Refurbishment.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

244 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 1064 of 19 January 2010, when a decision will be made on an application for capital grant aid under the summer works scheme 2010 by a school (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13486/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the project for the school referred to by the Deputy.

The timetable for the Summer Works Scheme 2010 has been published as part of the governing Circular Letter for the Scheme. This Circular Letter (0057/2009) is available on the Department's websitewww.education.ie.

Following an assessment process, projects will be selected for funding from all valid and approved applications on a top down basis in accordance with the prioritisation criteria published with the Scheme.

In accordance with the timetable, it is my intention to publish a list of successful SWS applicants later this month.

Schools Building Projects.

Billy Timmins

Question:

245 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if approval will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13487/10]

A range of factors are considered before making a final selection of projects to progress to tender and construction as part of the school building programme.

Priority is established primarily on the basis of a project's band rating in accordance with the Criteria for Prioritising Large Scale Projects, details of which are published on my Department's website. However, there is a range of other factors taken into account in the selection of projects. These factors include: the need to achieve an appropriate balance of capital expenditure on a multi-annual basis between primary and post-primary building projects; the need to ensure that contractual commitments are not entered into in any particular year which might not be capable of being met in future years; the need to ensure adequate funding is available for the purchase of sites for key projects; the need to provide additional school places in rapidly developing areas to meet increasing demand while at the same time balancing this with the need to maintain investment in the improvement of existing school buildings; the stage of progression through the architectural design process, that is whether or not the project is technically ready to proceed to tender and construction

All of these factors have to be considered before making a final selection of projects for the purposes of developing a school building programme.

The Deputy will be aware that in February, the Minister made an announcement regarding projects to enter architectural planning and to proceed to tender and construction. Unfortunately, it was not possible to include the school referred to by the Deputy in this announcement.

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the project for the school referred to by the Deputy. The progression of all large scale building projects, including the project for the school in question, from initial design stage through to construction will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme. However, in view of the level of demand on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Higher Education Grants.

Noel Ahern

Question:

246 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the person who sets the nationality requirements of the higher education grants scheme; if these are set here or by the EU; the reason those who have refugee status qualify but those given permission to stay due to the fact they had an Irish born child and may have got refugee status are denied the rights of the scheme for themselves and their children; if an application for naturalisation will be fast-tracked to allow an 18 year old to get their entitlement for a college (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.. [13496/10]

The eligibility requirements for student grants, including those relating to nationality, are set out annually in the relevant grant schemes drawn up by my Department.

Under the terms of the Higher Education Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those which relate to nationality, residency, means and previous academic attainment.

The nationality requirement as set out in clause 4.5 of the 2009 scheme states that candidates must: — be a national of an EU Member State, a state which is a contracting state to the EEA Agreement, the Swiss Confederation or — a refugee or other person entitled for the time being to the rights and privileges specified in section 3 of the Refugee Act 1996; or — be a person, pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) who the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has determined is eligible for the time being for subsidiary protection pursuant to Regulation 4 of those regulations, or to whom the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has granted permission for the time being in writing to enter and reside in the State pursuant to Regulation 16 of those Regulations; or — have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to a national of another EU Member State who is residing in the State and who is or has been employed, or self-employed, in the State, or be the child of such a person, not having EU nationality; or — have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to an Irish national residing in the State, or be the child of such person, not having EU nationality; or- have been granted Humanitarian Leave to Remain in the State (prior to the Immigration Act 1999); or — be a person in respect of whom the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has granted permission to remain following a determination not to make a deportation order under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999

A non-EU national who has been granted permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child does not comply with these conditions and is ineligible for grant assistance under the nationality requirements of the scheme. Persons granted leave to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child do not have all of the same rights as persons granted refugee status. Any extension to the scope of the maintenance grants schemes can be considered only in the light of available resources and in the context of competing demands within the education sector.

Any issue in relation to the processing of an application for naturalisation is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Special Educational Needs.

Noel Ahern

Question:

247 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science her views on the pilot school (details supplied); if her Department or an agency under her remit monitors the individual progress of children there; and if she will arrange to examine, report on and make recommendations on the case of a person. [13500/10]

The centre referred to by the Deputy is in the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) pilot scheme funded by my Department which funds 13 stand-alone autism centres.

The Deputy will be aware of my commitment to ensuring that all children including those with autism can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers who may draw from a range of autism-specific interventions, including ABA, special needs assistants, and the appropriate school curriculum with the option where possible of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

As each child with autism is unique it is important that children have access to a range of interventions so their broader needs can be met. In this context local Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) can assist parents with regard to their child's special educational needs and placement options. While my Department promotes quality at system level through recognition of schools, investment in teacher education and whole school evaluation my Department does not monitor the progress of individual children. Supports for individual children are provided at school level as well as through agencies such as the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) and where appropriate through the National Educational Psychological Service.

If the parents in this case wish to obtain assistance from the relevant SENO they can access details from the NCSE's websitewww.ncse.ie.

School Staffing.

Noel Ahern

Question:

248 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the decision on the teacher supply panel; if it will cause significant problems for children in our most deprived areas; if the panel provides consistency of learning in such areas; if teacher absenteeism is higher in deprived areas; if it has historically proved more difficult to get substitute teachers in such areas; if abolishing the panel may result in unqualified substitute teachers being employed without Garda vetting approval; the discussions she has had with teacher unions; the result of same; the number of teachers that are selected; if a substitute can pick and choose; the number of substitutes that are on the available panel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13501/10]

The supply teacher scheme was initially set up at primary level over 15 years ago at a time when schools had difficulty getting substitute teachers. The supply scheme operates on the basis of an additional full-time teacher being allocated to a school to cover certified sick leave absences in that school and a cluster of neighbouring schools. If the teacher is not required on a given day to cover sick leave absences they generally assist with other work in their school such as administrative duties. There are 60 posts allocated to the scheme.

A value for money review of the Supply Teacher Scheme was published in July 2006. The review found that approximately 60% of these teachers' time was used to cover sick leave absences with the balance on various other school duties. This reflects the unpredictable nature of sick leave absences.

In relation to the Supply Teacher Scheme, while there are benefits for schools in having these full-time teachers it is considered more cost effective to use the normal substitution arrangements that apply to all other schools to cover sick leave absences instead of having a cohort of full-time teachers "on call" all the time in these schools to cover sick leave absences that may or may not arise.

The employment and appointment of all teachers is a matter for each individual school board of management. The arrangements for vetting of teaching and non-teaching staff are set out in Department Circular 0094/2006 which issued to all schools in June 2006. The Circular is available on my Department's website.

There has been ongoing engagement and discussion with the relevant education partners involving my predecessor and/or my senior officials concerning general education matters and specific budgetary matters.

The supply teacher scheme will cease from the start of the 2010/11 school year. The teachers concerned will be redeployed in accordance with the existing redeployment arrangements to other schools that have vacancies.

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give the full details sought by the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

249 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the stage of each application for a new school building or school extension in the constituency of Cork south west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13513/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the projects referred to by the Deputy.

However, all applications for major capital funding are listed on my Department's website in county order. Projects in architectural planning or at tender stage are listed separately on the website.

Vocational Education Committees.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

250 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the position regarding reports that decisions and notifications of decisions regarding the management of post primary schools by vocational education committees are to be withdrawn by her Department; the schools and the VECs that will be affected; if same is happening in relation to VEC schools only or if other schools are affected; if the planning for the site acquisition and planning and building of these schools will be put on hold in the period; when the management of these schools will be reviewed; if these schools will remain in State ownership; if the VECs affected have been formally notified of this process; the reason and the basis on which this process is being carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13514/10]

The second-level school at Clonburris in Lucan is the only such school where a VEC has already been informed about patronage. It was anticipated in 2008 that 2 new second level schools would be required in the general Clonburris area in Lucan . However, given the demographics in relation to the area and the nature of the planning, design and building process, no building has commenced yet and it is likely that only a single school will be needed in the area in the medium term.

The consideration of this new framework is not delaying the site acquisition, planning, design and building of second-level schools in any way.

School Accommodation.

Dan Neville

Question:

251 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if she will provide the necessary funding in 2010 for the provision of the new classrooms required by a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13541/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give full details of the project for the school referred to by the Deputy.

It is open to the school to make an application to the Department should they have additional accommodation requirements. The relevant application forms are available on the Department's website and all such applications will be processed by my Department.

School Transport.

Frank Feighan

Question:

252 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science when a decision will issue to representations in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Roscommon who are in need of school transport. [13542/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give the full details sought by the Deputy.

Departmental Property.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

253 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the number of properties that her Department is currently leasing from property landlords along with the location of same; the number of these lease agreements that contain upward only rent review clauses; the cost arising from these rents; the efforts that are being made by her Department to ensure that these rents are operating at a sustainable level in the current business and economic environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13559/10]

Due to industrial action on the part of some staff in the Department of Education and Science, I am not in a position to give the full details sought by the Deputy.

However, the cost of renting office property for my Department is the responsibility of Property Management Services in the Office of Public Works, who act on behalf of Government Departments in relation to the rental/lease of office accommodation. The terms of the leases are a matter for OPW.

In relation to schools, my Department generally grant aids Boards of Management to rent temporary school accommodation, where the need arises. The terms of leases are a matter for the Boards of Management of these schools.