Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

James Bannon

Question:

10 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce legislation for a directly elected mayor of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16006/10]

Ulick Burke

Question:

16 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to have an election for a directly elected mayor of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16012/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 16 together.

The introduction of a directly elected Mayor for Dublin will deliver significantly strengthened leadership for the city and region, with enhanced accountability and a direct connection with the citizen.

The Mayor will have a powerful role to set out strategic policy across Dublin and oversight of operational implementation. He or she will also have a strong mandate to integrate the activities of local government and the wider public service in and across Dublin. The Mayor's powers will include the capacity to ensure that activities across the Dublin Region's local authorities are consistent with the regional strategic framework.

It is my firm intention that the election of the Mayor takes place this year. A general scheme of legislation to provide for the Mayor was published on my Department's website in February, as an opportunity for further consultation before the finalisation of the Bill, and to facilitate early implementation of the Bill's provisions once enacted. The Bill is currently being drafted by Parliamentary Counsel as a matter of priority.

Copies of the general scheme have been provided to each of the Party Leaders and spokespeople on local government, as well as to the Dublin local authorities. I met with representatives of the opposition Parties on 4 March and briefed them on the Mayor's functions and responsibilities. My Department is also engaging with the Dublin local authorities on the detail of the general scheme's provisions to make the necessary practical and operational preparations for the Mayor's election and introduction.

I am conscious that, given the proximity of this year's inaugural mayoral election, drafting should be completed as soon as possible to allow for the introduction of the Bill. I look forward to the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas, and the first direct election of the Mayor for Dublin in 2010.

Local Government Reform.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

11 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to receive a report from the local government efficiency review group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16026/10]

I have asked the Local Government Efficiency Review Group to complete its work and report to me by mid-2010. The Group's findings and recommendations will then be brought to Government to consider in the appropriate policy and financial contexts.

Significant measures to modernise local government will continue in parallel with the work of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group. These include the implementation of the Transforming Public Services programme in local authorities in areas such as shared services and procurement. In addition the Government is committed to holding direct elections for the Mayor of Dublin this year and the draft scheme of the Bill to provide for the Dublin Mayor has been published.

The Government's decision to introduce a directly elected Mayor for Dublin in 2010, and the legislation to provide for it, marks a first step in implementing broader local government structural change, in line with the renewed Programme for Government. This will be more fully addressed in the Local Government White Paper, which is now at an advanced stage of preparation.

The Efficiency Review, therefore, must be viewed in the broader context of local government modernisation including the range of initiatives which I have outlined already.

Climate Change Strategy.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

12 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken in relation to the commitment contained in the Programme for Government to establish a high level Commission on Climate Change to oversee implementation of the Climate Change Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15967/10]

I have indicated previously that the potential for further added value from the establishment of a Commission on Climate Change was being considered. I have also outlined the various structures that have been put in place since publication of the National Climate Change Strategy in April 2007, including the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, and it is important to note the role of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security in developing cross-party consensus both on targets and on the measures required to achieve them.

In the context of the third Carbon Budget which I presented in December 2009, I published a framework for the Climate Change Bill 2010 which contains a commitment to establish a new Climate Change Committee. The framework document makes it clear that I envisage this statutory body to have a wide-ranging advisory and supporting role in relation to the overall national policy response to climate change. Also, as indicated in the framework document, the Bill will provide a statutory basis for both the National Climate Change Strategy and the planned National Adaptation Strategy.

Work on drafting the Heads of the Bill is at an advanced stage and I expect, following Government consideration, to be in a position to publish them shortly.

Planning Issues.

Shane McEntee

Question:

13 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that all building in the docklands area of Dublin is compliant with the planning schemes for the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16066/10]

Enda Kenny

Question:

39 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the legal position of buildings constructed in the docklands areas that were granted planning permission by Section 25; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16061/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 39 together.

On foot of my request to the Chair of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority last Autumn, to undertake a review of corporate governance within the Authority, two comprehensive independent consultants' reports were commissioned by the Authority to assess its planning and financial procedures.

One of the reports, prepared by Declan Brassil and Company, Chartered Planning Consultants, considered the planning procedures of the Authority and indicated that some consents granted under section 25 of the 1997 Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act (as amended) could be construed as diverging from the requirements of the governing planning scheme.

While it would be premature to comment in detail on specific aspects of the DDDA's reports until the final reports are submitted, considered by Government, and subsequently published by me, I wish to acknowledge that the Brassil Report also reviewed improvements introduced to DDDA planning practices, under Professor Brennan's chairmanship of the Authority. I understand that the planning report will indicate that the majority of the issues identified in relation to planning administrative procedures have been adequately addressed.

It is important that due care is taken to ensure that unnecessary doubt is not cast on the validity of DDDA consents. I will be considering this matter prior to publication of the final reports, taking account of advice from the Attorney General. Prudent consideration has not been aided by the premature leaking of details of the reports.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Billy Timmins

Question:

14 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of vacant houses here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16044/10]

The mismatch between the collapse in demand for housing and the less rapid slowing of construction output has led to a situation in which there is now a significant overhang of vacant, unsold property. However, as all housing markets, at whatever point in the market cycle they may be, will have some level of vacancy, it is important to differentiate between total vacant stock and the excess of vacant stock over normal levels.

The latter provides a much clearer picture of the quantity of housing that is available for occupation. This is a more important consideration from the point of view of trying, for example, to match oversupply of housing with rising social housing need.

Estimates of the overhang of excess stock range from around 35,000 at the low end to 170,000 at the upper end. The Department's estimate of between 122,000 and 147,000 units nationally is an estimate of the "excess" stock of vacant units over what would be the "normal" level. The report in which this estimate is contained, the Construction Industry Review and Outlook 2009–2011, also provides an estimate for the total stock of empty dwellings at June 2009 of between 228,000 and 253,000, depending on the assumptions used.

The recent study by the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) uses a similar methodology to the one used in the preparation of the Construction Industry Review and Outlook, to reach a figure of over 300,000 vacant units, although this also includes abandoned properties. Like our estimate of between 228,000-253,000 for the total overhang, the NIRSA figures include both the "normal" vacancy level and the "excess" vacancy over normal levels.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Michael Creed

Question:

15 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects any applications to cultivate the recently approved GM Amflora potato crop following its approval by the European Commission; the steps he will take in assessing such applications, if any were received, in the context of the Programme for Government and domestic and EU law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11961/10]

I am committed to the establishment of a GM free zone in Ireland as set out in the Programme for Government. No GM food products are cultivated in Ireland and I do not anticipate that the genetically modified potato in question, known as Amflora, will be cultivated here.

This particular product was developed for branched starch production, for use mainly in non-food products, such as in the production of paper. It has recently been approved for cultivation in the European Union under the procedures set out in Directive 2001/18/EC on the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms and EU Regulation 1829/2003 on GM food and feed. The approval also extends to the use of by-products in animal feed and fertilisers.

In respect of GMOs, there is a community authorisation procedure in place, enabling the competent authority of each Member State to contribute to the process. This, however, also means that, when a product is approved, no geographical restrictions apply within the EU and no additional domestic approval is required. When this authorisation was announced in March 2010, the Commission also announced that it will bring a proposal to the Member States before the summer to allow more choice to Member States in deciding whether to cultivate GMOs in their respective territories. I welcome this initiative, which reflects the clear message conveyed by a number of Member States, including Ireland, that the current system is no longer sufficient and is at odds with the principle of subsidiarity.

In the case of this particular product, the authorisation procedure was ongoing for a number of years. The initial application was submitted to the Swedish competent authority, which carried out an assessment and circulated its findings to the competent authority of each Member State, in line with the requirements.

In the case of Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority. During the Community-wide consultations on the product, the EPA raised no formal objection. Clarification was sought, however, as to where it was intended to cultivate the product. This information was subsequently supplied. It indicated that the target area for cultivation is Northern Europe and that it is not intended that the potato would be cultivated in Ireland due to the non-proximity of large-scale pulp paper processing facilities. I do not anticipate, therefore, that this product will be cultivated in Ireland.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 10.

Water Meters.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

17 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to roll out the water metering system to all properties prior to the intended imposition of water charges; the expected timeframe for this; his views on whether the cost of installing meters places a financial burden on households that is unrelated to the polluter pays principle and that an overhaul of the distribution network to cut the level of wastage would be a more cost effective and a sustainable approach to water conservation. [15933/10]

In December 2009, following a decision by Government, I informed the House that I would be bringing forward proposals for the installation of water meters in households served by public water supplies. These proposals, which my Department is now finalising, will give effect to the commitment in the renewed Programme for Government to introduce charging for domestic water in a way that is fair, significantly reduces waste and is easily applied. I expect to bring these proposals to Government in the coming weeks.

The proposals will include draft legislation to remove the prohibition on charging for domestic water services and will also address the arrangements for the delivery of the water metering programme, cost estimates and how these costs are to be financed, as well as plans for the development of a pricing structure for domestic water services. I will provide further details on these matters following their consideration and approval by Government.

There are in excess of 1.1 million households connected to public water supplies and the completion of the water metering programme will take a number of years. However, it is my ambition to have a significant proportion of the meters installed within two to three years of the commencement of installation works.

I am confident that the introduction of charges based on usage will encourage the conservation of water resources. Charging for water based on usage as measured by a water meter is a fair and transparent method of recovering the costs of providing water services. Reducing consumption will also help to reduce the significant costs incurred by local authorities in providing supplies of quality drinking water and treating wastewater discharged into the public sewerage system. This matter should be seen in conjunction with my announcement earlier this week of investment of some €320 million in conservation works over the period 2010-2012, which will provide for a very substantial scaling up of activity on mains rehabilitation. This significant investment in conservation is part of the overall investment of the €1.8 billion Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012.

Climate Change Strategy.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

18 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the schedule in the National Climate Change to prepare a Climate Change Adaption Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15968/10]

On foot of a commitment contained in the National Climate Change Strategy, my Department is currently in the process of developing a National Climate Change Adaptation Framework. This work is proceeding in parallel with development of the Climate Change Bill which will provide a statutory basis for the national response to climate change, including specific provisions on both mitigation and adaptation.

In the reply to question No. 12 today, I have indicated that I expect, following Government consideration, to publish the Heads of the Climate Change Bill shortly. My intention is to publish the framework on adaptation at the same time.

Local Authority Charges.

Simon Coveney

Question:

19 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to assist local authorities to recover outstanding development levies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16028/10]

The policy role, at Ministerial level, is to provide the necessary statutory and policy framework within which individual development contribution schemes are adopted by each local authority. The adoption of individual development contribution schemes is a reserved function of the locally elected members of each planning authority. It is a matter for the members to determine the level of contribution and the types of development to which they will apply.

As with all local charges, the invoicing and collection of any outstanding development contributions is a matter for the local authority concerned to manage in the light of prevailing local circumstances and in accordance with normal accountancy procedures.

Where any payments required in respect of development contributions are not settled, such payments may be pursued by the planning authority through the courts as a contract debt.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

20 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans, if any, to ensure that the surplus housing stock is utilised to meet the housing needs of the families on the local authority housing list here, having particular regard to the current criteria whereby such applicants with an income of more than €40,000 per annum are deemed ineligible on excessive income grounds for local authority housing but whose income is also deemed insufficient to qualify for loan facilities to purchase a home either through the local authority or the private sector; if he will ensure that no existing houses, whether fully or partially completed, are demolished while such a situation persists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16083/10]

Jack Wall

Question:

63 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to put in place a specific capital investment programme to purchase residential property in view of the number of vacant and unsold properties and the continuing fall in property prices in order to meet the demand for social housing and other social housing schemes that would facilitate the incentivisation of the purchase of these properties under the tenant purchase or a restructured affordable home programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15940/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 63 together.

It is our intention to meet the accommodation needs of as many households as possible within the resources at our disposal. Oversupply of housing is a key factor in that regard, and there is potential to make economic necessity and the response to social need work in tandem by utilising unsold housing stock to accommodate families in need of social housing support.

This is exactly what is being pursued over the past year through a new approach to the delivery of social housing which involves a shift in focus increasingly towards long term leasing arrangements, with a lesser reliance on construction and acquisition.

Already this approach has yielded over 2,000 units and I expect further significant progress this year with half of the total projected social housing output to come through a combination of leasing and the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

In the context of rising social housing need, the priority must be to maximise delivery of social housing to cater for the greatest level of need at good value. It is not possible to purchase or build anything like the same number of units that can be provided for through more flexible options like the long term leasing initiative and the Rental Accommodation Scheme. Even in the market at present, it would cost the best part of €3 billion to meet the needs of 20,000 households were these units to be purchased or constructed in the traditional manner. That is four times the overall level of resources available for new social housing this year.

In addition, long term leasing offers the most effective and efficient response more generally, taking account of not just the availability of resources, but also market conditions and the need for a broader range of more flexible delivery mechanisms based on the life-cycle approach as set out in the Government's housing policy statement,Delivering Homes: Sustaining Communities.

In terms of supporting access to home ownership for lower income households, the move to availing of long term leasing to provide social housing should not be viewed in isolation. The recently announced Incremental Purchase Scheme will provide the opportunity for a household in a leased property to move to, and purchase, a dwelling provided for that purpose and to avail of the relevant subsidies and discounts. Under the Incremental Purchase Scheme the State will build social housing as normal but will set aside an agreed number of dwellings to be made available for purchase. This is a very attractive scheme and will provide good opportunities for all social tenants, including those currently in leased properties, to become home owners.

My Department is also examining the possible extension of the leasing arrangements to provide both local authorities and tenants with options to purchase the actual unit they are currently occupying. This would involve lease agreements making specific provision for an option to purchase.

Loans for house purchase are provided by local authorities for those who wish to build or purchase their own home but cannot access finance from private institutions, including affordable housing purchasers. The Housing (Local Authority Loan) Regulations 2009 replace the previous regulations, providing for a new loan limit of €220,000 and a maximum income of €75,000 in the case of joint applicants and €50,000 for single applicants. The regulations also provide for the introduction of a formal credit policy to ensure prudence and consistency of approach for all local authority mortgage lending.

Local Authority Housing.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

21 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the local authority housing waiting lists, broken down by local authority, as of 1 March 2010; the number of households in receipt of the rental accommodation scheme in 2009 and 2010 broken down by quarter. [15937/10]

The number of households on a local authority's waiting list continuously fluctuates as households on the list are allocated housing and new households apply for housing support. My Department does not hold information in relation to the numbers currently on waiting lists in local authorities.

A statutory assessment of housing need is carried out every three years by all housing authorities in accordance with the terms of the Housing Act 1988. The last assessment took place in 2008 and indicated that there were 56,249 households in need of social housing support. Further information regarding the assessment, including a breakdown of the net need figure by housing authority, is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

With regard to the number of households which have been accommodated through the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), since the scheme became operational in September 2005 to the end of March 2010, some 26,164 households units have been transferred from rent supplement. Of these, 14,188 are housed directly in RAS accommodation and a further 11,976 were accommodated under other social housing options.

A breakdown showing the position by quarter since 2009 is set out below.

Rent Supplement Transfers at

Direct RAS transfers

Other Social Housing Options

Cumulative Total

End Q1 2009

10,251

9,197

19,448

End Q2 2009

11,289

9,887

21,176

End Q3 2009

12,260

10,626

22,886

End Q4 2009

13,400

11,413

24,813

End Q1 2010

14,188

11,976

26,164

Unfinished Housing Estates.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

22 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of unfinished housing estates here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16037/10]

Mary Upton

Question:

33 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has carried out an audit of ghost estates; if he has provided local authorities with a strategic approach to the problem of uncompleted estates; the basis through which such estates come under control of National Assets Management Agency; the body responsible for such issues as taking in charge and the completion of snag work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15941/10]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

58 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take in relation to a matter (details supplied). [16113/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 33 and 58 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 4 on today's Order Paper.

Local Authority Funding.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

23 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the financial provision made available to local authorities in 2010 to enable them to deal with the problem of graffiti; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15938/10]

Management and enforcement responses to litter problems, including graffiti, are a primary responsibility of each local authority to be met from their existing resources. However, to assist local authorities in this matter, my Department has allocated €1 million in 2010 under the anti-litter & graffiti awareness grant scheme to raise awareness of the damage caused by both litter and graffiti.

Local Government Reform.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

24 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he intends to publish the White Paper on Local Government Reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16019/10]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

31 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will bring forward the White Paper on Local Government which was promised for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15952/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 31 together.

A dedicated Cabinet Committee is finalising the major strategic directions for inclusion in the White Paper on Local Government and the Paper will be published as soon as possible following completion of the Committee's deliberations.

Electoral Management System.

Willie Penrose

Question:

25 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the Interdepartmental Task Force into the disposal of electronic voting equipment will report; the costs that have been incurred including storage costs since the establishment of the task force; the timeframe envisaged for the ending of outstanding leases and the disposal of the equipment; if penalties have been identified regarding the termination of leases and the scale of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15953/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action taken to dispose of the electronic voting technology; if any contacts have been made with other jurisdictions or inquiries received from abroad with a view to sale or disposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16273/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 171 together.

Following the Government decision not to proceed with implementation of electronic voting in Ireland, an Interdepartmental Task Force, chaired by my Department, was established to bring the project to an orderly conclusion and to oversee disposal of the equipment and termination of storage arrangements. To date, the Task Force has met four times, with its most recent meeting taking place in March 2010. Between meetings, my Department maintains ongoing contact with members of the Task Force, in order to progress work on the cessation arrangements for the project. The Task Force aims to complete its work as soon as possible.

In considering options for disposal of the equipment, the priority is to pursue the most economically advantageous approach, with a view to achieving the maximum recovery of cost possible in the circumstances, consistent with environmental and other obligations. Detailed consideration of all relevant factors is under way to inform the manner in which disposal of the machines will be effected. This includes contact with the original suppliers of the machines.

In 2007, over 60% of the machines (4,762 in total) were moved from 12 local storage locations to a central facility at Gormanston Army Camp. The remaining machines are stored at 13 local premises that were originally identified by Returning Officers for this purpose. It is intended that all machines will be removed from their present locations when arrangements for disposal are implemented. Work on termination of local lease arrangements is proceeding in this context.

My Department engaged consultants with valuation expertise in May 2007, following competitive tendering, to examine individual leases and make recommendations on termination of leases where appropriate. In May 2008, I accepted the consultants' recommendations and these are currently being implemented. The consultants recommended termination of leases in 7 cases and this has since occurred in 3 locations. No additional payments were made in respect of these terminations.

Work is ongoing on concluding the other 4 leases. It is expected that, in certain instances, termination of lease arrangements will give rise to buy-out costs and these will be dependent on the outcome of negotiations.

Costs incurred since the establishment of the Task Force relate to storage and website maintenance. Based on figures received in my Department from Returning Officers, the total annual costs for storage of the electronic voting equipment (including the cost of insurance, service charges, rates and heating) for 2009 were some €182,500. Pending completion of arrangements for the disposal of the machines, the website www.electronicvoting.ie is still operational to assist in this process. Annual costs in 2009 in respect of website hosting, including domain name registration, were €1,881.

Departmental Bodies.

Brian Hayes

Question:

26 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the debt liabilities of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16051/10]

I refer to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 6 on today's Order Paper.

EU Directives.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

27 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to transpose the European Union Public Participation Directive to give rights to the public to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15965/10]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

61 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps taken for Ireland to ratify the Aarhus Convention and to grant the public rights to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15964/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 61 together.

Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters on 25 June 1998. Progress towards ratification of the Convention is closely aligned with work at EU level and, in that context, the European Union has adopted two Directives as part of the ratification process for the Convention. These deal with public access to environmental information (2003/4/EC) and public participation in certain environmental decision-making procedures (2003/35/EC).

The European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 came into effect on 1 May 2007. These Regulations transpose EU Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information.

Ireland has not yet ratified the Convention due to outstanding issues concerning transposition of the Public Participation Directive. The recent European Court of Justice judgement in case C427/07, concerning implementation of the Public Participation Directive in Ireland, requires certain legislative amendments which my Department is prioritising, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. In addition, my Department, in consultation with other Departments, is conducting a review of all relevant legislation to ensure that we fully meet our obligations under the Convention. This is necessary due to the nature of the Irish legal system, which requires that all relevant aspects of Conventions such as this be implemented through domestic law. While many other countries have legal systems which allow international agreements to take direct effect in law, without specific implementation measures, Ireland has to go to much greater lengths in respect of implementation measures to ensure compliance before ratification.

My Department is continuing to work to address all the outstanding issues as soon as possible and I, along with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will then ensure that the instrument of ratification of the Convention is submitted to Government and laid before the Dáil as a matter of urgency.

Dublin Docklands Development Authority.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

28 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied with the manner in which his Department exercised its oversight role in relation to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15845/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

48 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the process which existed for the examination of the Annual Report and Audited Accounts of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority following the submission of same to him; the analysis of same that took place over the years; and if concerns were expressed at the time of submission of the annual report and accounts or otherwise about any of the major financial transactions in which it was involved. [15846/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 48 together.

I refer to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 177 of 1 April 2010.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority is a commercial semi-State body established under the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997. The Act sets out the oversight functions of the Minister, including the appointment of the Chairperson, the Directors and Members of the Authority's Council, the approval of planning schemes, and the approval of borrowing with the consent of the Minister for Finance. My Department has been represented on the Board and the Council of the Authority since its establishment.

Under section 43 of the Act, the Authority must prepare an Annual Report and Audited Accounts in such form as may be approved by the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, and must arrange for the accounts to be submitted to an independent audit. The Authority's accounts have been audited by independent external auditors, KPMG, since 1998.

Prior to the laying of the Annual Report and Accounts before the Houses of the Oireachtas, the contents of the Authority's Annual Report and Accounts are submitted in the first instance to the Minister who brings them to the attention of Government. In this context, and having regard to its general oversight role in relation to the Authority, my Department reviews the Authority's Annual Report and Accounts, including the financial position of the Authority. Following the consideration of the 2008 Annual Accounts, the Authority prepared a report for me regarding its ongoing participation in the Becbay Joint Venture. I appointed independent financial advisers to assess the report, in consultation with my Department and the Department of Finance, and I intend to revert to Government on this matter, in association with the Authority's corporate governance reports, in the coming weeks.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

29 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding housing regeneration projects for Croke Villas, St. Teresa’s Gardens, Jamestown Road, Convent Lands on Sean McDermott Street, Infirmary Road, Bridgefoot Street flat complex, St. Michael’s Estate in Inchicore, Dominick Street and O’Devaney Gardens, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16068/10]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

55 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will deal with a matter (details supplied). [15970/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 55 together.

My Department is committed to a multi-annual regeneration programme in Dublin City to help to improve the lives and conditions of the communities involved. The programme is reviewed on a regular basis with Dublin City Council, including through the biannual Housing Action Plan meetings, with new projects added and additional elements of existing projects advanced, as resources permit. It is a matter for Dublin City Council, in the first instance, to prioritise and manage the advancement of projects within the programme having regard to its available funding resources.

Over the past decade my Department has invested over €100 million in the Dublin City Council inner city flats regeneration programme to improve the accommodation quality of the complexes, as well as to address economic and social issues including anti-social behaviour. Under the 2009 capital programme, my Department provided €12 million for projects at Bridgefoot Street, Queen Street, Lourdes House and Sean Treacy House. Investment in approved projects at Poplar Row, Lourdes House and Seán Treacy House is continuing in 2010 with funding of almost €9 million available to substantially complete the programme.

In 2008, due to the changing economic climate, the City Council was not in a position to progress a number of projects under Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements. The City Council therefore suspended its PPP programme pending recovery in the market, and established a multi-disciplinary Special Housing Taskforce to examine alternative options for the redevelopment, in particular, of the priority regeneration projects i.e. St Michael's Estate, O'Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street. The Taskforce initial strategy for the phased development of these estates, incorporating the construction of social housing as Phase 1, was adopted by the City Council in December 2008.

In support of this process, my Department has liaised closely with Dublin City Council to ensure that the former PPP regeneration projects are considered for inclusion in the national regeneration programme. In this regard my Department issued approval in 2009 to the City Council to go to tender for phase one of the St. Michael's Estate Project and funding of €3.5 million is available to support the project this year. Detailed proposals for the future redevelopment of O'Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street are expected from the City Council in 2010/2011 and in the meantime the City Council is continuing its strategy for the detenanting of these areas.

The Taskforce is now examining redevelopment options for Phase 2 projects i.e. Croke Villas, Dolphin House, and St. Teresa's Gardens.

In addition, in the light of changes in the housing market, a number of proposed affordable and private housing projects, which had been earmarked to proceed by PPP arrangements, i.e. Bridgefoot Street, Infirmary Road, Convent Lands on Sean McDermott Street and Jamestown Road are not now proceeding.

House Price Database.

Joan Burton

Question:

30 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the need to bring forward proposals, and make the necessary legislative changes, for a house price database to record details of residential and commercial property sales in view of the cessation of the ESRI/Permanent TSB monthly house price index; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11661/10]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

158 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made towards the establishment of a house price database which will provide accurate and reliable information regarding specific house sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16177/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 158 together.

The need for a more comprehensive house price index to inform national economic and social policy by providing a more meaningful indicator of housing market and wider macro-economic conditions, while also serving to form the basis of key decisions made by home buyers, home sellers and mortgage providers, has been recognised by the Government.

The renewed Programme for Government sets out a clear commitment to create and maintain a comprehensive House Price Database based on sales prices.

My Department has held meetings with a broad range of interested parties to gather views on the shape that such a register might take. Once the work of this group has concluded recommendations will be made to Government. The timing of the establishment of the register will be determined by a range of factors including the possible need to amend the Data Protection Acts to allow for achieved sales prices to be published.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 24.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

32 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the methodology used to calculate local market rents which are used in establishing leasing costs under Social Housing Leasing Initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15949/10]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

60 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of existing agreements under the Social Housing Leasing Initiative that have achieved, or failed to achieve the targeted 20% discount on market rent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15946/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 60 together.

The leasing cost of a dwelling provided under a long term lease or availability agreement to a local authority or an approved housing body is determined by a variety of factors, including type and size, location and the market rent of comparable properties in the area. These costs can also be subject to rent reviews, which my Department has advised should follow market conditions.

Housing authorities and approved housing bodies are expected to negotiate a discounted rent based on the elements of risk, such as who is responsible for vacancies and management and maintenance, assigned to the different parties. In a standard lease the benchmark figure for the discounted rent is 20% below market rent.

Of the total number of standard leased units for which funding approval has been issued by my Department, 74 have achieved 20% or more below market value and 42 between 16% and 20%.

Funding approval for unsold affordable units are based on the costs of meeting outstanding interest charges on the properties. Approval for units owned by approved housing bodies where they are responsible for management and maintenance of the properties are based on an 8% discount on market rent. A wider discount range may also apply in the case of apartment complexes where the owner has retained responsibility for service charges.

With regard to the calculation and verification of market rents, as part of the application for funding, local authorities and, where applicable, approved housing bodies must submit formal valuation evidence verifying rent levels for properties in the area and setting out the basis for the discount.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 22.

Local Authority Housing.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

34 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount by which the housing capital expenditure increased or decreased by each local authority in the period 2007 to 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15948/10]

The table below gives recoupment details by local authority for the housing subheads for the years 2007-2009; details of allocations for 2010 have also been included. The information has been broken down into:

B.1. — Social Housing Provision and Support

B.2. — Local Authority Estate Regeneration and Remedial Works

B.3. — Private Housing Adaptation — Grants and other Supports

Carlow County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

15,672,013

23,594,503

10,234,010

8,520,000

B 2

0

593,758

781,645

470,000

B 3

782,807

1,547,284

1,546,218

1,494,500

Cavan County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

12,560,862

14,577,095

11,645,226

7,070,000

B 2

92,154

1,865,578

2,742,038

2,089,000

B 3

753,977

1,568,060

1,144,682

1,500,000

Clare County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

19,059,251

30,564,110

20,688,579

13,695,000

B 2

218,583

5,842,461

1,431,908

3,165,000

B 3

857,560

3,255,708

1,716,060

2,500,000

Cork City Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

77,038,654

81,866,285

64,623,085

32,780,000

B 2

13,859,955

24,172,013

21,021,427

22,475,000

B 3

1,218,359

3,564,878

3,671,022

2,166,333

Cork County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

82,973,278

76,824,377

142,351,747

36,415,000

B 2

1,135,450

5,865,807

23,797,872

4,670,000

B 3

3,622,522

6,468,021

11,253,568

6,490,067

Donegal County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

37,345,243

47,156,190

28,913,558

15,210,000

B 2

197,010

659,643

7,312

1,531,000

B 3

2,790,698

3,560,323

4,315,548

3,680,000

Dublin City Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

156,513,127

176,912,316

99,860,856

110,590,000

B 2

56,633,975

84,388,669

89,649,624

75,745,000

B 3

8,309,518

12,625,908

12,731,356

11,300,000

Fingal County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

25,485,640

35,383,028

23,473,373

49,740,000

B 2

0

1,000,000

440,000

1,500,000

B 3

1,036,073

8,454,379

1,589,103

2,100,000

South Dublin County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

87,585,084

42,554,448

63,807,499

50,675,000

B 2

7,946,332

6,901,661

4,340,763

5,625,000

B 3

2,622,333

2,994,779

3,702,315

3,800,000

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

21,713,219

34,404,323

39,472,062

22,250,000

B 2

3,958,504

3,001,138

752,735

2,800,000

B 3

1,245,293

1,692,890

1,653,465

1,708,000

Galway City Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

36,502,737

30,121,553

20,700,757

16,300,000

B 2

600,000

612,566

492,180

1,915,000

B 3

687,851

938,717

438,903

981,333

Galway County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

28,420,278

26,682,764

15,138,637

12,075,000

B 2

315,217

2,556,160

3,236,017

3,090,000

B 3

1,196,745

1,734,363

1,350,238

1,900,000

Kerry County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

39,024,925

37,936,809

22,877,529

17,350,000

B 2

180,646

2,312,978

3,642,974

8,020,000

B 3

1,701,174

2,597,205

3,012,875

3,249,000

Kildare County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

45,218,048

55,483,073

36,435,123

25,280,000

B 2

0

5,906,064

3,766,733

1,785,000

B 3

1,079,483

3,871,611

2,018,693

3,000,000

Kilkenny County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

30,874,481

28,630,286

16,470,123

14,685,000

B 2

400,000

1,512,620

645,867

1,885,000

B 3

534,311

596,350

944,897

1,494,000

Laois County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

25,736,919

21,325,556

9,774,986

10,280,000

B 2

76,059

2,091,917

3,589,895

1,075,000

B 3

1,734,170

1,869,682

1,654,234

1,464,000

Leitrim County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

5,432,614

4,755,709

5,439,988

3,265,000

B 2

73,518

1,090,347

670,686

1,195,000

B 3

1,030,084

1,312,927

1,315,674

1,310,000

Limerick City Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

20,957,019

25,368,510

31,138,619

13,920,000

B 2

12,144,462

13,483,063

6,911,373

26,705,000

B 3

468,401

807,931

1,119,103

1,220,000

Limerick County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

20,638,738

19,904,524

14,690,880

12,220,000

B 2

99,374

2,212,995

1,941,436

2,755,000

B 3

1,019,313

1,092,993

1,382,663

1,547,000

Longford County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

18,089,816

18,921,772

14,190,665

10,740,000

B 2

89,971

900,362

579,600

900,000

B 3

418,699

989,045

1,008,074

1,000,000

Louth County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

45,215,823

39,000,950

32,056,910

19,320,000

B 2

132,280

1,810,891

1,281,526

790,000

B 3

1,193,251

2,413,851

2,528,974

2,156,500

Mayo County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

22,644,247

26,682,700

17,631,608

18,045,000

B 2

65,238

3,174,926

2,442,588

4,490,000

B 3

1,627,266

2,255,895

3,480,919

2,976,000

Meath County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

31,238,539

27,905,049

29,118,818

14,745,000

B 2

78,160

3,969,857

866,284

3,575,000

B 3

1,586,679

3,296,891

1,124,538

1,171,277

Monaghan County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

14,964,298

19,674,405

15,028,591

6,175,000

B 2

535,620

834,576

2,037,348

2,400,000

B 3

1,253,446

1,474,374

1,202,311

1,664,000

Offaly County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

23,407,066

23,362,715

16,991,008

13,055,000

B 2

69,040

1,250,350

37,828

1,095,000

B 3

861,935

1,017,015

1,610,349

1,800,000

Roscommon County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

11,974,545

10,453,914

8,776,347

6,700,000

B 2

0

176,811

465,109

1,235,000

B 3

1,101,955

1,583,796

1,939,649

2,200,000

Sligo County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

23,929,078

24,181,281

15,871,499

17,555,000

B 2

4,060,563

13,865,067

16,165,308

7,275,000

B 3

595,210

814,975

1,649,412

1,475,000

North Tipperary County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

12,347,542

15,834,829

9,386,120

11,770,000

B 2

115,000

4,326,390

5,293,311

3,375,000

B 3

1,031,729

1,956,909

1,583,977

1,341,000

South Tipperary County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

23,794,261

24,324,785

13,569,445

1,532,000

B 2

70,000

1,451,026

331,213

2,845,000

B 3

882,395

1,381,734

1,752,989

2,500,000

Waterford City Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

39,009,151

23,794,335

17,536,327

11,350,000

B 2

3,338,738

14,282,414

11,761,236

8,200,000

B 3

293,958

524,249

595,561

698,000

Waterford County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

19,625,146

14,601,588

10,927,406

5,510,000

B 2

69,322

186,861

0

780,000

B 3

998,389

1,719,437

2,100,916

1,362,000

Westmeath County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

19,741,682

18,323,322

14,729,290

8,830,000

B 2

131,540

166,236

881,489

1,000,000

B 3

958,321

1,387,494

1,560,823

1,483,970

Wexford County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

36,246,696

36,765,434

24,219,440

14,295,000

B 2

33,086

2,772,279

715,643

1,390,000

B 3

1,340,572

1,753,155

2,478,126

2,621,500

Wicklow County Council

Outturn

Allocation

2007

2008

2009

2010

B 1

30,078,567

35,797,510

22,009,714

15,830,000

B 2

59,544

2,146,710

3,690,071

2,955,000

B 3

709,099

1,428,941

1,439,479

1,949,850

Social and Affordable Housing.

Jack Wall

Question:

35 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made towards the introduction of a rent to buy scheme to deal with the problem of unsold affordable housing; if he has issued any direction or guidelines to local authorities on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15939/10]

Very considerable progress has been made on both the sale of affordable housing and the deployment of unsold affordable homes for other purposes, including temporary use under the social leasing or RAS schemes. While the sale of the affordable units on hands remains the preferred option, the local authorities have available to them a range of options to bring these units into use. Local authorities are continuing their work in this regard, supported by my Department and the Affordable Homes Partnership.

I have no immediate plans to introduce a general rent-to-buy scheme across all local authorities because I do not believe such a scheme is needed in areas where there are only very small numbers of unsold units on hands. However, Dublin City Council has been given approval in principle by my Department for its proposal for a pilot scheme of "Rent to Buy" for a small number of unsold affordable homes in some developments in Dublin City. Details of the proposed scheme are now being finalised. Once operational, this pilot will be reviewed before deciding whether it would be appropriate to make such a scheme available in any other urban local authorities where there are significant numbers of unsold affordable homes.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

36 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of applications received and the number of loans drawn down for the home choice loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16077/10]

Over 1,400 prospective purchasers have formally registered interest on the dedicated Home Choice loan website and, to date, 58 applications have been made. Of these, four have been approved and three loans have been drawn down.

Waste Management.

Joe Costello

Question:

37 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will ensure the implementation of the National Strategy on Biodegradable Waste which aims to divert 80 per cent of biodegradable waste from landfill through segregated collection of biodegradable waste and the generation of compost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15969/10]

Meeting the requirements of the Landfill Directive is a key national priority in respect of waste management and I am committed to implementing the measures necessary to ensure that Ireland meets the 2010, and subsequent, EU landfill diversion targets. Data from the National Waste Report 2008, published by the EPA, show that the quantity of biodegradable municipal waste disposed of to landfill decreased by 19% in 2008 to approximately 1.2 million tonnes, which means that Ireland must divert a further 280,000 tonnes in order to meet the first Landfill Directive target due in July 2010.

In December 2009 I signed the Waste Management (Food Waste) Regulations 2009, which are designed to promote the segregation and beneficial use of food waste arising in the commercial sector. Also in December 2009, I increased the landfill levy by the currently permitted annual maximum of €5 per tonne to €25 per tonne and I increased it further to €30 per tonne from 1 February 2010.

On 30 March 2010, I launched a consultation on elements of a draft Bill which has been approved by Government for the application of levies to landfills and incinerators. The levies will be designed to ensure material which can be recycled and add value is not drawn to large scale residual waste treatment facilities.

In the coming weeks I will be launching a consultation document which will set out the various elements being considered as part of the development of a new national waste management policy. I will prioritise engagement on specific issues in the document including the management of biodegradable waste through the rollout of brown bins and home composting.

I am confident that all of the above measures will contribute significantly to the achievement of the targets for the diversion of waste from landfill and a reduction in our overall use of such facilities.

Homeless Persons.

Martin Ferris

Question:

38 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of additional homeless households that were housed in 2009 and in the first quarter of 2010 above the allocation pattern from 2005 to 2008 in line with the commitments outlined in The Way Home Homeless Strategy, to end long term homelessness by the end of 2010. [15935/10]

Housing authorities are responsible for meeting the accommodation needs of households assessed as having a housing need, including homeless persons. Details of specific categories of households, such as homeless, housed each year are not held in my Department for each housing authority.

Annual targets and outputs for the number of homeless households housed in the major urban centres are set out in my Department's Annual Output Statement, in respect of 2007 onwards, which sets out the high level Objectives and Programmes for the Department, the strategies being pursued to meet those objectives and actual and projected outputs. Copies of the Annual Output Statements are available in the Oireachtas library as part of the Department's Annual Report and on the Department's website at www.environ.ie

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 13.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Mary Upton

Question:

40 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the direction or guidelines that have been issued to local authorities regarding social housing applicants who refuse to take an offer of accommodation under the Social Housing Leasing Initiative; if social housing applicants will be penalised by being disqualified from the local authority housing lists for refusing to participate in the SHLI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15942/10]

The allocation of a dwelling under the Social Housing Leasing Initiative should be carried out in accordance with a local authority's scheme of letting priorities. The general guidance issued by my Department is that, unless exceptional circumstances obtain, the allocation of a leased property should be treated in the same manner as the allocation of any other social housing unit by that authority. Once allocated a leased property the tenant can, in due course, apply for a transfer to another social housing unit in the normal manner.

Water Services Regulations.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

41 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure that Ireland is complying with European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations (No. 2) 2007 (SI 278 of 2007); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15956/10]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

53 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of the new powers which have been assigned to local authorities to enforce the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations (No. 2) 2007 (SI 278 of 2007); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15957/10]

I propose to take Questions No. 41 and 53 together.

Under the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007, it is the duty of suppliers of drinking water "to take the necessary measures to ensure that water intended for human consumption is wholesome and clean and meets the requirements of [the] Regulations."

Statutory controls were strengthened under the Regulations to underpin comprehensive supervision and monitoring regimes for both local authority and group water scheme supplies. The Regulations provide that the EPA is the supervisory authority for drinking water supplied by water services authorities (the 34 county and city councils). The Regulations also provide that the water services authorities are responsible for the supervision of group water and private water supplies in their functional areas. The Regulations provide the relevant supervisory authority with powers of direct intervention, if required, to ensure that measures are taken to achieve compliance with prescribed water quality standards. Circular letter WSP 7/07, which provided guidance regarding the implementation of the new Regulations, was issued to all waters services authorities by my Department on 30 July 2007.

The EPA publishes details of its supervisory activities in its annual reports on the quality of drinking water in Ireland. A copy of the Agency's most recent report on drinking water, The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland — A Report for the Years 2007-2008, is available in the Oireachtas Library. Since the regulations came into force on 12 June 2007, the Agency has issued a number of guidance booklets and advice notes to water services authorities.

Waste Management.

David Stanton

Question:

42 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 29 of 24 June 2009 the progress, if any, made regarding the appointment of a waste management regulator; the progress made regarding the establishment of a national household waste register whereby every household will be required to register for waste management services with either a local authority or a private operator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15843/10]

The existing regulatory framework governing the waste market requires modernisation in a number of respects, particularly in relation to the dual role of local authorities as regulators and service providers, the need to ensure that waste services are provided in a manner consistent with the achievement of national and EU environmental objectives and targets, and the importance of ensuring that necessary public service criteria in relation to the provision of services in particular areas or in respect of specific households are properly reflected.

In November 2009 consultants delivered a major international report on waste management policy. My Department is currently examining this significant report and its recommendations, which are central in further informing the measures that may be necessary to underpin sustainable waste management services, whether delivered by the private or public sectors.

The renewed Programme for Government 2009 contains a commitment to the adoption and implementation of a new waste policy following the completion of the review. Giving effect to this commitment is one of my immediate priorities and the Government has recently endorsed my approach to the preparation of a new waste policy statement, which I will bring to Government shortly, and publish for public consultation.

Another key issue relates to the outcome of the High Court proceedings taken in 2008 by two private sector waste management service providers seeking to prevent the Dublin local authorities from using their existing powers to vary the region's waste management plan by inserting an objective in the plan that the collection of household waste from single dwelling households be carried out by the local authorities themselves or that the local authorities make arrangements by way of a public tendering process for the collection of such household waste on their behalf i.e. to introduce competition for the market.

The outcome of this High Court action was delivered, in unapproved form, in late December 2009 and has clear implications for the future regulation of the waste management sector generally. While the approved judgement is still awaited, the implications of the unapproved judgement are currently being examined.

Regarding the question of a household waste register, comprehensive powers are already available to local authorities under the Waste Management Acts to enforce the various legislative requirements placed on the holders of waste, including householders. Householders are required either to avail of the services lawfully provided by public and/or private waste collectors or otherwise to manage their waste in accordance with the law. Where a household cannot demonstrate compliance e.g. by providing proof of availing of a legal waste collection service, then the local authority is empowered to take appropriate action.

Section 18(1) of the Waste Management Act 1996 provides that a local authority may, for any purpose relating to its functions under the Act, require any holder of waste to maintain such records, and to furnish in writing to the local authority such particulars, as may be specified as to measures taken for the disposal of any waste.

Section 18(2) of the Act further provides that a person who fails to comply with a notice under this section or who furnishes any information in reply to such a notice which he or she knows to be false or misleading in a material respect is guilty of an offence.

Section 55 of the Act also confers powers on a local authority to require measures to be taken in relation to the holding, recovery or disposal of waste where it appears to a local authority that it is necessary so to do in order to prevent or limit environmental pollution caused, or likely to be caused, by the holding, recovery or disposal of waste. The local authority may serve a notice under this section on a person who is or was holding, recovering or disposing of the waste, as the case may be.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

43 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the method by which unsold affordable units are to be accommodated under the Social Housing Leasing Initiative; the parties to the lease agreement in view of the fact that the local authority is the owner of leased unit; if the recoupment model relates to the repayment of the interest costs of the loan, the way the capital cost is to be repaid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15950/10]

The Social Housing Leasing Initiative encompasses a number of different strands, one of which gives local authorities the option to lease vacant and unsold affordable units to approved housing bodies.

The reason for using unsold affordable units to accommodate social housing tenants in the short to medium term is to match existing vacant housing stock available to housing authorities with the housing needs of those in need of social housing support.

Under current arrangements, unsold affordable units are leased to approved housing bodies for a period of up to 5 years and during this period the properties are sub-let to households eligible for social housing support. Throughout the lease period the local authority retains ownership of the units.

My Department recoups to the local authority for the duration of the lease period the interest payments liable in respect of the loans taken by the authority to fund the affordable properties in the first instance.

At the end of the five year lease period, local authorities will be required to review the use of these properties taking account of the prevailing market conditions and can consider a range of options in terms of the future use of the property. In summary, the housing authority may—

(a) sell the units to the existing tenants under the new incremental purchase arrangements;

(b) sell the home as an affordable unit;

(c) extend the leasing arrangement on a yearly basis for up to a further five years, or

(d) take the unit into its housing stock and continue to rent it to the household concerned, subject to having sufficient funding within its capital allocation and obtaining my Department's prior approval.

Depending on the option chosen the capital cost will be met by selling the property to the tenant under the Incremental Purchase Scheme arrangements, by selling the property as an affordable dwelling or, if the unit is taken into social housing stock, from the capital allocation available to the authority under the Social Housing Investment Programme.

EU Directives.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

44 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the EU nitrate level report that had, among other findings, reported that Ireland had rising nitrates in groundwater at more than 30% of monitoring stations; and the progress that has been made on this matter. [12014/10]

The EU report in question is a summary report based on returns from Member States in accordance with Article 10 of the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC). Article 10 requires Member States to submit a report every four years which,inter alia, must include a summary of the monitoring results at representative and other water monitoring stations.

Ireland's return was prepared by the EPA and covered the period 2004 to 2007. The EPA reported that for the period in question, the trend in nitrate concentration showed a decline at 23% of groundwater sampling points and an increase at 46% of sampling points.

However, recent results from the EPA national monitoring programme indicate that nitrate levels in groundwater have begun to stabilize. Data for 2008 shows a marked decrease in the proportion of wells with nitrate concentrations greater than 25 milligrams per litre, compared to the 2007 values, although it is too soon to draw definitive conclusions as to whether this marks the start of a downward trend.

Warmer Homes Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

45 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if provision, equivalent to the warmer homes scheme, is available to local authority tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15954/10]

As part of the Government's National Retrofitting Programme, my Department launched a new scheme for the retrofitting of energy efficiency measures in existing local authority dwellings in May 2009. This scheme provides grant funding up to €15,000 per unit for the upgrading of vacant units and occupied apartment complexes across the country, and sets local authorities the objective of achieving a C1 BER following the works.

Typically the range of works involved, depending on the unit, is as follows:

Attic Insulation to meet current building regulation standards;

Replacement of windows and external doors in compliance with current regulations;

Air-tightness testing e.g. "blower-door" test and remedial action;

Wall insulation [cavity, external cladding, internal improvement, as appropriate];

Replacement of boilers over 10 years old with condensing boilers to current standards and installation of space and water heating controls;

Installation of radon protection measures e.g. external sump;

Any other measures as are required to improve the energy efficiency of the dwelling.

Authorities were also requested to give consideration to the use of sustainable materials in delivering any improvements.

Over the course of 2009, my Department approved energy efficiency improvement works to some 1,155 units, of which approximately 750 were completed by the end of the year at a cost to the Exchequer of almost €11 million. The balance of these works is currently being delivered by local authorities.

To facilitate the expansion of this scheme in 2010, and in recognition of the importance of maintaining the local authority housing stock to a high standard, I have significantly increased the funding available to local authorities to €40 million. To ensure that this funding is used to best effect, the Department is reviewing its technical and administrative guidance on the scheme and is exploring options for the inclusion of occupied dwellings in the scheme. Overall the scheme is expected to deliver 2,000 improved units to BER of C1, where practicable in 2010.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

46 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in view of the recoupment of reinstatement costs for leased units under the social housing leasing initiative, SHIP20.10.07, if he contributes 50%, who is liable for the other 50%; if reinstatement refers to the standard pertaining at commencement of the lease or at the conclusion of the lease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15944/10]

Under the general agreement by which a property is provided under the Social Housing Leasing Initiative, the property should be returned at the end of the lease period in the same condition as at the commencement of the lease subject to normal wear and tear.

Where costs arise in re-instating a property at the end of the lease period the Department will fund up to 50% of these costs. The local authority or the approved housing body, as the case may be, will be liable for the remaining costs.

The payment of any reinstatement costs by the Department will be subject to certain terms and conditions. Any application made for such costs to be recouped by the Department must be based on the condition survey agreed between the owner and the authority at the start of the lease, and a detailed schedule and cost of works envisaged to re-instate the units to the required condition.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

47 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of lease agreements undertaken in 2009 under the social housing leasing initiative that conform to the new standard, SHIP20.10.07, of a maximum of four units within a single development and with a single owner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15945/10]

Circular SHIP 2010.07 was issued to housing authorities in March 2009. The purpose of the circular was to extend the leasing arrangements to facilitate housing authorities who wished to lease single or small numbers of properties from individual property owners and to provide clarity to authorities on the financial arrangements underpinning the leasing initiative.

With regard to the leasing of single or small numbers of properties the circular gave housing authorities delegated power (i.e. no Department approval is necessary) to enter into lease arrangements for up to four units within a single development or with a single owner subject to compliance with the normal conditions governing the leasing initiative. The circular does not restrict authorities from acquiring more than four units within a particular development; however, funding approval from the Department is required in such cases.

In 2009 three separate leasing applications were received where there were four or fewer units proposed, and one of these has been approved by the Department.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 28.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Liz McManus

Question:

49 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to deliver the programme for Government commitment regarding the replacement of septic tanks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15961/10]

The renewed Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a scheme for the licensing and inspection of septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems. In October 2009, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that Ireland failed to make adequate legislation for dealing with domestic wastewater from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. In order to comply with the ECJ ruling, legislation will be required to give effect to a new inspection and monitoring system.

My Department is considering how the inspection of septic tanks should be carried out and has been consulting with the EPA and the local authorities. It is also intended to undertake consultations with wider stakeholders on the matter. It is too early at this stage to estimate when the new arrangements will be operational.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Liz McManus

Question:

50 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of money estimated, allocated, owing or spent, on the purchase of carbon credits in respect of Kyoto Protocol commitments for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15962/10]

The National Climate Change Strategy signalled the possibility of supplementing greenhouse gas emission reductions with the purchase of up to 3.6 million carbon credits on average each year in the five-year Kyoto Protocol commitment period 2008-2012 or 18 million credits in total, costing an estimated €270m.

Under the Carbon Fund Act 2007, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has been designated as purchasing agent for the State.

In 2008, the NTMA purchased 3.455m certified emission reduction units at a cost of some €52m exclusive of VAT. In 2009, they purchased 1.8m units at a cost of some €21.6m exclusive of VAT.

Prior to the designation of the NTMA as purchasing agent, my Department committed €10 million each to the Carbon Fund for Europe and the BioCarbon Fund operated by the World Bank. Management of these investments is a matter for my Department. Periodic drawdown is a feature of these investments and since enactment of the 2007 Act payments are made through the Carbon Fund process as they arise. The amount to be paid each year is not predetermined and in general payments are made as purchasing transactions progress. In 2008, my Department refunded €3.72m to the Carbon Fund. No refunds arose in 2009 and, to date, my Department has refunded €2.3m in 2010.

The economic downturn has implications for the purchasing programme. Recent EPA projections suggest that, with full implementation of all announced emission reduction measures, we may already have purchased or contracted to purchase sufficient carbon credits to meet our Kyoto commitment. In the circumstances, the NTMA has been asked to put its purchasing programme on hold for the foreseeable future. In the current economic climate an unusually high degree of uncertainty attaches to all projections. Accordingly, purchasing requirements to ensure Kyoto compliance are being kept under review.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

51 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the €25 million set aside to pay for leasing in 2010 under the social housing leasing initiative is to cover new leases signed in 2010; if it also covers lease agreements entered into in 2009; the number of privately owned properties targeted under the SHLI other than affordable home properties for 2010 exclusive of properties secured in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15943/10]

€25 million has been provided to cover the costs of the Social Housing Leasing Initiative in 2010. This will support the cost of commitments entered into last year and also the cost of acquiring at least an additional 2,000 units under the initiative this year.

It is anticipated that of the new units provided for leasing this year, that approximately 1,500 units will be sourced in the private sector by local authorities or approved housing bodies.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

52 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the proposals for carbon credits in relation to flights by Ministers and officials; the way the amount to be spent on carbon credits for each flight will be calculated; the flights for which they will be purchased; the amount spent so far; from whom will they be purchased and the environmental purposes for which the money will be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15963/10]

In response to commitments in the Programme for Government and the National Climate Change Strategy, my Department developed a scheme to offset greenhouse gas emissions from official air travel. The scheme applies to all Government Departments and Offices, and covers all flights by Ministers and officials on both commercial airlines and Government passenger aircraft. It also applies to bodies under the aegis of Departments and it is a matter for individual Departments to decide which bodies are to be included.

The scheme operates on an annual basis and commenced in 2009. It retrospectively accounted for all official air travel since the Government came into office in June 2007. Departments and offices are required each year to calculate their carbon dioxide emissions and associated offsetting costs based on total air kilometres travelled. Annual offsetting costs are calculated using a standard formula based on kilograms of CO2 emitted per passenger kilometres travelled. My Department provides a carbon price each year to reflect the average cost of offsetting a tonne of carbon in the voluntary offsetting market. This acts as the basis for Departments to calculate their offsetting costs.

The value of the total offsetting costs in each year is invested through Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) in Gold Standard Voluntary Emissions Reductions (GS VERs) from small scale energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Ireland's priority Overseas Development Aid countries in Africa.

Government Departments, Offices and other bodies contributed some €400,000 during 2009 to offset greenhouse gas emissions from official air travel by Ministers, civil servants and other officials for the period June 2007 to December 2008. These funds have been invested in a project in Malawi which involves reducing the use of non-renewable biomass for energy through the supply of improved household cooking stoves.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 41.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

54 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of the promised 2,000 to 4,000 houses that have been brought into social use as part of the general leasing scheme announced in February 2009 not including unsold affordable houses leased in partnership with the voluntary sector housing associations. [15936/10]

The leasing initiative encompasses a number of different strands. Dwellings are acquired by housing authorities on long term (up to 20 year) leases from private owners, dwellings are provided by approved housing bodies under long-term availability agreements and vacant and unsold affordable units are leased to approved housing bodies (in the latter case, the lease period is for 5 years initially).

To the end of March 2010, a total 2,289 units had been sourced and approved for leasing in order to meet the housing needs of persons requiring social housing support.

A breakdown by status under each of the main strands is set out in the table below. Projects are deemed operational when, following approval by the Department, all agreements have been signed and the local authority or the approved housing body, as the case may be, commences the process of allocating properties to tenants.

Type Leasing

Operational

Funding Approved

Provisional Approved

Total Approved

Affordable

518

997

36

1,551

Local Authority

5

81

261

347

Voluntary

*94

297

391

Total

523

1,172

594

2,289

*This includes 64 units currently being constructed as part of a build to lease contract.

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 29.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

56 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to upgrade sewerage and industrial waste water treatment plants to tackle the problem of water pollution and the eutrophication of rivers, lakes and tidal waters as outlined in the most recent Environmental Protection Agency report on water quality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15966/10]

Good progress has been made in recent years by local authorities in the provision and management of wastewater services in their areas. This progress has been possible through high levels of investment coupled with new legislation on the licensing of wastewater treatment plants.

The process of finalising river basin management plans under the Water Framework Directive is under way at present with plans adopted by the majority of local authorities at this stage. The plans set environmental objectives to protect and improve water quality within 7 river basin districts.

Earlier this week, I published a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure to be undertaken under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012. On wastewater projects alone, it details just over 59 contracts currently in progress with a value of €500 million and 161 contracts to be progressed to construction over the period 2010-2012 with a value of just over €1 billion. A further 94 wastewater schemes are listed for work to be undertaken on the earlier planning stages of those schemes.

In addition to economic and planning considerations, the investment programme was, for the first time, informed by the environmental priorities identified as part of the river basin planning process.

Substantial funding of €415m is being provided by the Exchequer to advance major water and waste water schemes in 2010, in addition to investment of €93m under the Rural Water Programme. Against the current economic backdrop, this level of investment, which will mean that average spending on water services over the period 2009 and 2010 will be up 3% on the 2008 outturn, continues to reflect the priority assigned by Government to providing critical water services infrastructure.

The Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations, 2007, provides for an authorisation system for urban wastewater discharges by local authorities. The authorisation system, which is being administered by the EPA, applies to all discharges to waters from sewage treatment plants or collection systems owned or controlled by local authorities. Introduced on a graduated basis since 2007, all discharges are now the subject of licences/certificates or licence/certification applications to the EPA.

Discharges from industry to local authority sewage treatment plants are subject to agreement of the relevant local authority. Direct discharges to the aquatic environment from industrial plants are subject to licensing by the relevant local authority or the EPA.

Litter Pollution.

David Stanton

Question:

57 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 29 of 24 June 2009 if the total anti-litter awareness grant scheme 2009 allocation of €1.07 million was expended by local authorities in 2009; the total grant allocated in 2010 broken down by local authority; the additional funding, if any, made available through his Department for local authorities or other organisations to combat littering and illegal dumping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15844/10]

In 2009 local authorities expended €1.004 million of the €1.070 million allocated to them under the anti-litter and graffiti awareness grant scheme. Not all local authorities took up their full allocation.

A total of €1 million will be made available in 2010 for the anti-litter and graffiti awareness grant scheme, and allocations at individual local authority level are currently under consideration and will be made available as soon as possible. In addition to the anti-litter and graffiti awareness grant scheme, I am also providing funding for a number of specific initiatives in 2010, each of which plays a part in education and awareness on litter and in tackling problems caused by incorrect disposal of litter. The initiatives concerned are:

Iniatives

National Spring Clean

260,000

Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) National Litter League

70,000

Protecting Uplands and Rural Environments (PURE) Initiative

100,000

Tidy Towns

289,000

Green Schools

200,000

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 22.

Water Supply.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

59 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to address the issue of leaking mains and leakage from pipes to ensure that the quantity of unaccounted for water in our public water supply is reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15955/10]

Over the past seven years, my Department has recouped some €130 million to local authorities for water conservation measures in their areas. With this investment, local authorities have, to date, largely focused on putting in place water management systems to allow for active leakage control and better planning of mains rehabilitation.

This investment thus provides the platform for more intensive investment in mains rehabilitation and is a key priority under the new Water Services Investment Programme which I published earlier this week. The Water Services Investment Programme 2010 to 2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, will build on existing investment in water conservation, by providing for a very substantial scaling up of activity on mains rehabilitation. My aim is to substantially increase investment in water conservation under the new Programme to provide for the commencement of contracts with a value of some €320 million over the next three years. This level of activity will tackle the problem of unaccounted for water in public water supply networks, with losses ranging from 16.8% to 58.6% nationwide, depending on the local authority involved.

The report Service Indicators in Local Authorities 2008 published last November by the Local Government Management Services Board, a copy of which is also available in the Oireachtas Library, sets out the most recent figures for unaccounted for water for each county and city council. Such levels of water loss are unsustainable and indicate the clear need for local authorities to take more concerted action to tackle the problem.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 27.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

62 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the functions that have been assigned to the Affordable Homes Partnership, SHIP 20.10.07, regarding the Social Housing Leasing Initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15951/10]

Taking account of the impact that changed market conditions has had on the core functions of the Affordable Homes Partnership (AHP), it has been assigned new responsibilities, in particular in relation to operation of the Social Housing Leasing Initiative. In regard to the leasing initiative the AHP has been asked to:

assist and support authorities in bringing the remaining unsold affordable stock into effective use, including by means of social leasing;

provide general support and training for bodies engaged in the roll out of the leasing initiative.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 20.

Planning Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

64 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the efforts of local councils to tackle the proliferation of head shops by way of their planning powers; his further views on whether the efforts being undertaken at local level further highlight the need for a comprehensive legislative response at national level; and if he has met with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the national drugs strategy to discuss same. [15930/10]

My Department, is working with the other relevant Departments, including the Departments of Health and Children; Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and Enterprise, Trade and Employment to develop recommendations for Government on the best way forward in devising an overall Government response to the issue of so-called head shops.

My Department is considering, in consultation with planning authorities, whether the planning system could make a sufficiently effective contribution to the resolution of this issue, through, for example, a more restrictive use of the change of use provisions under planning legislation or the inclusion of appropriate policies in their development plans.

Proposed Legislation.

Martin Ferris

Question:

65 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to bring forward legislation to allow existing local authority mortgage holders to remortgage without triggering the clawback; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15934/10]

While provision has been made in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 to allow purchasers under the new Affordable Dwelling Purchase Arrangements to re-mortgage or top-up their mortgage without triggering the clawback, the Act does not provide this facility for purchasers under existing affordable housing or shared ownership arrangements. I have requested my Department to arrange to have the provisions necessary to address this matter included in the first appropriate legislative vehicle that becomes available.

Redundancy Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

66 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the date from which the redundancy payment section is currently processing claims; the length of time to process such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16124/10]

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

The impact on business of the severe economic circumstances currently pertaining has resulted in an unprecedented increase in the level of Redundancy Payment claims lodged with my Department. This has impacted significantly on the capacity to maintain the customer service targets that previously obtained. The scale of the challenge on the Redundancy side is evident from the statistics that show incoming redundancy claims in 2009 amounted to 77,001 which represents a threefold increase over the level of claims lodged in 2007 and earlier years. In 2007, claims received were of the order of 25,000.

Efforts continue to be made by my Department to deliver more acceptable turnaround processing times for Redundancy payments given the difficulties that this gives rise to for both individual employees and the business community. Measures already taken in the Department in 2009 to alleviate the pressures on the Payments area include:

almost doubling the number of staff through reassignment to a current level of 52 full time equivalents;

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

establishment of a special call handling facility in NERA to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses concerned about their payments.

Better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

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

The backlog and waiting times remain at unacceptable levels. However, improvements are evident. The number of claims processed and paid by the Redundancy Payments Section in 2009 amounted to 50,664, an increase of 70% over 2008. In the first quarter of 2010, my Department processed 21,122 claims — an increase of over 151% on the previous first quarter in 2009. Claims processed in the month of March 2010 was the highest ever achieved in the Section with 8,168 claims processed in the month. In the year to date, inroads have being made on the backlog of claims on hand, which reduced from 41,168 at the end January 2010 to 37,054 at the end of March 2010.

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department is currently processing rebate applications submitted by post from August 2009 and those filed on-line from September 2009, so that the waiting time is approximately 7 to 8 months depending on the manner of filing the application. In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, the Section is, in general, processing claims dating from September 2009.

Responsibility for the payment of redundancy and insolvency payments is due to be transferred to the Department of Social Protection. The intention is to transfer by Government order, the payment functions arising under the Redundancy Payment and Insolvency Payment schemes. In transferring the functions between Departments, it is the intention that this will operate seamlessly and without any adverse impact on the service levels being experienced by individuals or the business community awaiting payment of redundancy claims.

John O'Mahony

Question:

67 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their redundancy payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16160/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that on the basis of the records in the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department, there is no record of a claim for a redundancy payment in respect of the individual in question.

Company Registration.

John Deasy

Question:

68 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the average time currently taken to process applications to register new companies and the equivalent average processing times in 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16237/10]

The Companies Registration Office does not keep average processing times for the incorporation of new companies. However, 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 in 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010. In particular, applications using the CRODisk incorporation scheme, which has a target deadline of five days, were processed within two working days in most instances.

Work Permits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

69 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the number of work permits being issued has diminished since the recession started; the numbers of permits outstanding; the number newly issued over the past 30 months. [16290/10]

I set out hereunder the number of work permits issued from 2007 to to-date in 2010. It should be noted that the majority of new permits issued over the last 30 months have been in respect of non-EEA nationals already in the State changing employer or spouses of existing employer permit holders. The Employment Permits Section informs me that it currently has approximately 1,700 applications on hands waiting to be processed.

Permits Issued 2007-2010

Year

New

Renewals

Group

Total

2010

1,111

1,455

0

2,566

2009

3,934

3,891

0

7,825

2008

8,459

4,984

0

13,443

2007

9,914

13,211

13

23,138

Motor Fuels.

Joe Carey

Question:

70 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Finance the reason behind the introduction of the 8.7% carbon tax on agricultural diesel as against the 4.4% levy on road diesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16156/10]

I announced in Budget 2010 that a carbon tax at a rate of €15 per tonne was being introduced on fossil fuels. The tax was applied to petrol and auto-diesel with effect from midnight, 9 December 2009; and will apply from 1 May 2010 to kerosene, marked gas oil (also known as ‘green diesel' or ‘agricultural diesel'), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), fuel oil and natural gas. The application of the tax to coal and commercial peat is subject to a Commencement Order. The Budget announcements on the carbon tax have now been enacted into legislation through the Finance Act 2010.

The new carbon charge is based on the emissions that arise from the fuel used. Consequently the carbon tax charge in respect of marked gas oil and auto-diesel (which are almost identical fuels) is around the same i.e. 4.1 cents and 3.9 cents per litre respectively (excluding VAT). The carbon tax charge is marginally higher for marked gas oil because it is a slightly denser fuel with slightly higher emissions than auto-diesel.

While the percentage increase in the price of marked gas oil arising from the introduction of the carbon tax is higher than in the case of auto-diesel, this is a function primarily of the fact that marked gas oil has a lower base price due to the considerably lower level of excise duty on that product compared to auto-diesel.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the action that has taken place in the period since November 2009 to address the issue of flooding in various areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16263/10]

In light of the severe flooding which affected the country in November 2009 the Government has allocated €50m, administered by the Office of Public Works, for flood risk management activities for 2010. This increased allocation will allow OPW to extend the number of Capital Works schemes already under way throughout the country. Within the overall allocation, I have also announced an increase for Minor Flood and Coastal Protection Works to be undertaken by Local Authorities in 2010. OPW has already allocated €6.7M to Local Authorities this year under the Programme, and it is still open to Local Authorities to make further submissions which can be considered having regard to available resources.

OPW has undertaken a rigorous collection of data and information since the November 2009 floods, and has already met with several local authorities to review the flood events of November 2009 and identify actions required. This has already led to a Feasibility Study to be undertaken in Bandon, Co Cork, with works being considered for advancement in County Galway as well. Further consideration is being given to other areas which may also lead to works being undertaken by OPW, in addition to the major schemes already under construction in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Mallow Co Cork, Fermoy Co Cork, Ennis Co Clare, Mornington Co Meath and the River Dodder in Dublin, and the schemes at various stages of development which include Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, Templemore, Co. Tipperary, Bray and Arklow, Co. Wicklow amongst others.

The Deputy may be interested to know that OPW has agreed to allocate funding to complete a programme of flood alleviation works in the Johnstown area, and Kildare County Council has been successful in obtaining planning approval in accordance with Part 8 of the planning and development regulations for this scheme. It is envisaged that the scheme will get under way later this year subject to the Local Authority being able to resolve outstanding issues in relation to land acquisition and site investigation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

72 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he and his Department in conjunction with other Departments have finalised plans for the prevention of flooding in the future; the financial structure in place to meet such requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16269/10]

As lead agency in the management of flood risk nationally, the Office of Public Works has focused on a catchment-based context for managing flood risk, with more proactive risk assessment and management, and increased use of non-structural and flood impact mitigation measures. A comprehensive consultation process with all relevant stakeholders is a constituent part of flood risk assessment programme. Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Studies (CFRAMS) and their product — Catchment Flood Risk Management Plans (CFRMP) — are at the core of this national policy for flood risk management and the strategy for its implementation. This policy is in line with international best practice and the requirements of the EU Floods Directive.

The OPW has been appointed as the national competent authority under the EU Floods Directive, and as such will act the principal coordinator in the production of CFRMP for all national river catchments which are due to be submitted to the EU by 2015. In advance of the completion of the CFRMP, OPW will continue to invest significant funds in terms of flood relief activities, capital works, drainage maintenance and hydrometric activities

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

73 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has received a response from the EU towards flood damage costs arising from the flooding of November 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16270/10]

My Department made an application to the EU Commission on 27th January 2010 for funding under the EU Solidarity Fund based on estimates of damage received from Departments and local authorities. The application was formally acknowledged by the Commission on 24th February 2010. The EU Solidarity Fund does not fund full reconstruction nor does it fund prevention works. It funds emergency operations to allow a rapid return to normal living conditions.

A regional application was made as the estimate of the extent of the damage does not meet the Solidarity Fund's threshold of 0.6% of GNI or 935.5m euro for a national disaster. There are specific criteria which must be met to ensure a successful regional application to the EU Solidarity Fund. These criteria include the majority of the population of the region being affected by the disaster and serious and long lasting effects on the region's economic stability and living conditions. My Department continues to work with the Commission on finalising the costs underpinning the application.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

74 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent, if any, to which he has sought or received notification from the EU institutions regarding proposals in respect of flood prevention and alleviation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16271/10]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the application made by my Department to the EU Commission on 27th January 2010 for funding under the EU Solidarity Fund based on estimates of damage received from Departments and local authorities following the flooding in November 2009. The application was formally acknowledged by the Commission on 24th February 2010. The EU Solidarity Fund does not fund full reconstruction nor does it fund prevention works. It funds emergency operations to allow a rapid return to normal living conditions.

A regional application was made as the estimate of the extent of the damage does not meet the Solidarity Fund's threshold of 0.6% of GNI or 935.5m euro for a national disaster. There are specific criteria which must be met to ensure a successful regional application to the EU Solidarity Fund. These criteria include the majority of the population of the region being affected by the disaster and serious and long lasting effects on the region's economic stability and living conditions. My Department continues to work with the Commission on finalising the costs underpinning the application.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Question:

75 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the reason State controlled banks continue to pay pensions to former employees who are no longer repaying their loanstaken out with their former employers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16117/10]

As the Deputy is aware Anglo Irish Bank is the only bank which is State owned and managed by a Board on behalf of the State. Pension Schemes available to staff at the bank include defined benefit schemes (which closed to new membership in 1994) and a defined contribution scheme. These schemes are funded schemes, and are operated by appointed trustees. The schemes are operated independently from the bank under distinct rules and legislation. Pension entitlements are paid from the funds of the relevant schemes and in accordance with the rules of the particular scheme.

As a general rule payment of pension is independent and legally separate from other financial/loan arrangements the bank may have with a former employee. The bank is not legally entitled, as the law stands, to exercise a lien over or prohibit the payment of pension entitlements to former employees.

As with all loans, loans to former directors are being pursued to the full extent by the bank as appropriate and where necessary through the courts.

Garda Stations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

76 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 237 of 23 March 2010, the position regarding whether competitive bids have been sought. [16175/10]

Competitive bids for this project have not yet been sought. Preparation of tender documents was scheduled to be completed in mid April. However, due to some late changes to certain key engineering design elements, this has been delayed. It is now expected that tender documents will be completed in late May, and invitation of bids as soon as possible thereafter is envisaged. Notwithstanding that target dates have lengthened, the OPW expects to place a contract and to make substantial progress onsite in the second half of the year.

Motor Fuels.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

77 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if carbon tax will be applicable to marine diesel for fishing boats which are currently exempt from all taxes and duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16191/10]

As required by the Energy Tax Directive, all fuel used for commercial sea navigation, including sea-fishing, will continue to be exempt from Mineral Oil Tax, including the mineral oil tax carbon charge that was introduced in this year's Finance Act.

Company Registration.

John Deasy

Question:

78 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the time taken to process applications to register new companies for value added tax and the equivalent average processing times in 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16192/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Revenue's Customer Service Standards, published in August 2009, state that 100% of VAT registrations will be dealt with within 10 working days. The 10 working day standard for VAT registrations takes into account an extra level of scrutiny carried out by Revenue to ensure that the VAT registration is in respect of a legitimate trade. VAT registration carries a greater risk of abuse than other registration types.

In 2008, 98% of VAT Registrations were dealt with within 10 working days. This represents 34,503 Registrations out of a total of 35,064. In 2009, 96% of VAT Registrations were dealt with within 10 working days. This represents 27,167 Registrations out of a total of 28,263. To date in 2010, 97% of VAT Registrations were dealt with within 10 working days. This represents 7,891 Registrations out of a total of 8,131.

Revenue is currently developing an on-line self-service registration system through its Revenue On-line Service. This will be available to taxpayers and their agents and will allow them to complete their registration applications on-line. This new service will further reduce the amount of time it takes to register for a VAT number. This development is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Question:

79 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if preschool child care establishments and crèches are rateable under the Valuation Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16235/10]

The Valuation Act, 2001 maintains the long-standing position that all commercial facilities — including all preschool child care facilities such as playschools, preschools, crèches and Montessori schools — are liable for rates. However, charitable organisations providing child care facilities exclusively for charitable purposes and otherwise than for private profit are excluded from liability for commercial rates. In addition, operators of sessional places for 38 weeks of the year under the Early Childhood Care & Education Scheme (ECCE) are exempt from rates where: the property is usedexclusively for the 38 week sessional ECCE funded preschool services and for no other purposes such as child minding, as a crèche funded by private fees or any other commercial use; the expenses incurred in providing the ECCE preschool sessional services are defrayed wholly or mainly out of monies provided by the Exchequer; the educational services are available to the general public.

John Deasy

Question:

80 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the time currently taken to process applications to register new companies for PRSI and PAYE payments as an employer and the equivalent average processing times in 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16236/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Revenue's Customer Service Standards, published in August 2009, state that 100% of employer registrations will be dealt with within 5 working days.

In 2008 98% of Employer Registrations were dealt with within 5 working days. This represents 25,680 Registrations out of a total of 26,336.

In 2009 95% of Employer Registrations were dealt with within 5 working days. This represents 20,459 Registrations out of a total of 21,426.

To date in 2010 96% of Employer Registrations were dealt with within 5 working days. This represents 5,873 Registrations out of a total of 6,095.

Revenue is currently developing an on-line self-service registration system through its Revenue On-line Service. This will be available to taxpayers and their agents and will allow them to complete their registration applications on-line. This new service will further reduce the amount of time it takes to register for an Employer number. This development is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

Phil Hogan

Question:

81 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when a tax refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16238/10]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a cheque amounting to €825 will issue to the taxpayer in respect of the current year. This refund will issue by Revenue within the next week.

Pension Provisions.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

82 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance in respect of a pension package for a person (details supplied), if he authorised the benefit improvement before it was granted; if so, if he established the cost of this benefit improvement before authorising it. [16289/10]

Last night, Mr Boucher issued a statement saying that he was sensitive to the current comment and debate about his pension arrangements and that he had decided to waive his option to retire on pension at age 55. This means that the requirement to make the payment by the bank to the pension fund no longer exists. I welcome Mr Boucher's decision.

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Question:

83 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the renewal of an over 70 years medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16140/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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:

84 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the rationalisation of hospital laboratory services; if she will confirm that the Association of Clinical Biochemists in Ireland was not consulted in the drawing up of the Teamwork report on this matter, despite her statement in the Dáil on 8 December 2009 that stakeholders were consulted; her views regarding the report by Teamwork Management Services which claimed that the quality of laboratory services here is of a poor standard; if she and the Health Service Executive have examined the danger of fragmentation of services with the separation of testing in primary and secondary care and the weakening of clinical liaison and input under the proposed privatised and centralised model; her plans to commission a cost benefit analysis of a system that would see these services outsourced, many of them possibly abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16121/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

85 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will consider the alternative framework for laboratory modernisation put forward by the National Pathology Network; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16122/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 85 together.

Approximately 77 million laboratory tests are undertaken annually across 44 public hospitals. At present the annual cost of this service is approximately €470 million. The workload comprises both urgent and non-urgent tests and a significant proportion of the activity originates in the primary care setting. As with all other parts of the health service, and indeed the public service generally, it is essential that laboratory services are delivered as safely and as cost effectively as possible.

An external review of laboratory services was conducted for the HSE by Teamwork Management Services in 2007. The HSE has stated that Teamwork, in undertaking the review, consulted with the Association of Clinical Biochemists in Ireland amongst other stakeholders. The review highlighted limitations in the organisation of laboratories which had an adverse effect on quality, turnaround time and cost. It found at that time that "the whole system quality" of laboratories was not of a sufficiently high standard. The review also found that the overall proportion of individual laboratory medicine disciplines that had achieved accreditation status was low, "end-to-end" information systems were unsatisfactory and logistic services were inadequate. It found as well that the general condition of the laboratory estate typically was of traditional design and was outmoded.

In light of the review, the HSE announced plans in the early part of 2009 to modernise laboratory services and to achieve significant efficiencies in the configuration and operation of these services. The HSE has already had significant engagement with stakeholders in progressing this initiative. Groups such as the Faculty of Pathology, the Medical Laboratory Scientists' Association and the Association of Clinical Biochemists in Ireland will continue to have a significant input into the process.

As part of this initiative, the HSE has commenced discussions with the National Development Finance Agency about the capital financing of a small number of dedicated "cold" laboratories to process the large volumes of routine patient tests, many of which originate in primary care, currently undertaken in hospital laboratories. This process will include a robust analysis of the cold laboratory business model from a ‘Value for Money' perspective.

I am pleased to acknowledge that a number of improvements in laboratory services have taken place since the completion of the Teamwork review. The number of individual accredited laboratory disciplines has increased significantly. In addition, some reconfiguration of laboratory services has been achieved by transferring work undertaken in a number of small laboratories to larger laboratories. This has allowed for a higher level of throughput. The HSE has indicated that improved processes, introduced in the past year, have achieved non-pay savings in 2009 of some €5m.

I am satisfied that the measures being taken by the HSE, with ongoing input from stakeholders, to modernise laboratory services are necessary and appropriate for the reasons which have been outlined.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

James Reilly

Question:

86 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to address the lack of inspection regime for sheltered housing projects in which approximately 6,000 elderly people reside, in view of the fact that apparently the Health Information and Quality Authority have no remit to inspect these homes for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16126/10]

Sheltered housing for older people generally describes purpose built group or clustered housing schemes designed for people, who would normally be aged 55 years or over, and where low to medium level of on-site support is implied. Residents have their own apartments or houses and may be either owners or tenants. Housing policy and support, including sheltered housing is primarily the responsibility for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The Health Act, 2007, sets out the functions of the Office of the Chief Inspector for Social Services as part of the Health Information and Quality Authority. One of the functions of the Chief Inspector is the registration and inspection of designated centres against the regulations governing these centres and the national standards approved by the Minister of Health and Children. The definition of a designated centre set out in Section 2 of the Act does not include sheltered housing. There are no plans at present to extend HIQA's remit to include the inspection of sheltered housing.

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

87 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the post of Chief Dental Officer was abolished in her Department in 2004; if she will further confirm that there is no chief operating officer for dental or oral health in the Health Service Executive; if so, if she will clarify the person who is providing national leadership in public service dentistry in her Department or in the Health Service Executive; her plans to address this deficit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16135/10]

The Deputy will be aware of the moratorium on recruitment that applies across the public service. As a result, there are no immediate plans to fill the post referred to by the Deputy. The Health Service Executive is currently in the process of appointing an Interim Oral Health Lead/Clinical Director who will provide leadership to this sector.

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Question:

88 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the renewal of an over 70 years medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16142/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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 Illness Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

89 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow, who has been prescribed a drug not covered under the long-term illness scheme; if this drug be included as a matter of urgency in view of their medical circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16144/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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.

James Reilly

Question:

90 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a centre (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16173/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

James Reilly

Question:

91 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider the case and allocated 50 hours of care to a person (details supplied) in County Galway who resides full-time in a care centre at considerable cost to the State and who wishes to move home to their family but cannot do so in view of the fact that the Health Service Executive will only allocate 11 hours of home care while their professional care team insist they need 50 hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16186/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

92 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the local mental health services in the town of Balbriggan, County Dublin, which has a local health centre; if she will confirm whether the clinical psychologist position in that centre has been vacant for more than 12 months; when will a new psychologist be appointed to serve the people of Balbriggan and the extensive hinterlands in view of the fact that there are local reports that patients are having difficulty accessing the mental health service in that area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16190/10]

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

Mary Upton

Question:

93 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children when residential care services will be provided in this country for an autistic child (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16194/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

94 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied). [16203/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

95 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will issue on an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied). [16204/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

96 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of persons (details supplied). [16205/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. 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:

97 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a bed will become available for a person (details supplied). [16207/10]

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 Kehoe

Question:

98 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will receive an eye appointment in Arkeen Hospital, Waterford. [16209/10]

I regret that due to industrial action I am not in a position to provide a substantive response to your Parliamentary Question. The scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant concerned in each case and is determined on the basis of clinical need. However should the patient's general practitioner consider that her condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved.

Medical Cards.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

99 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will receive their medical card. [16215/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16262/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested. If this matter remains of continuing concern to you, however, I would invite you to raise it with me again in due course.

Residential Institutions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

101 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 247 of 16 February 2010, when a reply will issue. [16281/10]

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.

Children in Care.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

102 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 162 of 15 October 2009, when the outstanding information promised by the Health Service Executive will issue. [16282/10]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

103 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the services available to young persons using out of hours hostel accommodation during the day; the locations of each service; the times that persons using these services are required to leave their accommodation and permitted to return; the number of persons using these services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16283/10]

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.

Frank Feighan

Question:

104 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a hospital appointment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [16285/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to industrial action affecting the Health Service Executive it is not possible for the Executive to supply the information requested.

However, I would like to advise the Deputy that the scheduling of patients for hospital treatment is a matter for the consultant concerned in each case and is determined on the basis of clinical need. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant involved. The National Treatment Purchase Fund arranges treatment for patients who have been on a surgical waiting list for more than three months. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Rural Transport Services.

Frank Feighan

Question:

105 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for rural lift in counties Leitrim and Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16222/10]

Rural Lift is one of thirty six community transport groups around the country funded under my Department's Rural Transport Programme. Pobal administers the Programme on behalf of my Department. Neither I nor my Department have any role in relation to the day-to-day management issues pertaining to the Programme or in allocating funds to particular groups.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

106 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the free travel scheme (details supplied); when this scheme was withdrawn; the person who made the decision. [16189/10]

There has been no change in the position regarding the Free Travel Scheme and the Rural Transport Programme. The Free Travel Scheme continues to be available to holders of free travel passes issued by the Department of Social Protection availing of services under the Rural Transport Programme.

Garda Deployment.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

107 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will allocate additional resources at Tallaght Garda station, Dublin 24, to allow the Garda to take action to combat racism in local estates; if his attention has been drawn to the figures released by South Dublin County Council suggesting an increase in such incidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16136/10]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

108 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will urge the Garda Commissioner to make a decision in respect of the policing of an estate (details supplied) in Tallaght, Dublin 24, which is currently served by both Tallaght and Clondalkin Garda stations; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is still a crime problem in this estate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16137/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 108 together.

The allocation of policing resources throughout the Country, including personnel, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and senior Garda Officers. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed and this ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Specifically in relation to the area referred to by the Deputy, I am advised by the Garda Authorities that this area is patrolled by members from both Tallaght and Clondalkin Garda stations. The personnel strength of these stations, as at 28 February 2010, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 281 and 99 respectively. I am informed that there is excellent liaison and communication between the respective Community Policing Units, with regular meetings being held with Residents' Groups from the area.

I am further advised that the area is subject to regular patrols by both uniform and plain-clothes personnel, including the Garda Mountain Bike Units, District Detective and Drug Unit personnel, supplemented as necessary by Divisional Crime Task Forces and Traffic Corps personnel. Current policing plans for the area are designed to address crime and public order issues, crime prevention and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life for the residents of the area. Community policing is a central feature and core value of this policing policy.

On the issue of combating racism, I am informed that local Garda management constantly monitors criminal activity and crime levels within the District and Division, including racially motivated incidents, and the allocation of personnel is kept under regular review. Members of the Community Policing Unit have built up good liaison mechanisms with the various ethnic groups residing and working in the Tallaght area. These members liaise closely with the communities in these areas, through the schools, businesses, Churches, Community Centres, and other community groups in the area. Members of the Community Policing Unit operate Garda Clinics, for one (1) hour per week, in conjunction with the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit of the Local Authority.

Local Garda management is satisfied that there are sufficient members allocated to the District Community Policing Unit and issues of concern and other matters brought to their attention are adequately addressed.

Any person subjected to racist abuse should report the matter at their local Garda station or to any member of An Garda Síochána and the matter will be investigated. Members of the public affected by racism should speak to an Ethnic Liaison Officer (ELO), whose function is to liaise with local ethnic communities. Ethnic Liaison Officers have been trained to be particularly aware of the issue of racism and its impact. These officers are available in each Garda Division in the country. If a person needs encouragement or support in reporting a racist incident they can arrange to meet an ELO at their local Garda station to discuss the matter.

The Garda Racial and Intercultural Office (GRIO) can also be contacted by anyone wishing to seek advice on addressing issues of racism.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

109 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when a decision will issue on an application for a citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [16162/10]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in October 2008.

All valid applications are dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 26 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average, while an element of straight forward cases can be dealt with in less than that timescale.

The length of time taken to process each application should not be classified as a delay, as the length of time taken for any application to be decided is purely a function of the time taken to carry out necessary checks. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

Visa Applications.

Dan Neville

Question:

110 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will process an application for a holiday visa in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [16188/10]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa application referred to has been approved.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

111 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the progress made on the provision of a new Garda station in Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16217/10]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and progressed by the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

I am advised that the development of plans for the provision of a new Garda station in Wexford is being advanced by the Office of Public Works in conjunction with the Garda authorities, with a view to work commencing on the new Garda station.

Crime Levels.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

112 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason for the increase in knife crime; the steps the Garda can take to counter such incidents (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16220/10]

All incidents of the kind referred to by the Deputy are, of course, rigorously pursued by An Garda Síochána with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice. One person has been charged in connection with the incident referred to by the Deputy.

All members of An Garda Síochána proactively target public disorder and anti-social behaviour, including knife related crime. Areas identified as public order hot-spots by local Garda management are the subject of additional foot and mobile patrols. Incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour reported to the Garda authorities are the subject of investigation and are dealt with appropriately in accordance with the law. Over 611,000 offences have been detected since the establishment of Operation Encounter, which was commenced by the then Commissioner in February, 2002, to target public disorder and anti-social behaviour against the local and business communities.

Local policing plans are predicated on the prevention of anti-social and public order offences, the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. Patrols are directed to pay particular attention to those areas where local youths tend to congregate and where the likelihood of anti-social behaviour may arise in order to reduce incidences of public disorder and anti-social behaviour type activities.

Legislation on the use of knives and similar weapons is extremely robust and heavy penalties are in place. The Garda Commissioner made recommendations in relation to knives and sharply pointed or bladed weapons, and subsequently I introduced legislation which was enacted as the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. The maximum penalty for possessing a knife in a public place has been increased from one to five years, and An Garda Síochána has been given an extended power of search without warrant in relation to knives and offensive weapons.

In tandem with the new legislation, samurai swords have been banned from importation and sale, though exceptions have been made for collectors and martial artists.

In 2009, the Garda Commissioner and I launched a Knife Awareness Campaign by An Garda Síochána to inform and educate young people on the dangers of carrying knives and with the aim of reducing the number of incidents of knife crime. The campaign targeted a young male audience with messages delivered through role models in both the sporting and media world and incorporated a series of local road-show events as well a dedicated website and a presence on social networking sites.

Statistics show that nearly one third of knife crimes occur in domestic settings and often with a degree of spontaneity, which increases the challenges of policing and enforcement. The whole area of knives and knife crime is kept under constant review.

Legal Aid Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

113 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Offaly, who is in receipt of a higher education grant and social welfare payments, is liable for fees in respect of services provided by the Free Legal Aid Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16225/10]

I have no responsibility in this matter. Under section 7(3) of the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which the Legal Aid Board is or may be concerned. Furthermore, in respect of any queries regarding the provision of legal services to any person, please note that the solicitor/client relationship is protected by privilege in accordance with the terms of Section 32 of the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995.

I understand that Information Leaflets about the services (including a Leaflet on Financial Eligibility) that the Board provides and a full list of the Board's Law Centres is available at the Board's website (www.legalaidboard.ie). The Board also has a Law Centre located in Harbour Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16239/10]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a letter was issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on the 6th April 2010.

I am further informed by INIS that on receipt of a response from the person referred to by the Deputy, any further documentation or evidence submitted will be considered.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will outline the procedures followed in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 in respect of their residency status; if a favourable review of their case can be entertained in view of the fact that they are the parent of an Irish born child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16240/10]

It is noted that the address of the person concerned as supplied by the Deputy does not match the address currently on record for the person concerned. As it is incumbent on an applicant to notify my Department when they change address it would be in the best interest of the person concerned to inform my Department of his correct address without delay.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 4 January 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 16 January 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

By correspondence dated 6 February 2007, an application for Subsidiary Protection was made on behalf of the person concerned by his legal representative. Following consideration of the information submitted, the application was refused. The person concerned and his legal representative were notified of this decision by letter dated 12 March 2010.

His case was then examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended), on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations submitted on his behalf by his legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 25 March 2010, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to leave the State by 25 April 2010.

I am satisfied that the applications made by the person concerned for asylum and for temporary leave to remain in the State, were fairly and comprehensively examined and, therefore, the decision to deport him is justified.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Orders is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will indicate the extent to which a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 can be facilitated to complete their third level educational course in view of the fact that they have been issued with a deportation order; if there are circumstances appertaining to the case which might be used to assist them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16241/10]

The case of the person concerned was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended), on the Prohibition of Refoulement. On 23 March 2010, I refused the person concerned permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State by 25 April 2010 and remain thereafter out of the State. If new information or circumstances have come to light, which have a direct bearing on his case and which have arisen since the original decision to deport was made, there remains the option of applying to me for revocation of his Deportation Order pursuant to the provisions of Section 3 (11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended. However I wish to make clear that such an application would require substantial grounds to be successful. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is, and remains, an operational matter for the GNIB.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

117 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 100 of 18 February 2010, when he expects to have the information available in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16242/10]

I refer the Deputy to my previous replies to his Parliamentary Questions. I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person in question was the subject of a Family Reunification/Permission to Remain application made by his brother in 2003. The Family Reunification/Permission to Remain application was refused in August 2004. I am further informed by INIS that the legal representative of the person referred to by the Deputy made further representations and was informed on 13 March 2009 that as the person concerned was being interviewed by An Garda Síochána his application was being suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. A report was received from An Garda Síochána in January 2010 stating that the file is nearing completion. On receipt of the completed investigation by An Garda Síochána the application will be further considered.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16243/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 11 February 2004. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 27 February 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him.

The person concerned was subsequently notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when family reunification and associated matters including a review of their file are likely to be dealt with in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16244/10]

I refer the Deputy to my previous replies to his Parliamentary Questions. I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a letter issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on the 20th April 2010. I am further informed by INIS that on receipt of a response from the person referred to by the Deputy the case will be considered further.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16245/10]

The Judicial Review process in this case has been completed and the fact remains that this person falls under the Dublin II Regulation, (Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003). The Dublin II Regulation, is intended to prevent the phenomenon of ‘asylum shopping' across Europe and sets out criteria for determining which Regulation State is responsible for examining an asylum application where applications have been lodged in more than one Regulation State. At the same time, it guarantees applicants that one State will process their application, thereby preventing the creation of ‘refugees in orbit', a situation which had previously pertained in Europe.

The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, (ORAC), in accordance with the terms of the Dublin II Regulation, determined that Belgium is responsible for examining this person's asylum application, as they had previously made an asylum application there. Belgium has accepted responsibility in this case and I intend to proceed with the transfer in question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16246/10]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his earlier Parliamentary Question No. 96 of Thursday, 2 July 2009, and the written Reply to that Question.

The position in the State of the person concerned now falls to be considered for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the options, if any, to facilitate a review of residency entitlement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16247/10]

I refer the Deputy to my Replies to his earlier Parliamentary Questions, Nos. 268 of Wednesday, 3 February, 2010, 198 of Thursday, 26 November, 2009 and 278 of Tuesday, 17 November, 2009, and the written Replies to those Questions.

The position in the State of the person concerned now falls to be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

The case of the person concerned is one of many awaiting a decision at present, however, the Deputy can be assured that the case will be processed to finality as soon as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16248/10]

The case of the person concerned was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended), on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations submitted on her behalf by her legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 23 September 2009, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of her. Notice of this Order was served by registered post requiring her to present herself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau in order to make arrangements for her removal from the State. She failed to present and was classified as evading her deportation. She should, therefore, present herself to the GNIB without any further delay.

On 13th October, 2009, the person's two children claimed asylum. The person's legal representative was notified by letter dated 21st October, 2009 that an undertaking had been given not to enforce the Deportation Order signed in respect of her until the children's asylum application had been processed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency and citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16249/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 29 July 2003. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 26 May 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned initiated Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court, challenging the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in his case. The Judicial Review proceedings were struck out on 12 June 2009 meaning that the earlier decisions of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister stood.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 whose late father was an Irish citizen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16250/10]

In the absence of more specific information, the Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to provide a definitive response in relation to the issue raised. If the late father of the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was an Irish citizen at the time of his birth then he is automatically entitled to Irish citizenship.

If the person in question is not entitled to Irish citizenship by descent, they can apply for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. Such applications are considered under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956-2004. The applicant must fulfil certain statutory requirements including requirements in relation to residency. However I am empowered to dispense with the statutory conditions in whole or in part in certain circumstances — for example where the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish associations. Every such application is decided upon on its individual circumstances and in accordance with the law.

Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a residency application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16251/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 15 March 2006. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until her application for asylum was decided. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 13 November 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in the case of an application for family reunification in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16252/10]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a letter issued to the legal representative of the person referred to by the Deputy on 2nd February 2010 and that to date the documentation requested has not been received. I am further informed by INIS that a letter issued to the legal representative on 20th April 2010 and on receipt of a response from the legal representative of the person referred to by the Deputy his Family Reunification application will be further processed.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16253/10]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy made a Family Reunification application in May 2007.

A decision in this case issued to the applicant on 19th January 2010 and a copy of the consideration detailing the reasons for the decision was also provided.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding the residency status in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16254/10]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 4 July 2006. In accordance with Section 9 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was entitled to remain in the State until his application for asylum was decided. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 4 January 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and, following consideration of this application, it was determined that the person concerned was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection in the State. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 19 November 2007.

The case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will now be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding the residency status in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16255/10]

I wish to refer the Deputy to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 510 of Tuesday, 20 April, 2010. The position in relation to the person concerned as set out in that reply remains unchanged.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason stamp four has not been renewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [16256/10]

I am informed that the person concerned presented at Maynooth Garda Station on 24 March of this year and was granted an extension of her permission to remain in the State in line with that granted to her mother. The person in question currently has permission to remain in the State under Stamp 4 conditions valid until 23 March, 2013.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16257/10]

The person concerned was granted Leave to Remain in the State for a six month period to 5 January 2010. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 3 July 2009. This communication also set out the conditions attached to this permission to remain in the State which included a requirement that the person concerned would obey the laws of the State.

On 4 January 2010, the person concerned was notified in writing that due to his convictions for road traffic offences in the State, the Minister was of the opinion that he had not adhered to the conditions attached to his Leave to Remain in the State and was therefore proposing to revoke his permission to remain in the State. The person concerned was invited to submit a written response to the Minister's proposal within a period of 15 working days.

The person concerned has submitted a response to the proposal to revoke his Leave to Remain and this submission is under consideration at present. Once a decision has been made, this decision, and the consequences of the decision, will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 140 of 11 February 2010 and No. 140 of 8 October 2009 the position regarding the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; the extent of the examination of eligibility for residency that has taken place to date; the degree to which the various procedures have been exhausted; the procedures if any outstanding; if in the interim subsistence payments are being made in respect of institutional accommodation pending an eventual decision in respect of residency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16258/10]

The position in the State of the person concerned is that his asylum claims have been investigated by both the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of whom have concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. As a result, the person concerned was issued with a notification of intention to deport letter, dated 21 March 2006, which advised him of his options vis a vis his position in the State at that point in time and the person concerned has availed of the option to submit written representations for consideration under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended).

It would appear also that the person concerned would be entitled to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 which came into force on 10 October 2006. To this end, I have asked Department Officials to write to the person concerned regarding this option and I expect this communication to issue to the person concerned by the end of this week. No further consideration will be given to the case of the person concerned until such time as he's had a reasonable opportunity to consider this option.

In the event that an application for Subsidiary Protection is submitted by the person concerned, this application will be considered first and a decision issued. If the application is successful then no further consideration will have to be given to his case. If, however, his application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, or if no such application is lodged, his position in the State will be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement at which point all representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

As the Deputy will see from the above, the asylum elements of the case of the person concerned have been exhausted while the elements relating to Subsidiary Protection and Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) remain to be determined.

In relation to the ‘subsistence payments' aspect of the Deputy's Question, the position is that the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers through the policy of direct provision. Direct provision is the means by which the State discharges its obligations to provide for the basic requirements of asylum seekers. For the most part, this represents a cashless system with the State assuming responsibility for providing suitable accommodation on a full board basis.

Asylum seekers in direct provision are paid a Direct Provision Allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child per week through Community Welfare Officers (CWOs). I am informed that the person concerned is currently not in receipt of this allowance as the CWO concerned is awaiting documentation on bank accounts etc. relating to possible other means which may not have been disclosed. I am informed that his case will be reviewed by the CWO concerned on receipt of the documentation requested.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if a deportation order has been made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16259/10]

The case of the person was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended), on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations submitted on his behalf by his legal representative for permission to remain in the State. On 25 March 2010, I refused permission to remain temporarily in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to leave the State by 25 April 2010.

The enforcement of the Deportation Orders is an operational matter for the GNIB.

Maintenance Orders.

Willie Penrose

Question:

135 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if, in the context of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act, changes are being made to ensure that maintenance orders made pursuant to the Family Law Act can continue to be enforced, whereby warrants or committal orders are not being issued at this point in time; if clarification needs to be sought regarding the system as it relates to maintenance payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16279/10]

There are a number of provisions in the law for ensuring that payments continue to be made by spouses in support of their dependent spouses and children. They include enabling powers for the courts to order attachment of the earnings of a debtor spouse, to order the securing of payments to the maintenance creditor, to order the payment of lump sums and to order arrears of maintenance to be paid by instalments.

While the law generally operates effectively in this area I am aware of difficulties in some cases because of the effect of a judgment of the High Court last year relating to the Enforcement of Court Orders Act 1940. The Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009 made changes to sections 6 (imprisonment in the case of non-payment of debt) and 8 (imprisonment relating to non-payment of maintenance) of the 1940 Act consequent on that judgment in accordance with legal advice.

I am currently in consultation with the Attorney General with a view to developing early proposals for further amendments in respect of maintenance enforcement.

Juvenile Offenders.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

136 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of children under the age of 12 who have been taken to their parents or guardians by the Gardaí under Section 53 of the Children’s Act 2001 each year since its enactment; the number of children who have been taken into the custody of the Health Service Executive under the same provision each year since its enactment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16287/10]

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.

International Agreements.

Joe Costello

Question:

137 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the European Court of Justice judgment in a case (details supplied); if he considers that the same principle informing that decision applies to all products which are produced in the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and sold in the EU market; the steps he will take to prevent such products being sold here; if he will raise the matter at the next Council of Minister’s meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16153/10]

I have been following with interest the progress of this important case. The judgment of the European Court of Justice on 25 February confirmed the principle that goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not entitled to avail of the preferential tariff rates applying to goods from Israel. The judgement confirms existing practice, rather than introducing a new principle, and relates only to the tariff rate applying to goods originating in settlements.

As regards the broader question of preventing goods from settlements entering the EU, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 614 on 20 April 2010, which was as follows:

"Goods produced in settlements in the West Bank are notper se illegal, but they are not entitled to benefit from the EU’s preferential tariff rates. This principle has been recently confirmed in an important European Court ruling in the Brita case.

The total exclusion of goods originating in settlements, without also affecting general West Bank produce, would involve significant legal and practical complexities. This is an area of EU competence, and I do not consider that there is any realistic prospect of obtaining agreement to such a proposal at EU level."

Consular Assistance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

138 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has assessed the number of persons stranded by the close down of European airspace; if he is ensuring consular assistance and support in dealing with the airlines is available should it be needed. [16183/10]

There is no firm estimate of the number of Irish citizens stranded by the recent air travel restrictions caused by the cloud of volcanic ash, following the volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Various estimates, ranging from 15,000 to 30,000 were reported in the media. The lifting of restrictions on air travel, which took effect yesterday, should allow those citizens unable to return home to do so over the coming days, although I am aware that some people in more distant places are experiencing difficulties in securing seats on early flights home.

I have been active over the last week to ensure that consular assistance was available to any citizens in need of it. Embassies and Consulates were active, from the beginning of the disruption, in offering advice to stranded citizens.

On Sunday 18 April, as the numbers affected began to grow, I decided to activate the Department's Consular Crisis Centre at Hainault House. The Centre is a key element in the Government’s strategy for dealing with emergencies overseas. It has the capacity to deal with large numbers of enquiries from the public and is equipped with the most modern technology including crisis management software. It is comparable to facilities in other European and likeminded countries.

Passport Applications.

Pat Breen

Question:

139 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the issuing of passports; if there is a backlog of passports to be issued; the number involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16199/10]

Industrial action in the Passport Office by public service unions began on 19 January as part of action across the civil service. Whereas aspects of the action have now been relaxed the dispute has led to a backlog in passports to be issued. On 20 April the backlog stood at 67,738 applications.

The turnaround time for passport applications is currently 15-20 working days for those applications submitted through the passport express services provided through An Post and Royal Mail post offices.

The initial industrial action took the form of a refusal to carry out core work activities, such as periodic refusal to answer phones, to staff public counters, the introduction of production quotas determined by the unions, a union instruction to members to refuse to work overtime and a refusal to cooperate with the recruitment of additional staff on temporary seasonal contracts.

In late March the unions either halted their industrial action or in the case of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) halted all elements with the exception of their refusal to cooperate with the recruitment of temporary staff. From this time Passport Service staff have been working overtime to maximise the number of passports produced. The level of increase in the backlog of applications has slowed but nonetheless the backlog is currently increasing by approximately 500 applications per day.

The resolution of this problem will come with the recruitment of the necessary temporary seasonal staff. The engagement of seasonal staff is normal practice for the Passport Service and the refusal by the CPSU to withdraw its bar on cooperation with this recruitment has caused the backlog to continue to rise. The Department of Foreign Affairs has obtained the necessary sanction to recruit the temporary staff and arrangements have been made for staff to commence work at short notice. What remains is the necessity for the CPSU to withdraw this restriction and to allow a significant number of the unemployed to take up valuable work and assist in making inroads in reducing this sizeable backlog.

Sports Capital Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

140 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if funding is available to assist sporting organisations whose premises were damaged during recent flooding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16159/10]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, and part funded from the proceeds of the National Lottery, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. No decision has been made on the timing of the next round of the Programme. It is a condition of the Sports Capital Programme that any facilities developed with assistance from the programme must be insured against fire and other insurable risks.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

141 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if she will ring-fence funds from the National Lottery for swimming pools; if she is committed to the maintenance of local authority swimming pools in Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties surrounding a pool (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if she will safeguard its future and allocate badly needed funding to this community pool; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16195/10]

Under the current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, operated by my Department, grant aid to a maximum of €3.8m is provided to Local Authorities, towards the capital cost of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. The question of the operation and management of local authority swimming pools is entirely a matter for the local authority i.e. Dublin City Council. The current round of the programme closed to applicants on 31 July 2000. No application was received from Dublin City Council on behalf of the pool in question at that time.

Under the programme, 45 pools have been opened throughout the country with a further 12 pools at various stages of development. Between 1998 and 2009 a sum of almost €143m has been spent under the programme. This has leveraged a total investment of some €400m in swimming pools throughout the country. In the administrative area of Dublin City Council, new pools have been opened in Finglas, Ballyfermot, St. Michael`s House (Belcamp Lane Dublin), Ballymun and work is under way on a new pool at Rathmines.

No decision has been taken on the timing of a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. When a new round of the Programme is launched it will be open to all Local Authorities, including Dublin City Council to submit an application on behalf of the pool in question under the terms that will apply.

Community Development.

Joe Carey

Question:

142 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the organisations in County Clare that have received funding under the Community Support for Older People Programme for 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16148/10]

Some €77,000 has been provided to 13 community and voluntary organisations in Co Clare under the Scheme of Community Support for Older People for the period January 2009 to March 2010. Details of the organisations supported and the level of funding provided to each is included in the table below.

Group

2009

2010

Ballynacally Community Alert

400

Ballyvaughan Community Alert

1,100

Caring For Carers Clare

30,030

5,290

Caring for Carers West Clare

5,686

Ennis Active Retirement Association

6,162

Ibrickane Networks

8,810

Kilnaboy Community Dev. Association

985

Kilrush Family Resource Centre Ltd

10,389

Liscannor Community Alert

1,900

Lisdoonvarna Doolin Community Alert

1,546

Newmarket on Fergus Senior Citizens

2,060

Tulla Senior Citizen Security Section

3,198

Total

61,877

15,679

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

143 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a carer’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo can be re-opened based on the further information submitted. [16138/10]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at an oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. However, following the submission of additional information the relevant papers have been requested from the Department and on receipt will be referred to the Appeals Officer for review. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code.

Pat Breen

Question:

144 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the problems the habitual residence clause is causing for Irish citizens returning home; where returning Irish exiles are being refused immediate social welfare assistance which is resulting in severe financial hardship; his plans to introduce changes to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16145/10]

Under EU social welfare law, it is illegal to distinguish between EU workers on the basis of nationality alone. Therefore, in the context of the opening of the Irish labour market to workers from 12 new EU member states in 2004, it was considered necessary to protect Ireland from ‘welfare tourism' by ensuring that people with little connection to this country could not qualify for welfare payments immediately upon arrival in Ireland. The effect of the habitual residency requirement is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not paid certain social welfare payments on arrival in Ireland, regardless of citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other factor.

Decisions concerning habitual residence are subject to five factors which have been laid down by the European Court of Justice, and which are now incorporated into our domestic social welfare legislation. These are:

(a) the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

(b) the length and purpose of any absence from the State;

(c) the nature and pattern of the person's employment;

(d) the person's main centre of interest, and

(e) the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.

The vast majority of Irish nationals applying for social welfare support satisfy the HRC condition. Difficulties might arise however if, for example, it seems that the person's main centre of interest is still abroad — e.g. they have a spouse living abroad or still own property abroad etc. Between 1 May 2004 and 31 December 2009, of those Irish citizens whose circumstances called for detailed investigation in this respect, 89% were found to satisfy the habitual residence condition. Only 11% were refused on HRC grounds. However, Irish nationals returning to live here on a permanent basis should experience no difficulty in demonstrating that they satisfy the requirements of the Habitual Residence Condition. The guidelines published by the Department address this as follows: In the context of the first factor listed above, they make it clear that a person may attain habitual residence on arrival here. The guidelines state:

"On the other hand, a short stay in Ireland does not automatically prove that an applicant has maintained his/her habitual residence abroad. Periods of residence abroad and the nature of that residence prior to the date of the latest arrival in Ireland may be relevant in assessing what is the person's main centre of interest and settled intention. Consider the length and continuity of the applicant's residence in Ireland and in the other country:

has s/he lived in Ireland before, if so for how long?

has the applicant stayed in different countries outside Ireland?

how long did the applicant reside in the previous country before coming or returning to Ireland?

are there any remaining ties with his/her former country of residence?"

Later, in the context of determining the applicant's main centre of interest, the Guidelines say:

". . . . a person who previously lived in another country or countries may now have moved to Ireland on a permanent basis and established a main centre of interest here. For example, a person who has retired from missionary or other service abroad and has chosen to resettle in Ireland should be considered to have his/her main centre of interest here."

The Guidelines are kept under constant review to ensure that they give clear guidance to deciding officers in dealing with the relevant issues and are updated or amended as the need arises. Every notice of disallowance sets out the claimant's rights to request a review of the decision or to lodge an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. These options allow every claimant the opportunity to produce additional evidence in support of their case, and to have any error of judgment addressed appropriately.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

145 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a carer’s allowance appeal will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16166/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Department have been sought in this case. On receipt of its response the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Ring

Question:

146 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an appeal will be finalised regarding the rate of disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16167/10]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal for the person concerned has not been registered. However, because of the large number of appeals currently being lodged, there is a backlog in the Office in registering appeals. If the appeal has been submitted in recent weeks the appeal will be registered and acknowledged in due course. The Chief Appeals Officer has assured me that all appropriate measures are being taken to address this backlog in registration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Ring

Question:

147 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a farm assist appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the way means from the farm was assessed against this person when they have shown a loss for the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16168/10]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at an oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned on the grounds that the means assessment, derived from farming, off-farm self-employment and the harvesting of seaweed, arrived at by the local office was fair and reasonable. The means derived from farming were based on the gross output from the farm less the necessary expenses. This decision is now being reviewed by the Chief Appeals Officer and the person concerned will be notified of the outcome of this review when completed. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Ring

Question:

148 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a jobseeker’s allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be finalised; the way this person was assessed as earning €190 per week from a farm which consists of nineteen acres of poor quality land when the person has no herd number or stock and does not receive any direct payments from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16169/10]

The claim for farm assist, by the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on the grounds that his means exceeded the statutory limit. The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, following receipt of the relevant Departmental papers including comments on the grounds of appeal, the appeal from the person concerned will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Ring

Question:

149 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a carer’s allowance appeal will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16170/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the case. The person concerned will be notified when the necessary arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael Ring

Question:

150 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a child benefit appeal will be resolved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; when the child benefit payment will be reinstated to this person. [16172/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the relevant Departmental papers and comments on the grounds of appeal in the case of the person concerned have been sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

151 Deputy Michael D’Arcy 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 Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16174/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the case. The person concerned will be notified when the necessary arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

152 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Limerick. [16193/10]

The person concerned was refused Disability Allowance by the Deciding Officer following an assessment by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that he was unsuitable for Disability Allowance. An appeal was opened and in the context of that appeal, his case was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was unsuitable for Disability Allowance.

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, in the light of this second medical opinion, that office decided to afford him an opportunity of setting out the complete and up to date grounds of his appeal including any further medical evidence in support of his appeal, by letter dated 1st April 2010. On receipt of his response the relevant papers will be requested from the Department and the appeal will then be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

153 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has made an assessment of the financial impact which the turf cutting ban will have on demands for the fuel allowance scheme; if he intends to carry out such an assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16196/10]

The national fuel allowance scheme assists householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the additional cost of their heating needs during the winter season. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's heating expenses. It is not intended to meet those costs in full and must be seen in the context of the overall level of income available to the family.

In general to qualify for a fuel allowance a person must:

be resident in the State,

be in receipt of one of the qualifying payments

satisfy the living alone condition (i.e. be either living alone or with a qualified spouse/partner or a qualified child/ren (a qualified child is one under 18, or over 18 and under 22 if in full time education)

satisfy a means test

In Budget 1999 the fuel allowance scheme was extended to include people who have access to their own fuel supply, usually a turf bank. Accordingly there should be no additional demand or financial impact on the fuel allowance scheme in the event of a ban on turf cutting.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

154 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will issue on an appeal for supplementary welfare allowance in respect of a person (details supplied). [16212/10]

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

Olwyn Enright

Question:

155 Deputy Olwyn Enright 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. [16228/10]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister and Family Affairs if and when supplementary welfare allowance or alternative social welfare entitlement will be reinstated or made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16261/10]

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

Local Authority Charges.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

157 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the liability date for the 2010 non-principal private residence charge was brought forward to 31 March 2010 in view of the fact that in 2009 the liability date was 31 July; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16130/10]

The €200 non-principal private residence charge was introduced in the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, which came into force in July 2009. As an exceptional measure for the year of introduction, the liability date for the charge was fixed at 31 July 2009. The Act provides that the liability date for 2010 and future years is 31 March.

Payment does not fall due until two months after the liability date and there is a further one month's grace period before penalties for late payment commence. A person liable for the charge in 2010 thus has until 30 June 2010 to meet that liability without incurring any additional charge.

Question No. 158 answered with Question No. 30.

Building Regulations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

159 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will use his powers under the planning acts and building regulations to address the plight of residents of an estate (details supplied) in Dublin 13 which have been declared unsafe and from which Dublin City Council has removed tenants for safety reasons; if his attention has been drawn to the fact there is a precedent for such a situation as a result of self-regulation by developers; if he will examine this issue both in terms of addressing the plight of residents and in terms of ensuring that in future there is strict regulation by local authorities and that they are provided with the resources to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16128/10]

I refer to the reply to the Adjournment Debate on this matter on 8 December 2009.

Responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations rests with the builder and the owner of a building. Enforcement is a matter for the local building control authority, which is empowered to carry out inspections and initiate enforcement proceedings when considered necessary.

Section 18 of the Fire Services Act 1981 places a duty on persons having control over premises, such as apartment complexes, to take all reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire and to ensure the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire.

In addition, Section 22 of the Act empowers fire authorities to inspect any land or building, including apartment complexes, for the purposes of the Act.

In relation to the development concerned, my Department has been advised by Dublin City Council, in whose administrative area the development is located, that, following an inspection of the development by the Council, enforcement notices under the Building Control Act 1990 and Fire Safety Notices under the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003 were served on the owners and builder in relation to non-compliance. Further legal proceedings by the Council are pending in relation to this matter.

Dublin City Council has responsibility for 16 social housing units and a further 7 units are occupied by tenants under the Rental Accommodation Scheme. In addition, there are 7 units of accommodation managed by St. Michael's House. My Department understands that a number of these tenants have been moved to alternative accommodation pending the resolution of the issues with Priory Hall in accordance with the notices served. In this regard I refer to the reply to Question No. 395 of 2 March 2010.

The re-housing of occupants of privately owned apartments in the complex is a matter for resolution between the owners and the property vendor concerned.

While the enforcement action under way is a matter for Dublin City Council my Department is aware that since December 2009 remedial works, of a fire safety nature, have been ongoing. In addition, since December 2009, the basement in each block is not in use for car-park or storage purposes as required by the Council.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Joe Costello

Question:

160 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will clarify if batch testing is taking place at the point of entry of toxic waste into the Dublin City Council sewers at the Phoenix Park train station; the reason the effluent is transported to that location instead of being taken directly to the treatment centre at Ringsend, Dublin 4; when will Fingal County Council have the facilities to deal with its own toxic effluent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16151/10]

As indicated in the reply to Questions 362 and 370 of 30 March 2010, the supervised discharge of leachate from Fingal County Council's licensed landfill at Balleally into the main foul sewer at the location in question is being carried out with the consent of Dublin City Council which is the local authority with responsibility for the sewer involved.

Section 40 of the Waste Management Act 1996 provides for the granting by the EPA of a waste licence for a landfill or other waste facility. The conditions applying to a waste licence and the enforcement of such conditions are matters for the EPA. I understand that the discharge of the leachate into the public sewer in question by Fingal County Council has been agreed with the EPA.

It is also my understanding that discussions have taken place between the two local authorities regarding the possibility of transferring the leachate directly by tanker to the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant and that agreement on this issue is expected to be secured very shortly.

Special Areas of Conservation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

161 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in view of the special area of conservation designated at Tacumshin Lake, County Wexford, if he will provide a list of the landowners involved in the scheme; the compensation agreed with those involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16219/10]

Tacumshin Lake was designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) on the 8 October, 1996. Designation of SPA's does not, of itself, give rise to an entitlement to compensation.

I assume the scheme referred to in the Question is my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Farm Plan Scheme, which was launched in February 2006. It operates as an alternative agri-environmental scheme to those administered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and pays farmers and landholders for losses incurred as a result of restrictions due to the designation of their lands as Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protected Areas or Natural Heritage Areas.

No farmer in the Tacumshin Lake SPA has joined the NPWS farm plan scheme.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Frank Feighan

Question:

162 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the devastating impact of code of practice in planning in respect of soils in County Leitrim; the steps he will take to put a derogation in place in County Leitrim. [16221/10]

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new Code of Practice on Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems Serving Single Houses which was published in October 2009 sets out comprehensive requirements in relation to the design, installation and maintenance of on-site wastewater systems. My Department issued a circular letter to planning authorities in January 2010 regarding implementation of the EPA's new Code of Practice.

Elements of the Code relevant to building control will be provided for in Part H (Drainage and Waste Water Disposal) of the Building Regulations which is currently under review. The public consultation process in this regard ended on 8 March 2010. Submissions received are now being considered by my Department, in consultation with the Building Regulations Advisory Body, with a view to having the amended Part H/TGD-H finalised later this year.

Implementation of the Code of Practice is a key step in addressing a recent ECJ judgment (C188/08) which found that Ireland was in breach of Article 4 of the EU Waste Directive (2006/12/EC) which requires all EU Member States to take measures to ensure that waste, which includes wastewater from septic tanks and proprietary waste systems, is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health and without using processes that could harm the environment.

In this regard, the EPA Code of Practice lays down the technical standards to comply with Ireland's duty of care under Article 4 of the Waste Directive, but in particular to ensure that the disposal of waste via waste water systems for single dwellings does not give rise to public nuisance, health risk or damage to the natural environment. There is no provision in the Directive for a derogation from the requirements of Article 4.

Recent EPA statistics indicate that in relation to the 440,000 on-site wastewater systems in Ireland, as many as 120,000 may be giving rise to surface water pollution and 25,000 to groundwater pollution. Therefore, there is considerable urgency in setting both the technical standards for new build and an inspection and maintenance regime for existing systems to address the situation.

While the Code of Practice may pose engineering and planning challenges in certain parts of the country where soil and geological conditions create very difficult drainage conditions, it also sets out a number of potential solutions. These include innovative designs of proprietary wastewater treatment systems, and the consideration of discharges other than to sodden or otherwise unsuitable ground conditions, that can be used to ensure that development on suitable sites can proceed while protecting the environment.

My Department will work with local authorities in ensuring that future county development plans, taking account of river basin management plans and other water quality legislation, address this issue pro-actively in ensuring that rural communities continue to provide for their housing needs in tandem with protecting water quality.

Special Areas of Conservation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

163 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when a claim for compensation under Regulation 20 of the EC (Natural Habitat) Regulations 1997 to 2005 will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this claim was lodged in August 2008; the reason this claim has not yet been concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16229/10]

The question of whether the applicant is entitled to compensation has been referred to the Government's legal advisers. My Department will be in contact with the claimant's representatives as soon as the matter is clarified.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

164 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the average response and processing time for compensation under regulation 20 of the EC (Natural Habitat) Regulations 1997 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16230/10]

In the vast majority of cases, payments to land owners and land users due to restrictions arising from the designation of land as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Area are made through the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) or in a much smaller number of cases through my Department's Farm Plan Scheme.

In a very small number of cases that fall outside the terms of these schemes, compensation is payable under Regulation 20 the EC (Natural Habitat) Regulations 1997. In recent years, applications for compensation under this Regulation have mainly concerned losses incurred by commercial turf-cutters that have been refused consent to continue turf extraction within SACs.

Fewer than ten claims under this Regulation are currently being dealt with by my Department. The length of time taken to finalise such claims can vary, depending on the degree of complexity. Often, additional documentation will be sought and searches will be required in order to prove entitlement. Negotiations are entered into and sometimes arbitration is required. Complex legal questions can also arise at any stage of the proceedings. Some of these claims have been with my Department for less than a year and one particularly complex case is ongoing for over six years.

Housing Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total number of applications for disabled persons grants currently before the various local authorities; the extent to which he intends to provide the necessary funding for all such applications in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16264/10]

On the basis of the most recent returns from local authorities, some 13,012 applications have been submitted for approval under the suite of Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability. Some 4,437 of these relate to adaptation works to meet the needs of persons with a disability.

Allocations totalling almost €100 million for 2010 were notified to local authorities on 5 March under the grant schemes. It is a matter for each local authority to decide on the specific level of funding to be directed to each of the various grant measures from within the allocations notified to them by my Department and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within their allocation.

Air Pollution.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent, if any, to which air pollution monitoring points throughout the country have recorded any changes arising from the Icelandic volcanic eruptions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16265/10]

The monitoring, assessment and management of ambient air quality in Ireland is carried out according to the requirements of the EU Air Quality Framework Directive. This Directive became law through the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Ambient Air Quality Assessment and Management) Regulations, 1999.

The EPA, under the aegis of my Department, has responsibility for the monitoring of Irish air quality, and continually monitors a range of atmospheric pollutants via a network of air quality monitoring stations located around the country. The main air pollutants that could be associated with the volcanic ash plume are sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter, or dust, with a diameter less than 10µm (PM10), and both these pollutants are monitored at EPA air monitoring stations at locations across the country. Monitoring data from these stations have to date shown no increase in either PM10 or SO2 levels as a result of the volcanic ash cloud.

I am aware of reports that volcanic ash particles have been observed in very small quantities by the National University of Ireland Galway's atmospheric research station at Mace Head. This facility is supported by the EPA's research programme.

It remains the case, however, that PM10 and SO2 levels have not increased beyond the range of normal daily variations. As such the EPA has not recorded the small amounts detected at Mace Head as an unusual increase and continues to report no deterioration in air quality.

As a precautionary measure, the EPA has increased its air quality monitoring activity for the duration of the ash cloud event and is monitoring the situation on an hourly basis. Data from monitoring stations are transmitted to the EPA website in real-time and can be viewed at http://www.epa.ie/whatwedo/monitoring/air/data/.

Any dust that may be deposited over Ireland during the next few days as a result of the eruption will most likely be in very small quantities and it is not expected that this will have any significant impact on air quality standards.

The Emergency Response Co-ordination Committee, convened and chaired by the Department of Transport to co-ordinate the Government's response to issues arising in connection with the volcanic eruption, continues to meet daily and both my Department and the EPA are in attendance at these meetings. Updates on air quality issues arising from the eruption will continue to be posted on the EPA website at http://www.epa.ie/whatwedo/monitoring/ air/data/vocanicashupdate/.

Local Authority Home Loans.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason all local authorities are not accepting applications for the home choice loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16266/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of home choice loan approvals issued to date by each local authority; the number of applications received; the length of time taken to process these applications; the number of such applications currently on hand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16267/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together.

Over 1,400 prospective purchasers have formally registered interest on the dedicated Home Choice loan website and, to date, 58 applications have been made. Of these, four have been approved, with three of these now drawn down, 35 applications have been turned down, five have been withdrawn and further information has been sought in respect of 14 applications. This information, broken down by designated operating authority, is set out in a table below. My Department does not collect information on the time taken to process loan applications.

Four local authorities are designated lending authorities acting on a regional basis, these are Cork City Council, Dublin City Council, Galway County Council and Kilkenny County Council. The table below also gives details of the local authority areas served by each of the designated authorities.

Local authorities carry out a very wide range of housing related functions. As Home Choice Loan is intended as an exceptional measure, and is not part of local authorities' core housing functions, limiting the number of participating authorities represents a pragmatic approach. Home Choice Loan is intended to address a very specific set of circumstances that currently prevail in the housing market and prompt roll-out was an important design feature which, together with national support from the Affordable Homes Partnership, represents a prudent approach from a governance point of view, as well as allowing regional groupings of local authorities to advance initiatives in a more integrated way to achieve better value for money and enhanced customer service.

Cork City Council

Dublin City Council

Galway County Council

Kilkenny County Council

Clare

Louth

Galway

Kilkenny

North Tipperary

Meath

Mayo

Longford

South Tipperary

Fingal

Roscommon

Westmeath

Limerick

Dublin City

Leitrim

Offaly

Kerry

Dun Laoire / Rathdown

Cavan

Laois

Cork

South Dublin

Monaghan

Carlow

Waterford

Kildare

Sligo

Wexford

Wicklow

Donegal

Cork City Council

Dublin City Council

Galway County Council

Kilkenny County Council

Total

Applications received

18

27

8

5

58

Declined

9

15

7

4

35

Withdrawn

3

2

0

0

5

More Information requested

4

9

1

0

14

Approved

2

1

0

1

4

Social and Affordable Housing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to meet the housing requirements of persons in the income bracket below €40,000 per annum currently on local authority housing lists who do not have a home of their own; his further plans to improve their prospects in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16268/10]

Meeting social housing need remains a high priority for the Government. While ensuring that we can deliver across the full range of needs, the scale and composition of the public housing programme in the years ahead will be dependent on a number of factors, including the level of available funding and the evolution of the housing market generally.

I am determined to ensure that the programme is framed in a manner which continues to optimise the delivery of social housing. To achieve this, it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing market conditions, and explore alternative solutions to address housing needs, having full regard to the sustainable communities philosophy outlined in the Government's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities.

To this end, the range of delivery mechanisms continues to be adapted and expanded. For example in 2009, I announced the introduction of a new social housing leasing initiative, through which I expect that a substantial number of dwellings will be provided in the years ahead to meet housing needs, estimated at just over 56,000 households in the 2008 Housing Needs Assessment.

While the allocations for 2010 show a reduction in the provision for the main traditional local authority programme I anticipate that, through more flexible market based delivery mechanisms such as the Rental Accommodation Scheme and the leasing initiative as well as the significant increase in funding available under the Capital Assistance Scheme in 2010 to €145m, delivery across the range of social housing measures this year will be of the order of 8,000/9,000 units.

I will be keeping the leasing initiative and all the other housing programmes under ongoing review to ensure that they are appropriately geared towards meeting the maximum level of housing need.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for the augmentation of domestic drinking water supply, particularly storage, purification systems and networks; his further plans to address these issues in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16272/10]

Earlier this week, I published a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure to be undertaken under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

On water supply projects alone, it details just over 49 contracts currently in progress with a value of €390 million and 101 contracts to be progressed to construction over the period 2010-2012 with a value of about €500 million. A further 66 water supply schemes are listed for work to be undertaken on the earlier planning stages of those schemes. A significant proportion of this investment is targeted at contracts and schemes which will improve water quality, particularly where the risks to the supply have been identified by the EPA. Provision is also made for a number of contracts and schemes which are designed to sustain and enhance existing capacity.

In addition, the investment programme places a high priority on water conservation. Investment to date in this area has largely focused on putting in place water management systems to allow for active leakage control and better planning of mains rehabilitation. This investment thus provides the platform for more intensive investment in mains rehabilitation. The new Programme provides for the commencement of such contracts with a value of some €320 million over the next three years.

Substantial funding of €415m is being provided by the Exchequer to advance major water and waste water schemes in 2010, in addition to investment of €93m under the Rural Water Programme. Against the current economic backdrop, this level of investment, which will mean that average spending on water services over the period 2009 and 2010 will be up 3% on the 2008 outturn, continues to reflect the priority assigned by Government to providing critical water services infrastructure.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 25.

Planning Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the locations throughout County Kildare that were awarded urban renewal, section 23 or other special designated status during the past ten years; the extent to which all such commitments entered into have been completed and complied with in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16274/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number and location of areas here that have benefited from urban renewal or special designation status in the past ten years; the extent to which all commitments entered into have been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16275/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

The Urban Renewal Scheme 1998, the Multi Storey Car Parks Scheme 1997, the Town Renewal Scheme 2000, and the Living over the Shop Scheme 2001 gave designated status to areas and were operational in the period 2000-2009. The deadlines for each of these schemes were extended to 31 December 2006 where existing conditions were met and further extended to 31 July 2008 where additional conditions were met. 305 cities, towns, villages and other locations in urban or rural areas were awarded Section 23 status.

24,483 certificates were issued by my Department in respect of these schemes. This figure does not include multi storey car parks for which certificates were not issued. The schemes have now closed and no new designations are being considered.

The locations in County Kildare which had a designated status in the past 10 years are Athy, Castledermot, Kilcock, Kilcullen, Kildare, Maynooth, Monasterevin and Rathangan.

I refer to Appendices 2 and 3 of the Revenue Commissioners' Guide to Section 23 Relief which is available on its website — www.revenue.ie. The number and location of areas in Ireland that have benefited from urban renewal or special designation status in the past 10 years are set out in the Revenue Commissioners' Guide.

In order to apply for section 23 tax relief, an applicant is required to produce a certificate issued by my Department under the relevant scheme to the Revenue Commissioners. The record of section 23 tax relief claimed and granted on foot of the 24,483 certificates issued by my Department is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. The enforcement of any planning permissions granted is a matter for individual Planning Authorities, irrespective of any designated status applicable.

Turbary Rights.

Willie Penrose

Question:

174 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the areas in County Westmeath that are subject to restriction orders for turbary owners and for people who wish to cut their turbary; the precise locations at which the proposals for restrictions will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16278/10]

There are two Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Co. Westmeath that contain raised bog habitat and will be affected by the cessation of turf cutting this year. These areas are known as Lough Ree cSAC (000440) and Garriskil Bog cSAC (000679).

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of my Department provides an interactive mapping system that is available to the public. This is accessible on the NPWS website (www.npws.ie). It provides the boundaries of all nature conservation designations as well as aerial photography of the areas concerned.

Alternatively, members of the public can contact NPWS staff in their locality (contact details for staff nationwide are provided on the NPWS website also).

Telecommunications Services.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

175 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the lack of availability of broadband in the Slieve Bloom areas of counties Laois and Offaly and the failure by the service providers to facilitate the adequate access of service; if every effort will be made to facilitate the provision of a service in the Slieve Bloom areas in view of the fact that broadband is now a necessity for households and business in rural as well as urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16158/10]

Frank Feighan

Question:

176 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the provision of broadband in Gortleckra, Dromod, Barnacolla, Cloone, Newtowngore, Carrigallen, Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim and Rooskey in County Roscommon. [16288/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 176 together.

The provision of broadband services is in the first instance a matter for private sector service providers operating in Ireland's fully liberalised telecommunications market. Broadband services are provided by private service providers over various platforms including DSL (i.e over the telephone lines), fixed wireless, mobile , cable, fibre and satellite.

Details of broadband services available in each county can be found on ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie.

Additionally, under the terms of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) "3", a Hutchinson Whampoa company, is required to provide broadband services to all residences and businesses that are within the NBS area and who seek a service. This will include parts of Counties Laois, Offaly, Leitrim, Roscommon and Donegal. Details of the areas to be covered by the NBS can be found on 3 Ireland's website, www.three.ie.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. However, despite Government and private investment in broadband, I am aware that there continues to be a small percentage of premises throughout the country that will not be capable of receiving broadband services. This is primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.).

The European Commission has set aside a portion of the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) funding for rural broadband initiatives. My Department is currently considering the design and implementation of a scheme which would use this funding to address the issue of basic broadband availability to un-served rural premises outside of the NBS areas. This work will include the identification of premises not capable of receiving broadband. It is hoped to commence this scheme in late 2010 and have it completed by 2012. As the scheme is only at the design stage, there is no application process at this juncture. Information in relation to acceptance of applications and the process of qualification under the scheme will be made available in due course when the scheme is launched.

Grant Payments.

John O'Mahony

Question:

177 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their payment for the suckling grant following their application made in September 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16115/10]

The person named had 6 animals for consideration under the 2009 Suckler Welfare Scheme. During the validation process, errors have been identified as the applicant has provided the same date for meal feeding and weaning. An official from my Department will be in contact with the herd owner with a view to resolving the matter.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

178 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 564 of 16 February 2010, the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has been refused a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16118/10]

My Department was not in a position to approve the application from the person-named under the Early Retirement Scheme as the scheme conditions were not met. In order to qualify as a ‘Category A' application under the scheme, the proposed transferee of the applicant's land must be approved for payment under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme. This requirement was not met and the Young Farmer's Installation Scheme is now closed to new applicants.

My Department wrote to the person named on 8 February 2010, offering him the option of resubmitting his application as a ‘Category B' application under the scheme. In order to be categorized as ‘Category B', the proposed transferee must be farming a minimum of 5 hectares of enlargement land (or 5 enlargement production units in the case of intensive enterprises) in addition to the area of land being transferred for pension scheme purposes or the production unit capacity received from the transferor. The person named has until 30 April 2010 to resubmit an application on this basis. To date no reply has been received.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

179 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their suckler cow welfare payment. [16163/10]

The person named had 16 animals for consideration under the 2009 Suckler Welfare Scheme. It is a condition of this Scheme that for herds of more than 10 cows the calves must be weaned in at least two separate groups with each group being removed at a minimum interval of five days. The applicant did not comply with this condition and, therefore, is not eligible for payment under the provisions of the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

180 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) will receive their REPS and suckler welfare scheme payments. [16208/10]

The REPS payment for the person named will issue within ten days. He applied for 36 animals in 2009 under the Suckler Welfare Scheme. It is a condition of this Scheme that for herds of more than 10 cows the calves must be weaned in at least two separate groups with each group being removed at a minimum interval of five days. The applicant did not comply with this condition and, therefore, is not eligible for payment under the provisions of the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme.

School Accommodation.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

181 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if she has received a request for additional funding from a school (details supplied) in Limerick in respect of accommodation, other than the funding which was allocated by letter dated 25 March 2010; if a decision has been made on this request, will the request be looked upon favourably. [16114/10]

I can confirm that my Department received an appeal for additional funding in respect of an application for additional accommodation from the school authority referred to by the Deputy. Further information was sought from the school authority on this matter and was received earlier this month. Officials in my Department are currently considering the request for additional funding and will revert to the school authority in due course.

Higher Education Grants.

Denis Naughten

Question:

182 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if she will reverse the decision to remove the maintenance element of the higher education grant for first-time applicants in receipt of the back to education allowance; the projected savings as a result of this change; the procedure that will be put in place to cater for pending applications within the Department of Social Affairs at the time of registration for college courses when no determination can be made on their higher education grant application and registration fees have to be paid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16129/10]

Joe Costello

Question:

183 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the amount of money she expects to save annually from the abolition of the maintenance grant for people on back to education allowance in budget 2010; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that mature students and marginalised groups will suffer disproportionately; if she will consider reversing these cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16150/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the current difficult economic circumstances have necessitated tough choices to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run. In these circumstances, from September 2010, as announced in the Budget, all new applicants who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA), and the VTOS allowances for those pursuing PLC courses, will be ineligible for student maintenance grants. The cost of the student services charge and any fees payable to colleges will continue to be met for eligible students by the Exchequer on their behalf.

Students currently in receipt of the BTEA or VTOS allowances and the maintenance grant will continue to be eligible for both payments for the duration of their current course provided they continue to meet the terms and conditions of the relevant grant schemes. Students progressing to a new course with effect from 2010/11 will no longer be eligible for student maintenance grants but can apply for assistance towards the cost of the student services charge and any fees payable. It was decided to discontinue the practice of allowing students to hold both the BTEA or VTOS allowance and a student maintenance grant simultaneously as this represents a duplication of income support payments. This measure was recommended in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes.

The estimated saving for the 2010 financial year was €4m with a full financial year saving of some €35m in 2012. Although BTEA students progressing to a new course or new applicants who are in receipt of the BTEA will no longer be able to hold the maintenance portion of the student grant in addition to the BTEA, they may still submit a student grant application to establish entitlement to payment of the student service charge or tuition fees from my Department. Where a student has indicated on the application form that they have applied for the BTEA, the application will be processed as normal and the registration fee and tuition fees (where applicable) will be paid to eligible students. The maintenance portion of the grant will be held until such time as the student can confirm that they have received a decision from the Department of Social Protection in relation to the BTEA. Where a student has indicated that they are currently on the BTEA and are progressing new course their application will be assessed to establish their eligibility for the student service charge and tuition fees. The decision on eligibility for the BTEA is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Students who qualify for maintenance grants will continue to receive substantial grant funding, together with full support for payment of the student service charge. Those on particularly low incomes will also continue to receive a "top-up" in the special rate of maintenance grant. Under the student grant schemes a mature candidate, if approved, is automatically provided with the higher non-adjacent rate of maintenance which, this year, ranges from €810 to €6,355 dependent on individual circumstances. The entitlement to the non-adjacent rate applies regardless of how far the college is from the mature candidates residence and whether or not the candidate is dependent on or independent of his/her parent(s) or guardian(s).

The NDP funded ‘Third Level Access Measure' is also supporting the participation of mature students in higher education, in particular those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The Student Assistance Fund is available in all recurrently funded higher education institutions. Mature students who have additional needs arising due to a disability or learning difficulty can make an application to the Fund for Students with Disabilities. Applications for support can be made via the access or disability service in the institution.

Some €5m will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need through the Student Assistance Fund. The access offices themselves will also continue to provide support and advice to mature students to enable them to continue with their studies. The objective of the fund is to assist students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. Information on the fund is available from the access officer at a candidate's college.

The Fund for Students with Disabilities will provide funding in the sum of €10 million in the 2010 financial year to both further and higher education institutions for the provision of services and supports for full-time students (including mature students) with disabilities. The fund is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of my Department and is funded under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, with assistance from the European Social Fund.

Michael Ring

Question:

184 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science the changes, if any, to entitlements for mature students; if a person currently receiving the back to education allowance and third level grant as a mature student on a Further Education and Training Awards Council level 5 course may retain these payments when upgrading to a course in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology from Autumn 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16165/10]

Students currently in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and the maintenance grant will continue to be eligible for both payments for the duration of their current course provided they continue to meet the terms and conditions of the relevant grant schemes.

Students in receipt of BTEA who are entering or progressing to a new course with effect from 2010/11 will no longer be eligible for student maintenance grants but can apply for assistance towards the cost of the student services charge and any fees payable. A student progressing from a PLC course to a third-level course is progressing to a new course and therefore would not be eligible to hold the BTEA and maintenance grant simultaneously.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

185 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science if he will support the case of a person (details supplied). [16171/10]

It is the responsibility of all employees to ensure that their Certificate of Tax Credits and Standard Rate Cut Off Point is available to their employer. The Certificate sets out the total amount of the tax credits and standard rate cut-off point to which the employee is entitled together with the equivalent weekly and monthly figures.

In the case of the person referred to, the relevant tax details have now been applied to the payroll and any refund of tax due for 2010 will be issued to her in her salary payment in May. If the person feels that she is due a refund of tax or income levy for 2009 she should contact her local Revenue office.

Redundancy Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

186 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science when redundancy will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16184/10]

I can confirm that an application for redundancy has been received by my Department from the Special Needs Assistant referred to by the Deputy. Applications for redundancy are being received on an ongoing basis and are processed in date order of receipt. The application in question will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Schools Refurbishment.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

187 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science when she expects to announce the funding being granted under the summer works programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16218/10]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I announced details of the successful applicants under the current Summer Works Scheme on 19 April, 2010. Some 1,490 primary and post-primary schools across the country will benefit from small and medium scale building works this summer under the €122 million investment programme announced.

The Planning and Building Unit of my Department will shortly contact all schools approved for grant aid with details and instructions on how to proceed. Details of the successful applications are available on the Department's website, www.education.ie.