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 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 36, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 37 to 45, inclusive, answered orally.

Crime Levels

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

46 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2010, and broken down by each year; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43005/10]

Joe Costello

Question:

50 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to deal with the continuing spate of so-called gangland murders, particularly in the greater Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43004/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 50 together.

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

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that multi-agency approaches have been and continue to be used where Garda National Units — the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Garda Technical Bureau — are used to combat serious crime, including gangland crime. These Units are also supported by the Security and Intelligence Section which assists with intelligence briefings and timely information.

This integrated approach adopts best practice in implementing a coordinated use of Garda resources and using available criminal legislation to its fullest extent. Operations are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure their effectiveness. These specific initiatives are in addition to the activities of all members of An Garda Síochána in implementing and enforcing the criminal law.

It was in that overall context that I introduced greatly strengthened legislation in the area of organised crime which is being fully utilised by An Garda Síochána, including the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the Criminal Procedure Act 2010. To date, eight individuals have been charged under the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act of directing the activities of a criminal organisation or participating or contributing to certain activities. Other offences against the legislation are under investigation.

I have introduced further significant legislative proposals in the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill, and I will not hesitate to introduce additional measures if that becomes necessary. In addition, I have secured Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law.

Murders involving a firearm recorded, proceedings commenced for murder and convictions for years 1998 to 2009 and in 2010 up to 11 November

Year

Recorded

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2010

21

7

0

2009

23

9

1

2008

21

8

2

2007

18

3

1

2006

26

7

3

2005

22

3

3

2004

8

4

3

2003

19

3

1

2002

10

4

3

2001

9

2

1

2000

12

4

1

1999

12

7

5

1998

4

2

1

*Statistics provided are operational and liable to change.

Garda Reserve

Sean Sherlock

Question:

47 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the total number of members of the Garda Reserve recruited to date; the stations to which they have been allocated; the total number of applicants for the reserve currently training; if he is satisfied with the rate of recruitment; when he expects that the full complement of 1,500 will be in place; if any restrictions have been placed on recruitment to the reserve arising from budgetary restrictions; his plans to undertake the review of the operation of the Garda Reserve, as recommended in the Report of the Garda Inspectorate on Resource Allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43011/10]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of the Garda Reserve, on the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 623 with a further 184 in training. The stations to which these Reserve members are set out in the table below.

The Government has set a target strength for the Reserve at 10% of the full time strength of the Force. While recruitment is ongoing, the Garda Reserve depends on volunteers who undertake their training and other duties during their free time and it is therefore difficult to predict how many people will commence training in any particular period. However, I can assure the Deputy and the House that the Garda Commissioner is continuing recruitment with the objective of reaching that target and over 80 members of the Garda Reserve are due to graduate in the Garda College in Templemore next Friday 26th November.

It is important to note that the moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the public service does not apply to the Garda Reserve, as members are volunteers and do not draw a salary. I am very satisfied with the current rate of recruitment and there has been a significant increase in the number of expressions of interest lodged with the Public Appointments Service.

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

The Government is strongly committed to the development of the Reserve. It has been a very successful initiative and I am confident that it will continue to flourish into the future.

Division

Station

31.10.10

Cork City

Anglesea Street

15

Gurranabraher

9

Mayfield

8

Togher

3

Watercourse Rd.

4

Carrigaline

1

Bishopstown

2

Douglas

2

Cork North

Cobh

4

Fermoy

4

Mallow

2

Midleton

4

Mitchelstown

0

Cork West

Bandon

3

Clonakilty

4

Macroom

4

Skibbereen

1

Limerick

Roxboro Road

4

Mayorstone

7

Henry Street

16

Kerry

Killarney

2

Listowel

1

Tralee

5

Tipperary

Cahir

3

Carrick-on-Suir

2

Clonmel

4

Nenagh

3

Roscrea

3

Templemore

1

Thurles

1

Tipperary Town

4

Waterford

Dungarvan

1

Tramore

2

Waterford

17

Kilkenny Carlow

Carlow

8

Bagnalstown

1

Kilkenny

7

Thomastown

1

Tullow

1

Wexford

Enniscorthy

5

Gorey

4

New Ross

2

Wexford

3

Wicklow

Bray

4

Arklow

1

Baltinglass

1

Blessington

3

Wicklow

5

Kildare

Athy

3

Celbridge

1

Kildare

6

Leixlip

1

Naas

6

Newbridge

3

Laois Offaly

Birr

1

Portlaoise

4

Tullamore

8

Meath

Ashbourne

2

Kells

3

Laytown

1

Navan

6

Trim

4

Westmeath

Athlone

5

Mullingar

9

Clare

Ennis

9

Shannon

1

Galway

Ballinasloe

2

Galway

22

Loughrea

4

Salthill

5

Tuam

5

Mayo

Ballina

4

Castlebar

13

Claremorris

1

Swinford

1

Westport

3

Roscommon Longford

Boyle

2

Granard

2

Longford

3

Roscommon

6

Louth

Ardee

5

Drogheda

9

Dundalk

7

Cavan Monaghan

Castleblaney

1

Carrickmacross

2

Cavan Town

3

Monaghan Town

7

Sligo

Ballymote

2

Carrick On Shannon

2

Manorhamilton

2

Sligo

8

Donegal

Ballybofey

2

Buncrana

3

Letterkenny

12

DMR South Central

Pearse St

19

Kevin St

7

Donnybrook

3

Irishtown

1

Kilmainham

5

DMR North Central

Store St

7

Bridewell

5

Mountjoy

2

Fitzgibbon St

8

DMR West

Clondalkin

6

Finglas

8

Lucan

9

Blanchardstown

19

Ballyfermot

3

Ronanstown

2

DMR North

Santry

7

Raheny

6

Swords

8

Clontarf

5

Coolock

11

Balymun

10

Balbriggan

5

Whitehall

2

Malahide

2

Howth

4

DMR South

Crumlin

6

Sundrive Rd

5

Rathmines

6

Terenure

7

Tallaght

9

Rathfarnham

4

DMR East

Dun Laoghaire

9

Dundrum

2

Shankill

3

Blackrock

5

Probation and Welfare Service

Arthur Morgan

Question:

48 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views on whether staffing levels within the Probation Service are sufficiently adequate to deal with any increase in the service’s workload following the passing of the Fines Bill or other proposed legislation which will impact on their work and to cope with the increased use of community service orders into the future. [42872/10]

The Probation Service of my Department is the lead agency in the assessment and management of offenders in our communities. In common with the rest of the Civil Service, the Probation Service is subject to the Government's moratorium on recruitment and promotion and its staff also have access to the Incentivised Career Break and Early Retirement schemes. Where vacancies do arise, the Probation Service is required to further prioritise its workload.

When the Probation Service was restructured five years ago, emphasis was placed on working with higher risk offenders and juvenile offenders and in developing the Community Service system as an effective alternative to custody. These remain the priority areas for the Probation Service. Indeed, I understand your party colleague and Justice spokesman received a detailed briefing from the Probation Service very recently on the work of the Service. I trust this gave the Deputy a good overview of the important work which the Probation Service undertakes. I am on record as commending the important work they do which includes a strong emphasis on enhancing public safety in the community.

As part of this re-focussing of its work, the Deputy will be aware that the Probation Service benefited from the provision of an increased level of resources during the restructuring period. This has meant that despite the impact of the Moratorium and other associated measures the number of staff working in the Service is still greater than at the end of 2006 and only marginally less than at the end of 2007. The overall number of staff in the Probation Service increased by more than 15% over the years 2007 and 2008 following a targeted programme of recruitment on foot of a Government Decision to approve an additional 71 professional and administrative posts for the Service. The majority of these posts were professional positions at Probation Officer level or higher.

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has obtained Department of Finance sanction to recruit 8 Probation Officers and 3 Community Service Supervisors. This followed the making of special cases for these front-line posts to be treated as exceptions to the current Moratorium on recruitment in the civil and public service.

The independent Value for Money Review of Community Service published by me in October 2009 found that the Scheme was not being used to the extent that it had been in the past. Furthermore, it found that the Community Service Supervisors then employed, operating at full capacity, could provide supervision services to three times as many offenders as were then on Community Service Orders.

Based on this, and other recommendations contained in the review, the Probation Service of my Department is leading the drive to substantially increase the number of persons that could potentially be placed on Community Service. The Probation Service has restructured the delivery of Community Service nationally under the governance of a dedicated Community Service Unit and has piloted a new model of delivery of Community Service in the Dublin area between January and September 2010.

The recruitment of the new Probation Officers and Community Service Supervisors, which is currently underway, is further evidence of the priority attention being given to the important work of the Probation Service generally and will serve to bolster the delivery of its front-line services.

Probation Service management prioritises its workload and allocates its resources in such a way as to maximise its efficiency and effectiveness. This prioritisation includes particular focus on the delivery of front-line services and the supervision of Community Service Orders. The Deputy can be assured that my Department and Probation Service management are keeping the situation under constant review to ensure that the resources at the disposal of the Service are managed as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Garda Deployment

Róisín Shortall

Question:

49 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason the creation of 900 civilian posts within the gardaí has resulted in the release of only 144 Garda personnel for frontline policing duties, as highlighted in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General; the steps he will take to ensure greater use of civilian personnel, as recommended in the recent report of the Garda Inspectorate on Resource Allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43012/10]

As the Comptroller and Auditor General report acknowledges, increased civilian support for the Garda Síochána does not exclusively take the form of one-for-one replacement of individual Gardaí by civilian staff. Of course, in some instances, civilianisation does indeed enable the direct replacement of Gardaí who are engaged in exclusively clerical, administrative or technical duties by civilian staff. In a great many other cases, however, it allows Gardaí who would otherwise have to devote a substantial part of their working day to performing administrative duties to focus exclusively on front-line policing duties. Civilian staff may also be recruited to perform new or expanded administrative, managerial and professional support roles in the Garda Síochána, for example as crime analysts or IT specialists. This in itself can indirectly free up Gardaí for operational duty.

The report also notes that the recently established Garda Information Services Centre in Castlebar, which is staffed by civilians, has freed up as many as 265 Gardaí on a daily basis, as they no longer have to personally input details of incidents onto PULSE.

It is also the case that some of the additional civilian staff, for example those allocated to the expanded Garda Central Vetting Unit in Thurles, are performing a vital role which would otherwise have had to be undertaken by Gardaí redeployed from operational duty. This also needs to be factored into any calculations.

Of course I want to see the maximum number of Gardaí allocated to frontline operational duties, and I know that the Commissioner fully shares this objective. In that context, it is helpful that the whole time equivalent number of civilians in An Garda Síochána has increased from 1,688 at the end of 2007 to approximately 2,100 at the present time.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 46.

Human Rights Issues

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

51 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will outline his response to representations made by the group, Justice for the Magdalenes; if he intends to act on the recommendation from the Irish Human Rights Commission that a statutory mechanism be established to investigate matters advanced by the Justice of the Magdalenes and, in appropriate cases, to grant redress where warranted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43020/10]

As I have indicated to the House on more than one occasion, my Department has met with representatives of Justice for the Magdalenes during which there has been an exchange of views. My Department has offered — and will continue to offer — every assistance possible to allow access to the limited available records in the normal way. It behoves all of us to have regard to the age profile of the group of women who spent time in Magdalen Laundries and for this reason my Department remains open to considering any further assistance by, for example, the continued sharing of records that might be provided to the many elderly survivors and/or the families of people who were in these institutions.

Section 9 of the Human Rights Commission Act, 2000 provides a statutory mechanism where the Human Rights Commission may conduct an enquiry into any relevant matter. I understand that in June of this year, the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM)) group formally requested the Commission to carry out such an enquiry into the treatment of women and girls who resided in Magdalen Laundries. The Commission published their assessment of that request on 9 November, 2010. The Government has noted that the Human Rights Commission decided not carry to out a statutory enquiry itself as requested by the Justice for Magdalenes group and as it is entitled to do under the legislation which established it.

Subsequent to its publication, the report was the subject of an Adjournment Debate in this House on that same evening (9 November, 2010) . As outlined to the House in that Debate, the report raises issues for consideration by a range of Government Departments. My Department has begun a preliminary analysis of the report. I am sure the House and the Deputy will appreciate that it would be wrong to pre-empt the findings that will emerge from this analysis.

Cabinet Committees

Joe Costello

Question:

52 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he is a member of the recently established Cabinet Committee on White Collar Crime; the number of meetings held to date; the membership and terms of reference of the committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43006/10]

Earlier this year I sought the views of the Garda Commissioner, in light of experience gained in current and past investigations of white collar crime, on what changes in the law which might be beneficial in this area. The Commissioner's report contained a number of proposals which have implications for various areas of the law.

The Deputy will appreciate that I am precluded from giving details of discussions which have taken place at Government on the subject of white collar crime, but I can tell him that a Group of Ministers — myself, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and the Minister for the Environment — as well as the Attorney General have met with the remit of considering the report from the Garda Commissioner and general issues relating to white collar crime. We have issued directions to our Secretaries General and Director General about taking forward these matters and reporting back to the group.

It may also be of interest to the Deputy that I published a discussion document entitled Organised and White Collar Crime on 22 October, 2010, as part of the consultation process leading to a White Paper on Crime. This followed consultations with other relevant Departments.

My colleagues and I, both in the format of the Group which has been established, as well as bilaterally and at Government, will, of course, continue to pursue these issues.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Willie Penrose

Question:

53 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent annual report of the Garda Diversion Programme that teenagers came to the attention of the gardaí for public drunkenness more than any other offence last year; the steps he is taking to deal with the illegal sale of alcohol to those under age; the steps in particular that are planned to regulate so called home deliveries of alcohol; when he intends to implement the provision in the Intoxicating Liquor Act of 2002 providing the traceability of take away drink sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43010/10]

The Annual Report on the Garda Diversion Programme for 2009 indicates that there was a reduction of 13% in the number of incidents referred to the Programme, and a reduction of 14% in the number of children referred to it, during that period. As regards alcohol-related offences, there was a reduction of 22% in the number of such offences compared with 2008. This suggests that the Government's approach to tackling alcohol-related offences, and associated anti-social behaviour, is proving effective and I want to congratulate the Gardaí for their work in this area.

The sale of alcohol products to underage persons is already prohibited under licensing law. It is an offence under section 31(2) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 for a license holder to sell or deliver, or permit another person to sell or deliver, intoxicating liquor to a person under 18 years. This applies equally to premises with off-licences, including supermarkets, convenience stores and similar outlets, and those with on-licences such as public houses. The penalties for selling or delivering alcohol products to under-18s, originally set out in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, were substantially increased in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008. On conviction for a first offence, a mandatory closure order of between 2 and 7 days will be imposed together with a fine of up to €3,000. The penalties for a second, or subsequent, offence is a closure order of between 7 and 30 days and a fine of up to €5,000. In addition, the licensee is required to continue to pay staff for the duration of the closure period.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 also provided the Gardai with significant additional powers to address the problem of alcohol sales to underage persons. Section 14 contains provisions which allow a Garda who believes with reasonable cause that such a person possesses a bottle or other container containing intoxicating liquor which is being, or is intended to be, consumed by him or her to seize and remove the container.

Section 14 of the 2008 Act also makes provision for the test purchasing of alcohol products. The primary objective of the scheme, which entered into force on 1 October 2010, is to enable the Gardai to target those licensed premises which are suspected of engaging in illegal sales to young people. This scheme will provide them with an additional instrument in their overall enforcement programme.

As regards additional measures to combat home deliveries of alcohol products to underage persons, I have already announced my intention to make it an explicit offence in the forthcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill for a third party, e.g. courier or taxi, to deliver alcohol to an underage person. I am also considering the possibility of introducing a ‘test delivery' scheme to complement the test purchasing scheme. It would cover both home deliveries to under 18s and deliveries to any person where, contrary to the law, payment for the alcohol product is accepted on delivery.

As regards the labelling of alcohol containers, section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 already provides for the making of regulations to specify particulars to be displayed on containers which are adequate to enable the licensee and the licensed premises concerned to be identified. However during consultations between my Department and the Attorney General on implementation of section 22, the Attorney expressed serious doubts about the evidential value of possession of a labelled container by an under-18 year old. For example, the container might have been taken from the home by the underage person, or legally sold to a person over 18 years and passed on to the underage person. This has cast serious doubt on the benefits to be gained from any regulations that might be made under the 2003 Act.

Commercial Rent Review

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

54 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if it is intended to implement the recommendations contained in the report of the working group to look at the issue of commercial rent reviews which was published in August 2010; if he is considering any additional measures to assist retailers who are paying excessive rents and who are bound by upward only rent reviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43003/10]

The report of the Working Group on transparency in commercial rent reviews was published on 17 August. The Group which I established had representatives from all of the key stakeholders in the commercial property market. They have all signed up to the Report and I am confident that there is a willingness to implement its recommendations.

The Working Group recommended the establishment of a public database containing relevant details of letting arrangements and rent reviews in the commercial property market. As I indicated during the course of the recent Second Stage debate on the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009, an appropriate amendment is being developed within my Department for inclusion in that Bill which would see the Property Services Regulatory Authority being given responsibility for the management of the database. Work is ongoing in relation to finalising the precise operational details pertaining to that database.

Also amongst the recommendations is the adoption, by landlords and tenants alike, of the rent review arbitration code which is appended to the report and which is intended to achieve a uniform and transparent procedure for the resolution of disputes in the sector. I have publicly endorsed the Group's recommendation in this area and I have been in contact with bodies which were represented on the Group to encourage them to commit to the code. I am happy to say that a number of those bodies have already done so.

I am very much aware of the problems which confront the retail and small business sectors and I am determined to do all that is within my power to improve matters for those sectors, insofar as my particular areas of responsibility are concerned. The Deputy will be aware that I introduced legislation, Section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, the effect of which is that future rent review clauses will be construed as providing that the rent can go up, down or remain the same by reference to the rent payable immediately prior to the review date. For legal reasons the provision does not have retrospective effect. I have no plans for further legislation in this area.

My colleagues in Government are also fully committed to taking such measures as are within their powers to allievate the burden on the retail sector.

Gaming Industry

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

55 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when he will publish the report on gambling; the discussions he has had in relation to a super casino proposal for County Tipperary with Department officials or lobbyist for the proposed developer himself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42869/10]

I am now considering a report from my officials on a proposed policy for the better regulation of gambling. Following my consideration of the report, I will make the necessary arrangements to bring it before the Government. I have previously stated that it is my intention to publish the policy proposals which will be based on an examination of the submissions received as a result of the consultation process, as well as the recommendations contained in the Report of the Casino Committee,Regulating Gaming in Ireland, and, of course, consideration of modern gambling regulation. Pending a decision on the matter by the Government, I do not intend to make any further comment on the substance of the document under consideration.

I have not had any discussions with my officials in relation to the specific proposed venture in Co Tipperary. Neither have I had any discussions with any lobbyist for the developer, or indeed with the developer himself. I have been scrupulous in any dealings I have had in this matter since launching the review of gambling in May 2009. I am extremely conscious that there are strong views held on all sides; those who feel the market only should dictate how, where and when people might choose to gamble, on the one hand, to those, on the other hand, who quite legitimately point out the dangers associated with problem gambling.

As I have said more than once, my objective is to arrive at a code that recognises the fact that adults do gamble, that for many of them, indeed for the majority of them, gambling is an enjoyable past-time. However, problem gambling is also a fact and has the potential to ruin lives.

We must live in the real world: no gambling would mean no problem gambler, but that is not a feasible proposition as it would simply be driven underground. It is much better that gambling is regulated, that it is fair, that it is conducted honestly, and that children and the vulnerable are protected.

Crime Levels

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

56 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of occasions in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 to date in which grenades, bombs or improvised explosive devices have been used; the number of occasions in each year when the gardaí called on the assistance of the army ordinance unit to deal with such devices; the number of prosecutions initiated as a result of the discovery of such devices; his views on the increased use of such devices by criminal elements; the steps that are being taken to curb the use of such devices, having regard to the danger they pose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43016/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that in 2010 (to 12th November) there have been 181 incidents involving suspected grenades, pipe-bombs or other improvised devices nationwide at which a Defence Forces Explosive Ordnance Device team has attended, with 196 such incidents recorded in 2009, 180 recorded in 2008 and 98 recorded in 2007. I am further informed that in respect of the incidents that occurred between 2008 to 2010 (to 12th November), a total of 27 cases are currently before the courts. In addition, a further 46 investigation files have been submitted to the DPP.

The use of explosive devices and firearms by criminal gangs is a matter of ongoing concern both to me and to the Garda Authorities. Garda strategies in counteracting these activities are very firmly focused on disrupting the criminal groups which are involved and, where sufficient evidence is available, proffering charges and bringing such persons before the Courts.

I have also put in place strong legislative measures to further strengthen the law dealing with those involved in criminal organisations. The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 created the offence of directing or controlling a criminal organisation with a penalty of a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and increased the maximum penalty for the offence of participation or involvement in organised crime from 5 years to 15 years imprisonment. The Act also increased the penalty for witness and jury intimidation, provides for expert Garda opinion evidence on the existence and operations of criminal gangs to be admissible in evidence and provides for organised crime offences to be tried in the Special Criminal Court.

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

National Drugs Strategy

Joan Burton

Question:

57 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to recent data from the Health Research Board pointing to an increase in heroin use, particularly in centres outside of Dublin; the steps he is taking to control the spread of heroin in these areas; if he is satisfied that the gardaí have sufficient resources to deal with the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42992/10]

I am aware of a paper published by the Health Research Board in January this year which analyses the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) data including records of the number of people in treatment for problem drug use (including heroin) in 2008. I am also aware of the recent publication of the 2010 Annual Report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) for which the Health Research Board provided Irish data in respect of heroin use and treatment take up.

It is the case that heroin use remains a serious problem. All the indications are that, while the use of the drug is relatively stable in the Dublin region, it has in recent years become more widely dispersed around the country, particularly in the major cities and in towns across Leinster.

The Government's approach to tackling the problem of drug misuse, including heroin use, continues to be a priority and our response is being pursued through a co-ordinated and integrated approach under the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016. The Strategy tackles the issue under pillar headings of drugs supply reduction, education and prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research.

In terms of drugs law enforcement, drugs and organised crime are being prioritised by An Garda Síochána as a core focus for 2010, through the Garda Síochána Policing Plan, which reflects Government strategies contained in the National Drugs Strategy.

Drugs units are in place in every Garda Division and work in partnership with the Garda National Drugs Unit in tackling and targeting drug-related crime. Divisional and District Policing Plans also reflect the focus of the Policing Plan in terms of drugs law enforcement. In addition, An Garda Síochána has strong and strategic partnerships in place at international level targeting drug trafficking.

The links between organised crime and the illicit drugs trade continue to be actively pursued. The Garda National Drugs Unit, working with other national units, including the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau, are targeting persons involved in the heroin trade who are the subject of intelligence-led operations aimed at detecting and prosecuting offenders.

An Garda Síochána is satisfied that, in addition to the considerable volume of drugs seized to date in 2010, a significant impact has also been made by arresting and prosecuting a number of major players involved in the trafficking of drugs, including heroin.

Finally I can assure the Deputy that my Department, and all the agencies under its aegis, remain fully committed to the approach adopted in the National Drugs Strategy and to its implementation.

Sex Offender Treatment Programme

James Reilly

Question:

58 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of convicted sex offenders presently serving a prison sentence; the location in which the sentence is being served; the treatment programmes for sex offenders presently operating within the prison system and their location; the qualifications and the numbers of persons employed in the provision of such programmes and the number of prisoners presently participating in such programmes. [42833/10]

Alan Shatter

Question:

154 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of convicted sex offenders presently serving a prison sentence; the location in which the sentence is being served; the treatment programmes for sex offenders presently operating within the prison system and their location; the qualifications and the numbers of persons employed in the provision of such programmes and the number of prisoners presently participating in such programmes. [43088/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 154 together.

On 11 November 2010 there were 320 persons in custody with current convictions for sexual offences, located as outlined in the table below.

Prison

No. Sentenced

Arbour Hill

111

Castlerea

20

Cork

1

Dóchas

1

Midlands

95

Mountjoy

2

Wheatfield

90

Total

320

The treatment of sex offenders is centred in Arbour Hill Prison where sex offenders undertake the Building Better Lives (BBL) programme. The programme comprises group interventions in three modules and allows responsive and flexible delivery of rehabilitation services which take account of individual risk, needs and capacity.

The BBL programme commenced in January 2009, replacing the Sex Offender Programme, which was initiated in 1994 and concluded in 2008. The programme allows more responsive and flexible delivery of rehabilitation services to a greater number of offenders. The interventions take greater account of individual risk, needs and capacity, with priority given increasingly to higher risk offenders. Of the 78 offenders who have participated in the programme since January 2009, 58 are classified as medium to high risk category.

The programme is provided by a team of psychologists, including clinical and counselling psychologists, who have developed specific expertise in clinical practice including assessment and therapeutic work with men convicted of sexual offences. There are currently 21 psychologists employed by the Irish Prison Service, five of whom are assigned to Arbour Hill.

In Arbour Hill and other prisons, sex offenders also participate in other group programmes which while not specifically designed for sex offenders are aimed at addressing their needs, including stress management, anger management and cognitive skills training, as well as interventions by visiting psychiatrists. Not all sex offenders are suited to group programmes therefore other prison-based therapeutic interventions including one-to-one interventions are available.

Of the 320 sex offenders in custody on 11 November 2010, 92 have been or are engaged with the Irish Prison Service Psychology Service in relation to their sexual offending. At the end of October 2010, 24 prisoners were participating in the Building Better Lives programme and another 30 were engaged with the Psychology Service in work related to their offending behaviour. In the context of participation in this programme, priority is given to higher risk offenders with prisoners transferring into Arbour Hill for intervention purposes.

I would also like to advise that the Probation Service engages with sex offenders in individual work throughout the course of their sentence. This work primarily focuses on reducing the risk posed by the individual following release and also on child protection issues which may arise. Therapeutic interventions post release are made available through the joint delivery with the Granada Institute of the community-based Lighthouse Programmes in Dublin and Cork.

Proposed Legislation

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

59 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if the Garda Commissioner has sought additional powers to allow the Garda to better deal with white collar crime; the nature of the additional powers sought; if it is intended to grant these powers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43007/10]

In May of this year I asked the Garda Commissioner to examine the law in the area of white collar crime in light of experience gained in current and past investigations.

The Commissioner has recently replied to my request and has made a number of proposals with a view to enhancing the capacity of the Garda Síochána to tackle such crime.

As the Commissioner's proposals have implications for various of areas of the law, I have written to the relevant ministerial colleagues and the Attorney General to seek their observations and advice on the proposals.

Sexual Offences

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

60 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will amend the rules governing remission of prison sentences to provide that those convicted of serious sexual offences will only qualify if they have satisfactorily completed a course of treatment during their sentence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42994/10]

The granting of sentence remission is a feature of many prison systems worldwide and has been a feature of the Irish criminal justice system since the foundation of the State. Our Courts are aware of the statutory entitlement to remission when passing sentence.

Most prisoners are entitled by law to remission of one quarter of sentence provided they are of good behaviour during their time in custody. The European Court of Human Rights has held that a loss of remission requires a specific finding of a breach of prison discipline. In practice therefore, a prisoner will normally get 25% remission unless they have breached prison discipline and a sanction of loss of remission has been imposed.

Any measure which would retrospectively affect the time spent in custody after a sentence has been passed is open to challenge.

I will continue to keep under review what measures (including remission) are appropriate to maintain effective participation rates in therapeutic programmes by sex offenders.

Electronic Monitoring of Offenders

Martin Ferris

Question:

61 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will provide an update on the pilot scheme to electronically tag a number of offenders; the cost of the pilot scheme so far and when the pilot scheme will be completed. [42871/10]

Part 10 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 provides for the introduction of electronic monitoring in this jurisdiction and I have made the relevant order commencing the provisions in the context of a restriction of movement condition applying to the granting of temporary release.

The Irish Prison Service is currently testing the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) Electronic Monitoring on a small number of prisoners who have been carefully selected having regard to a range of criteria including the nature of the offence, public safety and overall conduct in prison and who have been given temporary release. The test phase began in August 2010 and is due to run until Christmas at which time it will be evaluated to assess its viability on cost and other considerations as a tool in the management of offenders.

Prison Building Programme

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

62 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the progress on the Thornton Hall project; if he will confirm that no prisoners will be able to be accepted in Thornton Hall before 2014 at the earliest and the total amount spent on the project to date. [43002/10]

As the Deputy will be aware the development of the new prison campus at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin is now proceeding on a phased basis. Phase one, which is currently in progress, comprises essential preliminary works to facilitate the prison development including the construction of a dedicated access road, the installation of off-site services and the construction of the perimeter wall of the prison. The second phase of the project involves the provision of 400 cells along with related support facilities suitable to accommodate up to 700 prisoners. Subsequent phases of the project will see the provision of the balance of the 1,000 cells providing a total of 1,400 cells when completed with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 prisoners, thus future proofing the development.

Access Road

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a contract for the construction of the access road to serve the prison development was awarded to SIAC Construction Limited in July 2010 and construction work is already well underway in relation to this phase of the project. The access road and underpass are scheduled to be completed during February next year.

Off-site Works

A procurement competition for the installation of the off-site services to serve the prison development issued to companies on the Irish Prison Service Construction Framework in August. The evaluation of the tenders by the Irish Prison Service and its technical advisors has been completed and the arrangements for the award of the contract to the successful tenderer is at an advanced stage. Subject to contract award, work on the installation of the off-site services is scheduled to commence next month and will take approximately eight months to complete.

Perimeter Security Wall

The procurement process for the design and construction of the perimeter security wall of the prison is already in progress. A pre-qualification competition for the design and construction of the perimeter security wall of the prison and related works issued on the E-tenders web site in August 2010. Twenty submissions were received and the evaluation of these submissions has been completed. Five companies have been short-listed and these contractors will be invited to tender for the construction of the perimeter security wall and ancillary works later this month. Construction of the perimeter wall is scheduled to commence in the first quarter of 2011 and will take just under a year to complete.

Prison Buildings

As I mentioned previously in the House, my priority is to provide good quality, regime focussed prison accommodation at Thornton Hall prison campus as quickly as possible. A phased development of the prison campus is now being pursued. The next phase of the works will see the procurement of prison accommodation blocks and related support facilities commencing in the New Year using traditional procurement methods.

In relation to expenditure on the project, the total expenditure to end October is €42.5 million. This sum includes the site cost of €31.2 million.

Garda Strength

Emmet Stagg

Question:

63 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the total strength of the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available broken down by full members, those who have attested but not yet concluded their training; those in training; the expected number that will be recruited during 2010; the total number of members of the force who are expected to retire during 2010; the total number who were recruited in the first half of 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43015/10]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána on 30 September 2010, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 14,600. The number of attested Gardaí on probation and at Phase IV of their Student/Probationer training on 30 September 2010 was 400. This figure is included in the overall strength of the force quoted above. It is anticipated that these Probationer Gardaí, together with the remaining student Gardaí (6 in total) will complete their training in the coming months.

I have been further informed by the Garda Commissioner that a total of 360 members of An Garda Síochána have either retired or have applied to retire from 01 January 2010 to 31 December 2010.

The general moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the Public Service continues to apply to An Garda Síochána and no recruitment into An Garda Síochána has taken place since its introduction.

Garda Operations

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

64 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he is aware of allegations of Garda brutality arising from the Union of Students in Ireland demonstration on 3 November 2010 especially in the context of the shocking pictures shown on RTE news on 9 November and if he has discussed the matter with the Garda Commissioner; and the steps he is taking to ensure that the Garda Síochána’s response to protests is proportionate and appropriate. [42865/10]

In the policing of demonstrations, the Garda Síochána, while respecting the right of legitimate protest, have a duty to ensure as far as possible that the peace is preserved and public order maintained, and that lives and property are protected. The safety of the Gardaí involved is also an important consideration. In preparing for demonstrations, the Garda Síochána have to take into account a number of important factors, including the anticipated numbers, the profile of those likely to be involved, and any intelligence relating to the event. Once a protest starts, the Garda Síochána have to constantly monitor and evaluate the situation and be ready to make tactical decisions based on the prevailing circumstances.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is the statutory body charged with the independent oversight of policing in this jurisdiction. I am advised by the Commission that, in respect of the Union of Students in Ireland demonstration on 3 November 2010, to date they have received 36 complaints regarding the policing of the demonstrations. Of those 36 complaints, 20 have been determined to be admissible, 15 have been determined to be inadmissible and 1 complaint has been withdrawn.

The Ombudsman Commission is independent in the exercise of its functions and it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment at this stage.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

65 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views on the increasing and routine use of heavily veiled and menacingly attired gardaí of the public order and the emergency response units in public, at inappropriate occasions, which may provoke rather than quell disorder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42868/10]

In the policing of demonstrations, the Garda Síochána, while respecting the right of legitimate protest, have a duty to ensure as far as possible that the peace is preserved and public order maintained, and that lives and property are protected. The safety of the Gardaí involved is also an important consideration. In preparing for demonstrations, the Garda Síochána have to take into account a number of important factors, including the anticipated numbers, the profile of those likely to be involved, and any intelligence relating to the event. Once a protest starts, the Garda Síochána have to constantly monitor and evaluate the situation and be ready to make tactical decisions based on the prevailing circumstances.

Public order training forms part of normal training, and additional specialised training is provided for members selected for duty with divisional and regional public order units. Further training is provided for officers in the management of incidents requiring the deployment of public order units. Operational planning for such events also incorporates the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Garda Síochána Inspectorate

Brian O'Shea

Question:

66 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by the head of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate (details supplied) at the failure of the gardaí to implement a number of recommendations of the Abbeylara inquiry; if he will list the recommendations that are still being implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42998/10]

Following on from the Barr Tribunal, the Garda Inspectorate published its second report,Review of Practices and Procedures for Barricade Incidents, in February 2007. The report contains eighty-four recommendations made by the Inspectorate. To date, seventy-four of these have been fully implemented, a further seven have been partially implemented and progress is being made in relation to the final three.

These three remaining recommendations relate to the need for a formal arrangement for the provision of professional mental health advice and support to the Garda Síochána at barricade incidents. This is one of a number of issues currently being considered by a high level Cross-Sectoral Working Group, chaired jointly by my Department and the Department of Health & Children. This Working Group includes representatives from An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive.

In the meantime, the Central Mental Hospital continues to provide the Garda Síochána with specialist medical support in critical incidents.

Proceeds of Crime

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

67 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the discussions he has had with the Department of Finance on the need to ring-fence the proceeds of crime which are seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be re-invested in community projects in the communities most affected by drugs crime in particular; his plans to introduce legislation to ensure same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42867/10]

The issue of the proceeds of crime seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau being used to fund community projects and drug services in disadvantaged communities has been raised from time to time.

It is a matter on which my Department has consulted with the Department of Finance who would have primary responsibility in this area.

While it is accepted that there may be some potential symbolic value in the suggestion nonetheless the proposal is one which is problematic and raises a number of particular difficulties.

Revenue which has been accumulated by the Criminal Assets Bureau is paid into the Government's Central Fund. The Central Fund is provided for under Article 11 of the Constitution. This fund, except where provided otherwise by law, is the destination of all State revenues and the source of all Government spending. It is the Central Fund from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment including the provision of drug services.

With certain exceptions, it is believed that earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would, in general, constrain the Government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy. Furthermore, if certain revenues were earmarked for particular projects any projects thus funded would be dependent on actual revenue collected from that source. Therefore, a fall in revenue generated by that source could imply a fall in expenditure on such projects.

Given the variable and uncertain nature of the value of the assets seized by the Bureau in any given year, in addition to the potential delays through the possibility of legal challenge to court disposal orders, the provision of ongoing funds to drug programmes or projects in this manner would be problematic. Such a revenue source would not facilitate the proper planning of drug treatment provision or other such programmes by organisations involved in the delivery of services.

It could also be said that a significant proportion of the monies secured by the Bureau are already owed to the Exchequer as it often relates to non-payment of taxes and social welfare fraud.

In the case of drugs services the Government is already allocating very considerable resources to a wide range of Government Departments and State agencies as well as to the community and voluntary drug treatment sectors to tackle the issue of drug misuse.

There is currently no plan to change the existing arrangements concerning revenue accumulated by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Sexual Offences

Alan Shatter

Question:

68 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 234 of 30 September 2010, if he will provide the information sought in question, and the reason for the continuing delay in the furnishing of the information sought. [42921/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I wrote to him on the 8th November, 2010 with the answer to his earlier question.

Prison Visiting Committees

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

69 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason 18 reports dealing with the prison system, including the reports of 14 separate visiting committees, were published on the one day; the steps being taken to address the areas of concern identified in the reports of the visiting committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43008/10]

It has been standard practice over the years to publish all of the Visiting Committee Reports on the same day. Their actual date of publication is dictated by the date on which all of the reports are received, checked and made ready for publication. On this occasion their readiness coincided with the publication of the other reports. It is customary for the Irish Prison Service to discuss the matters of concern that the Visiting Committees may have with them and to take the necessary action to resolve these issues where feasible.

Legislative Programme

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

70 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when he expects to publish the judicial council Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43001/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that under the Government Legislation Programme for the Autumn Session announced by the Chief Whip in September, my proposals for a Judicial Council Bill are in the course of being formally drafted with a view to their publication in mid-2011.

Probation and Welfare Service

Martin Ferris

Question:

71 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will make a commitment that projects working with young persons who are involved, or at risk of involvement, in criminal activity, which receive State funding via the Probation Service will have their funding held at least at its current level in 2011. [42870/10]

I refer the Deputy to the reply of Parliamentary Question 41 on 7 October, 2010. The position remains as stated.

Garda Investigations

Sean Sherlock

Question:

72 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when he expects to receive the report of the Garda investigation into allegations of dereliction of duty by a number of gardaí at a location (details supplied) and further allegations that a conscientious garda was scapegoated for drawing attention to these matters; if he has received any interim report from the Garda authorities into these matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43023/10]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 197 and 198 of 10 November 2010. I have nothing further to add at this stage.

Prison Committals

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

73 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of prisoners held here and the number of prisoners on temporary release at the latest date for which figures are available; if he will give the equivalent figures for the same date in each year from 2002; the average number of prisoners on temporary release for each month of 2010; the steps being taken to deal with overcrowding and to reduce the number of prisoners receiving temporary release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42997/10]

As the Deputy is aware, there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population in Ireland over recent years, with dramatic increases in the number of sentenced prisoners, those being committed on remand and a trend towards longer sentences. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 435. This represents a rise of over 11% in the numbers in custody. The Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts into its custody and does not have the option of refusing committals.

I wish to inform the Deputy that the total number of prisoners in custody on 15 November 2010 was 4,416. The number of prisoners on temporary release on that day was 660 which represented approximately 12.5% of the overall prison population. The figures requested by the Deputy in relation to temporary release are set out in the tables.

The number of prisoners on temporary release in each year from 2002

Year

Total

15/11/2002

362

14/11/2003

251

15/11/2004

273

15/11/2005

113

15/11/2006

184

15/11/2007

240

14/11/2008

409

16/11/2009

689

15/11/2010

660

The average number of prisoners on temporary release for each month of 2010

Month

Total

January

551

February

656

March

755

April

836

May

882

June

937

July

865

August

707

September

663

October

610

Up to and including 15th November

666

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate, the provision of extra prison spaces, and the improvement of the prisons regime. Since 1997, in excess of 1,930 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise, Castlerea, Mountjoy and Wheatfield prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House. The Irish Prison Service has also completed the renovation of an unused landing in Limerick Female Prison which has provided an extra 14 cells with in-cell sanitation.

The Irish Prison Service plans to commence construction later this year on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces in the medium term. Work is also due to commence on converting an administrative building on the Dóchas site into a new accommodation block which will provide 70 spaces in the short term.

The Government is fully committed to developing a new prison campus at Thornton Hall, County Dublin, and recently approved the procurement of the first phase of the prison accommodation blocks and related support facilities. This work will result in the provision of an initial 400 cells capable of accommodating up to 700 prisoners. Work has already started on the construction of the access road and the procurement process for other aspects of the project are being advanced. The development of a new prisons facility at Kilworth, Co Cork, to serve the Munster region is also a key element of the prisons modernisation programme.

Temporary release arrangements, in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 1960 as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003, can operate similar to a system of parole, which is a feature of prison systems worldwide. They are an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence.

The Irish Prison Service has also judiciously used temporary release as a means of reducing numbers in times of serious overcrowding. Each case is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a regular basis to the offender's Garda Station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Gardaí.

Rent Reviews

James Reilly

Question:

74 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views on the recommendations that the Government should put to legal test the advice that retrospective removal of upward only rent reviews would be struck down by the Supreme Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36496/10]

I would remind the Deputy that a provision which prohibits upward only rent review clauses in future business leases is contained in Section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. That provision came into force on 28 February last.

The prohibition on upward only rent review clauses does not apply to business leases (or agreements for such leases) which were entered into prior to the commencement of the section. Advice was sought from the Office of the Attorney General as to whether or not the prohibiting provision could be applied retrospectively. It was indicated that wholesale interference with existing leases was not a feasible option. Real legal and constitutional difficulties would arise if property rights were to be affected retrospectively. My Department is not aware of any recommendations of the type suggested by the Deputy.

Northern Ireland Issues

Seymour Crawford

Question:

75 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of meetings he has had with the new Northern Ireland Minister for Justice, David Ford, MLA; if he is satisfied with the amount of personnel available in the Border region to maintain the necessary surveillance and security that is needed to continue the good work which has already been carried out to ensure that those who are trying to re-open the Northern Ireland problems are dealt with in a proper way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42826/10]

Policing and justice responsibilities were devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 12 April 2010. The Garda Commissioner and I held a first meeting with Minister Ford, who was accompanied by PSNI Chief Constable Baggott, on 16 April in Stormont. Since then I have met with Minister Ford on several occasions. We have twice met to review formally cooperation under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Cooperation on Criminal Justice Matters. We also met jointly in September with Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP and in October we addressed the annual Cross-border Organised Crime Seminar in Belfast. Minister Ford also joined me at a Garda graduation event in Templemore late last month.

In the last week Minister Ford and I have appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, addressed the first annual seminar on cross-border cooperation between the two Probation Services (which was immediately followed by a meeting to review criminal justice cooperation under the Agreement) and attended an event in Dundalk marking the launch of a new academic research project on the Peace Process. These meetings serve to highlight the closeness of the relationship between the various criminal justice and law enforcement agencies in our two jurisdictions and the importance that both Minister Ford and I place on ensuring that North-South cooperation is supported and enhanced, for the benefit of all the people of Ireland.

In respect of the second part of the Deputy's question, I can assure him that An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are resolute in their determination to maintain and reinforce the already excellent level of cooperation that they enjoy, and which has played a significant role in preventing attacks in the border region. Such cooperation has resulted in a number of individuals being arrested and brought before the Courts on terrorism-related charges. The counter-terrorism strategies and intelligence-led operations of An Garda Síochána, in cooperation with its counterparts in Northern Ireland, are focused on targeting and disrupting any operational planning or logistical support being conducted or contemplated in this jurisdiction. I am fully satisfied that the level of policing and security resources, both overt and covert, dedicated to this task continues to be commensurate to the threat posed.

Freedom of Information

Jack Wall

Question:

76 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views on extending the remit of the Freedom of Information Act to cover An Garda Síochána; if he will set out his understanding of the Garda functions that will be covered; when the extension of the Freedom of Information Act will be executed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43022/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, there is a commitment in the Renewed Programme for Government to expand the application of the Freedom of Information Act, as amended, to include specific administrative matters in An Garda Síochána. My Department is currently considering this matter in conjunction with the Department of Finance. This consideration will involve an examination of all factors relevant to the administrative functions of An Garda Síochána.

Daylight Savings Time

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

77 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will discuss extending summer time hours with his counterpart in the United Kingdom to bring both countries in line with European time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42829/10]

I can inform the Deputy that my Department, in accordance with EU Directive 2000/84/EC, compiled and communicated submissions in respect of this issue to the European Commission from a number of relevant Departments and semi-state bodies in July 2007. Following consideration of the information made available to it from Member States, the European Commission reported that it took the view that the analysis set out in the proposal for the Directive remained valid and that no Member State had expressed a wish to abandon summer time or change the provisions of the current Directive. Accordingly, I can advise the Deputy that there are no plans to change the present summer time arrangements.

Witness Intimidation

Joe Carey

Question:

78 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will report on the number of persons who have acted as witnesses in criminal trials and now avail of around the clock Garda protection; if he will further report on the number of gardaí involved in this procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43040/10]

The Deputy will understand that it is not the policy nor would it be in the public interest to comment in detail on matters relating to the personal security of individuals, including information relating to persons who have acted as witnesses in criminal trials and who, as a consequence, may be the subject of Garda protection or persons in the Garda Witness Security Programme. A high level of confidentiality is essential to protect the individuals involved and the operation of the protection measures in place.

Witness intimidation is an offence pursuant to Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999, which specifies the offence as harming, threatening or menacing or in any other way intimidating or putting in fear another person who is assisting in the investigation of an offence by the Garda Síochána, with the intention of causing the investigation or course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with. Following the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, the offence is now punishable on indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to 15 years.

Since 1997 the Garda Síochána has operated a Witness Security Programme in response to attempts by criminal and other groups to prevent the normal functioning of the criminal justice system, including threats of violence and systematic witness intimidation. Legislation was not required to establish this Programme, but its operation is supported by Section 40 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 which makes it an offence for any person, without lawful authority, to try to identify the whereabouts or any new identity of a witness who has been relocated under the Programme. The offence is punishable on indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to five years.

The Garda Síochána rigorously enforces the provisions in the law relating to witness intimidation and protection. In circumstances where the Senior Investigation Officer in a case has identified a witness who is crucial to the case and the evidence to be preferred is not available elsewhere, and there is a serious threat to the life of the witness or his/her family an application can be made, with the consent of the witness, to have him/her included in the Witness Security Programme. Where a threat to or intimidation of a witness or a potential witness arises during the course of criminal proceedings, the matter may be addressed through the trial judge, who has discretion to revoke bail or place other sanctions on the accused/suspect.

Victims Commission

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

79 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will outline his response to the findings of the report published by the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime, which found that two out of every five of the victims surveyed were dissatisfied with their dealings with the Garda; if the Garda authorities have been asked to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43009/10]

The Gardaí enjoy the confidence of the public generally. The most recent evidence for this is theQuarterly National Household Survey of the Central Statistics Office, in relation to Crime and Victimisation in 2010 which found that 67% of those surveyed rated the Gardaí in their local area as good or very good.

The report referred to by the Deputy was commissioned by the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime to establish, from the victim's perspective, the needs of victims of crime and their families and the extent to which those needs are met by voluntary organisations and the criminal justice agencies. It showed that 70% of victims were satisfied or very satisfied with the sensitivity of the Gardaí in taking statements. It is a matter of concern, however, that 40% of respondents to a questionnaire expressed themselves as being dissatisfied with their overall dealings with An Garda Síochána.

The fieldwork for the research was conducted in 2009. In July 2010, I launched theVictims Charter and Guide to the Criminal Justice System. This includes a Garda Victims Charter, which gives detailed undertakings in relation to what services victims of crime are entitled to expect from Gardaí. It also provides contact details for those victims who feel that they have not received the level of service they are entitled to and who wish to make a complaint. In launching the Charter, I emphasised that I would like to see all the criminal justice agencies implement their victims charters in full and I urged that monitoring be put in place to assess the level of implementation.

The Garda authorities themselves recognise the need to continuously improve service provision. To this end, the Garda Commissioner established the Garda National Crime Victims Forum to consult with voluntary organisations providing assistance to victims of crime. The Forum met for the first time in March this year and a further meeting will take place at the end of November 2010. I am satisfied that it is through monitoring their own activities and a co-operative approach between the Gardaí and victims' representatives that service provided to victims ratings will be enhanced.

Asylum Applications

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

80 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons residing here awaiting a decision on asylum status; the number of persons residing here who have been declined asylum status, the cost of accommodating these persons here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43039/10]

As at 31 October there were 530 persons awaiting a first instance asylum decision in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC), while 1,055 persons were awaiting an asylum appeal decision in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT). For the avoidance of any misunderstanding, I should say that the majority of these cases are relatively recent applications i.e. in the system less than 12 months.

Persons who are refused asylum are entitled to seek leave to remain in the State under the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) when there is also the possibility for them to make an application for Subsidiary Protection. As at 31 October 2010 approximately 9,000 such cases were recorded as pending. However, this does not mean that it can be stated definitively that this is the actual number of people residing here who have been refused asylum status. In common with the practice in other States, it tends to be the case that significant numbers of persons leave the State during and after the processing of their asylum applications. As Ireland does not operate a system of exit controls, it is simply not possible to state the true figure in this respect. There is evidence from our visa applications processes to suggest that some of these persons have in fact returned to their country of origin.

Neither is it possible to state the costs of accommodation for such persons, because there is no mandatory requirement for asylum seekers (or for persons who seek to remain in the State on other grounds having been refused asylum) to avail of State provided, or State funded accommodation.

Departmental Bodies

Jack Wall

Question:

81 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the functions of the Prisons Authority Interim Board; the structure of governance under which it operates and his proposals for its future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43021/10]

The Prison Authority Interim Board was established by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 26 April 1999. The Board meets approximately six times per year and provides advice and guidance in the management of the prison system to the Director General of the Irish Prison Service.

Crime Levels

Brian O'Shea

Question:

82 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to recent statistics released by the Central Statistics Office which showed a very significant number of offences committed by persons on bail in the past three and a half years, including 33 murders; if he is satisfied with the current operation of the bail laws in view of these figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43000/10]

The number of offences where the suspected offender is on bail is a matter of concern. A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The statistics compiled by the Central Statistics Office indicate that in 2009 there was a reduction of 7% in the number of offences recorded where the suspected offender was on bail, compared with the previous year.

Late last year, I obtained Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill. The Bill will restate and consolidate bail law. In addition, a number of matters to improve the operation of the law are being examined. These include:

(a) providing that the courts must have regard to the nature and seriousness of any danger to any person or the public posed by the release of the accused person on bail;

(b) creating presumptions that bail should be refused for people charged with certain types of serious crime. In view of restrictions resulting from the European Convention on Human Rights, such presumptions would act as a form of guidance to the courts in identifying those who present unacceptable risks of committing serious offences if granted bail; and

(c) extending the powers of the courts to refuse bail where that is necessary to prevent the commission of further offences to include more minor offences which fall below the current level of seriousness required by the Bail Act 1997. I hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Government before the beginning of the next Dáil session.

Garda Investigations

Terence Flanagan

Question:

83 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 42, 51 and 56 of 10 December 2009, the developments that have occurred as a consequence of the Garda assistant commissioner, northern region, being appointed to examine the file concerning the original investigation which took place into the murder and suspected rape of a person (details supplied); if it has been established that obstacles were placed in the way of the original investigation which inhibited its completion and a prosecution taking place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42922/10]

Alan Shatter

Question:

151 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the developments, if any, that have occurred since the answer given by him to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 42, 51 and 56 of 10 December 2009 as a consequence of the Garda assistant commissioner, northern region being appointed to examine the file concerning the original investigation which took place into the matter and suspected rape of a person (details supplied) in 1970; if he will state if it has been established that obstacles were placed in the way of the original investigation which inhibited its completion and a prosecution taking place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43085/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 151 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the investigation into the death of the person referred to by the Deputy was the subject of an intensive review in 2004. I am further informed that in December, 2009, the Garda Commissioner appointed the Assistant Commissioner, Northern Region to examine the investigation file again. This review has been completed, and the Review Team has found no evidence to support the view that the original investigation was inhibited or impeded in any way. A comprehensive meeting was held with members of the person's family in September, 2010, during which their concerns surrounding the investigation were addressed. An Garda Síochána is maintaining liaison with the person's family.

Garda Interview Procedures

Emmet Stagg

Question:

84 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when arrangements will be made to instruct members of An Garda Síochána that it is not necessary to take a longhand note of interviews with persons in custody where such interviews are being electronically recorded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43014/10]

Proposals for the introduction of a new system which would allow the taking of contemporaneous written notes to cease where interviews are electronically recorded are being considered by my Department and the Garda Síochána, in consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Attorney General. While proposals for a new system are well advanced, it is not a straight-forward matter and there are a number of legal, technological, training and financial issues to be addressed before any changeover to a new system can take place.

Accordingly, the matter is one of a number of issues now being considered by the Advisory Committee on Garda Interviewing which I established earlier this Summer. This committee, chaired by the Honourable Mr Justice Esmond Smyth, was established following the recommendations of the Morris Tribunal to oversee policy on interviews in Garda custody, and to ensure that policy and practice relating to interviewing are kept under continual review. I will give very careful consideration to the views of the committee on this matter. In the meantime the current practice will continue.

Prison Building Programme

Denis Naughten

Question:

85 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the future plans for developments at Castlerea Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42832/10]

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that it is their intention to provide a new accommodation block with 100 places within the existing prison boundary wall. The project is at a preliminary planning stage.

In addition to the proposed new block, the Irish Prison Service are developing proposals for the utilisation of the facilities at Harristown House beside Castlerea Prison. These proposals will entail the provision of enhanced regime opportunities for approximately 20 prisoners within a secure setting. The proposals are currently being evaluated and costed with a view to the submission of a business case to my Department.

Garda Investigations

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

86 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will outline the position in respect of the Garda investigation into matters arising from the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin; if he plans to establish a Commission of Investigation into other dioceses in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42996/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Assistant Commissioner appointed by the Garda Commissioner to examine the findings of the Dublin Archdiocese report relating to the handling of complaints and investigations by both Church and State authorities, and to carry out such investigations and enquiries as he deems appropriate, is continuing his examination of the report. I am assured that he will complete his examination and other appropriate enquiries as expeditiously as possible, following which he will report to the Commissioner. When he does so, the Commissioner will consult with the law officers on issues arising in respect of criminal liability.

I am informed by my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that the Health Service Executive is continuing its audit of Catholic dioceses to ensure that it, as the statutorily responsible body, is fully aware of all cases of clerical child sex abuse known to the Church and that each diocese is in a position, in terms of the policies and procedures in place, to handle allegations of child sexual abuse and prevent the possibility of such abuse in the future. The HSE hopes to complete its audit shortly, following which it will submit its report to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. A HSE audit of religious orders is also underway.

Consideration of the results of these investigations will include consideration of what further actions require to be taken, including a possible extension of the Commission of Investigation's remit. The Commission is at present examining the Diocese of Cloyne, and the Government has extended its term to 31 December to allow this work to be completed. Bringing the perpetrators of child sexual abuse to justice, whenever and wherever the abuse occurred, must be the absolute priority. I repeat my call and that of the Commissioner for any person, including any member of the clergy, who has any knowledge of such abuse to contact An Garda Síochána.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

87 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the outcome of the Garda investigation into allegations that Irish passports were used by Israeli agents involved in the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai; if the file has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions; if a similar investigation is under way into the reported misuse of Irish passports by Russian intelligence agents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43017/10]

In February 2010 the Dubai police confirmed that several suspects, believed to have been involved with the killing of a senior Hamas figure, had entered Dubai on the passports of a number of foreign countries, including a total of eight Irish passports. Subsequent investigations carried out by the Passport Service and by the Gardaí have confirmed that the eight Irish passports used were forgeries and it was concluded that an Israeli Government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports. The Garda investigation into the matter is ongoing and if evidence is forthcoming to indicate the commission of criminal offences in this jurisdiction a file will be submitted to the DPP on completion of enquiries.

In June 2010 allegations were made about the use of Irish passports against the background of persons allegedly carrying out long-term, "deep cover" assignments in the United States on behalf of the Russian Federation. A Garda investigation into the matter is taking place and if evidence is forthcoming to indicate the commission of criminal offences in this jurisdiction a file will be submitted to the DPP on completion of enquiries. I am informed that the Passport Service is also carrying out an investigation into the matter. In light of this, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further except to say that the Government regards the fraudulent use of Irish passports as a most serious matter.

Juvenile Offenders

Willie Penrose

Question:

88 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views on the reported significant increase in juvenile crime, with the number of juveniles charged with criminal offences in the Children’s Court increasing by 90% between 2004 and 2008; the steps he will take to combat the increase in juvenile crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42995/10]

I refer the Deputy to the reply of Parliamentary Question 57 on the Thursday, 7th October, 2010. The position remains as stated.

Irish Prison Service

Joan Burton

Question:

89 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will outline his response to the recent report form the Inspector of Prisons, the Irish Prison Population — An examination of Duties and Obligations Owed to Prisoners, and particularly his recommendation of the introduction of a cap on inmate numbers in each jail to eliminate overcrowding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42993/10]

I have been informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that he has circulated the report to the Governors of each institution and asked them to address any operational issues raised in the report regarding their specific prisons.

As regards overcrowding, the latest penal statistics published by the Council of Europe indicate that the level of overcrowding in countries such as the UK, France, Spain and Italy far exceeds the challenges currently facing our own prison system. In relation to the Inspector's recommendation on the capping of prisoner numbers in individual prisons, the Irish Prison Service could not comply with this at this point in time as it could not be achieved without releasing sizeable numbers of prisoners considered unsuitable for early release.

Ireland is not unique in having to manage an increasing prisoner population — a fact acknowledged by the Inspector of Prisons in his commentary on this issue. We have to modernise and further upgrade our prison capacity to address the question of overcrowding and to improve the prison regime. I would draw the Deputy's attention to the Government's commitment to providing resources to the Irish Prison Service so that an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure could be undertaken which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. This significant programme of capital works includes the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise, Castlerea and Wheatfield prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House. Since 1997, in excess of 1930 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system.

In addition, Government capital investment will allow the Irish Prison Service to continue with its building programme. The Irish Prison Service plan to commence construction later this year on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will have the potential to provide 300 prison spaces in the medium term. Work is also due to commence on converting an administrative building on the Dóchas site into a new accommodation block which will provide 70 spaces in the short term.

The Government recently approved the procurement of the first phase of the prison accommodation blocks and related support facilities for the prison campus at Thornton Hall. This work will proceed and will result in the provision of an initial 400 cells capable of accommodating up to 700 prisoners. Work has already started on the construction of the access road and the procurement process for the other aspects of the project are being advanced. The development of a new prison facility at Kilworth Co. Cork to serve the Munster region is a key element of the prisons modernisation programme. The new facilities at Kilworth will, when complete, allow for the decommissioning of the accommodation at Cork Prison and its replacement with new modern prison facilities. It is anticipated that the capacity of the new prison will be in the region of 450 and will also include accommodation and facilities for male and female prisoners.

Gaming Industry

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

90 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the action the Garda intend to take regarding the continued operation, especially in the Dublin area, of gaming arcades and other premises operating in breach of the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956, particularly in regard to the maximum permitted stake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42999/10]

I am assured by the Garda authorities that such premises receive attention and if breaches of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2003 are detected, appropriate action is taken. In addition, my officials have sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General in relation to alleged breaches of the legislation, particularly relating to the operation of gaming machines. I can assure the Deputy that should the law need to be changed consequent on any advices received, to ensure an appropriate level of enforcement or control of gaming, I will not hesitate to do so in the context of the adoption of a proposed policy for the better regulation of gambling.

Tribunals of Inquiry

Mary Upton

Question:

91 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the latest information available to him regarding the progress made by the Smithwick tribunal established by resolution of the Oireachtas in March 2005 and when the tribunal intends to commence public hearings; the evidence that has been taken in public; if the tribunal has secured the co-operation of all potential witnesses, particularly those form outside the jurisdiction; if the tribunal intends to publish any interim report on its progress since 2005; the total costs incurred by the tribunal to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43018/10]

The Smithwick Tribunal was established pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921-2002, to enquire into suggestions that members of the Garda Síochána or other employees of the State colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Bob Buchanan in 1989. The Tribunal was established by resolutions passed by the Oireachtas in March 2005.

The Deputy will be aware that the Tribunal Chairman, Judge Peter Smithwick, is independent in his functions in accordance with the provisions of the Acts. The terms of the Resolutions of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann and the Instrument establishing the Tribunal provide for the submission of interim reports to the Clerk of the Dáil within ten days of the commencement of oral hearings regarding the granting of representation before the Tribunal, progress to date, likely duration and any other matters which the Tribunal considers appropriate. I am informed that the Tribunal is in an investigative phase at present and that public hearings will take place once that phase is completed.

As to whether the Tribunal has secured all the co-operation it requires, that is a matter for the Tribunal itself and will, I have no doubt, be addressed by the Chairman in the final report. In any event, the Resolutions passed by the Oireachtas permit the Chairman to write to the Clerk of the Dáil if he believes that he is not receiving full co-operation.

Decentralisation Programme

Denis Naughten

Question:

92 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when the decentralisation of the Property Registration Authority will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42831/10]

The new building for the Property Registration Authority (PRA) in Roscommon Town is expected to be fully completed and ready for occupation in the first quarter of next year. The first staff to move into the building will be 75 existing employees of the PRA currently in temporary office accommodation in Roscommon Town, with further staff to follow in due course.

Bicycle Theft

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

93 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his view on statistics supplied by the Central Statistics Office that show a substantial increase in bicycle thefts in the State and in Dublin city over the past number of years; his views on the need for action on this issue and the steps that have been taken to address same [42866/10]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Gangland Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

94 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to combat the increased level of activity among organised criminal gangs; if arising from any evaluation he has identified any particular legislative or logistic requirement, having particular regard to the ongoing situation as set out in recent media reports; if it is his intention to authorise any particular initiatives with the objective of tackling this growing problem in a way that will restore public confidence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42975/10]

I can assure the Deputy that the Government attaches the highest priority to tackling serious crime. In setting the policing priorities for An Garda Síochána in 2010, I asked the Commissioner to continue the focus of the force on serious crime, in particular organised crime. This priority is reflected in the Garda policing plan for this year and the specific initiatives undertaken by An Garda Síochána. The Deputy will be aware that the criminal law has been significantly strengthened in recent times so as to provide additional legislative measures to An Garda Síochána in their efforts to combat organised crime.

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, which entered into force on 23 July 2009, makes available a number of specific measures targeted at organised crime. In addition, further measures contained in the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 relating to evidence obtained by means of covert surveillance and measures contained in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 relating to the use of weapons have greatly strengthened the response to serious crime. Members of An Garda Síochána are utilising all available legislation to target organised crime including the provisions contained in the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 amending the Criminal Justice Act 2006 in relation to organised crime. In this regard, I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 31st October 2010 eight individuals have been charged under the legislation, six under Section 72 of the Act (participating or contributing to certain activities) and two under Section 71A of the Act (directing the activities of a criminal organisation).

The success of Operation Chisel which targeted an organised criminal group based in northern inner city Dublin and which resulted in the arrests of thirteen people is an indication of how the Gardaí are utilising the legislative provisions to target such criminals. Ongoing targeted operations such as Operation Anvil, which commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in May 2005, has already had considerable success. As of the 31st October this year Operation Anvil had resulted in the seizure of 1,458 firearms and led to the recovery of over €40 million worth of property.

The Gardaí also use a multi-agency approach, whereby all of the National Units from National Support Services are used to combat serious crime. This integrated approach adopts best practice in implementing a co-ordinated use of Garda resources and using available criminal legislation to its fullest extent. This approach is closely monitored and kept under review by senior Garda management. Where there may be an identified requirement for additional legislative provisions to further enhance existing provisions I will not hesitate in bringing forward proposals.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

95 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to reports that a member of a gang suspected of the killing of a drug dealer (details supplied) obtained a security licence from the Private Security Authority despite having a conviction for gun crime; the steps, if any, he is taking to ensure that members of criminal gangs do not obtain such licences nor engage in the provision of security services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42837/10]

Alan Shatter

Question:

153 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to reports that a member of a gang suspected of the killing of a drug dealer (details supplied) obtained a security licence from the Private Security Authority despite having a conviction for gun crime; the steps, if any, he is taking to ensure that members of criminal gangs do not obtain such licences nor engage in the provision of security services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43087/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 153 together.

The Deputy will appreciate that the incident in question is currently the subject of a Garda investigation and so it would be inappropriate for me, as Minister, to make any comment at this time in relation to any such investigation. With regards to obtaining a security licence, the Private Security Authority, established under the Private Security Services Act 2004, is the regulatory body with responsibility for regulating and licensing the private security industry. The Authority is an independent body under the aegis of my Department. My Department is therefore not involved in the day to day running of the Authority and the processing of licence applications is a matter solely for the Authority.

I would however like to assure the Deputy that the vetting of applicants is an integral part of the licensing process of the Private Security Authority. I am informed that, in the case of contractor licensing, all directors of a company, the partners in a partnership, all sole traders and any shareholder in a company with a shareholding of 20% or more are vetted, on the Authority's behalf, by An Garda Síochána. All applicants for individual licences also go through the vetting process. I am also informed by the Authority that when deciding whether to grant a licence to a person with a relevant conviction, it will take the following into account:

nature and seriousness of the offence(s) involved

the length of time since completion of sentence

overall interests of the public good

relationship of the crime to the purpose of requiring a licence

age of person before and after offence

conduct of person before and after the offence

evidence of rehabilitation

The PSA has written criminality guidelines in place to assist the Authority in making a decision, however they are in no way bound by these guidelines and may decide,where it deems the conviction(s) renders an applicant unsuitable to hold a licence, to refuse an application. The criminal record checking and criminality guidelines are continually monitored and validated to ensure that these systems operate as effectively as possible. I can inform the Deputy that, it is in this context that, discussions are ongoing, at my request, at a senior level within my Department, the PSA and An Garda Síochána to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that inappropriate persons are not in a position to secure licences in the private security sector. It is a complex legal area but based on the outcome of these discussions, I will then be in a position to decide if anything further needs to be done on this matter.

Legislative Programme

Róisín Shortall

Question:

96 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the progress of the major review of gambling announced in May 2010; when he expects the process to be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43013/10]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 14 also for answer today. In brief, the position is that I am now considering a report from my officials on a proposed policy for the better regulation of gambling. Following my consideration of the report, I will make the necessary arrangements to bring it before the Government. Pending a decision on the matter by the Government, I do not intend to make any further comment on the substance of the document under consideration.

Garda Strength

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent, if any, to which he has monitored the reported various categories of crime to each garda division throughout the country over the past three years; the steps he will take to tackle the issues arising of any particular heading; if it is intended to increase Garda strength at the various locations which have shown increased levels of crime; if it is intended or expected to bring staffing levels in growing urban areas or rural areas adjacent up to the highest levels in terms of ratio to general population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42974/10]

Each year I determine priorities for An Garda Síochána, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005. These priorities inform the annual Garda Policing Plan. I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management throughout the State closely monitors patrols and other operational strategies in place, in the context of crime trends and the policing needs of the community. This monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public. Where necessary, dedicated initiatives targeting specific crime types are implemented to prevent, detect and reduce such incidents.

Garda management is aware of the importance of Garda personnel levels and the allocation of additional personnel to local communities. This issue is raised on a regular basis with senior Garda management at Regional and Divisional levels, in particular at the Joint Policing Committees. At my request, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate carried out an inspection of resource allocation, including personnel, in An Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Inspectorate published the report earlier this year, and its recommendations are currently being examined by the Garda Commissioner and his senior management. The Commissioner, with his senior managers and Divisional Officers, arranges for the allocation of Garda personnel throughout the State. Garda management is aided in this by a distribution model known as the Garda Establishment Redistribution Model (GERM).

I am advised by the Commissioner that this model indicates the most effective distribution of Garda personnel and acts as a guide to Garda management decision making. It takes into account many different policing variables, including crime trends, socio-economic factors, and census information. The allocation of Garda personnel takes account of these factors and in addressing the policing requirements of each individual Division.

Deportation Orders

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

98 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons deported from the State in 2010; the cost of deporting those persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43038/10]

In the period January to end October this year, a total of 241 persons were removed from the State on foot of Deportation Orders. In addition to these, a further 2,597 persons were refused leave to land at the State's frontiers and were returned to the place from where they had come. Moreover a further 131 persons were returned to other EU member states under the arrangements in place on foot of the EU legal instrument know as the Dublin Convention II.

While my Department's records do not specifically identify the costs associated with the return of persons in the latter two categories referred to above, they are not likely to be significant since in the case of refusals of leave to land costs are borne by the carriers and in the case of Dublin Convention II cases, the persons in question would be returning to the UK in a significant number of cases and to other European States in the remainder.

In the case of persons who are deported on foot of deportation orders, costs arise on foot of removal on scheduled flights and in the majority of cases, on foot of chartered aircraft.

In the period in question, the total net cost of scheduled and chartered flights was approximately €205,000. For the sake of completeness I should add that the European Border Management Agency — FRONTEX — is a very significant asset in returning persons to distant countries. For example, so far this year, FRONTEX has funded 7 chartered flights in which we participated at no cost.

In the case of costs associated with 5 other chartered flights, there was no cost to Ireland as the flights were funded by other EU member states. Finally, Ireland is also in a position to draw down approximately €500,000 from the European Return Fund 2008-2013 to meet the cost of deportations.

The deportation of failed asylum seekers is costly, particularly where this involves removals to distant countries such as Nigeria or China for example. In many cases, removals are carried out using commercial flights which usually involves transit through other European airports as Ireland does not have direct flights to most of the countries of return. In addition, most flights have to be booked at short notice, near to the date of departure, which involves higher costs than if booked well in advance. However, such costs must be looked at in tandem with the considerable expense arising from the continued presence in the State of persons who have no valid basis for being in the State. Such costs would include accommodation and social welfare costs as well as detention costs in certain cases. While it is important to keep deportation costs to a minimum, to not remove persons who have no valid basis for being in the State would call into question the integrity of the entire asylum and immigration systems. This would leave this State open to further illegal immigration and even greater expense to taxpayers.

My Department will continue to arrange deportations in the most cost effective manner possible including the use of charter flights where this is considered to be most effective. My Department will also continue to work in cooperation with other EU Member States, through the EU-wide FRONTEX network, to carry out joint deportation operations to destinations of shared interest.

Garda Deployment

Mary Upton

Question:

99 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of Garda personnel engaged in providing driver and security services to the members of the Government, members of the Judiciary, former Taoisigh or former Government Ministers, including those on any reserve panel; his plans to review the number involved with a view to transferring some of those Garda officers to front line duties fighting crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43019/10]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that there are 56 Garda Protection Officers assigned to drive and protect current office holders and former Taoisigh.

A reserve panel, comprising 24 Gardaí, is in place, and these personnel are also available to An Garda Síochána for other duties.

Responsibility for the allocation of personnel rests with the Garda Commissioner, in conjunction with his senior management team.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Terence Flanagan

Question:

100 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will deal with a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43073/10]

As undertaken in my reply to Parliamentary Question 34951/10, a copy of the EGF application is being issued to the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects

Paul Connaughton

Question:

101 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for major capital works at a school (details supplied) in County Galway; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this school has not been updated since 1980, that there are several prefabs, and that the complex does not include a G.P or staff room; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43084/10]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy recently submitted an updated Major Capital Application for funding to my Department.

The application has been assessed in accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects, and has been assigned a Band 3 rating.

The priority attaching to individual projects is determined by published prioritisation criteria, which were formulated following consultation with the Education Partners. There are four band ratings under these criteria, each of which describes the extent of accommodation required and the urgency attaching to it. Band 1 is the highest priority rating and Band 4 is the lowest. Documents explaining the band rating system are also available on the Department's website www.education.ie.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design through to construction phase will be considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

In the meantime, the Department is grant aiding temporary accommodation at the school, which was installed approximately 4 years ago and, as such, should be in good condition.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

102 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if there is a definite timeframe for the completion of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; when the building process will be completed; when students will be able to avail of the new facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43104/10]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department recently authorised the Design Team to issue the Letter of Acceptance (i.e. award the contract).

Assuming that no issues arise, it is expected that the project will commence construction within weeks and will take circa 12 months to complete.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

103 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the possibility of securing funding through the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund for the staff of a company (details supplied), whose employees were made redundant in December 2009 when the company relocated to Larnaca, Cyprus; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43105/10]

To allow an EU Member State to make a sustainable application for EGF assistance in respect of redundancies occurring in a particular enterprise or sector, strict eligibility criteria must be satisfied under the European Globalization Adjustment Fund Regulation (EGF).

These criteria include meeting defined minimum redundancy numbers within certain reference periods. In this context, the current EGF Regulation stipulates that there must have been at least 500 redundancies over a period of four months in respect of a single enterprise, its suppliers or downstream producers, or at least 500 redundancies over a period of nine months in a NACE 2 (economic activity) sector.

The EGF Regulation in force until 30 April 2009 stipulated a minimum number of redundancies of 1,000 in both of these scenarios. Provided that all relevant eligibility conditions have been met, an EU member state has 10 weeks within which to submit an EGF application.

The redundancies in question did not meet the requirements of the EGF Regulation under a number of criteria. Hence, no EGF application was possible in this case.

My Department continues to monitor redundancy figures for all sectors nationally with a view to making further sustainable EGF applications as and where appropriate.

FÁS Training Programmes

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

104 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will expand on the possibility of FÁS providing a full range of Lean Sigma training courses in view of the fact that it is now a standard requirement for manufacturing jobs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43107/10]

Lean and Six Sigma are quality management tools used by companies who are tasked with organisational improvement and usually incorporate principles of business, statistics and engineering to achieve organisational efficiencies. Employment opportunities in lean/six sigma normally require individuals to possess a relevant 3rd level qualification in addition to a relevant qualification such as engineering and experience in project management and/or some years experience interacting with senior managers in companies.

At present a number of third level institutions including Sligo IT and University of Limerick offer degree, post graduate, on-line and distance learning courses in this area and private training providers also offer a range of dedicated certified lean and six sigma courses.

FÁS is currently considering the feasibility of providing certified Lean and Six Sigma courses for unemployed individuals.

Schools Building Projects

Emmet Stagg

Question:

105 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if a successful contractor has been chosen for the building of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and when construction will commence and the timeframe envisaged for same. [43110/10]

The project to which the Deputy refers is currently at an advanced stage of the ender process. Subject to no issues arising, it is anticipated that the project will progress to construction shortly and will take circa 12 months to construct.

Educational Grants

Paul Kehoe

Question:

106 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if assistance can be offered to a person (details supplied) in relation to the post leaving certificate maintenance grant clause 3.2 taking into account the time passed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43120/10]

The PLC Scheme prescribes the terms and conditions of funding in respect of students attending courses in approved PLC Centres. Students are eligible to be considered for grant assistance in respect of one approved PLC Course. Clause 3.2 of the PLC Scheme sets out the circumstances under which grant assistance may be awarded in respect of subsequent study at PLC Level i.e. where a candidate already holds a qualification, no higher than FETAC Level 5, and is now pursuing a course that offers progression which may be deemed eligible for grant aid.

Under the terms of the PLC Scheme a grant may not be paid in respect of a second period of attendance at the same level for a course approved for the purposes of this scheme, irrespective of whether or not a grant was paid previously. However, a student may qualify if he/she is progressing to a higher level course.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant grant awarding authority i.e. the applicant's local authority or VEC. Where a grant application is refused, the reason for the refusal is given by the grant awarding authority. An applicant may appeal the decision to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where the grant awarding authority decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department by submitting an appeal form outlining clearly the grounds for the appeal. No appeal has been received by my Department to date from the candidate referred to by the Deputy.

Schools Refurbishment

Tom Sheahan

Question:

107 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for an emergency works grant for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43122/10]

Funding for Emergency Works are made available to those schools most in need of resources as a result of unforeseen emergencies of a capital nature that may arise during the school year.

The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for funding under this scheme to my Department and this application is being assessed. A decision will issue to the school as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

108 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if, given that new construction tenders are being sought, funds have been ringfenced for the completion of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43170/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the project to which he refers encountered delays in securing planning permission and land transfers. These problems were compounded by certain issues that subsequently arose with the preferred bidder and which resulted in a recent decision to re-tender the project.

It is envisaged that the project will be re-tendered shortly. Subject to no issues arising, it is anticipated that it will progress to construction in early 2011.

Schools Funding

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

109 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the proportion of children across the school system considered gifted in their abilities; the supports available to gifted students to support them through the school system; the amount of funding that has been invested by her in programmes for gifted pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43173/10]

The top 5% is the general criterion used by the Dublin City University Centre for Talented Youth in Ireland as an indicator to teachers of giftedness for purposes of their talent search.

In 2007, "Exceptionally Able students –Draft Guidelines for Teachers" was published jointly by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment in Northern Ireland. The guidelines identify approximately 5-10% of the population as exceptionally able, with up to 0.5% being profoundly exceptionally able. Giftedness varies on a continuum of ability, and the guidelines advise against relying solely on IQ measures, as exceptional abilities in terms of creativity, art, leadership, social and physical skills may not be identified.

The NCCA/CCEA guidelines are designed to raise awareness of the social, emotional and academic needs of exceptionally able students and to assist teachers in planning their teaching and learning. The guidelines provide advice to schools on identification of gifted children, set out profiles of students, and whole school and classroom strategies and case studies which demonstrate how schools can best meet the needs of such students. The general strategies include differentiated teaching, acceleration and enrichment approaches in the context of participation in mainstream schools.

Further case studies on Curriculum Provision for Exceptionally Able Students were published in March 2010 by the NCCA as part of its participation, with Switzerland and the Netherlands in a CIDREE (Consortium if Institutions for Development and Research in Education in Europe) project.

The Special Education Support Service funded by my Department offers professional development programmes for teachers on strategies for teaching exceptionally able students. The service also makes on-line training available on Teaching Gifted and Talented Students through the Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe, and provides the resources Signposts, and Metacognition in the Classroom and Beyond: Differentiation and Support for Learners for teachers and schools. In addition, eleven schools are taking part in an Equality of Challenge project, designed to pilot models of educational provision for exceptionally able students.

Looking at our School has been published by my Department as an aid to self evaluation in schools, as part of a quality cycle of school development planning, self appraisal and review. One of the criteria examined at primary and post primary level is the "provision for exceptionally able and talented youth".

www.giftedkids.ie is a website supported by the National Centre for Technology in Education and other organisations which provides information and advice on giftedness for parents and teachers, as well as enrichment opportunities for students. The Centre for Talented Youth in Ireland, based in Dublin City University identifies gifted children through annual talent searches, and provides Saturday and evening classes and summer programmes, support for parents and teachers, as well as undertaking research in the area.

My Department also promotes participation in the Maths and Science Olympiads providing additional training and national and international competition opportunities for gifted students.

My Department does not provide additional resources in respect of gifted children, and the funds expended on curriculum supports and professional development in this area are not readily identifiable separately.

Site Acquisitions

David Stanton

Question:

110 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Questions No. 105 of 29 September 2010 and No. 80 of 9 November 2010, the contact, if any, between her and the principals or boards of management of the schools (details supplied) regarding the acquisition of a site in Ballincurra, Midleton; the input the schools have had in the planning process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43174/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is engaged in the process of acquiring a site and to this end has applied for planning permission as part of the exchange of contracts. As the planning application relates to ensuring certainty for the purchase of lands as distinct from the specifics of a building project, it is not considered appropriate to involve the schools at this time. That being said, the Deputy can be assured that the schools will be consulted in relation to the specifics of the building project at the appropriate time.

Vocational Education Committees

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

111 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [43176/10]

A statutory inquiry under Section 105 of the Vocational Education Act 1930 is ongoing at the moment. I am not in a position to comment further pending the outcome of that inquiry.

Languages Programme

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

112 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has received correspondence from a group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43188/10]

Significant support is given to schools by way of language support provision. The level of extra teaching support provided in respect of language support to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible pupils enrolled and the associated assessed levels of those pupils' language proficiency. This is done through an annual application process in the Spring/Summer of each year.

Following on from the Government decision in Budget 2009 in relation to language support provision my Department published Circular 0015/2009 which sets out a structured and transparent process for the allocation of up to 4 language support teachers to schools.

Additional support is available for those schools which have at least 25% of their total enrolment made up of pupils that require language support. Such applications for additional language support are dealt with through the Staffing Appeals process.

It is important to note that the resources allocated to schools to meet the needs of pupils learning English as an Additional Language are additional to other supports and funding provided for schools. The overall education of pupils with a requirement for English as an additional language remains the responsibility of the mainstream class teacher. All pupils including migrant pupils (irrespective of their English language proficiency) are counted for the regular pupil teacher ratios in schools. Schools have flexibility in relation to how they deploy their EAL teachers to meet the needs of pupils that require language support.

Schools Refurbishment

John Deasy

Question:

113 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide the additional funding to complete a fire safety and central heating upgrade currently under way in a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43198/10]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that additional funding has been provided by my Department to the school in question to enable them to complete the project.

School Accommodation

Róisín Shortall

Question:

114 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if negotiations between the Office of Public Works and her Department in respect of the transfer of a site to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 have been completed and the timescale for finalising this matter in view of the urgency involved. [43219/10]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 132 of 19 October, 2010. The position as stated at the time remains unchanged.

Schools Refurbishment

Brendan Howlin

Question:

115 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the fact that one section of flat roof and the entire main A-roof of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry is leaking severely; that the A-roof has an asbestos slate covering which is brittle, in poor condition and poses a serious health and safety risk for staff and pupils; if she will sanction this school’s application for an emergency works grant for remedial works on the roof of the premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43333/10]

Funding for Emergency Works are made available to those schools most in need of resources as a result of unforeseen emergencies of a capital nature that may arise during the school year.

The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for funding under this scheme to my Department and this application is being assessed. A decision will issue to the school as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects

Michael Ring

Question:

116 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Mayo will be placed on the architectural list and when the architectural list is due for publication. [43337/10]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of a major capital application for the provision of a new school building for the school to which he refers. The former boys' school site is deemed to be the most suitable for future development of the school.

The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria and assigned a band rating of 1.4. The priority attaching to individual projects is determined by published prioritisation criteria, which were formulated following consultation with the Education Partners. There are four band ratings under these criteria, each of which describes the extent of accommodation required and the urgency attaching to it. Band 1 is the highest priority rating and Band 4 is the lowest. Documents explaining the band rating system are also available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

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

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

117 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the savings she has made as a result of the recommendation contained in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43340/10]

The recommendations made in the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes were assessed and considered by my Department in the context of determining the expenditure allocation for the Department for 2010, which was announced in Budget 2010. The recommendations incorporated in Budget 2010, together with estimated savings yields for 2010 where relevant, are set out in the attached table.

Department of Education and Skills

Implementation of recommendations of report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes

Comment regarding allocation for 2010

2010 Saving

€m

Staffing efficiencies in the primary/post-primary sectors

Savings from cessation of supply teacher scheme at primary level and changes to uncertified sick leave for teachers. (There was also a further reduction of €20m arising from an estimating reduction in light of the projected 2009 outturn).

1.4

Reduction in the number of Special Needs Assistants

A Nationwide review of SNA posts undertaken by the National Council for Special Education has resulted in an overall net reduction of some 439 SNA posts to date (when account is taken for reductions as a result of students having left school and diminishing care needs of other students, offset by allocations in respect of new students). However, the net change in 2010 numbers over 2009 will not be known until the impact of increases for demographics is known at end of year.

Integration of Senior Traveller Training

Reduction of 300 in number of Senior Traveller Training places

1.0

Staffing efficiencies across third level sector

Savings estimated in respect of pay and non-pay efficiencies

50.0

Merge Higher Education Authority (HEA) into the Department of Education and Science

No merger but allocation to HEA reduced

0.8

Reduction in the allocation for teacher training colleges

Savings estimated in relation to pre-service teacher education

3.0

Reduction in the allocation for Research and Development

Partial reduction

4.0

Reduction in the allocation to the Strategic Innovation Fund

Partial reduction

8.0

Reduction in the allocation to Student Support Grant

5% reduction in rates of student grants and scholarships applied, providing €10m in savings. Further €4m in savings effected by removal of eligibility for student support grants from recipients of Back to Education Allowance and certain persons pursuing PLC courses. (Note — overall allocation for student supports for 2010 was increased to take account of an anticipated increase in the number of eligible students at third level).

14.0

Reduce allocation to school transport

Partial reduction

4.0

Reduce allocation for teacher in-service training & funding for education centres

Savings and efficiencies effected in relation to teacher in-service education support

10.4

Absorb National Council for Special Education (NCSE) into the Department of Education and Science

NCSE not absorbed but allocation reduced

2.3

Reduce allocation to certain Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF) Projects

Funding for 2010 reduced

1.2

Reduction in allocation for National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

Funding for 2010 reduced

0.9

Discontinue National University of Ireland and transfer functions

Bill to establish a new qualifications and quality assurance agency for the further and higher education sectors is being prepared. The NUI will be discontinued as part of this process.

Funding of FÁS Services to Business and Skillnets

The FÁS Services Budget was reduced to €5.368m in 2010

7.6

Savings on Training for the Unemployed

FÁS Training Allowances were abolished for participants who do not qualify for Jobseekers Benefit/Allowances

7.5

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

118 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43072/10]

This question relates to potential Budgetary measures. It is the usual practice for the Minister for Finance not to speculate or comment on such matters in advance of the Budget and I do not propose to deviate from that practice.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Alan Shatter

Question:

119 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to reduce the amount of smuggling of cigarettes and other tobacco products into the State and to ensure that those found guilty of such offence are properly punished; if he is aware that the average fine for such smuggling in 2010 is less than €600 and if he regards this as appropriate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43090/10]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, that Revenue employs a multi-faceted strategy to deal with this problem. It includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, ongoing review of operational policies, development of analytics and deployment of detection technologies, optimum deployment of resources at point of importation and internally to intercept the contraband product and to prosecute those involved. Revenue enforcement officers are deployed at all key ports and airports. Staff deployed at these locations are often augmented by additional staff from other areas when specific operations are organised. Interception at the point of importation is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling, intelligence, and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages.

Revenue enforcement officers also target this illicit trade at the post-importation level by carrying out intelligence-based operations and random checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises. In addition Revenue and An Garda Síochána carry out regular multi-agency operations, particularly in relation to large maritime importations and in checks at inland markets.

In terms of detection equipment, a second mobile X-ray container scanner, to augment the one first deployed in 2006, was commissioned by Revenue in January 2010 and is now fully operational. Smaller baggage/ parcel scanners are deployed at all major ports, airports and postal depots. Two new X-ray scanners were also purchased within the last 12 months for use in postal depots. In addition to the x-ray equipment, Revenue uses a tobacco detection dog.

Although Revenue's overall staff numbers have been reduced over the past two years in the context of Government policy on civil service numbers, Revenue has ensured that the resources deployed in this work have been maintained.

Revenue's enforcement approach in the fight against the illicit tobacco trade is under continuous review. For example, in July of this year Revenue launched a nationwide tobacco operation, which concentrated additional Revenue resources at ports, airports and at various retail points for the purpose of identifying illicit tobacco products. This resulted in 561 seizures totalling 13.7 million cigarettes and 195 kg tobacco in the course of the two-week period of the operation. A subsequent 3-day operation held earlier this month resulted in the seizure of over 900,000 cigarettes and 88 kg of tobacco. Further such intensive operations are planned, to supplement the normal ongoing level of detection and enforcement activities.

The Revenue Commissioners have also established a high level internal group, chaired at Commissioner level to examine the risks related to tobacco excise, and to monitor and optimise performance in relation to detection of counterfeit and contraband tobacco products. This group has promoted a number of initiatives aimed at counteracting the illicit trade in tobacco. These include improved profiling of passengers and freight to identify tobacco smugglers, the recent establishment of a tobacco hotline, coordinating national blitz style operations, evaluation and acquisition of scanning and other detection technologies and learning from best practice internationally.

This multi-faceted approach that Revenue has adopted has resulted in the seizure of 164 million cigarettes and more than 2,900 kgs of tobacco to date in 2010.

With regard to the penalties available for prosecution of tobacco smuggling related offences, the penalty on summary conviction for evasion of duties is €5,000, and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The penalty on indictment is up to €126,970 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, or, where the value of the product concerned is greater than €250,000, up to three times the value of the products. The penalty of €126,970, which was enacted by the Oireachtas in this year's Finance Act, had been sought by Revenue and represents a significant increase on the previous penalty of €12,695. (The previous penalty also included the option of three times the value of the products and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years). These increased penalties are considered adequate. Of course, as the Deputy is aware, the precise penalty imposed on conviction in each individual case is solely a matter for the Courts and I do not propose to make any comment in that regard.

There have been 85 convictions for cigarette smuggling to date in 2010. The fines imposed amounted to €44,580 and, in addition, 19 custodial sentences have been imposed. The average fine for cigarette smuggling offences in 2010 is €524.

A further 35 convictions were secured for illegal selling of unstamped tobacco products with total fines of €90,750, and 6 custodial sentences and 2 community service orders imposed. The average fine for cigarette selling offences in 2010 is €2,593.

Crime Prevention

Ulick Burke

Question:

120 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance the number of visits made by the RCC Suibhéir to the port of Galway in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43061/10]

Ulick Burke

Question:

121 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Finance his plans to have a full-time cutter vessel located on the western seaboard to prevent drugs coming on shore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43062/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 121 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they operate two cutters. Both have a national remit, which includes the west coast of Ireland. Either or both vessels can and will be deployed to patrol and carry out operations along that coastline as and when required. Deployments consist of a mixture of routine patrols and specific risk-driven operations. This practice will continue. Revenue's policy of flexibility in the deployment and use of the cutters strives to maximise the value of these resources and to place them at the disposal of all areas of the coastline, as operational needs require.

In the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 R.C.C. Suirbhéir spent a total of 52 days in Galway port area. This includes 37 days on which the vessel entered Galway Docks area. As Galway Docks has controlled entry and exit to times of High Water it is not always possible, operationally, to confine the vessel for this length of time. On such occasions the vessel may berth at one of the available berthages in the Galway Bay area.

Budget Submissions

Brian O'Shea

Question:

122 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance if he has considered the pre-budget submission of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43189/10]

The pre-budget submission of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill. As Deputies are aware, it would not be appropriate for me to comment in advance of the Budget on possible Budget decisions.

School Accommodation

Charles Flanagan

Question:

123 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Offaly; the plans the Office of Public Works has for the building in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43205/10]

The Commissioners of Public Works are considering the future use of the premises in question.

Tax Yield

Joe Costello

Question:

124 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance the amount of corporation tax accruing to the Exchequer in each of the past five years; the amount received in the past ten months of 2010; the number of Irish companies which paid corporation tax in 2010 to date and the amount paid to the Exchequer; the number of foreign direct investment companies which paid corporation tax to date in 2010 and the amount paid to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43208/10]

The total Exchequer yield from corporation tax in each of the years requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

2010 (end-Oct)

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

Corporation Tax (€m)

2,621

3,900

5,066

6,391

6,683

5,492

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of corporation tax-liable companies in 2008, the most recent year for which a figure is available, was 54,273. However, the Revenue Commissioners inform me that it is not possible to identify from their records companies which fall within the categories of Irish or foreign direct investment companies.

Pension Provisions

Róisín Shortall

Question:

125 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the Trident Consulting report on future pension provision for teachers; and his views on its findings and his response to same. [43216/10]

My Department is aware of the report by Trident Consulting entitled "Future Pension Provision" which was commissioned by the three teachers unions, ASTI, INTO and the TUI. In addition, my Department is aware of the views of these unions concerning the Government's planned introduction of a single pension scheme for all new-entrant public servants. The Trident Report was made available to officials of my Department and was the subject of a specific meeting between my officials and the teachers unions. As I announced in Budget 2010, the Government are committed to the introduction of a new single public service pension scheme for new joiners. The new scheme is aimed at securing considerable long-term Exchequer savings, while continuing to offer fair and reasonable pensions to retired public servants. Its principal features will include career-average benefit accrual, inflation-indexation of benefits and an increased pension age. Extensive consultations on the proposed new scheme with Government Departments and with the staff side have taken place. Draft legislation to introduce the new scheme is currently in preparation, and it is planned that the scheme will be operational in 2011.

I welcome the Trident Report as a contribution to the debate on pension provision. However the Report's recommended approaches to pension provision differs in fundamental respects with the Government's policy and I can not accept the Report as a policy basis for pension provision for new-entrant teachers at this time.

Site Acquisitions

Róisín Shortall

Question:

126 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if negotiations between the Office of Public Works and the Department of Education and Science in respect of the transfer of a site to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 have been completed and if he will outline the timescale for finalising this matter in view of the urgency involved. [43218/10]

Discussions are continuing between the Office of Public Works and the Department of Education and Science in respect of the premises in question.

Tax Code

Billy Timmins

Question:

127 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43332/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that stamp duty is charged on the instrument transferring ownership of property and the rate of duty is determined by, among other things, the nature of the property on the date of execution of the deed transferring ownership of that property. In relation to the transaction in question, it appears that the property purchased was non-residential property — an old schoolhouse. As this was the nature of the property on the date of execution of the deed of transfer, the rates at which duty is charged are those applicable for non-residential property. The intended change of use of a property after its purchase does not determine either the nature of the property for stamp duty purposes or the rate of stamp duty charged. Furthermore, first time buyer relief can only be claimed in respect of residential property.

Tax Collection

John Browne

Question:

128 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange to have the Revenue Commissioners put on hold a demand for a VAT payment for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford as they are no longer in employment and are receiving unemployment assistance. [43334/10]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. However, I am advised that because of the failure of the person concerned to file tax returns and make payments due, or to engage in any way with Revenue, they were obliged to start enforcement proceedings. Revenue will again attempt to engage with this person with a view to bring matters to an agreed resolution.

Departmental Expenditure

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

129 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the total savings his Department has made as a result of the recommendations contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes pertaining to the Office of Public Works and the National Treasury Management Agency; the detail of each of the proposed savings in relation to each body; which of these have been implemented to date; the savings achieved to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43341/10]

OPW. Savings of €41m were recommended for the Office of Public Works in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes. The saving achieved on the 2010 Estimate OPW Vote versus 2009 Allocation amounted to €21m. The broad areas where savings were achieved are as follows:

€m

Reduction in Industrial Staff Numbers

2.535

Reduction in Administrative Staff Numbers and savings in non-pay administrative costs

3.965

Rationalisation of Dublin Office Accommodation including surrender of leases and postponement of contracts

10.326

Engineering and Property maintenance service reductions

3.437

Reduction of Heritage Services and events

2.734

Total

20.907

The Office of Public Works will continue to achieve savings across all activities which, it is anticipated, will realise savings in excess of those mentioned in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes.

NTMA

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes recommended savings of €5.3 million and reductions in budgeted staff of 40 in relation to programmes managed by the NTMA.

The NTMA has made savings of €5 million from implementation of savings recommended in the Report. This involves a reduction of 32 in budgeted staff allocations in the programmes referred to in the Report. It should be noted that these figures do not take into account increases in overall NTMA costs and staffing arising from the allocation of additional functions with regard to the National Asset Management Agency and banking system functions of the Minister for Finance.

Preschool Services

Ulick Burke

Question:

130 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers of children availing of the preschool scheme in 2009 and to date in 2010; the total cost of this scheme; if it has been assessed for its effectiveness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43194/10]

The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which is implemented by my Office, was introduced in January 2010 and is expected to cost almost €160m this year.

In January 2010, 53,000 children availed of the scheme. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that this figure increased to 63,000 children in September 2010, the first full year of the scheme. This represents a participation rate of 94% of children in the year before primary school.

Nursing Home Inspections

Dan Neville

Question:

131 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of nursing homes that have been inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority since the commencement of inspection in July 2009 and the number of such homes that the inspector closed down. [43102/10]

Under the Health Act, 2007 statutory responsibility is given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services, part of the Health Information and Quality Authority for inspecting and registering categories of designated centres, including nursing homes for older people.

Since the commencement of the new regulatory regime for residential care services for Older People on 1 July 2009, the Authority has inspected all designated centres and in this time has cancelled one registration. In this regard Glenbervie Nursing Home had its registration cancelled by the District Court on the application of the Chief Inspector. The service provider decided not to contest the decision and the order was confirmed as final and permanent pursuant to Section 61(3)(a) of the Act on 23 April 2010. In addition, pursuant to Sections 59 and 60 of the Health Act 2007, an Interim Order was made by the District Court in Portlaoise on 28 October 2010 cancelling the registration of a designated centre in Co. Offaly under Part 8 of the Health Act, 2007. This matter remains before the Courts.

In addition, under Section 66 of the Act the registered provider must notify the Chief Inspector before closing a designated centre. Twelve centres have notified the Chief Inspector of their intention to close.

Medical Cards

Michael McGrath

Question:

132 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an over 70’s medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [43172/10]

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

Adoption Services

Róisín Shortall

Question:

133 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will put in place a transitional agreement to facilitate adoption applicants who have already submitted applications in advance of the enactment of the Adoption Bill 2010; if all applicants for domestic adoption will now have to be assessed for eligibility and suitability by the appropriate regional Health Service Executive adoption service pending the accreditation of suitable agencies; and if her attention has been drawn to the inevitable difficulties this long and gruelling process will cause respective parents and young children and when an accreditation process of adoption agencies will commence. [43180/10]

The Adoption Act, 2010, commenced on 1st November 2010. The Adoption Authority was also established on that day. This is now a matter for the Adoption Authority.

The purpose of the Adoption Act, 2010, is to improve standards in both domestic and intercountry adoption. The regulatory framework governing adoption has been strengthened in an attempt to ensure that the best interests of children are protected at every step throughout the adoption process.

Accredited bodies — organisations delivering adoption services — must comply with the terms of the legislation, which was first published in January 2009. The new legislation seeks to end the practice whereby a single adoption agency could provide the full range of adoption services, from pre-birth counselling to post birth placement with prospective parents. This was a very clear policy decision taken to avoid the obvious conflicts that could arise. The registration of accredited bodies is a matter for the Adoption Authority and any queries in this regard should be addressed to the Authority.

Health Service Staff

Terence Flanagan

Question:

134 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will deal with a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43187/10]

On 1 November 2010 I announced that the Government has decided to approve a voluntary early retirement scheme and a voluntary redundancy scheme for certain categories of staff in the public health service.

The purpose of the schemes is to achieve a permanent reduction in the numbers employed in the public health sector from 2011 onwards and to facilitate health service reform. The Government must strike a balance between incentivising people to leave now and the cost of any package. The Government is capping the total amount that will be paid out under the schemes at €400m in 2010. The terms on offer, particularly given the current budgetary situation, are fair and reasonable.

The savings to be achieved in 2011 will depend on the uptake of both schemes and the grades of staff involved. A reduction of the order of 4,500 to 5,000 staff could generate savings of approximately €200m depending on the mix of voluntary severance and voluntary early retirement. However, it is impossible to predict the uptake of a voluntary scheme. The potential savings take account of pension payments in 2011 however it is just an estimate as we have no way of knowing the grade and scheme mix at this point.

The January 2010 pay reductions will be disregarded for the purpose of calculating pensionable remuneration under the VER, i.e. payment will be based on salary rates applicable at 31st December 2009. Under the redundancy scheme, preserved pension and lump sum payable on attaining preserved pension age (60 or 65, as appropriate) will be calculated in accordance with the rules in place at the time preserved pension age is reached.

The HSE has put in place a dedicated website which includes a comprehensive questions and answers section and a ready reckoner to assist potential applicants.

Ambulance Service

Ulick Burke

Question:

135 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will indicate the cost to the Health Service Executive west of providing a private ambulance service within the area; the cost of a taxi service and mini bus service to patients for each year 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43197/10]

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

Departmental Transport

Joe Costello

Question:

136 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money that has been spent on taxi transport by her Department and by the Health Service Executive in each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43210/10]

The amounts spent by the Department of Health and Children on taxis for the years 2006 to 2009 is set out in the following table.

Year

Amount Paid

2006

22,205

2007

21,280

2008

15,238

2009

10,686

Data about spending on taxis for the years 2000 to 2005 is not available in a form that allows the information sought to be provided to the Deputy. In relation to spending on taxis by the Health Service Executive, the question has been forwarded to the Executive for direct reply.

Child Care Services

Tom Hayes

Question:

137 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children when funding will be released to a community play group (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43225/10]

I understand that in 2008, Fethard Community Playgroup made an application under the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006-2010 which is implemented by my Office, for capital funding for a new purpose built childcare facility. The Deputy will be aware that, due to the economic downturn, a review of Government expenditure was completed in April 2009, following which the decision was taken to close the programme to further capital grant approvals. The group in question was informed of this at the time.

The group recently made a further submission to my Office which is currently with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the NCIP. I understand that Pobal will revert to my Office in the coming weeks following which the group will be advised of the position.

Health Service Staff

Emmet Stagg

Question:

138 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the terms of the redundancy package on offer to administration staff in the Health Service Executive, with particular reference to the exclusion of staff on career break who will only be considered after all other applications have been processed. [43229/10]

On 1 November 2010 I announced that the Government has decided to approve a voluntary early retirement scheme and a voluntary redundancy scheme for certain categories of staff in the public health service.

The purpose of the schemes is to achieve a permanent reduction in the numbers employed in the public health sector from 2011 onwards and to facilitate health service reform. The Government must strike a balance between incentivising people to leave now and the cost of any package. The Government is capping the total amount that will be paid out under the schemes at €400m in 2010. The terms agreed by the Government are fair and reasonable and I have made it clear that it is not my intention to change the terms of the schemes.

The HSE has put in place a dedicated website which includes a comprehensive Questions and Answers section and a ready reckoner to assist potential applicants.

In relation to the matter raised by the Deputy those on career break can apply on a without prejudice basis, however, applications will be dealt with if there is still capacity within the €400m to pay for them.

Medical Cards

Jack Wall

Question:

139 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43233/10]

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

National Lottery Funding

Michael Ring

Question:

140 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is possible for organisations to receive funding on more than one occasion from the lottery funding available to her Department. [43236/10]

My Department has a National Lottery Discretionary fund in place which provides once-off grants to community groups and organisations, providing a range of health related services. The assessment of applications is informed by the fact that these grants are discretionary ‘once off' funding.

The funding made available by my Department to voluntary organisations from the National Lottery Fund, including the breakdown by programme and a list of each body in receipt of funding is published in the Appropriation Accounts audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Since 2009, this information is set out on my Department's website — www.dohc.ie.

As can be seen from these schedules, organisations can and have received funding on more than one occasion. However, each application is assessed on its own merits on a year to year basis.

Hospital Services

Michael Ahern

Question:

141 Deputy Michael Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will set out capital allowance allocations to Mallow General Hospital for the years 1993 to 2009 inclusive [43237/10]

The approved capital allocations for Mallow General Hospital for the years 1993 to 2004 are set out below.

Year

Project

Approved capital allocation

Total

€m

€m

1995

Theatre/Laboratory equipment

0.114

0.114

1996

Toilet Facilities etc

0.178

0.178

1997

Lift Upgrade

0.254

0.254

1998

Replace generator (equipment)

0.032

Anaesthetic equipment and dedicated children’s beds

0.165

0.197

1999

Sewage Treatment Works

0.635

0.635

2002

Equipment

0.251

Refurbishment of Doctors’ residence

0.226

0.477

2003

Theatre Air Handling Unit

0.085

Theatre Roof

0.015

0.100

2004

C/T Scanner

1.500

Radiology equipment

0.176

1.676

In addition to the above allocations, Health Boards received block capital grants for works such as maintenance, equipping, refurbishment and addressing health and safety issues etc. Each Health Board was responsible for allocating this capital grant to health facilities within their area. My Department has requested the Health Service Executive to provide (a) any additional information it may have in relation to the years 1993 to 2004 and (b) details in respect of the period 2005-2009.

Health Services

Seymour Crawford

Question:

142 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan can expect to receive a decision on an application for dental treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43370/10]

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

Road Traffic Offences

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

143 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has introduced regulations under section 3(4) of the Road Traffic Act 2006 to deal with a number of distracted driving issues including texting while driving; if he will confirm if it is currently an offence to drive while texting and if it is against the law to text when the phone is in a hands-free unit while driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43213/10]

Section 3 (1) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 and Statutory Instruments numbers 443 and 444 of 2006 provide for the offence of driving a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place while holding a mobile phone. While regulations under section 3(4) of the 2006 Act have not been made, offences relating to using a mobile phone for texting while driving are dealt with under Section 52 of the Road Traffic 1961 (as substituted by section 50 of the Road Traffic Act 1968). Enforcement of this legislation is a matter for the Garda Síochána.

Telecommunications Services

Terence Flanagan

Question:

144 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will deal with the following matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43179/10]

The internet is a worldwide phenomenon with no borders and no single organisation controlling it. There is, however, an existing self-regulatory framework for internet service providers (ISPs) in operation in Ireland which actively encourages the adoption of best practice procedures aimed at limiting the proliferation of illegal child pornography content online. Members of the public may report such material to the www.hotline.ie service of the Internet Service Providers' Association of Ireland (ISPAI). If the material is hosted here and deemed to be illegal and in contravention of Irish law, ISPAI members are obliged to remove such materials. If the material is hosted in another jurisdiction, it is notified to the internet hotline in that jurisdiction and/or to the relevant law enforcement agencies for follow up, with the aim of having illegal content taken down.

At present, mobile phone operators in Ireland, under a voluntary agreement brokered by the European Commission with the GSM Alliance Europe, the association representing European mobile phone operators, implement a form of filtering on their mobile internet service, which prevents access to websites which have been identified as containing child pornography content.

In a number of EU Member States, a system of internet blocking/filtering has been introduced on a voluntary basis, whereby a "blocklist" of sites containing child pornography is made available by the police or other competent authorities, and is utilised by individual ISPs to prevent access to such content. A number of other Member States have introduced or are considering the introduction of legislation requiring ISPs to block access to websites containing child pornography. It is generally acknowledged that all such internet blocking or filtering systems are not foolproof and can be circumvented in certain circumstances. However, such filtering systems are understood to be useful in preventing internet users from inadvertently encountering such illegal content.

The issue of the possible utilisation of blocking/filtering methodologies to prevent access to identified webpages containing child pornography is being considered further by the Office for Internet Safety with advice from the Internet Safety Advisory Council. In undertaking research in this area, the Office for Internet Safety has had discussions with a variety of relevant interests in relation to the possibility of introducing internet filtering, specifically in respect of illegal child pornography content, in Ireland. However, I should make it clear that no decisions have been arrived at on this issue of internet filtering/blocking at national level. Any proposals for introducing such a system would need, at the very least, to be submitted to Government for consideration. The introduction of any such system, particularly if on a mandatory basis, may require the introduction of primary legislation.

However, a draft proposal for a Directive on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography was published during 2010 by the European Commission. The draft Directive, as originally published, contains a proposal to require Member States to implement some form of blocking system in relation to websites containing child pornography. Ireland's participation in the adoption and implementation of this measure has been approved by the Oireachtas.

Criminal Prosecutions

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

145 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if any prosecution has been taken for dangerous driving causing death where the collision may be due to distraction caused by using a mobile phone to talk or text while driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43214/10]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

146 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if the telephone records of drivers involved in serious collisions are routinely checked by Garda investigators; if the Garda Síochána has a legal right to seek such information from telephone service providers if the gardaí are relying on the good will of telephone service providers to release such information to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43215/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that if an investigation showed that a mobile phone was being used at the time of a road traffic collision, this would form part of the proof and would be contained in the investigation file submitted to the law officers for decision.

In the context of investigating such collisions, An Garda Síochána would be entitled to seek out and preserve evidence of any use of a mobile phone. The legislative power to do so is provided by the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. However, to do so there would need to exist a suspicion that the use of a mobile phone was a contributing factor to the traffic collision being investigated.

Alan Shatter

Question:

147 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform in the context of the 1,387 mobile telephone seizures in prisons during the first nine months of this year, the number of prosecutions initiated against prisoners as a consequence of the finding and seizure of mobile telephones; the number of prosecutions initiated in 2008 and 2009 following the seizure of mobile telephones in prison; the number of convictions obtained and the number of such prosecutions awaiting determination; and if he is concerned that convicted offenders are using mobile telephones to orchestrate criminal activities by associates. [42919/10]

Alan Shatter

Question:

148 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of prosecutions that have been initiated against prisoners in the period the 1 January 2010 to the 30 September 2010 as a consequence of the seizure of drugs in prison; the number of such prosecutions initiated in each of the past five years; and the number of convictions obtained in each of the aforesaid periods. [42920/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 148 together.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

The Irish Prison Service has introduced a range of measures in all closed prisons to prevent the flow of and assist in the capture of contraband such as mobile phones, so as to ensure that they are not used for such illegal purposes as directing criminal activities.

The number of seizures, both at entry and within the prison, is directly correlated to the new security procedures in place. These include:

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

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

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

the introduction of Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chairs for the searching of prisoners on entering/leaving the prison;

the erection of netting over exercise yards in closed prisons to counteract phones being thrown over perimeter walls.

Other preventative measures include cell and area searches for contraband such as mobile phones which take place in all prisons on a daily basis. These involve random, targeted and intelligence led searches and have been particularly effective. Indications are that the availability of mobile phones has decreased across the prison system.

Crime Levels

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

149 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of recorded cases of tiger robberies, in which staff or relations of staff of financial institutions were taken hostage in each year from 2005 to 2009 and to date in 2010; the amount of money taken in such robberies; if he is satisfied that the protocols agreed with the banks to deal with such situations are adequate having regard to the ongoing incidences of such robberies; the way in which he believes that increased ATM fees for the public would contribute to the reduction of such robberies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43093/10]

As I have stated in the House on a number of occasions, the abduction and false imprisonment of a person's family or friends, in order to coerce them into assisting with a robbery, is a particularly abhorrent type of crime.

There are agreed response procedures in place for dealing with such incidents. Regular meetings are held between An Garda Síochána and financial institutions to discuss bank security issues and in particular kidnap prevention and response protocols.

Clearly it is incumbent upon the banks and financial institutions to do everything possible to prevent these robberies. That means that the protocols must be followed and systems put in place to ensure that, for example, it is not possible for employees who have been placed under terrible duress to be in a position to access large amounts of cash. When the protocols are followed the Gardaí are given a great advantage in their efforts to foil these crimes and arrest those responsible. That has been proven to be the case.

The Garda Síochána remain totally focused on combating this form of criminality as part of the concerted efforts being made to tackle organised criminal gangs. New legislation has been put in place to provide for covert surveillance evidence to be used in Court. I have also introduced legislation which specifically targets the organised criminal gangs responsible for these reprehensible crimes. The Deputy will appreciate that bank charges and fees are not primarily a matter under my control as Minister for Justice and Law Reform. I have in any case made it clear that I am not proposing that additional costs should be imposed on the consumer. I am of the view that we should examine the current levels of cash in circulation within the economy. This is a matter that has been raised with me including by bank staff representatives.

To date in 2010 (14th November, 2010) five so-called ‘tiger' kidnappings have taken place involving the staff or relations of staff of financial institutions and the following table shows the number of such incidents recorded between 2005-2009. It is the policy of An Garda Síochána not to disclose the amount of money taken during such crimes.

Year

No. of incidents recorded

2009

6

2008

1

2007

1

2006

4

2005

1

Garda Operations

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

150 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if the confidential recipients appointed under S.I. No 168/2007 Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007 are still operating; the number of cases that have been processed; the way the confidential recipients can be contacted; the location from which they operate; the cost of the operation to date; if he has received a report or reports from the Garda Commissioner in respect of the operation of this system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43094/10]

The confidential reporting system under the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007 commenced operation in June 2008. The Garda Commissioner has issued a Confidential Reporting Charter to all sworn members and civilian staff of An Garda Síochána. The Charter contains the contact details of the Confidential Recipients to whom confidential reports may be made. These include the external Confidential Recipient, Mr Brian McCarthy, the former Secretary General to the President, who was appointed by my predecessor. They also include the nine Confidential Recipients appointed by the Garda Commissioner from within the Garda organisation.

I am informed by Mr McCarthy that so far he has been contacted in 5 cases by persons within the Garda organisation about their concerns. Two of these cases have been completed. Mr McCarthy's contact details have been supplied to all the people for whom his services are intended, namely sworn members and civilian employees of An Garda Síochána. His office is located in a building shared with other bodies operating under the aegis of my Department. It is not a public office and members of the public do not have access to his services.

The Regulations oblige the Garda Commissioner to report to me on an annual basis in relation to confidential reports made during that year and the action taken in relation to them.

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 83.

Legal Aid Service

Alan Shatter

Question:

152 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the estimated annual cost to the State of the Legal Aid Board administering the criminal legal aid scheme; if heads of a Bill have yet been prepared to make provision for the Legal Aid Board administering the criminal legal aid scheme; when he expects to publish and circulate the required Bill before the House; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43086/10]

I am glad to be able to inform the Deputy that my proposals are to include in the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Bill, referred to in the Government Legislation Programme, provisions to enable the transfer from my Department to the Legal Aid Board of responsibility for the administration and management of criminal legal aid. Drafting of the Bill is in the course of being finalised with a view to publication in this Session.

The aim in the Bill is to strengthen the system of granting legal aid. It will, among other matters, regulate better the taking of statements of means, increase the sanction for false declarations, allow the Board to verify the means of applicants and to prosecute cases of abuse. The Board will be in a position to explore the method by which legal services are delivered. I am in consultation with the Attorney General with a view to making as many changes as possible in the system of criminal legal aid, consistent with the requirements of the Constitution. The details of the final proposals will be announced by way of the publication of the Bill in the near future.

The transfer to the Board of responsibility for criminal legal aid should not result in any additional cost to the Exchequer. Moreover, the overall effect of the Bill when fully implemented should result in savings. Having regard to its very significant cost to the Exchequer, I am determined to achieve a system of criminal legal aid that is subject to more stringent checks and balances.

Question No. 153 answered with Question No. 95.
Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 58.

Judicial Appointments

Alan Shatter

Question:

155 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he regards it as appropriate that solicitors appointed District Court judges, immediately or a short time after their judicial appointment, be appointed to or preside over a District Court in the local town or area in which prior to their appointment they practised as a solicitor; if a determination as to the location in which they should initially preside as a judge is determined by the Minister, the Courts Services or the President of the District Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43089/10]

The law in relation to assignment of District Court judges is provided for in the Courts Acts. Permanent assignments of District Court judges are made by the Government following consultation with the judge concerned and the President of the District Court. Temporary assignment of judges to a District other than their permanent assignment may be made by the President of the District Court with the judge's consent. In addition, the President of the District Court may temporarily assign ‘moveable' District Court judges to any District as the need arises.

Since a majority of the serving District Court judges were solicitors prior to their appointment, it is not always possible to make assignments to a District other than that in which they were formerly based.

Garda Training

Michael Creed

Question:

156 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the amount of money allocated from the Garda budget for the running of the Garda College in Templemore; the amount of moneys that have been used within this budget for the procurement of outside offices, accommodation and facilities for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43129/10]

In the time available it has not been possible for the Garda authorities to supply the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Human Trafficking

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

157 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views that under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, owing to the broad definition of “trafficking” in the Act, labour exploitation, including forced labour, can be prosecuted as an offence without the requirement that the victim had been trafficked across a national border into Ireland; if there is other legislation which criminalises forced labour; and his plans to address this matter in forthcoming legislation. [43167/10]

A legal opinion on the issue of forced labour was presented to a roundtable seminar hosted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland which, in short, states that forced labour is criminalised by the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of my Department wrote to the Attorney General to seek his opinion on this issue. We are awaiting receipt of the advice.

Prison Staff

Joe Costello

Question:

158 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of prison officers in the prison service at present; the numbers working in each prison; if there are any plans to recruit more prison officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43207/10]

I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the staffing levels for each prison at the 6 November 2010 are as follows:

Prison Grade Staff

Mountjoy (Male)

524.5

Mountjoy (Female)

78.5

St Patrick’s Institution

204.0

Cork

212.0

Limerick

216.0

Castlerea

192.5

Cloverhill

344.0

Wheatfield

380.0

Portlaoise

270.5

Arbour Hill

102.5

Training Unit

55.0

Midlands

336.0

Loughan House

44.0

Shelton Abbey

50.0

In addition to the staff assigned to each of the prisons there are also staff assigned to a range of important support services. These include: 146.5 staff assigned to the Prison Service Escort Corps which are responsible for transporting prisoners between prisons and to courts, hospitals and other destinations, 144 staff assigned to the Operational Support Group which is responsible for security screening and security searching within prisons, 15 staff assigned to the Building Services Division which is responsible for building and maintenance and 29.5 other prison grade staff that are assigned to tasks related to training, administration, procurement and logistics. I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that, on 6 November 2010, the number of prison grade staff serving in the Prison Service as a whole is 3374.5 including 22 Recruit Prison Officers and 8 Nurse Officers currently in training.

Regarding the recruitment of Prison Officers, I wish to advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service is not exempt from the operation of the moratorium on public sector recruitment. However, the terms of the moratorium provide that recruitment may take place with the approval of the Minister for Finance. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Minister for Finance has approved the recruitment of 80 Recruit Prison Officers in addition to those currently in training. This recruitment process is being carried out by the Irish Prison Service in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service, and is at an advanced stage.

Prisoner Transfers

Joe Costello

Question:

159 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the amount of money that was spent by his Department and by the prison service on taxi transport for prisoners in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43209/10]

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) that details of the amount of money spent on taxi transport for prisoners is only available as far back as the year 2003. The available costs are set out in the table below:

Year

Spend on taxi transport for prisoners

2003

693,898

2004

755,122

2005

922,762

2006

572,259

2007

446,067

2008

236,590

2009

368,212

2010 (01/01/10-15/11/10)

291,198

The Irish Prison Service has used taxis for many years as a means of transporting certain prisoners on escort, mainly to court, but occasionally to hospital. In 2005, the IPS carried out research on this matter with a view to replacing taxis with official vehicles, however, in the vast majority of cases, hiring a taxi made economic sense.

In late 2005, the Prison Service Escorts Corps (PSEC) was established on an independent basis within the IPS to provide a prisoner escorting service, primarily for court escorts and inter-prison transfers. Consequently, the use and cost of taxi transport for prisoners has reduced considerably.

Commercial Rent Review

Alan Shatter

Question:

160 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the steps he is taking to provide a publically accessible database of commercial leasehold interests and rents payable; his views on whether it is in the public interest that legislation be enacted to provide for such a database to provide reliable rent comparators to stabilise the commercial rental market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43217/10]

I have undertaken to progress the recommendations of the Working Group on transparency in commercial rent reviews contained in the report which was published in August. That Working Group recommended the establishment of a public database containing relevant details of letting arrangements and rent reviews in the commercial property market. As I indicated during the course of the recent Second Stage debate on the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009, an appropriate amendment is being developed within my Department for inclusion in that Bill which would see the Property Services Regulatory Authority being given responsibility for the management of the database. Work is ongoing in relation to finalising the precise operational details pertaining to that database.

Deportation Orders

Joe Costello

Question:

161 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will review the deportation order in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43220/10]

The position is that these children arrived in the State on 24 April 2005 with their mother and applied for asylum. Their applications were refused following detailedconsideration of their cases 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 the children along with their mother were informed, by letter dated 26 March 2006, that the Minister proposed making deportation orders in respect of them. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain in the State. Notification of 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) was subsequently issued. A Subsidiary Protection application was submitted in accordance with these Regulations.

The father of the family arrived in the State on 11 September 2007 and applied for asylum. He was informed, by letter dated 22 September 2010, that the Minister proposed making 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 submitting an application for subsidiary protection and/or submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain in the State. He submitted a Subsidiary Protection application on 13 October 2010, which has yet to be considered.

The children and their mother were notified by letter dated 20 July 2007 that they were not eligible for Subsidiary Protection in the State and that the Minister would proceed to consider whether Deportation Orders should be made in respect of them. Following extensive consideration of their cases 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, Deportation Orders were signed in respect of them on 26 February 2008. These Orders were served, by letter dated 11 March 2008 and required them to present themselves at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on a specified date and time in order to make travel arrangements for their deportation from the State.

Representations were recently received from a member of the family asking that her and her family's Deportation Orders be stopped. This letter is being treated as an application for revocation of the Deportation Orders in accordance with the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act, 1999 and is under consideration at present. When a decision has been made on that application, that decision, and its consequences will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned. The children and their mother are still the subject of valid Deportation Orders and should continue to meet reporting requirements as directed by the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Garda Stations

Joe Costello

Question:

162 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans for the transfer of gardaí from a station (details supplied); when contracts will be signed for the refurbishment of this station; if the gardaí from this station will be carrying out the same work when transferred; the timetable for return to the station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43222/10]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation around the country is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána and it is progressed in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works, who have responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

I have been advised by the Garda authorities that work on the refurbishment of Mountjoy Garda Station is currently underway. It is anticipated that this work will be completed in early 2011 and that the refurbished building will accommodate the Station party from Fitzgibbon Street Garda station whilst refurbishment works are carried out at that Station. I have been assured by the Garda authorities that current policing levels will be maintained in the area concerned and that there will be no diminution of the Garda service being provided to the local community.

I am further advised by the Garda authorities that they are currently examining the possibility of maintaining a service at Fitzgibbon Street while refurbishment works are carried out.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Joe Costello

Question:

163 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reasons for the chronic delays in Garda vetting; the measures being taken to speed up the process; if he will provide extra personnel and resources in the forthcoming budget; the reason a person (details supplied) has been waiting since March 2010 for Garda vetting to enable them to take up employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43223/10]

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

The processing time for vetting applications fluctuates in line with periods of increased demand. Furthermore, additional time may be required to process an individual vetting application in cases where clarification is required as to the details provided or where other enquiries need to be made, for example, when the person in question has lived and worked abroad. There will always be a reasonably significant time period required to process a vetting application. Registered organisations have been advised to take account of this in their recruitment and selection process. However, the Gardaí make every effort to reduce this to the minimum possible consistent with carrying out the necessary checks. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the current average processing time for vetting applications received at the GCVU is approximately 12 weeks.

The allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. Due to the high volume of applications, an additional ten persons have recently been recruited to the Vetting Unit on a temporary basis. In addition, overall staffing arrangements at the Unit are kept under review.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda Central Vetting Unit has not received a vetting application in respect of the person to whom the Deputy refers. In the circumstances, I can only suggest that the person seeks clarification from the organisation submitting the application.

Firearms Licences

John Cregan

Question:

164 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if a firearms licence can issue to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [43238/10]

The licensing of firearms is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána. Each application is judged on its own merits and the decision on whether, or not, to grant a firearm certificate rests solely with the issuing person. The decision of the issuing person cannot be fettered in any way and I have no role in the matter.

Irish Prison Service

Alan Shatter

Question:

165 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 348 and the letter furnished by him in response to that question, to furnish to this Deputy in reply to this question a copy of the circular referred to in the letter as issued recently by the Irish Prison Service to all prison governors; to state the issue date of such circular; and to furnish a copy and to state the issue date of the previous circular and-or instruction which was replaced by such circular. [43329/10]

The circular referred to was issued to Prison Governors on 29 June, 2010 and clarified an administrative issue that had arisen. The circular did not replace any previous circulars. I will arrange for a copy to be sent to the Deputy under separate cover.

Payment of Fines

Alan Shatter

Question:

166 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to detail in respect of each prison the number of prisoners who, in the period 1 November 2009 to 31 October 2010, having been sentenced to terms of imprisonment for non-payment of a fine, were unconditionally released without such fine having been paid or with only a portion of such fine having been paid; the loss of revenue to the State resulting from the non-payment of such fines; the cost to the State of the process of securing the conviction and imprisonment of such offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43330/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that a total of 5,889 persons were committed to prison in the time frame referred to as a result of the non-payment of a court ordered fine. It is not possible to provide all of the statistical information requested by the Deputy without the manual examination of the numerous records concerned and obviously this would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort which can not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources. However, I can advise that a sum total of €342,627.13 was collected by the Prison Service as payment towards fines during the period 1 November, 2009 to 30 September, 2010. I cannot provide figures for the 12 month period requested as full returns are not yet available for October 2010.

I cannot comment on the cost of securing such convictions as this is a matter which of its nature extends beyond the remit of my Department. In the context of costs associated with imprisonment, it should be noted that the number of persons imprisoned for non-payment of fines constitute an extremely small part of the prisoner population. On 15 November 2010, there was less than 0.4% of the prisoner population in this category.

I can inform you that the average cost of an available staffed prison space during the calendar year 2009 was €77,222 (€92,717 in 2008), a decrease on the 2008 cost of €15,495 or 16.7%. The decrease in average cost is attributed to the following two factors:

a decrease in total costs of €17.7 million (of which €15.5 million relates to pay costs); and

an increase in bed capacity of 495 from 3,611 as at 31 December, 2008 to 4,106 as at 31 December 2009.

As the Deputy will be aware, the recently enacted Fines Act 2010 will, I believe, provide further scope for keeping people out of the prison system. While the necessary arrangements have to be put in place by the Courts Service to fully facilitate its operation, I expect that the capacity to pay provisions in section 14 will be among the first features of the legislation to be commenced from early January, 2011. Section 14 places an obligation on the court to take account of the defendant's financial circumstances before a fine is imposed.

Departmental Expenditure

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the cost on a monthly basis of free legal aid in criminal cases over the past two years; the number of such cases involving members of organised criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43343/10]

The monthly expenditure on criminal legal aid over the last two years is set out below.

Period

Amount

€000

October 2008

3,569

November, 2008

5,060

December, 2008

6,437

January, 2009

3,651

February, 2009

4,577

March, 2009

6,202

April, 2009

5,012

May, 2009

5,915

June, 2009

6,894

July, 2009

5,368

August, 2009

4,093

September, 2009

3,021

October, 2009

3,209

November, 2009

5,489

December, 2009

6,948

January, 2010

2,626

February, 2010

4,804

March, 2010

4,976

April, 2010

4,279

May, 2010

6,199

June, 2010

6,047

July, 2010

5,140

August, 2010

4,710

September, 2010

2,030

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to cases of organised crime is not available.

Missing Persons

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons currently recorded under the heading of missing persons; the extent to which their cases are being monitored; the degree to which breakthrough is expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43344/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table sets out the numbers of persons reported missing each year since 2001 and who remain untraced, up to and including 31 October, 2010.

Number of missing persons reported and who remain untraced, 2001 to 2009 and in 2010 up to 31 October

Year

Number

2010

68

2009

67

2008

40

2007

58

2006

56

2005

38

2004

55

2003

60

2002

74

2001

60

Figures provided are operational and liable to change.

I am further informed that all incidents where persons have been reported missing remain under investigation until such time as the person is located. The District Officer (Superintendent) in the area where a person has gone missing takes direct responsibility for all investigations and searches carried out. Local investigation teams are appointed by the District Officer, and all means necessary, including the services of specialist units, are deployed to assist in these investigations, as considered appropriate. The services of Europol and Interpol can also be availed of during such investigations, if necessary.

The Garda Missing Persons Bureau, which is responsible for all data relating to missing persons, provides expert assistance and advice to District Officers in all high risk missing person cases. Appropriate training is provided to Garda personnel to facilitate them in effectively carrying out their functions in relation to missing persons. Further training initiatives have been undertaken over the years. In addition there have been contacts with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, the FBI Academy, the New York Missing Persons Bureau and the New York City Coroners Department with a view to examining techniques used in the US and with the PSNI. The experience gained by An Garda Síochána in this way has been invaluable in their work in dealing with missing persons.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are satisfied that adequate resources, including staff and technology resources, are in place to deal with missing persons cases in line with best international practice.

Public Order Offences

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of public order incidents reported in the past five years; the number of prosecutions which followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43345/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Prison Accommodation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent of prison cell overcrowding at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43346/10]

I wish to inform the Deputy that on 15 November, 2010, there were 4,416 prisoners in custody as compared to a bed capacity of 4,430. This represents in effect an occupancy level of 100%.

As the Deputy will appreciate the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts into its custody and does not have the option of refusing committals. It is the case that there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 435. This represents a rise of over 11% in the numbers in custody.

Prison overcrowding is not unique to this jurisdiction, rather it is an international issue that has been widely acknowledged, including by the Inspector of Prisons.

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,930 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise, Castlerea and most recently Wheatfield prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

The Irish Prison Service plans to commence construction later this year on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces in the medium term. Work is also due to commence on converting an administrative building on the Dóchas site into a new accommodation block which will provide 70 spaces in the short term.

The Deputy will also be aware of the Government's commitment to developing a new prison campus at Thornton Hall, County Dublin. The new prison facility will provide accommodation for 1,400 prisoners with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 in a range of security settings.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice 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. [43347/10]

The person concerned has been granted temporary permission to remain in the State for a one year period to 7 November 2011. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 9 November 2010.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Crime Levels

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of reported incidents of anti-social behaviour reported to each Garda stations throughout County Kildare in the past 12 months; the extent to which proceedings were initiated thereafter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43348/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Criminal Assets Bureau

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of cases in respect of which the Criminal Assets Bureau have seized the assets of those involved in criminal activity; the number of cases pending; the number that have been resolved by agreement; the number currently contested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43349/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are certain statutory limitations on the disclosure of such information in relation to current legal proceedings. It is also not the policy of the Bureau to disclose information in relation to ongoing investigations.

The Bureau is required, by statute, to present an annual report detailing the activities of the Bureau. The Annual Report for 2009, which was published recently, is available on the website of my Department at www.justice.ie. The Report provides detailed statistics on the activities of the Bureau during 2009 including the number of applications made by the Bureau under the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Tax Code and the Social Welfare Code.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons who have applied for asylum here in each of the past five years; the number approved, deferred or refused or pending in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43350/10]

The number of asylum applications received by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) for the years 2005 to 2010 (31/10) is as follows.

Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 (31/10)

Applications Received

4,323

4,314

3,985

3,866

2,689

1,660

Details in respect of recommendations to grant refugee status at first instance and appeal stages are as follows.

Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 (31/10)

First Instance

455

397

376

295

97

23

Appeal Stage

511

251

205

293

266

112

Total

966

648

581

588

363

135

Details in respect of recommendations to refuse refugee status at first instance and appeal stages are as follows.

Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 (31/10)

First Instance

4,787

3,847

3,432

3,906

3,409

1,639

Appeal Stage

3,510

1,693

1,679

2,273

3,318

2,456

Total

8,297

5,540

5,111

6,179

6,727

4,095

As at 31 October 2010 there were 530 persons awaiting an asylum decision at first instance in the ORAC, while 1,055 persons were awaiting an asylum appeal decision in the RAT.

The Deputy should note that there is no provision under the relevant legislation for the deferral of asylum applications.

Bail Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent to which bail was granted in criminal cases in each of the past five years and to date in 2010 where the gardaí had objected to such bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43351/10]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

The operation of the legislation relating to bail is kept under continuing review by my Department, and proposals for amendment of the legislation are brought forward when that is considered necessary. A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Late last year, I obtained Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill. The Bill will restate and consolidate bail law. In addition, a number of matters to improve the operation of the law are being examined. These include:

(a) providing that the courts must have regard to the nature and seriousness of any danger to any person or the public posed by the release of the accused person on bail,

(b) creation of presumptions that bail should be refused for people charged with certain types of serious crime; in view of European Convention on Human Rights restrictions, such presumptions would act as a form of guidance to the courts in identifying those who present unacceptable risks of committing serious offences if granted bail, and

(c) extending the powers of the courts to refuse bail where necessary to prevent the commission of further offences to include more minor offences below the current level of seriousness required by the Bail Act 1997.

I hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Government before the beginning of the next Dáil session.

Crime Levels

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of crimes committed by persons on bail in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43352/10]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the efforts he has made to combat the ongoing activity of criminal gangs; the way this has impacted on such criminal activity in each of the past 12 months to date; if further measures are required or contemplated to deal with the full extent of such criminal activity as identified during this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43353/10]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Oral Question No. 94 tabled for answer today.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of successful convictions against organised criminal gang members in each of the past three years to date; the number acquitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43354/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of recognised criminal gangs currently operating throughout the country, the number that are known to have retired, emigrated or are in prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43365/10]

I propose to take Question Nos. 178 and 189 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are two categories of organised crime groups operating in this jurisdiction. The first category consists of individuals / groups that are well established and tightly structured involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland. I am further informed that information regarding such criminal groups is disseminated on a regular basis to Europol. The Deputy will appreciate that membership of organised gangs tends to be fluid and the nature of criminal activity is such that offences committed by members of gangs may or may not be connected with the individual's membership of such gangs. The existence of such gangs and their membership does not remain static. It is therefore not possible to accurately attribute specific figures to the membership or activities of such gangs or to the criminal convictions of their members.

However, I can assure the Deputy that members of An Garda Síochána are utilising all available legislation to target organised crime including the provisions contained in the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 amending the Criminal Justice Act 2006 in relation to organised crime. In this regard, I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 31st October 2010 eight individuals have been charged under the legislation, six under Section 72 of the Act (participating or contributing to certain activities) and two under Section 71A of the Act (directing the activities of a criminal organisation). In addition, An Garda Síochána will continue to develop and implement strategies to dismantle and disrupt criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methods to facilitate targeted operations to enable early intervention and prevention of organised crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent to which serious crime figures have fluctuated in each of the past two years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43355/10]

Recorded crime statistics for 2009 published by the Central Statistics Office show a reduction in nine of the 14 crime groups for which statistics are given, compared with 2008. Decreases in the numbers of cases of manslaughter and dangerous driving leading to death contributed to a fall in homicide offences of 10.1%. There were also welcome decreases in public order offences, which were down 7.8% during 2009 and controlled drug offences, which were down 6.3.%. The statistics for the third quarter of 2010, the most recent available, show a decrease in 11 of the 14 crime groups for which statistics are given, compared with the same quarter in 2009. The number of homicide offences decreased by 23.5% in the quarter, when compared with the same quarter last year, and 20.7% year on year. The number of controlled drug offences decreased by 11% and weapons and explosive offences by 8.2%. There was also a significant increase — of 138.8% — in the number of cases detected of cultivation or manufacture of drugs. This shows that the Government's policies on tackling crime and the resources made available, along with the outstanding work of the dedicated members of An Garda Síochána, are having a positive effect.

While there is no acceptable level of homicide, the number of cases of murder and manslaughter combined showed no increase between 2008 and 2009 and a decrease of 8.3% in the third quarter of 2010. The Gardaí face severe challenges in dealing with gangland murders. It was partly against that background that I introduced greatly strengthened legislation in the area of organised crime which is being fully utilised by An Garda Síochána, including the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the Criminal Procedure Act 2010, which ends the ban on retrying persons who have been acquitted in specified circumstances and provides for reform of the law on victim impact statements.

I have introduced further significant legislative proposals in the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill, and I will not hesitate to introduce additional measures if that becomes necessary. I have also secured Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law.

There was a worrying increase of 2.2% in property theft shown in the 2009 figures, but the statistics for the third quarter of 2010 show decreases in burglary and related offences (down 16.6%) and theft and related offences (down 0.5%). These two categories make up the greatest proportion of property offences. Both the Commissioner and I have been concerned at the level of property crime and one of the policing priorities which I set for An Garda Síochána in 2010 is achieving maximum levels of safety for local communities. An Garda Síochána will continue to develop and implement strategies to target those committing such crimes, which are often carried out against vulnerable members of the community.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the total number of crimes of all catergories, committed, reported and recorded in County Kildare in each of the past three years and to date in 2010; the number of prosecutions taken, pending or concluded; the number of convictions as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43356/10]

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

Garda Investigations

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the action taken to monitor the movement of criminal gang members between this country and other EU and non EU locations; the number of such movements intercepted in each of the past three years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43357/10]

I am advised by the Garda Authorities that the activities of known or suspected criminals are continuously monitored by An Garda Síochána who liaise, as necessary, with jurisdictions to which such persons may travel to or from. An Garda Síochána also liaise with law enforcement agencies throughout Europe and elsewhere exchanging information and intelligence. This ongoing liaison has led to a number of successful joint operations targeting attempted importations of drugs and firearms and has resulted in a number of significant arrests in the State and in other jurisdictions. In addition information relating to criminal groupings is disseminated on a regular basis to Europol.

Where there is information that a person who is wanted in this jurisdiction for a particular crime is living abroad extradition may be sought or, where appropriate, a European Arrest Warrant applied for. Ireland is a party to a number of International Conventions which provide for assistance in criminal matters between State Parties. An Garda Síochána send and receive requests for assistance via the Central Authority for Mutual Assistance at the Department of Justice and Law Reform. Requests for assistance may also be dealt with on the basis of reciprocity where certain jurisdictions that may not be a party to specific conventions.

Prisoner Releases

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of prisoners on the various forms of early day or special release on a monthly basis in each of the past 12 months and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43358/10]

As the Deputy is aware periods of temporary release granted can vary greatly from a few hours following a family bereavement to, for example, a requirement to report to the prison every 12 months in the case of a life sentence prisoner who has been released into the community a considerable time ago. I can advise the Deputy that the number of prisoners on temporary release on 15 November, 2010 was 660 which represented approximately 12.5% of the overall prison population.

The average number of prisoners on temporary release for each month of 2010 is set out in the following table:

Month

Total

January

551

February

656

March

755

April

836

May

882

June

937

July

865

August

707

September

663

October

610

Up to and including 15th November

666

It is not possible to provide figures to the Deputy for all forms of temporary release as this would require the manual examination of records. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

Temporary release arrangements, in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 1960 as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003, can operate similar to a system of parole, which is a feature of prison systems worldwide. They are an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence. The Irish Prison Service has also judiciously used temporary release as a means of reducing numbers in times of serious overcrowding. Each case is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a regular basis to the offender's Garda Station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Gardaí.

Deportation Orders

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of deportation orders made in the past 12 months which have been subsequently deferred; the reason for the deferral; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43359/10]

"From time to time circumstances can arise which may give rise to the enforcement of Deportation Orders being deferred. These circumstances may, for example, include, court interventions or administrative/procedural practices governing the completion of other immigration related applications. As such, this is a situation which is constantly changing as individuals' circumstances change by, for example, the lifting of injunctions or undertakings, the completion of other immigration related applications and so forth as the case may be. Therefore it is not possible to state with accuracy at any given time the detailed information sought."

Garda Operations

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if adequate resources are available to the relevant sections of his Department to combat juvenile or petty crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43360/10]

Tackling juvenile crime is a priority for this Government. The Government's policy on youth crime is set out in detail in the National Youth Justice Strategy 2008-2010. This strategy is underpinned by the principles of the Children Act, 2001 as amended. The approach adopted involves the deployment of Garda juvenile liaison officers, community Gardaí and the use of such measures as the Garda Diversion Programme, Garda youth diversion projects, young person's probation projects and community sanctions, in addition to the incremental process of warnings, good behaviour contracts and anti-social behaviour orders. The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Justice and Law Reform along with other Government Departments is subject to the Government's moratorium on recruitment and the current financial constraints. However, I can assure the Deputy that the resources at the disposal of the Department and its agencies are managed effectively, and I am satisfied that there are adequate resources to address this issue.

Crime Levels

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gun crime offences reported in each of the past five years to date in 2010; the number of prosecutions and convictions arising therefrom; the reason or reasons if known for the failure to achieve successful prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43361/10]

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

Garda Stations

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the total number of garda stations listed for or deemed to require upgrading; the schedule for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43362/10]

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation around the country is based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána. This programme is progressed by the Office of Public Works, who have responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the identification of Garda accommodation requirements and priorities is an ongoing process. It is undertaken on the basis of An Garda Síochána's needs and in the light of available resources.

Garda Strength

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gardaí deployed and currently serving at each of the garda stations throughout County Kildare; the way this corresponds with the numbers deployed in each of the past two years; the degree if any to which it is intended to restore such numbers to original or increased strength; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43363/10]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of each Garda Station in the Kildare Garda Division, on 31 December 2008, 2009 and on the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

31/12/08

31/12/09

2010

Athy

23

27

28

Ballytore

2

2

2

Castledermot

2

3

3

Kildare

32

32

34

Monasterevin

6

4

4

Newbridge

35

44

45

Rathangan

4

4

4

Carbury

4

5

4

Celbridge

22

18

20

Kilcock

8

8

8

Leixlip

28

33

35

Maynooth

18

15

16

Ballymore Eustace

1

1

1

Clane

8

8

11

Kilcullen

4

3

2

Kill

3

3

4

Naas

103

107

102

Robertstown

3

4

5

Total

306

321

328

Responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends and other demands made on An Garda Síochána. The situation is kept under continuing review to ensure optimum use is made of these resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gardaí who retired in the past 12 months; the total number of new recruits in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43364/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the total number of retirees, or those who have applied to retire, from An Garda Síochána from the end of November 2009 to the end of November 2010 is 357. There have been no intake of recruits for the same period.

Question No. 189 answered with Question No. 178.

Crime Levels

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons apprehended carrying illegal firearms; the number of prosecutions, successful or otherwise taken arising therefrom; the number in respect of which no prosecutions have taken place or are pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43366/10]

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

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to extradite criminals currently living on the proceeds of crime outside this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43367/10]

The European Arrest Warrant Act 2003, which became law on 1 January 2004, gives effect to the European Union Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States. It puts in place simplified procedures for the surrender of persons between the Member States of the EU.

Under the provisions of the Act, a court may, upon application made by or on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions, issue a European Arrest Warrant in respect of a person where it is satisfied,inter alia, that a domestic warrant has been issued for the arrest of that person but has not been executed and the person may not be in the State. As the Deputy will appreciate, both the courts and the DPP are independent in the exercise of their functions and, as Minister for Justice and Law Reform, I have no function in the making of such an application.

In relation to a person outside the EU, a request for extradition can only arise where the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided that an individual should be prosecuted in the first instance. The decision to seek the extradition of a person charged with a criminal offence in this State rests with the Director.

Garda Equipment

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if all Garda stations throughout the country are fully fitted with PULSE and all other modern technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43368/10]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Garda stations with PULSE connections has been increased to 369. These stations account for the capture of over 85% of incidents on the PULSE system. Email and internet access facilities are also available at every Divisional Headquarters, District Headquarters and 24 hour Garda Station.

It has never been the intention of the Garda authorities to provide PULSE at every Garda location. The extension of the system is regularly reviewed by Garda management with additional stations added as operational needs demand. In addition, the Garda Information Services Centre in Castlebar has access to PULSE for recording incident details phoned in by investigating members. This facility also covers all non-networked locations. With regard to other modern technology, the Deputy will be aware, in particular, that the National Digital Radio System is being rolled out for An Garda Síochána and it will be operational for the Force nationwide in 2011.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the discussions he has had with his EU colleagues with a view to greater co-operation and co-ordination in the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43369/10]

The European Union has made great strides in the field of Freedom, Security and Justice over the past number of years. Justice and Home Affairs Work Programmes and their accompanying Action Plans have played a central role in fostering a more structured and cohesive approach to cooperative and legislative initiatives. The Union has advanced its work,inter alia, in the fight against organised crime including the fight against drug trafficking.

Ireland welcomed the Stockholm Programme, which was endorsed by the European Council in December last, as the new five-year work programme for the JHA area. This followed a series of discussions between Ministers for Justice and Ministers for the Interior of the Member States over the preceding months.

The Stockholm Programme set out the need for a strong, coordinated response to organised crime due to its cross border nature. The very serious issues of trafficking in human beings, child pornography, cybercrime, financial crime, counterfeiting of means of payment and drugs trafficking have all been identified as priorities for action. The all-pervasive nature of organised crime means that actions in these areas need to be tackled in a comprehensive and coordinated manner as the influence of organised crime remains a common factor across the individual areas of concern.

Recent Justice and Home Affairs Councils have discussed the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction annual report, the Commission Communication on the mid-term review of the Drugs Action Plan (2009-2012) and the Pact against International Drug Trafficking. I will continue to work with my EU colleagues in the Justice and Home Affairs Council to ensure that every possible measure, legislative or otherwise, is put in place to enhance EU strategies for combating transnational organised crime.

Criminal Prosecutions

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

194 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of persons prosecuted under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43371/10]

I am informed by the Garda Síochána that since the commencement in June 2008 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008 proceedings have been commenced against four persons in respect of nineteen offences contrary to the provisions of that Act. As all four persons remain before the Courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.

Departmental Staff

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

195 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the arrangements in place for the unmarried partners of diplomatic staff serving abroad; the way this compares to arrangements in the diplomatic services of each of the other 26 EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43063/10]

Until the enactment of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, there was no basis in Irish law or no arrangements in place for formally recognising unmarried partners of diplomatic staff serving abroad. The question of the effect of this new legislation, when commenced, on future arrangements for unmarried partners of diplomatic staff serving abroad, is at present being discussed by my Department with the relevant Government Departments as well as the Office of the Attorney General.

Information on arrangements for unmarried partners in the diplomatic services of the other 26 EU Member States is not readily available and it has not been possible to obtain it in the time available for reply. These arrangements differ between Member States as there is no common EU position on this matter.

Humanitarian Missions

Joe Costello

Question:

196 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will put together a business plan to develop the Shannon region as a hub for international humanitarian aid and EU-UN peacekeeping missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42725/10]

The Department of Foreign Affairs, through Irish Aid, pre-positions essential humanitarian relief items in a series of depots located close to those regions which are most susceptible to natural or other disasters. The pre-positioning of such stocks forms part of the Rapid Response Initiative established in the aftermath of the 2004 Asia tsunami.

The United Nations Humanitarian Relief Depots (UNHRD), which are highly specialised, are administered by the World Food Programme and are strategically situated in Brindisi, Italy; Accra, Ghana; Subang, Malaysia; Panama and Dubai. They are supported by a growing number of national governments and international humanitarian organisations, meaning a large reservoir of supplies is available which can be borrowed and replaced should our own stocks be insufficient. The UNHRD network has proven itself an important instrument in Ireland's humanitarian response and has allowed Irish Aid to organise airlifts and shipments of essential shelter, water and sanitation supplies to emergencies such as those which affected Haiti and Pakistan earlier this year.

Given the highly effective and cost-efficient nature of the UNHRD system, owing to its pooling structure and proximity to disaster and emergency prone regions, and current budget constraints the Government has no plans at present to develop an alternative facility which would have a high capital and management cost. As regards peacekeeping, the Defence Forces deploy to various UN and UN-mandated missions from the Curragh in County Kildare which is the location of the Defence Forces Training Centre and Logistics Base. In recent years, as the nature of peacekeeping missions has become more complex, Ireland has also deployed police and civilian personnel to various crisis management missions. Deployment takes place smoothly and I do not consider at this time that value would be added by seeking to develop new site for this purpose.

Social Welfare Benefits

Ulick Burke

Question:

197 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection the waiting time for applicants for jobseeker’s allowance from date of application to approval or refusal at the following centres in County Galway during the years 2009 and to date in 2010: Loughrea, Gort, Tuam and Ballinasloe; the time taken for appeals to be processed at the same centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43059/10]

I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the statistics requested by the Deputy are not maintained on a county by county or centre by centre basis. I can, however, provide the Deputy with data in relation to approvals and refusals for all Jobseeker's Allowance applications made by customers in the Loughrea, Gort, Tuam and Ballinasloe Local Offices. Tabular statements give details of approvals, refusals and average times in these offices. Customers who have applied for Jobseeker's Allowance may apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance from their local Community Welfare Officer while they are awaiting a decision on their claim.

Table 1: Approvals, Refusals & Average Times for period: 01/01/2009-31/12/2009

Jobseekers’ Allowance

Ballinasloe

Gort

Loughrea

Tuam

Totals

Total Awards

1,006

461

861

1,280

3,608

Average Time to Award (wks)

6

9

12

13

10

Total Disallowances

132

85

103

129

449

Average Time to Disallow (wks)

11

16

19

18

16

Table 2: Approvals, Refusals & Average Times for period: 01/01/2010-31/10/2010

Jobseekers’ Allowance

Ballinasloe

Gort

Loughrea

Tuam

Total

Total Awards

982

410

921

1,246

3,559

Average Time to Award (wks)

6

7

9

9

8

Total Disallowances

136

65

130

164

495

Average Time to Disallow (wks)

10

19

16

15

14

Social Welfare Code

Ulick Burke

Question:

198 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will review the qualifying criteria for the back to education allowance having particular regard to the nine month waiting time in receiving jobseeker’s allowance before processing an application while at the same time knowing these applicants will remain on this allowance while they could be denied a placement at the start of the relevant third level academic year in September; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43060/10]

The back to education allowance (BTEA) scheme is a second chance education opportunities scheme designed to remove the barriers to participation in second and third level education by enabling eligible people on social welfare to continue to receive a payment while pursuing an approved full-time education course that leads to a higher qualification than that already held.

With effect from 19th July 2010, changes have been made to the qualifying conditions of the back to education scheme to reflect the present economic situation. The period for which a person is required to be on a qualifying social welfare payment before accessing BTEA was reduced from 12 months to 9 months (a 2 year qualifying period continues to apply to participants coming from Illness Benefit). People who are awarded statutory redundancy may access the scheme immediately, provided an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment is established prior to commencing an approved course of study.

In addition, a person can avail of BTEA to resume studies in a second or subsequent year of a third level course whereas prior to July, a person could only apply for BTEA if s/he was commencing year one of a course. This also applies to people who are granted an exemption from a period of their third level course. A person who completed earlier year(s) of his/her third level course on a part-time basis but is now getting a jobseeker's payment, may apply for BTEA to continue the course on a full-time basis.

These enhancements build on other improvements made to the scheme in recent years in response to the changing economic climate: from September 2007 the qualifying period for illness benefit was reduced from 3 years to 2 years; from September 2008, the cost of education allowance, which is an additional annual payment made to cover the cost of books and materials, was increased from €400 to €500; from September 2009, the 6 month waiting period for those pursuing second level courses was reduced to 3 months.

The requirement to be in receipt of a social welfare payment for a minimum period has always been a feature of the scheme. A waiting period is considered essential given that BTEA confers entitlement to income support for an indefinite period and is considered necessary in the context of targeting scarce resources at those who need it most. The back to education allowance has an important role to play in enhancing the employability skills of jobseekers. The conditionality of the scheme will continue to be monitored in the context of the objectives of the scheme.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Question:

199 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the advice available from his Department to persons who believe they may have an entitlement to a pension arising from time spent working in the UK. [43067/10]

The primary objective of the Department's information policy is to ensure that all customers are made aware of the wide range of schemes and services available, including pension entitlements, and that they are kept informed of changes and improvements as they occur.

The Department operates a network of some 125 Local and Branch Offices throughout the country. Each Local Office has officers who are dedicated to providing information and are available to explain supports and services to customers. This locally-based service is supported by a central Information Unit which operates a LoCall information line (1890 66 22 44) which customers may call for information and guidance on their entitlements. The Department's website, www.welfare.ie , contains full information on the range of schemes and services including information on pensions and how to claim an EU pension from another European Economic Area (EEA) country.

People residing in Ireland are advised to complete the relevant State Pension application form available on the website, which includes questions requesting details of employment outside the Republic of Ireland. The Department will notify other countries covered by EU Regulations or bilateral agreements that the person may be entitled to a pension from them. In addition if a person has not yet reached age 65, but has reached the age of eligibility for EU Pension in another EEA country they have worked in, and from which they now wish to claim an EU pension, this can also be done through the Department's offices in Sligo. The application form EU65 is available on the website.

People Residing outside Ireland are advised to apply for EU Pension to the pension institution in their country of residence if living within an EEA country; or to the pension institution in the EEA country in which they were last insurably employed if living outside the European Economic Area.

Social Welfare Appeals

Róisín Shortall

Question:

200 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the average cost in administrative terms of a social welfare appeal. [43117/10]

Phil Hogan

Question:

201 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Social Protection the average length of time to process appeals in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43118/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 201 together.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that a very approximate average cost of processing an appeal is €115. This covers the period 1 January 2010 to 31 October 2010 and was calculated by dividing the number of appeals decided into the administrative budget of the Office for that period. The administrative budget comprises staff salaries and other administrative costs in relation to the processing of appeals such as the cost of postage, stationery and room hire. This cost does not include the costs of other inputs that lie outside the administrative budget of the Appeals office.

The average time taken to process a summary decision is 28 weeks, while the average time to process an oral hearing is 44.5 weeks. These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary.

A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process. During 2009, 59% of all appeal cases were dealt with by way of oral hearing but, due to some of the initiatives outlined below, this has been reduced to 31% in 2010 to date. In order to be fair to all appellants, the vetting of appeals and the arranging of oral hearings are dealt with in chronological order.

In addition to the provision of extra staff and also the decision to use experienced retired staff strictly on a short term basis to supplement the current resources, with the services of eight retired officers having now been secured on a part-time basis and operating since July; more emphasis is now being placed on dealing with appeals on a summary basis so as to increase productivity, a project to improve the business processes in the office was undertaken which has resulted in a number of improvements being implemented and significant enhancements have been made to the office's IT and phone systems.

As a result of all of these initiatives, a total of 22,995 appeals have been finalised until the end of October in comparison to 14,278 in the same period in 2009. I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping current processes under continuous review with a view to achieving a more effective throughput of appeals, while ensuring that any progress does not conflict with due process in terms of the rights of appellants and adherence to the requirements of natural justice.

Question No. 202 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Code

Denis Naughten

Question:

203 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection further Parliamentary Question No. 227 of 10 November 2010, the investigations carried out by a social welfare inspector when irregularities with a person’s PRSI record are notified to the Department; the length of time those investigations are expected to take; if the onus of proof is on the customer or the employer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43128/10]

The integrity of the Pay-Related Social Insurance (PRSI) system is dependent on timely, appropriate contributions being made to the Social Insurance Fund by employers, employees and the self-employed, as laid down in social welfare legislation.

Contributions due to the Social Insurance Fund are collected by the Revenue Commissioners. The Department's Inspectorate has the responsibility of ensuring that employers and the self-employed comply with their PRSI obligations. Employer compliance is monitored by Inspectors whose remit includes a detailed examination of employers' records to ensure that correct PRSI payments are being made in respect of all employees. In addition, any irregularity in a customer's PRSI record detected at claim processing stage or reported directly by the customer is referred to the Inspectorate to enquire into the matter.

In addition to the general inspectorate, the Department has a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) working full-time to combat fraud and abuse. The SIU also undertakes employer inspections to ensure compliance with PRSI obligations. A Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), drawn from inspectors from both the SIU and the Revenue Commissioners provides a co-ordinated approach, combining the powers of both agencies, and monitors compliance with both the PRSI and taxation systems.

If the employer is not able to produce wage records, the employee is asked to complete a statement detailing evidence of employment and payment of earnings. If the employment is confirmed either by way of wage inspection or employee statement, the Department's Client Eligibility Services is advised to update the employee's PRSI record for the period of employment in question. Where a benefit claim is pending, the relevant scheme area is similarly advised. This is to ensure that there is no loss of benefit to an employee caused by their employer's failure to make timely and proper returns on their behalf.

Where PRSI undercharges are confirmed, the Inspector sets out the PRSI arrears or underpayment in respect of each employee for each tax year and issues a demand to the employer for payment. Should the employer fail to respond satisfactorily, a statutory demand will issue by registered post and the employer given 14 days to respond. If the employer fails to respond, the case is considered for prosecution. Equally, if other offences are detected in the course of an inspection, for example, failing to record employees or understating of earnings, the case may be considered for prosecution even where the employer makes full restitution.

The Department is committed to ensuring that employers comply with their statutory obligations, thereby ensuring that employees do not suffer a delay in securing any social welfare entitlements and contributions to the Social Insurance Fund are made in an accurate and timely manner. There is no time limit on how long an investigation may take but every effort is made to ensure that it is brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

Tax Reliefs

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

204 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason mortgage relief is being refused to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [43177/10]

The position remains as advised in my reply of 27th October 2010, which indicated that the person concerned has sufficient income to meet the interest cost of his mortgage. The person concerned has been advised that if they are not satisfied with the decision, they should appeal the decision to the HSE Appeals Office. However, if there is additional documentary evidence now available this should be submitted to the Community Welfare Service and the original decision can then be reviewed in light of the new facts and fresh evidence.

Child Care Services

Ulick Burke

Question:

205 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Social Protection the numbers benefiting from the early child care supplement for each of the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; the percentage of children living outside Ireland who benefited during each of the years mentioned; the cost involved in supplementing this later group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43192/10]

The Early Child care Supplement (ECS) payment ended at the end of 2009.

The following table details the average total number of children in payment for ECS for each year from 2006 until 2009, along with the associated costs. Also shown are the average total numbers in payment in respect of children resident abroad and the associated costs, which amounted to less than 1% of the overall cost in each year.

Early Childcare Supplement Expenditure 2006-2009 (Abolished from end 2009)

Year

Average Number of Children

Total Value of Payments

Average Number of Non-Resident Children

Total Value of Paymens for Non-Resident Children

€m

€m

2006 (Introduced from April)

367,296

292

536

0.4

2007

382,182

417

1,724

1.1

2008

398,667

477

3,468

4.5

2009

340,856

248

2,970

1.9

Social Welfare Code

Jack Wall

Question:

206 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection his views and observations in relation to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43228/10]

In considering any changes to social welfare schemes, full consideration is given to the impact of any proposals on the recipients involved. The Government is acutely aware and appreciative of the contribution made by carers. It was for that reason, that when resources were available, we invested heavily in improving social welfare rates and services for carers.

Following this year's Budget, the carer's allowance rate for carers over 66 years of age has not changed and remains at €239. The rate of carer's allowance for someone under 66 is €212.

Since the introduction of the carer's allowance in 1990 payments to carers have been increased and expanded. Carer's allowance was increased in 2007, 2008 and 2009 by 12.1%, 6.5% and 3.3%, respectively. As a result, even with the reduction announced in the last Budget for carers under 66, the weekly rate of payment for the carers allowance is still almost 20% higher this year than in 2006 and more than 147% higher than in 1997.

The means test for carer's allowance has been significantly eased over the years, and is now one of the most generous means tests in the social welfare system, most notably with regard to spouse's earnings. Since April 2008, the income disregard has been €332.50 per week for a single person and €665 per week for a couple. This means that a couple with two children can earn in the region of €37,200 and qualify for the maximum rate of carer's allowance as well as the associated free travel and household benefits. A couple with an income in the region of €60,400 can still qualify for a minimum payment, as well as the associated free travel and household benefits package. These levels surpass the ‘Towards 2016' commitment to ensure those on average industrial earnings continue to qualify for a full carer's allowance.

From June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care, regardless of their income. The rate of the respite care grant has also been increased to €1,700 per year in respect of each care recipient since June 2008.

The Government will continue to support carers and the people they care for within the resources available.

Noise Pollution

Denis Naughten

Question:

207 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 490 of 6 July 2010, if he will provide an update; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43078/10]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce comprehensive legislation to address noise nuisance. The General Scheme of a Noise Nuisance Bill was approved by the Government in May 2009. My Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, has continued to advance matters in this regard and the Bill is scheduled for publication during the current Dail session.

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Phil Hogan

Question:

208 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide the names of the members of the residential tenancy board; the amount this board cost up to end of 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43119/10]

The members of the Private Residential Tenancies Board are:

Members

Orla Coyne (Chairperson)

Finian Matthews

Aidan Brennan

Cian Ó Lionáin

Gene Feighery

Dr Eoin O’Sullivan

Aideen Hayden

Thomas J Reilly

Vincent P. Martin

John Tiernan

The Board's published accounts are available on its website www.prtb.ie . The Board is not in receipt of Exchequer grant-in-aid and its total expenditure for the year ended 31 December 2009 was €7.391 million.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

209 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will issue approval to Kildare County Council in respect of its proposed new sewerage collection network for Kildare town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43168/10]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Kildare. Two contracts for the Kildare Sewerage Scheme are included in the Programme amongst the list of contracts in the county to start in the period 2010-2012.

Earlier this year, I approved funding to allow Kildare County Council to place the Wastewater Treatment Plant Design Build Operate contract for the Kildare Sewerage Scheme with the recommended contractor at a cost of €17.59 million. I understand that the contract formalities have now been completed.

Kildare County Council has submitted contract documents to my Department for the sewerage collection network element of the scheme. The documentation is currently being examined and a decision will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible.

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

210 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider the points raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43191/10]

The retention or the incomplete return of tenancy deposits feature in a large portion of the disputes cases referred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) and statistics in this regard are available in that body's 2009 Annual Report which is available online at www.prtb.ie .

In November 2009 I announced the preliminary outcomes of my review of the Residential Tenancies Act which regulates the tenant-landlord relationship in the private rented sector and under which the PRTB was established. Among those outcomes is a commitment to introduce fixed fines where deposits are found to have been illegally retained and to consider the issue in more detail.

The PRTB commissioned research on the viability of a separate deposit retention scheme in Ireland pursuant to its function under section 151(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act to provide advice to the Minister concerning policy in relation to the private rented sector. On foot of this research, the Board endorsed my proposal to introduce fixed fines as outlined above and also decided not to recommend the establishment of a deposit retention scheme.

My Department has considered a number of critical issues in this area, and I have decided that it is prudent to proceed at present with the fixed penalty proposal but not with a wider deposit retention scheme. It is my belief that the fixed penalty model will act as a significant deterrent for landlords who might otherwise consider retaining a deposit without any legitimate grounds for so doing. I believe that this initiative will, over time, greatly reduce the current problem of deposit retention.

It is my intention to have the General Scheme of a Bill amending the Residential Tenancies Act before the Government very shortly.

Farm Plan Scheme

Máire Hoctor

Question:

211 Deputy Máire Hoctor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to reintroduce a scheme (details supplied) and if so, the date of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43339/10]

My Department's Farm Plan Scheme is currently closed to new applicants. Further access to the scheme will be subject to the availability of funding during 2011 and beyond. Any decision to invite new applications will be publicly announced. In such an event, applications to join the scheme will be assessed on the basis of conservation priorities, biodiversity added value and value for money.

Postal Services

Brian O'Shea

Question:

212 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will protect the universal service obligation for the postal service operated by An Post (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43121/10]

I plan to publish legislation to transpose the Third Postal Services Directive shortly. The Directive provides for the final step in the gradual and controlled opening of the postal services market to competition and ensuring the continuing provision of a universal postal service.

In designing the new regulatory framework, the key principles are the maintenance of a universal postal service, the essential element of which is the collection and delivery of mail to every address in the State on every working day, and the development of a competitive sector providing competitively priced, high quality postal services to both business and residential customers.

I look forward to the debate on the draft legislation when it is published, and will be working towards having it enacted before the end of the year.

Grant Payments

Denis Naughten

Question:

213 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons in County Leitrim still awaiting a payment under the single farm payment; the number who have received a part payment; the number who are paid up to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43074/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

214 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons in County Leitrim still awaiting a payment under the disadvantaged area scheme; the number who have received a part payment; the number who are paid up to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43075/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

217 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons in County Roscommon still awaiting a payment under the single farm payment; the number who have received a part payment; the number who have been paid up to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43079/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

218 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons in County Roscommon still awaiting a payment under the disadvantaged area scheme; the number who have received a part payment ; the number who have been paid up to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43080/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213, 214, 217 and 218 together.

The details sought by the Deputy are contained in the following tabular statement. Under the provisions of the governing EU Regulations, payments under the Single Farm Payment may be made only in respect of eligible land and applicants under the Scheme are obliged annually to declare the land parcels available to them; details of the eligible area of the land parcels are recorded on Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS), my Department's computer-based land parcel tracking system. Details of the use and area claimed for each of some one million parcels on the LPIS system are registered and continually monitored by my Department.

In Ireland, the vast majority of Scheme applicants have been making sufficient deductions from their claims to take account of ineligible areas in that they reduced the area claimed. However, in many cases as no mapping evidence supporting these deductions were provided, the ineligible features were not, therefore, recorded onto LPIS. As LPIS underpins all the area-based payments, worth in excess of €1.8 billion annually, it is crucial that it accurately reflects the true position on the ground, particularly given the audit scrutiny that this Scheme attracts not just in Ireland but also in all Member States. To this end, the initiative I took earlier this year in urging all farmers to map out ineligible areas was crucial and, given the overwhelming response, absolutely vital.

SPS

County

Applied

Fully Paid

Part Paid

Not Paid

Leitrim

3,324

2,448

617

259

Roscommon

5,625

4,757

463

405

DAS

County

Applied

Paid

Not Paid

Leitrim

3,539

3,048

491

Roscommon

5,913

5,233

680

I can confirm that the balancing payments under the Single Payment Scheme are on target to begin issuing as and from 1 December. In addition to issuing balancing payments to those farmers whose applications are fully processed and whose maps are fully digitised, payments will also issue to those farmers where some or all of their maps are still to be digitised, with the payment being calculated on the basis of the confirmed eligible land. Because of this decision, which I made following consultation with the EU Commission, many farmers, whose balancing payments would otherwise have been delayed until their digitising is complete, will now receive payment. I estimate that the net effect will be additional payments worth in excess of €100 million issuing in the early days of December.

I am determined that this momentum will be maintained and that the maximum numbers of farmers will receive their full payments as the earliest possible date. At the same time, I must continue to emphasise the absolute urgency in getting the mapping system fully accurate and up-to-date to protect Irish direct payments.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Denis Naughten

Question:

215 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of applicants in County Leitrim approved under the agri-environment options scheme; the number refused; the number awaiting a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43076/10]

The number of Agri-Environment Options Scheme applications received for County Leitrim is 439. Of these 323 applications have been approved and processing of the remaining 116 applications is ongoing. I expect the administrative and validation process to be completed and all outstanding cases to be notified of the outcome of their application before the end of November, with successful applicants receiving a start date of 1st November, 2010.

Grant Payments

Denis Naughten

Question:

216 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 395 of 9 November 2010, if he will provide an update on the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43077/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named in PQ 394 on 14 May 2010. Payments under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme and Disadvantaged Areas Scheme have commenced nationally on 18 October 2010 and 22 September 2010 respectively.

All 19 land parcels claimed by the person named have been digitised at this stage. Payments of €3,695.79 and €12,613.94 for the Single Payment Scheme were made on 18 October 2010 and 10 November 2010 respectively. This constitutes the full advance payment of 50% of the Single Payment Scheme 2010 for the person named. An initial advance payment of €779.65 was made under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme on 22 September 2010 and the balance of €2,484.01 issued on 16 November.

Questions Nos. 217 and 218 answered with Question No. 213.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Denis Naughten

Question:

219 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons in County Roscommon approved under the agri-environmental options scheme; the number refused; the number awaiting a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43081/10]

The number of Agri-Environment Options Scheme Applications received for County Roscommon is 458. Of these 348 applications have been approved and processing of the remaining 110 applications is ongoing. I expect the administrative and validation process to be completed and all outstanding cases to be notified of the outcome of their application before the end of November, with successful applicants receiving a start date of 1st November, 2010.

Grant Payments

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

220 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment of a specific scheme will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [43082/10]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 21 April 2010. The advance payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and the Single Payments Scheme, which issued on 21 September on 18 October 2010 respectively, were both based on land cleared at that stage, as a number of parcels listed on the application require re-digitisation. Immediately this process is complete, provided no errors are identified, the application will be further processed, with a view to the further payments due issuing shortly thereafter.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

221 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment of a specific scheme will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [43083/10]

The person concerned is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. The first two instalments of grant-aid have been paid by my Department to the applicant and the final instalment will be paid in January 2011.

Phil Hogan

Question:

222 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a single farm payment will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43101/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 17 May 2010. A number of parcels listed on the application of the person named required re-digitisation; following digitisation, issues were revealed regarding over-claims and a dual claim in respect of a number of parcels concerned. My Department has written to the person named regarding these matters and, on receipt of a satisfactory reply, the application will be further processed with a view to payment at an early date thereafter.

John Cregan

Question:

223 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [43109/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 12 May 2010. Advance payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme issued on 21 September and under the Single Payment Scheme issued on 18 October, in both cases on the basis on the land cleared at that stage. While a number of parcels listed on the application required re-digitisation, this process is now complete. The balancing payment in respect of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme issued to the person named on 10 November, the further payment under the Single Payment Scheme, which issued to the person named on 28 October, brings the payment to 50% of the full amount due under this Scheme. Balancing payments due under the Single Payment Scheme are scheduled to commence issuing as and from 1 December. However, payments under both Schemes are subject of the 20% penalty applicable following the Cross Compliance nitrates inspection, conducted on 6 May 2010, at which breaches of the requirements were established.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

224 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment of single farm payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43113/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 7 May 2010. A number of parcels listed on the application of the person named required re-digitisation and this process has now been completed. An advance payment of €21,122.24 was issued on 16 November 2010. Balancing payments under the Single Payment Scheme are due to commence on 1 December.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

225 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will investigate the under payment to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry under the farm waste management scheme due to the delay in inspection by his inspector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43123/10]

The person concerned is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. The first two instalments of grant-aid have been paid by my Department to the applicant and it is intended that the final instalment will be paid in January 2011.

In view of the exceptional number of claims received under the Scheme prior to the deadline for completion of work of 31 December 2008, my Department endeavoured to ensure that inspections were completed within the shortest time possible.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

226 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be notified of the result of the appeal regarding an overpayment of their single payment and disadvantaged area scheme. [43124/10]

Following a review of the land declared by the person named under the Single Payment and Disadvantaged Area Schemes between 2005 and 2009, it was found by my Department that over payments had been made. The person named appealed the decision regarding those over payments and following submission of new information by the person named the appeal was upheld and those over payments have now been reversed.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

227 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will grant financial approval to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry in respect of a forestry proposal (details also supplied). [43125/10]

I understand that a formal application for financial approval on behalf of the person in question has not been received in my Department. I would suggest that the applicant contact his forestry company in this regard.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

228 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when full payment of the area-based payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [43182/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment scheme/Disadvantaged Areas scheme was received from the person named on 16 April 2010. The 75% advance payment under the Disadvantaged Area scheme, which issued on 21 September, was on the basis of those parcels cleared for payment at that stage, as one parcel listed on the application of the person named required digitisation. Immediately this process is complete, provided no errors are identified, the application will be further processed, with a view to the balancing payment due issuing shortly thereafter.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

229 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will expedite payment of an application for the single farm payment scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43184/10]

An application under the Single Payment scheme/Disadvantaged Areas scheme was received from the person named on 27 April 2010. However, as all parcels listed on the application of the person named required digitisation, no payments could issue. It is expected that the digitising process will be completed shortly and, immediately thereafter, provided no errors are identified, the application will be further processed, with a view to the payment due issuing to the person named.

Direct Payment Schemes

Ulick Burke

Question:

230 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he plans to cap farm payments for the biggest beneficiaries under the various schemes; if he will in future disallow applications from processors such as meat factories and major dairy companies, as it is recognised that these schemes should be for producers involved in agriculture, such as farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43193/10]

Under current EU rules there are no provisions available for capping farm payments or for excluding applicants with entitlement to these payments. In the context of discussions on the future of the CAP after 2013, there are suggestions that an upper ceiling be introduced on direct payments received by large individual farms. I am open to considering such a ceiling but before taking a final position I will need to see the overall package of proposals including the detailed proposals on ceilings.

By way of clarification, the bulk of EU funding payable to the agri-food industry in Ireland comprises market support measures such as intervention, aids to private storage and export refunds as distinct from direct payments made to Irish farmers under the Single Payment scheme.

Ulick Burke

Question:

231 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the situation in south Galway where areas of rough land similar to the Burren area were included for grant aid after an application classification was changed, causing up to 40% penalty; if he will introduce an amnesty for this year due to the change occurring after application date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43195/10]

Under the provisions of the governing EU Regulations, payments under the Single Farm Payment may be made only in respect of eligible land and applicants under the scheme are obliged annually to declare the land parcels available to them; details of the eligible area of the land parcels are recorded on LPIS the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS), my Department's computer-based land parcel tracking system. Details of the use and area claimed for each of some one million parcels on the LPIS system are registered and continually monitored by my Department.

No changes have been made with regard to the classification of eligible areas under the Single Farm Payment. Historically, the vast majority of scheme applicants have been making sufficient deductions from their claims to take account of such areas in that they reduced the area claimed. However, in many cases as no mapping evidence supporting these deductions were provided, the ineligible features were not, therefore, recorded onto LPIS. As LPIS underpins all the direct payments, worth in excess of €1.8 billion annually, it is crucial that it accurately reflects the true position on the ground, particularly given the audit scrutiny that this scheme attracts not just in Ireland but also in all member states.

As you are aware, these schemes are fully and partially funded by the European Union and the relevant Competent Authorities in each member state are obliged to ensure that the requirements of the governing EU Regulations are observed and that only valid applications that fully comply with the requirements are paid. The administration of these schemes in each member state is subjected to close scrutiny by officials of the EU Commission and the EU Court of Auditors to ensure that the regulatory requirements are met and that the schemes are applied in a uniform manner across the European Union.

Each year in advance of the closing date for the Single Payment scheme, my Department sends pre-printed application forms (which include a list of parcels declared by the applicant in question the previous year) to each applicant. It is the responsibility of all applicants to ensure that the details in each year's application are accurate. As a further aid to farmers, my Department issued maps of all lands parcels in early 2010. Applicants were advised of the need to carefully review these maps and to make the appropriate deductions, if any, to the area of eligible parcels as necessary. For example, where a house or other building has been constructed, farmers are required to submit maps outlining the exclusion with their applications to allow accurate deductions to be made. It is also necessary for applicants to exclude ineligible features such as scrub, roadways, etc. Therefore, the LPIS database has to be amended on an ongoing basis to reflect any permanent changes such as parcel boundary changes, addition of new parcels, etc.

This year some 70,000 farmers submitted maps identifying ineligible areas. Work on the digitisation of the land parcels identified in on-going in my Department. When this work is complete very significant and essential progress will have been achieved in updating the LPIS. If any applicant is not satisfied with the outcome of digitising in respect of any of their land parcels declared, for example, where an over-claim is established, that person is given an opportunity to appeal the decision to my Department.

Beef Prices

Ulick Burke

Question:

232 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will intervene with the major beef factory processors to ensure reasonable price structures for producers; if he will investigate the widely held view that price fixing by processors is widespread and that an identified processor, formally monopolising the Irish beef processing industry, is now attempting to suppress Irish beef prices in its UK factories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43196/10]

The determination of prices is a function of demand and supply forces in the marketplace and is a matter for agreement between individual beef processors and their suppliers. My Department has no role to play in these commercial transactions, nor can it intervene to alter the terms of business relationships in a particular industry.

In relation to allegations concerning collusion by meat plants in fixing prices, I would advise anyone with evidence to substantiate such claims that they forward it directly to the Competition Authority for investigation. Similarly, information concerning the conduct of any beef processor operating in the UK should be brought to the attention of the competent authorities in that jurisdiction.

Grant Payments

Deirdre Clune

Question:

233 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if funding that was available from the EU towards installation aid is still being provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43234/10]

The young farmers' installation scheme was suspended for new applications on 14 October 2008. An allocation of €4.5 million has been provided in this year's Estimates to meet the financial commitment involved in processing applications received under the scheme prior to its suspension and the preceding installation aid schemes. Expenditure under the scheme is still eligible for co-funding by the EU.

Agricultural Financing

Deirdre Clune

Question:

234 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he has taken to ensure that access to credit for viable farm business from banks continues to be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43235/10]

My Department is in contact with the main farm organisations concerning the availability of credit to farmers and I meet periodically with the Banking Federation to discuss credit availability to farming and agribusiness sectors.

I also note the latest report from the Credit Review Office. To date there are only two cases of farmers being actively dealt with by the Credit Review Office. One of these has been completed and the farmer concerned has reached an agreement with his lending agency.

Grant Payments

Michael Ring

Question:

235 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be paid the disadvantaged area scheme payment. [43335/10]

Michael Ring

Question:

236 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be paid under the single payment scheme. [43336/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 236 together.

An application under the single payment scheme/disadvantaged areas scheme was received from the person named on 13 May 2010. The advance of the single payment issued on 3 November 2010. I can confirm that payment under the disadvantaged areas scheme will issue shortly. Payment had not issued prior to now as the compliance of the person named with the minimum stocking density requirement of the scheme was only recently confirmed.

Michael Ring

Question:

237 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be paid the disadvantaged area scheme payment. [43338/10]

An application under the single payment scheme/disadvantaged areas scheme was received from the person named on the 27 April 2010.

This application was selected for and was the subject of a ground eligibility and animal identification inspection. The inspection process is complete and the results are now being processed.

Under EU regulations governing the disadvantaged areas scheme and the single payment scheme, all ground eligibility inspections must be completed before any payment can issue to any applicant under either scheme, including those not selected for a ground eligibility inspection.

In the vast majority of cases that were inspected amendments have had to be made to the maps in order that the land parcel identification system that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. Processing of these changes is continuing with priority being given to applications that were the subject of a ground eligibility inspection.

Departmental Agencies

Jack Wall

Question:

238 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, further to Parliamentary Question No. 551 of 27 October 2010 and Parliamentary Question No. 552 of 2 November 2010, if the Industrial Development Agency is paying rates in respect of the six units in question and, if so, from the records of the IDA, the total amount of rates paid to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43070/10]

I have been informed by IDA Ireland that, in the time available, it is not possible to provide the detailed information requested. I have asked the agency to provide it to the Deputy.

Drugs Task Force

Joe Costello

Question:

239 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make arrangements to facilitate community and voluntary drug projects in operating for the first six weeks into 2011 on the basis of the 2010 funding to enable projects to continue to function normally while awaiting their 2011 allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43221/10]

Officials from the Office of the Minister for Drugs (OMD) have had discussions with the channels of funding on the need for prompt and timely release of the 2011 interim funding from my Department to drugs task force (DTF) projects. Furthermore, the officials met with the DTF Co-ordinators in October, at the OMD's initiative, on the topic of simplifying the administration associated with the release of these funds to avoid any unnecessary delays.

In addition, I have requested DTFs to ensure, where necessary, that projects have a small carryover of funds into 2011 to cover pay and other essential costs arising in January 2011, pending the release of 2011 funding.

Overseas Missions

Joe Costello

Question:

240 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence if he will name the overseas missions to which Ireland is currently contributing Defence Forces personnel; if he will detail the numbers serving on each mission; if he will provide the scope and duration of each mission and its cost to the Exchequer on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43206/10]

Ireland has offered, through the UN Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS), to provide up to 850 military personnel for overseas service at any one time. This figure equates to some 10% of Ireland's standing Army (excluding reserves) and demonstrates Ireland's commitment to the cause of international peace. This is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations. Ireland is currently contributing 143 Defence Forces personnel to 12 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the tabular statement below. The main overseas missions, in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed, are the EU-led operation ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 43 personnel and the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with 12 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the EU, OSCE and NATO.

KFOR was established on 10 June, 1999 in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244, for an initial period of twelve months, to continue thereafter unless the UN Security Council decides otherwise. KFOR's mandate is to establish a safe and secure environment in Kosovo conducive to the implementation of refugee return and reconstruction. The EU military mission Operation ALTHEA was established under the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1575 (2004) of 22 November, 2004 as the legal successor to SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 18 November 2009, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1895 (2009) renewing EUFOR's mandate for a further period of 12 months. Both of these missions are authorised under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and participation by the Defence Forces in the missions is reviewed by the Government on an annual basis. The additional cost to the Defence Vote of participation by the Defence Forces in KFOR and Operation ALTHEA over the past twelve months was in the region of €5.7m and €2.4m respectively. The Defence Forces contribution to the KFOR mission was downsized during the past year and will be further downsized in 2011 as will our contribution to Operation ALTHEA.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 22 October 2010

Number

1

UN Missions

(i)

UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

9

(ii)

UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon

12

(iii)

MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

3

(iv)

MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo)*

3

(v)

UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

(vi)

MINURCAT (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad) — HQ

11

TOTAL

40

UN Mandated Missions

(vii)

EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

43

(viii)

EUTM Somalia (EU-led Training Mission in Uganda)

6

(ix)

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) — HQ

12

(x)

ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH UN MISSIONS

108

2

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

(i)

OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

2

(ii)

OSCE Mission in Belgrade — Serbia

1

(iii)

Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING OSCE

4

3

EU Military Staff

Brussels

7

4

Nordic Battlegroup HQ Staff — Sweden

13

5

Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff

(i)

Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

(ii)

Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

(iii)

Staff Appointments, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

2

(iv)

Military Representative to EU (Brussels)

4

(v)

Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels)

2

(vi)

Military Representative to NATO/PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS

143

*Formerly MONUC, renamed 1 July 2010.