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 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Natural Disasters

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

11 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the assistance proposed at Irish and European level for those affected by the recent flooding in Brazil. [2885/11]

Last week's dramatically heavy rains in south-eastern Brazil have resulted in that country's worst natural disaster for several decades. The deadly floods and mudslides caused by the severe weather conditions are estimated to have killed at least 600 people and to have left 13,500 people homeless and without shelter. Many of those affected were living in densely populated and hilly areas where thousands of impoverished people live in badly-built and poorly-constructed housing.

To date there has been no request or appeal to the international community for direct assistance by the Government of Brazil, which has earmarked some 780 million reais (€348 million) in initial emergency assistance and dispatched the army and other rescue teams to the worst-affected areas. These are being helped by thousands of local volunteers. We anticipate that the Brazilian Red Cross may draw on funds from the Red Cross Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) in the wake of the floods. Ireland has provided €4 million to this fund since 2008. Ireland is monitoring the situation closely in close coordination with our EU partners and will continue to do so in the days ahead.

EU Presidency

Pat Breen

Question:

12 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the priorities set by the Hungarian Presidency for the period up to the end of June 2011. [2850/11]

Hungary assumed the Presidency of the Council of Ministers for the first time on 1 January. The Hungarian government met the Commission on 7 January in Budapest to discuss its Presidency programme. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán presented the priorities to the European Parliament yesterday (19 January). The Hungarian Presidency is placing a strong emphasis on coping with the economic and financial crisis, improving governance to avoid any recurrence, and working together to improve Europe's competitiveness and thus its share of future global growth. These are priorities which Ireland shares and we look forward to working in the next 6 months on the design of the future European Stability Mechanism (ESM), to reaching agreement on the package of six legislative proposals designed to strengthen the framework for economic governance, and to making our contribution to the European Semester process. This is being introduced for the first time and brings a greater EU dimension to fiscal and budgetary planning and to necessary structural reforms. Many of these fall within the Europe 2020 agenda which the Hungarian programme aims to push on with.

Budapest is also placing a strong emphasis on energy policy over the coming six months. EU leaders will convene for a European Council meeting dedicated to energy and innovation on 4 February. The Hungarian Presidency will maintain the enlargement process, seeking to conclude negotiations with Croatia, and continuing with Turkey and Iceland. The Presidency intends to host an Eastern Partnership Summit next May in Budapest. Hungary is also seeking to reach agreement on a European Framework for National Roma Integration strategies.

The priorities identified by the Hungarian Presidency are well-chosen, grounded in the longer term EU goals and correspond to areas where Ireland sees scope for synergy between EU and national actions. The Hungarian Presidency can be assured of our cooperation in working to achieve these objectives.

The modification of the EU treaties has introduced changes to the way the rotating Presidency must operate. The responsibility of chairing a very wide range of Council sessions and of working group meetings is very demanding and requires good preparation. A Presidency now has to factor in a European Parliament that is more assertive and has more competence as co-legislator. Coordination is crucial to success with the EU agenda and a Presidency needs in this regard to establish close working relations with the President of the European Council and with High Representative Ashton. These are all aspects on which we need to reflect as our own Presidency in the first half of 2013 draws closer.

Human Rights Issues

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

13 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his view on the safety and security of Christians in Iraq. [2874/11]

I am gravely concerned about the recent upsurge in attacks against Christians in Iraq including the horrific attack against defenceless worshippers at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad on 31 October. I also condemn unreservedly the deplorable attack on 18 January against an Iraqi police recruitment centre in Tikrit which killed more than 50 people and wounded many more, most of whom were police recruits intent on improving security for all Iraqis. Those who perpetrate such violence are intent on destabilising Iraq as a whole. Ireland, together with the EU, is committed to ensuring that such efforts to fragment and undermine the pluralistic and democratic state of Iraq do not succeed. These attacks are a gruesome aberration from a general trend in recent months of decreasing violence in Iraq and must be stopped.

The formation of a new government in Iraq in December 2010 was an important step in the democratic development of a pluralistic Iraq in which Iraqi Christians, Muslims and people of other religions can peacefully co-exist. I strongly endorse the statement of the EU High Representative Ashton on 21 December welcoming the formation of the new government and pledging the EU's continued support to Iraq in its efforts to reconstruct the country and to build and consolidate its democratic political system. The new government has many challenges ahead, including the pressing need to tackle the continuing violence in Iraq, and respecting and promoting the human rights of all Iraqis regardless of creed or ethnicity.

I call upon the new Iraqi government to take urgent and effective steps against terrorism so that all Iraqis can live in peace and security in their homeland. It is deeply regrettable for Iraq as a whole that its Christian community has decreased significantly in recent years because many Iraqi Christians have felt forced to emigrate from their home country due to fears for their safety. Iraq has had a Christian community since the early days of Christianity. The overall situation of Christian communities in the Middle East may be addressed as part of a wider discussion on the issue of freedom of religion and belief planned for the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 31 January.

Foreign Conflicts

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

14 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the various crises, war, famine, genocide and human rights abuse throughout the African continent are being monitored, influenced or dealt with at both EU and UN levels; the extent to which particular focus has centred on the major flash points; the measures taken or expected by way of support or intervention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2890/11]

Conflict, food shortages, human rights abuses are unfortunately still widespread in Africa despite considerable progress in recent years. The international community continues to intervene to address these issues on the African continent, whether on a bilateral or multilateral basis. It is not possible to go into details on all parts of this question in the time available, but in any event, the Deputy's question has been answered many times already in response to his previous questions. With regard to the issue of hunger and famine, it is estimated that more than a billion people today do not have enough food. Ireland is responding to this challenge, working bilaterally in our Programme Countries with our EU partners and other donors, and at a global level through the UN agencies.

With regard to security, UN and EU peacekeeping missions in Africa have a role in stabilising former and current conflict zones. Since the 1960s, members of the Irish Defence Forces have participated in numerous UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, and continue to do so. Eight members of the Defence Forces are currently serving with the UN missions in Western Sahara, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Côte d'Ivoire. We have also participated in EU missions, such as EUFOR Chad where Ireland played a critical role protecting refugees and facilitating the delivery of aid. Currently five members of the Defence Forces are deployed in Uganda where the European Union Training Mission is providing training to Somali soldiers.

With regard to the thankfully rare cases of genocide, there are a number of current situations in Africa which give rise to continuing concern. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is mandated to alert the international community to the potential of genocide in a particular country or region, and to make recommendations on actions to prevent or halt genocide.

Active participation in multilateral organisations such as the EU and the UN, in particular the Human Rights Council, provides opportunities for Ireland to voice its concerns regarding human rights abuses. Through these organisations, international pressure can be brought to bear on those responsible for the violation of human rights.

In developing a sustainable approach which properly addresses the root causes of all these issues Ireland takes the view that African leadership and responsibility are crucial. This is recognised by the EU and UN, which are both working to build the capacities of African States and the African Union to respond to these challenges. Ireland is committed to playing its part in this work, and I believe that our comprehensive and inclusive approach to these challenges stands the best chance of facilitating real and positive change in the lives of millions of people in Africa.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

15 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent ethnic and religious violence in Jos, Nigeria, which has led to the death of at least 18 people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2861/11]

I have been very concerned by the most recent violence in and around Jos in Plateau State, Nigeria, where there have been more deaths in January, after the bombings in December. This follows on from violence over the past several years, which has been a result of ongoing tensions, and which the government has been attempting to settle. Since the violence in 2008 inter-religious dialogue has been pursued by the religious leaders in an effort to address the problems.

The Christmas Eve bombings in Jos, which claimed 80 lives, were somewhat different to Jos's traditional problems. They are widely believed to have been the work of Boko Harem, an Islamic fundamentalist group which has in recent months been increasing its activity in the north of the country. A number of Muslim religious leaders have publicly condemned the bombings. Since the bombings the tensions have been particularly high in Jos, and there have been further sporadic episodes of violence between the two communities, including the violence to which the deputy refers, which left 18 dead.

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

Although the violence in and around Jos has been predominantly between Christians and Muslims, I want to stress that the root causes are not sectarian, and indeed the violence has been frequently and repeatedly condemned by religious leaders, on both sides, who play an active role in trying to resolve the ongoing crisis. Rather the causes of the violence are deeply rooted and involve complicated ethnic and land issues. The State and Federal governments need to continue their efforts to address the root causes in order to prevent further recurrences.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 10.

Overseas Development Aid

Joe Costello

Question:

17 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on progress towards meeting the millennium development goals. [2872/11]

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed by world leaders at the United Nations in 2000 as the framework for international development policy up to 2015. Last September, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I represented Ireland at the Review Summit in New York, which assessed progress against each of the Goals and the measures required for their achievement 2015. At the Summit, Ireland focused strongly on the first of the MDGs, the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger, which is critical for progress across the full range of Goals.We also argued that international assistance must be directed more effectively to the issues and the countries which have made least progress, notably in sub-Saharan Africa which is the geographic focus of Ireland's aid programme.

The Summit noted that there has been good progress in some areas since 2000, with remarkable improvements in primary school enrolment, access to clean water, child health and the treatment of HIV and AIDS. For instance, almost 90% of children in developing countries are now enrolled in primary education and 10,000 fewer children are dying each day from largely preventable diseases than in 1990. However, progress has been uneven.The actual number of people living with chronic hunger and in extreme poverty continues to increase. Progress on the reduction of maternal mortality has been far too slow.

At the Summit, Ireland took an international lead on the global hunger crisis. With the US Secretary of State, we organised a major international meeting which marked the launch of a new partnership between Governments, civil society and the private sector to address infant under-nutrition. The UN Secretary General, African political leaders and representatives of the private sector and international NGOs all expressed strong commitment to this ambitious new partnership. The Government remains strongly committed to working with our partners for the achievement of the MDGs, with a strong focus on sub-Saharan Africa and on the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

Natural Disasters

Joan Burton

Question:

18 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his view on the plight of Haitians in view of the recent widely reported failures of governance, the delays in the task of reconstruction, the health risks which are now being reported, and the request from the non-governmental organisation sector for urgent international assistance. [2859/11]

Martin Ferris

Question:

27 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of aid provided to Haiti by Ireland to date to help deal with the devastation from the earthquake in January 2010. [2908/11]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

31 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs If he will provide a month on month account of the assistance, both financial and in terms of manpower, offered to the people of Haiti over the last year. [2880/11]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

48 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the levels of assistance offered by Ireland to the people of Haiti following the natural disaster there of just over a year ago. [2879/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

49 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his colleagues at EU and UN level have focused on the ongoing situation in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake; the extent to which the world aid programme is adequately focused in order to restore quality of life to some extent; if he has used his initiative to bring about a sufficiently co-ordinated effort on the part of the global community thereby illustrating the way such disastrous situations can be addressed rapidly, positively and effectively in a shorter time scale than appears to be the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2891/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that international aid has been adequately directed and focused in the aftermath of the disaster in Haiti; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3228/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has with his EU and UN colleagues focused on the situation in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3229/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 27, 31, 48, 49, 169 and 170 together.

The earthquake in Haiti on 12 January 2010 was the greatest disaster to hit the country in more than 200 years, killing more than 230,000 people and reducing the capital, Port au Prince, to rubble. Among the survivors, more than 1.3 million people were made homeless and forced to take refuge in makeshift camps. While the international relief effort has made much progress over the last 12 months, the scale of the devastation is far beyond that of comparable humanitarian emergencies. The quantity of rubble to be cleared is estimated at more than 20 times that left behind following the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001, which took more than 18 months to remove.

The relief operation has also been hampered by the hurricane season, the ongoing cholera outbreak, as well as political uncertainty. Issues around land title have also contributed to the delay in beginning large scale reconstruction as many of those who lost their homes did not own the land on which they stood. There has, however, been some progress with sanitation being provided to the temporary camps, more than two million litres of clean water being supplied daily and more than 30,000 transitional shelters having been constructed. While the number of homeless remains unacceptably high at 800,000, this is a substantial improvement on the situation in the weeks immediately following the earthquake.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the pace of progress at present is simply too slow to respond to the needs of the Haitian population. It is vital that the international effort, led by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, make better progress in reconstruction while simultaneously addressing the immediate humanitarian needs of the population, particularly vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities

This parallel response has been adopted by the Government, through Irish Aid, in its approach to Haiti. During the immediate relief effort we concentrated on the provision of shelter and water through two humanitarian airlifts of emergency materials from our stockpiles. This was complemented by support to the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies for projects providing clean water and sanitation to those displaced in camps. Tens of thousands of people have benefited from the programmes. We have also provided vital technical skills via the deployment of fifteen members of our Rapid Response Corps.

In 2011 we will prioritise the protection of women and children, in response to ongoing concerns about their safety in the camps. In parallel, the Government contributed to the reconstruction effort in 2010 via a €1 million contribution to the Haiti Reconstruction Trust Fund. To date, Ireland has provided €8.6 million of the three year commitment of €13 million which I pledged on the Government's behalf at the Haiti Donor Conference in New York last March. A detailed breakdown of this funding and of our Rapid Response deployments will be made available to Deputy O'Sullivan and attached to the record of this Question. At the European level, latest information indicates that a total €522 million has been pledged by the European Commission and €330 million of this provided to Haiti to date. Total EU Commission and Member State funding provided to date is currently €780 million.

I saw for myself the conditions in which people are forced to live when I visited Haiti in July of last year. I remain convinced of the importance of the international community pulling together in a drive to make more sustainable progress in Haiti. Continued support will be needed in the months and years ahead if the Haitian people's efforts to recover from the events of last year are to be successful. Ireland remains committed to playing its part in delivering this recovery.

Ireland’s Funding to Haiti and Deployment of Humanitarian Experts from Ireland’s Rapid Response Roster 2010

January 2010

€2,110,556 disbursed

3 RRI Deployments

February 2010

€239,401 disbursed

4 RRI Deployments

March 2010

€1,119,600 disbursed

1 RRI Deployment

April 2010

€28,638 disbursed

1 RRI Deployment

May 2010

€1,954,250 disbursed

1 RRI Deployment

June 2010

€141,501 disbursed

2 RRI Deployments

July 2010

€39,228 disbursed

2 RRI Deployments

August 2010

€139,364 disbursed

September 2010

€127,162 disbursed

1 RRI deployment

October 2010

€31,517 disbursed

November 2010

€697,263 disbursed

December 2010

€1,311,565 disbursed

January 2011

1 RRI deployment

In addition, funding of €700,166 was provided by Irish Aid in 2010 to several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as part of their work in Haiti. Since this funding was paid in tranches including funds for use in other countries, it is not possible to provide a monthly profile with regard to this funding.

Trade Relations

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

19 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the possibilities for the further development of trade, tourism and inward investment from Taiwan, which has one of the strongest economies in the world; if he has any proposals either directly or indirectly with other Departments and State agencies for the further promotion of trade, investment and tourism links with Taiwan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2854/11]

I am conscious that Taiwan is an important market for Irish exporters. In 2009, our merchandise exports to Taiwan were €253million and imports were €279million. The total annual figures for 2010 are not yet available, but in the first three quarters merchandise exports were €141million and imports were €122m. The most recent data on services trade relates to 2009 when our services exports to Taiwan came to €351million and imports €51million.

The Institute for Trade and Investment of Ireland (ITII) was established in Taipei in 1989 and undertakes a range of activities related to the work of the State Agencies. ITII promotes Ireland as a location for investment from Taiwan. Enterprise Ireland (EI) avails of the services of ITII when necessary, in carrying out its role in promoting the development of Irish exports. This is in addition to the work of the EI office in Hong Kong which also has responsibilities in relation to the Taiwanese market.

There is scope for enhancing this trade relationship and I am satisfied that the State Agencies are continuing to work to identify opportunities in this regard. Enterprise Ireland, on an ongoing basis, assists Irish companies who wish to develop export markets in Taiwan. In addition, prospects for inward Foreign Direct Investment from Taiwan are analysed and pursued where appropriate.

Foreign Conflicts

Bernard Allen

Question:

20 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding efforts to resolve the north-south Cypriot dispute and if there is a likely resolution to this problem in the near future. [2846/11]

The UN has the lead role in the search for a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus and Ireland fully supports the leadership of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Representative, Alexander Downer, in this important work. We continue to encourage both sides to work for progress towards the achievement of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal state through an honourable, balanced and durable settlement protecting and guaranteeing the basic rights of all Cypriots. More than 90 rounds of talks have now taken place between the leaders of the two sides since the current phase of negotiations began in September 2008 under the auspices of the UN.

On 18 November, President Christofias, the leader of the Greek Cypriots, and Dervis Eroglu, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, met for tripartite talks with Secretary General Ban in New York. Secretary General Ban conveyed to them his disappointment at the lack of progress in the talks so far and urged them to redouble their efforts. Subsequently, in his annual report to the UN Security Council on the UN Good Offices Mission in Cyprus, Secretary General Ban warned that a window of opportunity was rapidly closing, and said he feared that the talks could ‘founder fatally'. He urged the two leaders to come up with a practical plan for overcoming the remaining points of disagreement across all six chapters of negotiations by 26 January, when they are due to meet with him again in Geneva.

Secretary General Ban's latest intervention has had a positive effect. Talks have intensified in the lead-up to the Geneva meeting next week. President Christofias and Dervis Eroglu held talks on 6 and 15 December. Although meetings scheduled for 21 and 28 December had to be postponed due to Mr. Eroglu's departure to Ankara for surgery, representatives of the two leaders continued to meet in his absence. Both sides brought forward proposals aimed at overcoming their remaining points of disagreement, and the two leaders met again on 12 January. They will have a further meeting on 21 January before proceeding to Geneva to meet the UN Secretary General.

While it is reported that progress has been made on some of the negotiating chapters, there remain fundamental differences between the two sides on the difficult issues of property, territory and security. If there is to be a resolution in the near future, it is vital that progress is made in the coming months, in advance of the parliamentary elections in Cyprus and Turkey.

Official Engagements

Róisín Shortall

Question:

21 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the preparations being made by him for the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2875/11]

The sixteenth regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) will take place from 28 February to 25 March 2011. As the Deputy may be aware, the annual High Level Segment takes place during the March session of the Council each year. This year it will take place from 28 February to 2 March. Officials from my Department have been working closely with European Union colleagues to prepare for this Council session. There are a number of points of interest arising at this session of the Council. The Council will consider a number of country-specific matters, including the renewal of the HRC mandates on Burma/Myanmar and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. There will be several reports and resolutions on issues relating to the Middle East, including follow-up resolutions on the reports on the flotilla fact finding mission and on the Goldstone follow up report.

In line with traditional cooperation on initiatives on the rights of the child, the EU plans to jointly propose a resolution on this topic with the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries. This cooperation includes preparing for a full-day discussion on the resolution which this year will focus on the rights of children living and/or working on the street.

Ireland, as always, will play an active role at the Council in close cooperation with EU and other colleagues. In particular, Ireland will participate in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, given our commitment to supporting human rights defenders and the work of the Special Rapporteur.

International Agreements

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

22 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the implications of the most recent developments in relation to the US — India nuclear agreement and the International Atomic Energy Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2863/11]

During his visit to India in November 2010, President Obama issued a Joint Statement with Indian Prime Minister Singh which addressed,inter alia, India’s possible membership of four multilateral export control regimes: the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Ireland is a member of all four bodies. Of the four, the NSG is of critical importance aiming as it does to prevent nuclear proliferation by regulating the export and transfer of nuclear materials.

In India, President Obama pledged US support for Indian membership of the four regimes in a "phased manner" and promised US engagement to encourage the evolution of regime membership criteria, "consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes". The US has indicated that it would welcome the opening of discussions of NSG membership for India at the Group's next plenary meeting in mid-2011 but has not yet brought forward any proposals. For our part we acknowledge the merit of having an agreed mechanism that would allow for cooperation with India in areas that would benefit the NSG as a whole and we will carefully consider all ideas as to how this could be achieved.

Deputies will be aware that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have been long-standing foreign policy priorities for successive Irish Governments. As the Deputy will recall, Ireland reluctantly joined consensus at the NSG in September 2008 on a US proposal that NSG Guidelines be amended to allow for civilian nuclear trade with India, which has not joined the NPT, one of only three States not to do so. While we made clear at the time our appreciation of the strong reasons which had led the Indian Government to seek a secure and plentiful supply of energy in order to address poverty and promote development, we also expressed concerns about the implications for the NPT.

We stated that we expected India to honour all the commitments it made at that time, and that any breach of them would require the NSG to review its decision. Among those commitments was the conclusion of a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) together with an Additional Protocol. I welcome the fact that these agreements are now in place. These will allow the IAEA to verify that certain declared Indian nuclear material and facilities are used for peaceful purposes only.

Foreign Conflicts

Joe Costello

Question:

23 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his view on the current tensions between North and South Korea; the discussions he has had at EU level on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2871/11]

Unfortunately, a series of unilateral provocations by North Korea over the last year has caused relations on the Korean peninsula to deteriorate significantly. The sinking of a South Korean naval vessel along the disputed border in the Yellow Sea in March, the announcement of new uranium enrichment at Yangbyon nuclear power plant and the November artillery strikes on Yeonpyeong Island, in which four people were killed, have raised tensions to a new high.

Some speculation suggests that the bellicose and confrontational approach taken by North Korea is designed to place pressure on the United States and South Korea to resume bilateral and Six Party Talks. Other observers believe that it reflects political manoeuvring and power plays within the North Korean regime itself following the news earlier this year of a possible leadership succession. Whatever the exact reasoning may be, such attacks by North Korea have the potential to spark an all-out war on the peninsula with dire implications for the peace and stability of the region as a whole.

Despite North Korea recently signalling its desire to hold talks to defuse the current tensions, it has yet to give any firm commitments on de-nuclearisation or to undertake real confidence building measures. Given past experience in dealing with the North Korean regime, it is understandable that South Korea, the United States and many in the international community are dubious about the North's motives in making this offer of talks.

The Korean peninsula is regularly discussed with our partners in the European Union and in our bilateral discussions with other countries. It was also discussed at the EU-South Korea summit held in Brussels during October last, with both sides agreeing to consult with each other on the best way to promote peace and stability on the peninsula. Although the EU is not directly involved in the Six Party Talks, it can play a positive role in the region.

The Government has condemned the attacks by North Korea and appealed for restraint. This message was also passed directly by a senior official at the Department of Foreign Affairs to the North Korean Ambassador at a meeting in Dublin last November. Despite the current state of inter-Korean relations, genuine dialogue remains the best option of securing lasting peace on the peninsula. Although it will be difficult, the necessary conditions for such talks to take place can be achieved if the relevant parties work together with this common goal in sight.

James Bannon

Question:

24 Deputy James Bannon asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that following recent elections in Bosnia Herzegovina the possibility of a break-up of the country that is the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina and the Republica Srpska has lessened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2849/11]

The general election in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 3 October saw gains for moderates in the Bosniak-Croat Federation, while the ruling party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, did well in the Republika Srpska. Under Bosnia-Herzegovina's complex constitutional system — a legacy of the Dayton peace agreement — the government formation process can take some time. Talks are currently underway between political parties on the formation of a state-level government.

The pace of progress on necessary constitutional and political reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina in recent years has been disappointing. It is important that the newly elected political leaders give fresh impetus to domestic reforms to ensure Bosnia-Herzegovina moves forward on its path towards the EU. The EU is ready to play its part by encouraging political leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina to engage in constructive dialogue and by assisting with the reform process. However, the key to progress lies with the political parties themselves. The territorial integrity of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina is a basic principle for the international community in its policy towards the Western Balkans. While the maintenance of territorial integrity is essentially a matter for domestic politicians, the international community and those with influence within the region have a special responsibility in this regard.

The General Affairs Council in December welcomed Bosnia-Herzegovina's recent steps towards improved regional cooperation and reconciliation. The Council noted Bosnia-Herzegovina's good progress related to visa liberalisation and encouraged the country to match this progress in other EU related reform areas. The Council welcomed the increased turnout and the orderly conduct of the 3 October general election and called on the newly elected leaders of the country to engage constructively in political dialogue in order to develop a shared vision on the future of the country and to anchor the EU agenda at the heart of their governments' programme. Ministers also reiterated the EU's unequivocal commitment to the European perspective of Bosnia-Herzegovina and reaffirmed its unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a sovereign and united country.

During his visit to Dublin last week, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic was cautiously optimistic about developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Western Balkans more generally. He outlined the improvements which have taken place in Serbia's relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the past year. In particular he highlighted the significance of the declaration last March by the parliament of Serbia condemning the Srebrenica massacre. This was followed by a joint visit by the Serbian and Croatian Presidents to Bosnia-Herzegovina for the Srebrenica commemoration in July 2010.

It is vital that the newly elected political leaders engage constructively on making the necessary constitutional reforms to allow Bosnia-Herzegovina move forward on its path towards the EU. The improved relationships and important acts of reconciliation we have seen in the Western Balkans region should assist in this process.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

25 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his view on the present position in southern Sudan and such briefings as he may have received on border and resource issues as may arise following the recent referendum. [2856/11]

Polling in the referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan which began on 9 January ended, as scheduled, on 15 January and counting of votes has now commenced. The authorities in Sudan, and the United Nations which provided logistical support, are to be commended for the way in which the referendum has been conducted. In its preliminary report, the EU Election Observation Mission has said the vote took place in a calm, peaceful and orderly environment. I salute the people of Southern Sudan for the patient and dignified manner in which they exercised their right to self-determination in the referendum.

Regrettably there were some deaths, but incidents of violence were isolated and did not overshadow the atmosphere of restraint and celebration which, overall, has characterised the referendum. While it will take some time before the final result is known, all indications point to a decision in favour of separation for Southern Sudan from the rest of Sudan. Encouragingly, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission has indicated that the 60% threshold for turnout in the referendum required under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 has been exceeded.

President Bashir and the Sudanese Government have indicated they will accept the outcome of the vote and this is to be warmly welcomed. So, too, are a number of positive developments which have taken place since the close of voting. In particular, tensions have been defused in the contested district of Abyei by an agreement between local leaders to provide secure passage for Southerners transiting the region from the North and to allow the annual pastoral migration of the Missiriya tribe. The call by the president of the Government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, for a spirit of forgiveness towards the North for the events of the civil war is also to be welcomed.

There are a number of challenges which remain to be addressed by the parties, North and South, in the period ahead, in particular how to resolve the status of Abyei, where a separate referendum was due to be held on 9 January. The African Union, through the efforts of its High level Panel chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, is continuing its efforts to facilitate agreement on this issue as well as on a range of post-referendum issues including citizenship, border demarcation, and the division of oil revenues. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement provides for a transition period of six months in the event of an outcome in favour of separation and an intensification of political efforts on all sides is now required.

The weeks and months ahead will be crucial to the political process in Sudan and a spirit of collaboration on the part of the authorities in Khartoum and Juba will be necessary if agreement is to be reached on these issues. It is also essential that the international community maintain its support to both parties and to the people of North and South Sudan as they embark on a new future. The Foreign Affairs Council will have an opportunity to discuss how the EU can continue to contribute to this process when it meets in Brussels later this month.

Human Rights Issues

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

26 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has plans to establish a committee to examine the subject of extraordinary rendition. [2883/11]

The Government is completely opposed to the practice of extraordinary rendition. The Government has actively engaged and cooperated fully with all multilateral organisations which have examined this issue. I have no plans to establish a Committee to examine the subject of extraordinary rendition.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 18.

Foreign Conflicts

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

28 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support the lifting of restrictions on the Basque political party Batasuna to allow the development of a genuinely inclusive political process in the Basque country. [2906/11]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

38 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding recent developments and the prospects for peace in the Basque country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2866/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

41 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will welcome the recent declaration of a permanent ceasefire by ETA and welcome the opportunities this initiative provides to bring a lasting peace to the Basque country. [2905/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 38 and 41 together.

I would be supportive of any development that could contribute to the permanent ending of violence by ETA and lead to peace in the Basque Country. I would pay particular heed and be guided in the first instance in this by the assessment of the Spanish authorities.

In that context, I have noted the statements by the Spanish Government and indeed by other political parties and groups in Spain on the most recent ETA ceasefire announcement on 10 January. The Spanish Government has stated that while this development represents some progress towards a definitive end to ETA's campaign of violence, the content of the statement is nonetheless insufficient to warrant any change in current Spanish Government policy. Both Prime Minister Zapatero and Interior Minister Rubalcaba have said that what ETA needs to do is to abandon its arms and declare its own dissolution as a terrorist organisation, unconditionally and in a definitive and irreversible manner.

The Spanish Government has also been clear that any change in the status of the currently illegal Batasuna party is dependent on either ETA definitively and irreversibly leaving violence behind, or the breaking of all ties between Batasuna and ETA. I also note the continuing active consultations among all democratic parties in Spain and in the Basque Country on how the Basque Government could best take forward the search for peace and the meetings which took place last week between Prime Minister Zapatero and elected Basque political leaders. I very much welcome this process.

Natural Disasters

Sean Sherlock

Question:

29 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has conveyed the sympathies of the Irish people to the Australian Government and the people of Queensland experiencing the terrible effects of flooding on their lands, homes and families; if he has received a report of the position in general; and if consular services are being offered to any Irish citizens or émigrés caught up in the flooding. [2862/11]

In light of the very severe flooding currently affecting Australia, and Queensland in particular, sympathy was conveyed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Australian Government and people. The Irish Embassy in Canberra and the Consulate General in Sydney continue to monitor the situation and are providing reports on an ongoing basis. The Embassy is in continuous contact with Irish community organisations in Queensland.

On the basis of the reports received, the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised travellers to avoid disaster areas and recommended to people in flooded areas to follow all advice and directions from local emergency services and police. To date, no requests for consular assistance have been received from Irish citizens. Irish citizens affected by the floods can, of course, avail of the extensive assistance being offered by the Queensland State Authorities. The Embassy in Canberra and the Consulate General in Sydney stand ready to provide assistance, should it be required.

EU Enlargement

Richard Bruton

Question:

30 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding Croatia’s application to join the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2852/11]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

37 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the current state of the EU expansion programme for the accession of new member states; when Croatia, which has reached the final phase of the accession negotiations with the Commission will become a member; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2855/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding EU membership for the remaining Balkan states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3219/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the current position regarding progress on EU enlargement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3231/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30, 37, 160 and 172 together.

In November 2010 the European Commission published its Enlargement Strategy for 2011 and Progress Reports on the candidate and potential candidate countries. The General Affairs Council discussed that Enlargement Package in December. The Council conclusions broadly shared the Commission's assessment that Enlargement continues to be an important part of EU policy that furthers stability and provides incentives for political and economic reform in candidate countries. There are currently three candidate countries negotiating accession to the EU: Croatia, negotiations for which are nearing completion; Turkey, for which progress remains slow, in part because of complications from the Cyprus issue; and Iceland, which is beginning the process.

Regarding Croatia, the General Affairs Council conclusions confirmed that Croatia's accession negotiations have reached their "final phase" and noted that "conclusion of the negotiations is within reach". The Council also noted that full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) remains essential. In its report the Commission concluded that there is still work to do in terms of fundamental rights and judicial reform if Croatia wants to avoid a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism after accession.

Ireland has been supportive of the Croatian candidacy and looks forward to completion of negotiations, according to the relevant conditions and benchmarks being met. At the most recent Intergovernmental Conference between Croatia and the EU on 22 December, a further three negotiation chapters were closed, bringing the total now provisionally closed to 28 out of 35. As Enlargement is a negotiated process, the eventual outcome and timeframe, as in any negotiation, cannot be predetermined. Once accession negotiations are concluded, there are still a number of steps to be followed before membership, including drafting of an Accession Treaty, referral to the European Parliament and the Commission, agreement at European Council level and then ratification by each of the EU member states and by the candidate country itself.

Regarding the Western Balkans, the December General Affairs Council reaffirmed its commitment to the Balkans' European perspective, which is seen as essential for stability and reconciliation in the region. Progress towards achieving candidate status for the Western Balkan states must be based on "fair and rigorous conditionality" and be according to a country's own merits and track record in implementing Stabilisation and Association Agreement obligations.

The December European Council granted candidate status to Montenegro, which now joins Macedonia as an official candidate country for EU accession, but with which the EU has yet to open negotiations. There are a further four countries in the Western Balkans which are regarded as potential candidates: Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Albania submitted an accession application on 28 April 2009. The Commission delivered its opinion on the application in November 2010 recommending that negotiations be opened with Albania only when a number of key reform priorities are addressed. Serbia submitted an accession application on 22 December 2009. The application has been referred to the Commission for an opinion which is expected in the second half of 2011. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have not applied for membership of the EU as yet, though a Stabilisation and Association Agreement has been signed with Bosnia and Herzegovina which will enter into force once the ratification process has been completed.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 18.

Foreign Conflicts

Emmet Stagg

Question:

32 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the status of what has been described as the unofficial truce between Israel and Hamas; the prognosis he sees in the region, specifically in Gaza, over the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2887/11]

Since the conclusion of the Gaza conflict in January 2009, the use of military force between Gaza and Israel, in both directions, has considerably abated. Hamas has broadly refrained from rocket or mortar attacks into Israel, and has acted with some degree of success to restrict such attacks by other militant groups in Gaza. Nonetheless, there have been continuing mortar and missile attacks into Israel from Gaza, aimed generally at civilian targets, and Israeli aerial attacks on militants in Gaza or the tunnels used for smuggling, which are described as retaliation. All of these actions are greatly reduced from the period before the conflict, but nonetheless still result in not inconsiderable death and injury, as well as potentially inflaming the situation once again.

The Government has called many times, as has the EU, for such completely unjustified missile attacks into Israel to halt. It is reliably reported in recent weeks that Hamas has now concluded a formal ceasefire agreement with most of the other militant groups in Gaza, to bring about an end to these missile attacks, and thus avoid provoking Israeli retaliation. This is a very positive and long overdue development, and I hope very strongly that it can be maintained as a reality on the ground. Both Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to live free of the fear of attack.

There remain other areas of concern in relation to military activity, notably the arbitrary restriction by Israel of the operations of Gazan fishing boats, and the maintenance by Israel of a 500 metre free fire zone on the approaches to its border fence from inside Gaza, which it is reported may be extended to 1 km. Many inhabitants of Gaza continue to be killed or injured by Israeli forces for entering this zone, and while some are undoubtedly militants seeking to attack the border, many others are farmers or civilians seeking to work their land or recover scrap materials. Almost 20% of the cultivatable land of Gaza lies in this zone.

Nonetheless, this strengthening of the tacit ceasefire could lead in due course to a wider amelioration of the situation in Gaza. I would hope that it might create conditions which could lead to the long discussed prisoner release agreement, and the long overdue release of Sergeant Shalit, now in his fifth year of unwarranted captivity in Gaza. I would also hope that an easing of tension might help advance the issue of Palestinian reconciliation, which would strengthen President Abbas as he works to achieve a comprehensive negotiated settlement, while also encouraging Hamas to follow a more political approach.

Side by side with these issues is our overarching concern with the continuing Israeli blockade of Gaza, which continues to dominate and negatively impact on the lives of the people of Gaza. Recent measures to ease the blockade have, so far, proved inadequate and we need to see much greater action from Israel and more quickly, if conditions in Gaza are to be genuinely improved. This is a process we are watching closely in the EU.

Finally, in dealing with the prospects for Gaza, I would take this opportunity to again pay tribute here in the Dáil to the work of John Ging in Gaza over the last five years, as he moves on to greater and well deserved responsibilities in the UN system. For the outlook in the region more generally, I refer the deputy to my reply to Priority Question No 5 today.

Human Rights Issues

Seán Barrett

Question:

33 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he is taking to support a family (details supplied) whose son was shot dead in Bolivia and who have petitioned the United Nations to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2845/11]

The Deputy is referring to the case of Michael Dwyer, who was shot dead by the Bolivian State Security Services on 16 April 2009 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. From the outset, every effort has been made to establish the facts surrounding the death of Mr Dwyer and to provide all possible consular assistance to his family. Minister Micheál Martin wrote to the UN Special Rapporteur for Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions in May 2010 to support his efforts in seeking clarification from the Bolivian authorities of the events which led to the death of Mr Dwyer. The Special Rapporteur, whose mandate includes communications with Governments about alleged cases of unlawful killings, is expected to present his report to the Human Rights Council in the near future. I wish to assure you that I and my officials will persist in our efforts to clarify the circumstances surrounding Mr Dwyer's death and will continue to remain in direct contact with the Dwyer family.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

34 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on revelations regarding overflights and rendition flights concerning Ireland made in recent weeks, which appear to raise questions about the integrity of the response given by him to the Council of Europe at the time regarding such incidents. [2884/11]

It is not my practice to comment on matters contained in leaked documents which have no official standing. Ireland's response in February 2006 to the Secretary General's Article 52 Questionnaire circulated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe was and remains accurate.

EU Presidency

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

35 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his position regarding recent proposals in Hungary that would restrict the right to freedom of speech and the implications from this that arise for the Hungarian Presidency of the European Union which has just begun. [2865/11]

Widespread international concern has been expressed about the "Law on Media Services and Mass Communication" recently introduced by the Hungarian government, including suggestions that the legislation could undermine the EU's capacity to advocate in favour of freedom of expression in third countries. The Irish Government, understandably, would be concerned at such suggestions. The European Commission has written to the Hungarian government, seeking further information on the new legislation and in particular its compatibility with, and conformity to, European legislation. In an initial response, the Hungarian government has maintained that the provisions of the new law are similar to those contained in legislation on supervision of the media adopted by other European countries and that it considers the law to be in line with EU legislation.

Speaking after his meeting with the Hungarian government on 7 January in Budapest, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that he had "received assurances from the (Hungarian) Prime Minister that the law is drawn up, and will be implemented, in full respect of European Union values on media freedom and relevant EU legislation", and that "the Prime Minister equally made clear that adjustments would be made, should the Commission, after a legal assessment, find that this is not the case for all aspects of the law". The Government will closely follow the Commission's assessment of the legislation.

Foreign Conflicts

Mary Upton

Question:

36 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent assassination of a person (details supplied) in Pakistan; and the political repercussions this event may have. [2867/11]

On 4 January, Mr. Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab Province, a close associate of President Asif Ali Zardari, was killed in Islamabad by a member of his security detail. The Pakistani Government has ordered an inquiry into the killing. However, it is believed that he was killed after speaking out publicly against Pakistan's blasphemy laws. The killing has been marked by three days of national mourning and flags lowered to half-mast on public buildings in Pakistan.

The public response of some religious scholars in seemingly welcoming the assassination has raised tensions with the government and highlighted the continued challenges faced by those engaged in the reform of human rights and governance in Pakistan. Governor Taseer had taken a high profile stand against Pakistan's blasphemy laws. His public declarations on religious tolerance in Pakistan were deeply resented by extremists. The following quote from the late Governor a week before his death is particularly poignant: ‘My observation on minorities: A man or nation is judged by how they support those who are weaker than them and not how they lean on those who are stronger'. The late Governor had made representations on behalf of Ms. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy law. In bilateral discussions with the Pakistani Government, Irish officials expressed grave concern at Ms. Bibi's conviction and sentence and our disquiet at the nature of Pakistan's blasphemy law.

There are signs of growing political instability in Pakistan. The recent withdrawal for one week from the ruling coalition of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the second largest political party in government, has led to increased pressure on President Zardari and the ruling Pakistan People's Party. This instability has come at a time of deep concern about the growing influence of extreme religious elements in Pakistan and the dangers faced by those who speak out against them. The EU is committed to strengthening the capacity of institutions in Pakistan to support the promotion of human rights, including religious tolerance.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 30.
Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 28.

Natural Disasters

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

39 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if Irish nationals and the Irish Embassy were impacted by the recent flooding in South Africa which struck Johannesburg and Pretoria. [2878/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that our Embassy in Pretoria has received no requests from Irish citizens affected by the tragic flooding in South Africa, and is not aware of any Irish citizens facing serious difficulties due to it. The Embassy is located in a part of Pretoria that was not impacted by the flooding. Our Embassy has been asked to continue to monitor closely the situation and to provide all possible support to any Irish nationals that may require assistance.

Diplomatic Representation

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

40 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give details of messages of congratulations he has issued to the newly elected President of Brazil. [2858/11]

Dilma Rousseff was inaugurated as the 36th President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, having taken 56% of the vote in the second-round of the elections, which took place on 31 October 2010. The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, T.D. wrote to congratulate President-elect Rousseff immediately after the election. Following President Rousseff's inauguration and the appointment of the new Government, Minister Micheál Martin wrote to congratulate the incoming Minister for Foreign Affairs, Antonio Patriota. Ireland and Brazil have long enjoyed close bilateral relations and it is my hope that this relationship will continue to grow under President Rousseff's presidency.

Question No.41 answered with Question No. 28.

Human Rights Issues

Róisín Shortall

Question:

42 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the arrests of candidates, journalists and human rights activists in the wake of the presidential election in Belarus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2876/11]

Seán Barrett

Question:

51 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he and his colleagues in the EU will take to commence whatever action can be taken to deal with the serious situation evolving in Belarus where those supporting democracy are being jailed without trial and where actions are being taken to prevent the free reporting of information and the hacking of independent websites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2844/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 51 together.

Ireland strongly condemns the violence and widespread arrests which followed the presidential election in Belarus on 19 December 2010. In particular we condemn the disproportionate use of force against presidential candidates, political activists, representatives of civil society and journalists. We also call for the release of presidential candidates and demonstrators taken into custody in the wake of the election.

In its preliminary findings on the conduct of the presidential election, the OSCE-led international election observation mission (which included seven Irish observers) reported serious problems with the electoral process and the vote count. The election and its aftermath clearly represents a step backwards from the hoped for development of democratic governance and respect for human rights in Belarus.

Evolving events in Belarus are being followed closely by the EU and our representatives are working on a package of measures. Ireland has argued for a firm and swift response by the EU. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, met with representatives of the Belarusian opposition and civil society in Brussels on 12 January. The High Representative underlined the EU's solidarity with and support for those detained on political grounds and their families in the aftermath of the election.

The High Representative also met with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov in Brussels on 12 January. She reiterated the EU's condemnation of the violent crack-down against demonstrators, widespread arrests and harassment of civil society representatives in the aftermath of the election. She insisted on the immediate release of those detained on political grounds and on an immediate end to the persecution of opposition, democratic forces and representatives of civil society. She also informed Minister Martynov that the EU was looking into appropriate measures in response to the post-election events, with a view to decisions to be taken at the Foreign Affairs Council of 31 January 2011.

The EU has always made it clear that it is ready to engage positively with Belarus. However, this policy is conditional on respect for the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Without substantial progress in these areas, relations cannot improve. At the same time, I believe it is also important — perhaps now more than ever — that the EU continues reach out to civil society in Belarus. Ireland has developed a close relationship with the people of Belarus over the last two decades, particularly through the important work of NGOs. This is a relationship that we have grown to value. Ireland will continue to reach out and engage with the people of Belarus to support the emergence of an open and democratic society.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

43 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he and European Union Ministers have been briefed on the results of the election monitoring teams’ reports on the recent presidential elections in Cote D’Ivoire; and his views on recent statements of concern relating to that portion of the vote derived from cities in France. [2857/11]

Mary Upton

Question:

50 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on recent reports that political instability in Cote d’Ivoire and the flight of refugees which may number in the first instance as many as 18,000 according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, may impact on stability in neighbouring Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2868/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 50 together.

The first round of Presidential elections was held in Cote d'Ivoire on 31 October 2010, after having been initially scheduled for 2005. With no outright winner, a second round was held on 28 November, in which President Laurent Gbagbo faced opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. Both rounds of the election were observed by an EU electoral observation mission. In advance of the second round, there was serious tension, and some violence, but the voting situation was considered to be regular in the majority of those stations observed by the EU. It should be borne in mind of course that the EU mission was only in a position to observe polling at a limited number of polling stations, and that EU and local observers as well as others, did observe some instances of intimidation and irregularities.

On 2 December the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) released results of the election, declaring Mr Ouattara the winner. However, the President of the Constitutional Council declared that the results were null and void, on the basis that the IEC had exceeded its time limit for a declaration of the result, and citing irregularities in Mr. Ouattara's northern base where it cancelled returns from four regions. The Constitutional Council then declared President Gbagbo the winner.

The European Union, African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations and US have all formally recognised Ouattara as the duly elected President after the announcement by the IEC. After Gbagbo was sworn in, ECOWAS suspended Cote d'Ivoire from the group and the AU suspended Côte d'Ivoire from all AU activities. On 18 December, Gbagbo ordered all UN peacekeepers to leave the country. However, the UN refused, and the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Mission in Côte d'Ivoire until June 30, 2011. African mediation teams, from ECOWAS and the AU, have visited Cote d'Ivoire and have been in negotiations with President Gbagbo but without visible result so far.

On 22nd December the EU agreed to impose travel restrictions and an asset freeze on a number of people in Cote d'Ivoire who were identified as obstructing the process of peace and national reconciliation, and in particular those jeopardising the proper outcome of the electoral process. Since then the list has been expanded.

With regard to the humanitarian situation, the UN warned last week that the humanitarian consequences of the violence in Côte d'Ivoire will rapidly worsen if the political crisis is not urgently resolved. Over 23,500 Ivorians have already fled to neighbouring countries over the past five weeks, the vast majority to Liberia, amid growing fear and insecurity. At least 17,500 others are internally displaced in the west of Cote D'Ivoire, the majority of them women and school-age children. In Liberia, the Government is working closely with UN agencies and NGO partners but Liberia's capacity to respond to the influx of refugees is limited

The situation has not thus far impacted negatively on the stability of Liberia. However, Ireland together with our EU partners, is continuing to monitor the situation on the ground both in the Cote D'Ivoire and neighbouring countries such as Liberia where many of those affected have fled. UN agencies are already able to draw on funds which we provide every year to the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund, a pool of funding that is held within the UN and can be released within hours of an emergency. We will examine the possibility of providing additional direct support to agencies operating with those displaced by the unrest should this prove necessary.

The EU also supports African leadership on this issue and strongly supports a peaceful resolution to the situation, where the will of the people as expressed in the election is respected, without further injuries or loss of life.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 10.

Foreign Conflicts

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

45 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the implications for regional stability of the recent collapse of the ruling coalition of the Lebanon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2877/11]

My Department is closely following events in the Lebanon following the collapse of the Government of National Unity on 12 January. The current crisis in the Lebanon has serious implications, not only for Lebanon itself to which, subject to securing the necessary Dáil approval, it is hoped to dispatch a contingent from the Defence Forces to serve with UNIFIL II in the coming months, but also for the region and for the prospects of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement to the Israeli-Arab conflict. It is therefore vital that a new government commanding broad support is formed as quickly as possible, in a calm, peaceful and constitutional manner.

I understand that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will initiate in coming days a process of parliamentary consultations regarding a new government. At the end of this process, it is expected that a new Prime Minister designate will be appointed, who will then begin the task of forming a new coalition. During this process, Saad Hariri will continue to act as ‘caretaker' Prime Minister. The international community is actively working to assist Lebanese political leaders in their work to form a new government. The EU, through a statement issued by High Representative Ashton on 12 January, has called on all political actors in Lebanon to work constructively to seek a negotiated solution to the current situation. The leaders of Syria, Qatar and Turkey met in Damascus on 17 January to discuss the crisis and try to seek a way forward. In the meantime, interim Prime Minister Saad Hariri has the full support of Ireland, together with our EU partners. The situation in Lebanon will be discussed at the next EU Foreign Affairs council on 31 January.

I urge all Lebanese political parties to work together peacefully, to respect the results of the 2009 election, and to follow the constitutional process to form a new government. It is also worth underlining that the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was initiated by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII and will continue, notwithstanding the current difficulties in Lebanon. Ireland and the EU continue to support strongly the work of the Special Tribunal and its independent investigations, aimed at promoting international justice and contributing to end impunity and promote stability within Lebanon and the region.

Human Rights Issues

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

46 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will respond to the most recent reports regarding the Baha’i community of Iran. [2864/11]

I refer the Deputy to previous replies on this matter including Question 268 of 16 December 2010 and Question 626 of 12 January 2011. The Government is very conscious of the discriminatory treatment of the Baha'i community in Iran and of the particular case of the seven former Baha'i community leaders (known collectively as the Yaran), who have been in detention since 2008 and were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in August 2010, with this sentence subsequently being reduced to ten years. Minister Martin raised the case of the seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders, and matters relating to human rights and religious freedom generally, directly with the Iranian authorities at the highest levels, including with the Iranian Foreign Minister in June last year. In addition, my Department frequently conveys our concerns on such matters to the Iranian Ambassador here. Officials of my Department also meet regularly with members of the Baha'i community in Ireland.

The EU has also been active in raising the discriminatory treatment of the Baha'i community in Iran with the Iranian authorities. The EU High Representative issued a strong declaration on 12 August, which Ireland fully supported, following the sentencing of the seven Baha'i leaders, expressing the EU's serious concern, calling for their immediate release and calling on Iran to put an end to the persecution of the Baha'i community.

The Government is extremely concerned about the sentencing of the Baha'i leaders and other signs of the continued and indeed worsening oppression of the Baha'i minority, including reports of the detention of other Baha'i community members, the denial of education and the violation of property rights. It would appear that the Iranian authorities are persecuting a minority for their religious beliefs and that they are actively trying to suppress that faith. Ireland will continue to call strongly for the immediate release of the seven Baha'i leaders and the end to the persecution of members of this faith in Iran, including through bilateral contacts, with our EU partners and at the UN.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

47 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on recent reports of further persecutions of members of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. [2873/11]

As stated in response to previous Parliamentary Questions regarding the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, most recently on 7 December, the promotion of religious tolerance is a key objective in our bilateral and European Union relations with Pakistan. The Government condemns in the strongest terms all attacks on and persecution of the Ahmadiyya community, a particularly vulnerable minority in Pakistan.

The attacks which took place in Lahore on the 28 May last year were especially heinous. A group of seven Islamic militants attacked two Mosques with machine guns, grenades and suicide bombs, resulting in the deaths of ninety four innocent people with many more left maimed and wounded. Three days later, a further attack was made on the hospital in Lahore where victims and one of the alleged attackers were under treatment. This led to a shoot-out in which at least a further 12 people, mostly police officers and hospital staff, were killed. In our bilateral contacts with Pakistan, we have emphasised the importance of maintaining adequate protection for minorities in Pakistan. A senior official of the Department of Foreign Affairs raised our concerns in this regard with the Pakistani Ambassador recently. Minority and human rights issues were also discussed at political consultations held with Pakistan in Islamabad during February last year.

At the European Union level we are actively working to ensure that the wide range of fundamental human rights and more specifically, the promotion of religious tolerance, are on the agenda for our discussions with Pakistan. Human rights were also discussed during the European Union-Pakistan Summit held in Brussels in June last year.

For its part, the Pakistani Government has given clear commitments to protect religious minorities and to promote religious tolerance. The activities of the independent national Human Rights Commission of Pakistan are to be welcomed, including their public position on the obligation of the State to protect the lives of all citizens in Pakistan, including members of the minority Ahmadiyya community.

Ireland will continue to work closely with our EU and international partners to secure respect for the human rights of all minorities in Pakistan. The recent assassination of the Governor of Punjab province, Mr. Salman Taseer, serves to highlight the difficulties faced by those working to secure progress on these issues in Pakistan.

Questions Nos. 48 and 49 answered with Question No. 18.
Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 43.
Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 42.

Departmental Correspondence

John O'Mahony

Question:

52 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 221 of 27 October 2010 and No. 65 of 25 November 2010, the reason she has not sent correspondence to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [2998/11]

The matter raised by the Deputy has been addressed.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

53 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in her Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in her Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in her Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3004/11]

The following is the information requested by the Deputy. The Educational Disadvantage Committee was formally abolished in October 2008. If provision was to be made for the Committee's reconstitution it would be of the order of €100,000 per annum.

The National Adult Learning Council was formally disbanded in October 2008. While the Council had not met since 2003 and no expenditure had been incurred since that time it is estimated that to have proceeded as originally envisaged would have involved significant additional expenditure.

The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education was closed in September 2008. Recurrent annual funding for the Centre was in the region of €1m.

As a result of a government decision taken in June 2009 agreeing to new arrangements to promote, regulate and co-ordinate the internationalisation of the Irish Education Services both the International Education Board of Ireland (IEBI) and the Advisory Council for English Language Schools (ACELS) ceased operations from December 2009. Improving the efficient provision of the services given by ACELS and IEBI was the primary objective of their rationalisation, rather than the achievement of cost savings. As savings achieved are likely to be offset to some extent by cost transfers to Enterprise Ireland and the HEA, the precise quantification of cost savings is not possible.

In January 2010 the Government approved the drafting of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill, which provides for the amalgamation of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI), the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) and the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). Preparation of the Bill is at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that it will be published during the current session. Allowing time for passage of the legislation and subsequent establishment, the amalgamation will take place in the second half of 2011.

As a result of a Government decision taken in October 2010, the number of VECs will reduce to 16. Discussions are ongoing with the relevant management and staffing interests in relation to the implementation of this decision and work has commenced with regard to the consideration of legislative changes. Precise savings are not known at this stage.

Higher Education Grants

Finian McGrath

Question:

54 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [3063/11]

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.

Apart from the funding provided through the student grant schemes, the Department also provides funding to approved third level institutions to operate a Student Assistant Fund to assist students in exceptional financial need. Information on the fund is available from the Student Access Officer at the student's college.

School Accommodation

Michael Kennedy

Question:

55 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the way the prefab accommodation at a school (details supplied) in north County Dublin will be improved upon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3069/11]

Officials from my Department visited the school referred to by the Deputy in October 2010 and examined the prefabs at the school. The prefabs were found to be in good condition and well maintained. However if the management authority of the school in question feel that improvement works to the prefabs are necessary they may apply to my Department for grant aid for such works and any application received will be considered.

School Transport

Martin Ferris

Question:

56 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 78 of 13 January 2011, if she will issue an authorisation to allow a person (details supplied) in County Kerry to avail of transport to a school which fulfils the criteria outlined in the response. [3071/11]

Under the terms of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Needs, pupils meeting Department criteria and attending their nearest special unit in a mainstream primary school which is resourced to meet the educational needs of the pupils, are eligible for school transport for the duration of their attendance at these special units. I understand that the pupil referred to by the Deputy, in the details supplied, is no longer attending the special unit at the school.

Consequently, the pupil is now assessed for transport eligibility under the terms of the Primary School Transport Scheme. Under this scheme, pupils are eligible for school transport if they reside 3.2 kilometres or more from and are attending their nearest primary school, as determined by my Department. Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that the school of attendance is not the pupil's nearest primary school and therefore this pupil is not eligible for school transport.

Special Educational Needs

Terence Flanagan

Question:

57 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a special needs assistant in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3091/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

In considering applications for teaching and SNA support for individual pupils, the SENOs take account of the needs identified in the professional reports and decide whether the circumstances come within the Department's criteria. They then consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupil from its current level of resources.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Creed

Question:

58 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will reconsider the proposed changes to the higher education grants scheme as it applies to the adjacent and non-adjacent rates from September 2011 in view of the fact that these will have a particularly detrimental effect on independent mature students who have fixed outgoings and commitments; if she will reconsider the proposals as they apply to this category of student; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3094/11]

Additional cost pressures will be brought to bear on the student grant schemes in 2011. These include a significant increase in the number of students qualifying for grants, a proportionate increase in the number of students qualifying for higher rates of grants and payment of the Student Contribution on behalf of grant-holders. To manage these cost pressures, it was necessary to introduce a number of cost saving measures.

These savings measures included removal of the automatic eligibility of mature students to the higher non-adjacent rate of grant. This will come into effect from the start of the 2011/12 academic year. However, mature students who reside 45 kilometres or more from their higher education institution will continue to be eligible for the higher non-adjacent rate of grant. While the different measures announced in the Budget will result in changes to the rate of grant payable, none of the measures will result in a student losing a grant or becoming ineligible for a grant.

In fact, students qualifying for a grant will continue to receive substantial grant funding, together with full support for payment of the Student Contribution. Those on particularly low incomes will also continue to receive a significant "top-up" in the special rate of maintenance grant. In addition, some €5m will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. The access offices themselves will also continue to provide support and advice to students to enable them to continue with their studies.

Special Educational Needs

Michael Ring

Question:

59 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when a unit will be provided for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [3097/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for the establishment of special classes for autism and for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. In excess of 420 autism-specific classes at primary and post primary level have now been approved around the country.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Institutes of Technology

John O'Donoghue

Question:

60 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the implications the Hunt report will have on the Tralee Institute of Technology, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3107/11]

The new National Strategy for Higher Education which I published last week has been endorsed by the Government as the basis for the development of the higher education sector over the next two decades. The Strategy address all aspects of the higher education system, including how it is governed, resourced and can be empowered to evolve and respond to the needs of all students and the wider community in an environment where the quality of teaching and learning is paramount.

The new Strategy also affirms the importance of having institutions with a diversity of missions and provides a clear pathway of evolution for Institutes of Technology, which includes the potential to amalgamate on a regional basis and to seek re-designation as Technological Universities, on the basis of defined performance criteria. Such criteria will be robust and will be based on the strong foundation of the existing Institute of Technology mission. International expertise has been engaged to assist in finalising these criteria and I expect to be in a position to publish them later this Spring.

My officials and the HEA will also be available to engage in direct discussions with individual institutions on their future strategic intentions in terms of regional cluster formations, and where appropriate alliances or mergers. The implementation of all the recommendations in the Strategy, including the preparation of formal legislative proposals, will be overseen by an Implementation Board to be chaired by the Secretary General of my Department.

Traveller Education

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

61 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reasons she has withdrawn the visiting teachers’ service for Travellers; the effect this withdrawal of service will have on the Travelling community; the numbers benefiting from this service; the number of teachers affected; if jobs will be lost as a result; if any analysis has been carried out to evaluate this service; the outcome of such review; if she will publish same and if not, why not; if any consultations have taken pace with Traveller organisations, community groups or teachers or any other parties involved directly in this service; the details of same; the recommendations or views of any such group; the full cost of the service per annum and each cost subhead; the way the service can be supplied in the future; if she will reconsider her decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3152/11]

In recent years substantial improvements have been made with regard to the number of Traveller children participating in the education system. Information to hand indicates that participation at primary level and transition to post-primary is very close to 100%. In September 2009, 8,301 Traveller children were enrolled in age appropriate classes in primary schools and 3,014 were enrolled at Post-Primary level.

The decision to remove this service is just one of a range of measures, included in the National Recovery Plan 2011 to 2014, to secure some €24m in savings in the 2011/2012 school year. The service will therefore be discontinued with effect from 31 August 2011. My Department is currently engaged in discussions with unions representing the Visiting Teachers to address issues of concern for them.

This service has cost in the region of €2.8million each year. At present there are 41 posts in this service. Until September 2009 the Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers was managed directly by the Regional Office Directorate within my Department. In September 2009 the Service was transferred to the National Education Welfare Board to be integrated with existing school support services. No formal evaluation of the service has been undertaken.

The Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy was launched in 2006, following wide-ranging consultation with relevant stakeholders including Traveller representative groups, and covers all aspects of Traveller education from pre-school to further and higher education. The principle of inclusion is at the core of the strategy and future provision must focus on the development of more inclusive and intercultural school practice and environment through the whole school planning process, admissions policies, codes of behaviour and whole school evaluation. A key aim of the strategy is to enhance access and education service delivery to Travellers. Future provision will focus on ‘individual educational need' rather than ‘Traveller identity'. This will depend on a number of factors including the successful implementation of the recommendations of the strategy and the redistribution in favour of provision on the basis of identified educational need of Traveller students and the need for my Department to prioritise the available resources to maximum effect across the education sector to enhance educational outcomes for all including Traveller children and adults.

The set of measures included in the National Recovery Plan 2011 to 2014 impacts on every sector of the public service and will unquestionably lead to significant challenges for schools as well as the Department in the coming years. The major challenge will undoubtedly be to seek improved outcomes for children with fewer resources.

FÁS Training Programmes

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

62 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide the following information in tabular form for each such year and on the following dates: 1 October 2008, 1 October 2009 and 1 October 2010; the number of persons in permanent employment with FÁS; the number directly employed in the position of training instructor directs; the number employed in administration indirects; the number employed in management roles indirects; the number of additional part-time and or temporary staff employed in management and-or administration; the number of training centres operated to full capacity by location and numbers for each such centre and the number of classrooms and workshops that were or are idle in each such FÁS centre by location. [3153/11]

In response to the question the following information has been compiled.

Table 1 below provides a breakdown of FÁS permanent staff as at the end of 2008, 2009 and as at November 2010. In addition to these staff, at the end of 2008 there were approximately 50 temporary instructors and 40 other temporary staff; at the end of 2009 there were 3 temporary instructors and 8 other temporary staff; and as at November 2010 there were 2 temporary staff (1 instructor and 1 other).

Table 2 below provides the number of training centres operated by FÁS in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Table 3 sets out the training centres by location indicating the number of instructors together with the number of idle classrooms and workshops. A review of all FÁS Training Centres was conducted on 9th December 2010 to establish the number of idle classrooms and workshops nationwide. This information was not available for previous years and therefore has not been included in my reply. Idle has been defined as not occupied on the day of the review, Thursday 9th December 2010. A classroom or workshop is not idle if a course is in progress; if a course is scheduled to commence; if trainees normally occupying the classroom are on work experience or in-company training; if it is a shared classroom; or if it is being used for night training.

Table 1

Year

FÁS Permanent Staff

As at end of 2008

As at end of 2009

As at end of November 2010

Instructors (direct)

436

368

325

Other direct (non-management) staff in Training Services

481

438

465

Management in Training Services

129

116

98

Training Services Total

1046

922

888

Employment and Community Services Total

745

785

778

Management, administration and support services Total

392

338

320

Total Permanent Staff

2,183

2,045

1,986

Table 2

2008

2009

2010**

No. of FÁS Training Centres

18

17*

17

*Jervis Street Training Centre closed on 31st July 2009.

**Cabra Training Centre closed on 24th December 2010.

Table 3

Training Centre Location

No. of Instructors*

No. of Idle Classrooms**

No. of Idle Workshops***

Dundalk

15

1

2

Gweedore

3

0

2

Letterkenny

9

1

4

Sligo

7.66

1

8

Athlone

25

1

1

Waterford

30

0

5

Limerick

30

1

3

Shannon

12

0

4

Baldoyle

25.78

3

4

Ballyfermot

20

0

3

Cabra

15

Finglas

21

1

5

Loughlinstown

16

2

3

Tallaght

12

3

10

Tralee

21

3

6

Cork

38

1

5

Galway

18

1

4

Head Office

7

Total

325.44

19

69

Please note that Cabra Training Centre is scheduled to close on 24th December 2010

*Numbers are based on full-time equivalents. They include 7 Instructors in Head Office E-college support.

**Idle classrooms as per review carried out Nationwide on 9th December 2010.

***Idle workshops as per review carried out Nationwide on 9th December 2010.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

63 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of qualified experienced training instructors that have been transferred away from training to administration duties over the past 12 months. [3154/11]

In the last twelve months a total of 12 qualified instructors have moved permanently out of direct training delivery. Of these 12, 10 have transferred to frontline duties in Employment Services and Community Services. The remaining 2 have moved into the training related area of assessment and curriculum. A further 32 instructors have moved on temporary assignment from direct training delivery into the training related area of assessment and curriculum. These transfers have occurred as a result of a sharp downturn in construction-related training activity, together with increased demands in other areas of FÁS activities including Employment Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

64 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of private training contractors currently engaged by FÁS compared to 2008 and 2009 figures. [3155/11]

As at 1st November 2010 a total of 86 private training contractors were being engaged by FÁS in the provision of training services. Since the beginning of 2010 FÁS has engaged a total of 120 such training companies. The table below indicates how this figure compares with the number engaged in 2008 and 2009.

Year

Number of Private Contractors

2010 (year to date as at 1 November)

120

2009

104

2008

56

Higher Education Grants

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

65 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has made progress in addressing the problem of accessing the EU Globalisation Fund for higher education fees for courses that have been undertaken by former workers in companies (details supplied) which will not be completed when the fund runs out; if she will ensure that these persons can be funded to complete their courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3158/11]

The European Commission Decision of 22 December 2009 awarding a financial contribution from the European Global Adjustment Fund (EGF) to finance active labour market measures following the redundancies in Dell and ancillary enterprises states that Ireland shall use the EGF financial contribution by 28 June 2011. The European Commission is currently reviewing the scope of the current EGF Regulation. In the context, inter alia, of this review, the Department has highlighted to the Commission the type of issues raised in the Deputy's question.

Upon the elapse of the relevant EGF expenditure period beneficiaries may be eligible for support in accordance with the regulations governing the operation of the Department's Free Fees and student support schemes dependent on their individual circumstances. Apart from the Free Fees Initiative the main financial support available to students in higher education is the Maintenance Grant. Students who are entering approved courses are eligible for financial assistance where they satisfy the relevant conditions including those relating to residence, means, age, nationality and previous academic attainment.

Eligibility for grant assistance is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC to establish in line with the terms of the relevant schemes. Students should apply to their local authority or VEC to establish their eligibility. Detailed information on financial supports for students can be found on the website www.studentfinance.ie. The Department will continue to monitor any relevant developments in this matter in the context in particular of the European Commission review of the EGF Regulation.

Site Acquisitions

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

66 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills that rationale behind the deal whereby South Dublin County Council will be paid in excess of the market rate for a school site at the former green waste facility in Lucan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3167/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that in recognition of the emergent demands for school provision in the overall Lucan area, my Department has been in discussions with the South Dublin County Council with a view to seeking their assistance in securing additional capacity. An agreement, in principle, has been reached between my Department and the Council in relation to the acquisition of a circa 4 acre site at the Lands at Esker Lane Lucan County Dublin for the purposes of re-locating an existing Educate Together School which is now reaching capacity in its current accommodation. To this end, South Dublin County Council recently approved the disposal of circa 4 acres of a currently used site in Esker for a consideration of €0.45m per acre for the freehold interest of the site.

The Deputy will appreciate that discussions and negotiations in relation to the price agreed were conducted in the context of advices available to, and the expectations of the Local Authority. The Deputy will also be aware that the disposal of these lands required the agreement of the Elected Members of the Council. I am pleased to report that same has been secured.

As part of this agreement involves the re-location of the existing Parks Depot on these lands, the Council will also require to be put in funds for the costs of re-locating this facility at an estimated cost of €2.25m plus VAT. The transfer of these funds, pursuant to the agreement, will be arranged in the coming days.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Ring

Question:

67 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded the third level maintenance grant as the non-payment of this grant is causing financial hardship. [3174/11]

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.

Disadvantaged Status

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

68 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her views on the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3189/11]

2057The Government has published the National Recovery Plan 2011 to 2014. The plan includes measures to secure some €24 million in savings in the 2011/2012 school year. These measures will lead to a reduction of up to approximately 1,200 posts in 2011 (700 primary, 500 post-primary) which, however, will be partly offset by the addition of some 875 new posts due to demographics.

The measures to reduce teacher posts includes the removal of the Rural Coordinator service from 331 rural DEIS primary schools. This measure will not affect the provision of HSCL services which remain in 200 post primary and 345 urban primary participating in DEIS. DEIS rural primary schools will continue to receive the following supports: additional capitation funding based on level of disadvantage; additional funding for schools books; access to the School Meals Programme; access to numeracy/literacy supports and measures; access to planning supports and; access to a range of professional development supports.

Tax Code

Mary Upton

Question:

69 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the hardship the carbon tax charge is having on the elderly (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3050/11]

I announced in the 2010 Budget the introduction of a carbon tax at a rate of €15 per tonne on fossil fuels. The tax was applied to petrol and auto-diesel with effect from midnight, 9 December 2009; and applied from 1 May 2010 to kerosene, marked gas oil (also known as ‘green diesel' or ‘agricultural diesel'), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), fuel oil and natural gas. The application of the tax to coal and commercial peat is subject to a Commencement Order. Based on studies carried out by the ESRI, the overall direct impact on households will be between €2 and €3 per week.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is working closely with the Ministers for Social Protection and Environment, Heritage and Local Government to deliver a fully cohesive Government response to the challenges of addressing energy affordability in Ireland through a combination of institutional supports, investments in improving the energy efficiency of housing stock and wide availability of advice on energy efficiency.

The affordable energy strategy will be the framework for building on the measures already in place to protect households at risk from the effects of energy poverty. The Household Benefits Package and the National Fuel Scheme is available for qualifying individuals from the Department of Social Protection. The Household Benefits Package provides support for individuals towards heating costs through the electricity or gas allowances. The national fuel scheme provides a weekly winter payment for 32 weeks from September to April. In view of the harsh winter conditions I announced a €14 million allocation to the fuel allowance scheme to enable a payment of €40 to households that receive the fuel allowance payment in Budget 2011.

Legislative Programme

John O'Donoghue

Question:

70 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider including the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries (Unclaimed Winnings) Bill 2010 provisions into the forthcoming Betting (Amendment) Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3117/11]

I have no plans to include the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries (Unclaimed Winnings) Bill 2010 provisions into the Betting (Amendment) Bill.

Departmental Properties

Róisín Shortall

Question:

71 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the lack of maintenance of a site (details supplied); the illegal dumping in the site; the allegation from local residents that the area is being used as a storage area by local criminals and the fact that the site is attracting much anti-social activity for nearby residents; if he will immediately take measures to address these problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3160/11]

Since the vacating of the property by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was finalised at the end of May 2010, security and maintenance works have been provided by the Commissioners of Public Works on an ongoing basis. This has included the removal of illegally dumped materials. There is a regular security presence on the site and all recorded information on anti-social activity is passed on to An Garda Síochána for its attention. The level of intervention required is kept under constant review by OPW.

Tax Collection

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

72 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath whose deductions under the universal social contract appear excessive. [3240/11]

The position is that the Universal Social Charge (USC) is applied at the following rates:

2% on the first €10,036 (€193 per week)

4% on the next €5,980 (€193.01 to €308.00 per week) and

7% on the balance.

For persons over 70 years of age the USC is applied at the following rates:

2% on the first €10,036 (€193 per week)

4% on the balance.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have contacted the employer of the person in question to ascertain the amount of deductions paid under the USC. Revenue have confirmed that based on his gross salary, the employer has deducted the correct amount of USC.

State Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

73 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition; the likely date for merger or abolition in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished; his plans to further reduce the number of State agencies, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2999/11]

In Budget 2009, I announced 30 agency rationalisation measures involving a reduction of 41 bodies and the streamlining of certain other functions. To date, 19 agency rationalisations measure have been completed and information on these proposals, including estimated savings in terms of expenditure and staff reductions as reported to my Department is set out in Table 1 below.

Information on the outstanding measures is set out in Table 2. In summary, 7 measures have target completion dates in 2011 and progress is also being pursued in respect of four other measures. The Deputy will note that some of the measures marked down for completion in 2011 have already been partially implemented. As regards projected savings, the experience to date is that it is often difficult to make definitive savings projections when the functions of agencies and bodies are being transferred or consolidated. Such matters only tend to become clear at, or shortly after, the commencement of the implementation phase.

In addition to the general round of agency rationalisation referred to above, there have also been a number of other developments. Information on 6 additional rationalisation decisions involving a reduction of 23 bodies is set out in Table 3. I would also draw the Deputy's attention to Page 69 of theNational Recovery Plan 2011-2014 where it is stated that the programme of State Agency rationalisation that commenced in 2008 will continue with a particular emphasis on:

reducing the number and range of agencies;

redeploying staff to areas of greatest need;

improving governance and performance arrangements; and

sharing services

The reduction in expenditure allocations over the period of theNational Recovery Plan 2011-2014 in conjunction with revised employment ceilings will, accordingly, require continued progress across Departments and Offices in the rationalisation of Agencies as appropriate.

Table 1

Completed Rationalisations — No. refers to the number of the proposal in the Budget measures.

Savings 2009 (estimated figures in advance of outturns)

Savings 2010

Long-term Savings on an annual basis — after bedding down

Max. Staff Nos (2006-09) WTE

Current Staff delivering services (end-09) WTE

Staff Reduction WTE

1

2. Abolition of the National Crime Council. The 2009 allocation was €0.5m. It was serviced by Departmental staff resources that are now available for other work.

€0.392

€0.394m

€0.394m

n/a

n/a

n/a

2

3. Amalgamation of the Censorship of Publications Board & its Appeals Board with the Office for Film Classification — no saving included as this was an efficiency/effectiveness measure to ensure the ongoing existence of the function for when/if it is required in the future. The Irish Film Classification Office has a 2011 allocation of €1.2m, down from €1.4m in 2008.

n/a

n/a

n/a

3

4. Cease funding of the National Consultative Committee on Racism & Interculturalism. 2008 outturn was €0.5m.

€0.628m

€0.628m

€0.628m

n/a

n/a

n/a

4

6. Merger of the Rent Tribunal and the Private Residential Tenancies Board completed on an administrative basis. The Rent Tribunal received €42,000 in 2008 and had an allocation of €37,000 in 2009. The PRTB will be self-financing from 2010 on. It received €3.8m in 2008, €1.0m in 2009 and no Exchequer support in 2010.

0

€0.07m

€0.1m

41.43

40

1.43

5

8. Abolition of the Education Disadvantage Committee — the EDC received €0.1m in 2008

€0.1m

€0.1m

€0.1m (comparator — 2008 allocation)

n/a

n/a

n/a

6

9. Formal disbandment of the National Adult Learning Council — it received €50,000 in 2008. Council was disbanded in October 2008.

€0.05m

€0.05m

€0.05m (comparator — 2008 allocation)

n/a

n/a

n/a

7

10. Closure of the Centre for Early Childhood Development & Education — the 2008 allocation was €1.2m. Following its closure in November 2008, DES continued to provide €0.4m towards early childhood

€0.83m

€0.83m

€0.83m

7

1

6

Table 1— continued

Completed Rationalisations — No. refers to the number of the proposal in the Budget measures.

Savings 2009 (estimated figures in advance of outturns)

Savings 2010

Long-term Savings on an annual basis — after bedding down

Max. Staff Nos (2006-09) WTE

Current Staff delivering services (end-09) WTE

Staff Reduction WTE

8

11. Merger of the Central & Regional Fisheries Boards to form Inland Fisheries Ireland

€0.3m (estimated savings)

9

12. Merge COFORD into D/AF&F. COFORD had a 2008 outturn of €4.3m and a 2009 outturn of €4.3m.

€0.182m

€0.182m

6

4

2

10

13. Transfer of Bord Iascaigh Mhara marketing functions to An Bord Bia (2009 allocation of €17.2m current). This involved the transfer of 8 posts. 6 staff have transferred, a bereavement and the ISER have reduced this to 4. Savings to the running costs were a secondary consideration to the aim of creating a better integrated food marketing function, which has been delivered.

€0.15m

€0.15m

8

3 (end 2010) 4 (end 2009)

5 (end 2010) 4 (end 2009)

11

15. Provide for a new bus licensing regime, a contractual framework for the procurement of subvented transport services on a national basis, the amalgamation of the Commission for Taxi Regulation into the Dublin Transport Authority, which is to be renamed the National Transport Authority.1. Dublin Transport Authority: Completed 2009 — renamed National Transport Authority2. Dublin Transport Office: Completed 20093. Commission for Taxi Regulation: Completed 1 January 20114. Public Transport Licensing function of Department of Transport: Completed 1 December 2010 — Bus route licensing function 2010

n/a

n/a

12

16. The National Council on Ageing & Older People has been subsumed into the Office for Older People in the Department of Health & Children — when the merger is fully bedded down, D/H&C will be delivering this function within existing resources. 2007 outturn was €1.56m and original 2008 REV allocation was €1.82m

€0.4m

€0.4m

€1.26m (comparator — original 2008 REV allocation)

17

7

10

Table 1— continued

Completed Rationalisations — No. refers to the number of the proposal in the Budget measures.

Savings 2009 (estimated figures in advance of outturns)

Savings 2010

Long-term Savings on an annual basis — after bedding down

Max. Staff Nos (2006-09) WTE

Current Staff delivering services (end-09) WTE

Staff Reduction WTE

13

18. The Women’s Health Council has been subsumed into the Department of Health & Children — when the merger is fully bedded down, D/H&C will be delivering this function within existing resources. 2008 outturn was €0.66m and original 2009 REV allocation was €0.64m

€0.013m

€0.126m

€0.155m (comparator — 2008 REV allocation)

7

5

2

14

21. The Postgraduate Medical & Dental Board has been merged into the Dental Council. The Medical Council & the HSE. 2008 outturn was €10.36m, most its budget was transferred to the HSE.

€0.455m

€0.455m

5

2

3

15

23. Amalgamate the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Office of Tobacco Control and the Irish Medicines Board. The Government has agreed to the retention of the Food Safety of Ireland and the Irish Medicines Board as independent stand-alone agencies and that the Office of Tobacco Control is to be merged into the Health Service Executive. The Office of Tobacco Control was merged into the HSE on 1 January 2010.

16

27. Culture Ireland was not established as a statutory body and remains a division of the Department. The original plans contained a projection of 12 posts versus the 6 now in place in the Department.

€0.3m

€0.3m

€0.3m

12

6

6

Table 1— continued

Completed Rationalisations — No. refers to the number of the proposal in the Budget measures.

Savings 2009 (estimated figures in advance of outturns)

Savings 2010

Long-term Savings on an annual basis — after bedding down

Max. Staff Nos (2006-09) WTE

Current Staff delivering services (end-09) WTE

Staff Reduction WTE

17

28. Closure & transfer of 4 military barracks has been completed. The closure of St. Bricin’s is linked to the provision of modern medical facilities within the existing Departmental property portfolio and is also linked to the planned decentralisation of Defence Forces Headquarters to the Curragh.

€0.833m (D/Def. projects €2.5m savings between 2009-2011. One third allocated to 2009)

€0.833m (see note in column for 2009)

€2.5m (from 2012 on)

20 (civilian workers)

8 (relocated to other barracks)

12

18

29. Integration of the Combat Poverty Agency and the Office of Social Inclusion in the Department of Social & Family Affairs. 2008 outturn was €4.1m and the 2009 allocation was €4.09m.

€0.4m

€2.4m

€2.7m

25.4

14

11.4

19

30. Assign MABS to the Citizens Information Board (CIB). The merger was pursued in the interests of efficiency, effectiveness and service delivery. MABS received €17.9m in 2009. The CIB, which has about 88 staff, has an Exchequer allocation of €28.1m in 2009.

0

0

0

n/a as the staff of MABs were not public servants

n/a

n/a

Table 2: Information on the outstanding Agency Rationalisation Decisions

Department of:

Agencies/Bodies

Target Date of Completion

Status of Legislation

EH&LG

1. Local Government Management Services Board

2011 — The Boards are now in practice merged into the LGMA (Local Government Management Agency) and the legislation is pending.

Draft Heads of a Bill to amend the relevant Corporate Bodies legislation have been approved by Government are now subject to the scheduling process of the Parliamentary Draughtsman’s Office and the legislative programme.

2. Local Government Computer Services Board

Transport

1. Air Accident Investigation Unit (in Department of Transport)

2011

Preparatory work on enabling legislation commenced within the Department. Air Accident, Rail Accident and Marine Casualty investigation Units will relocate to discrete shared accommodation shortly.

2. Railway Accident Investigation Unit (in Railway Safety Commission)

3. Marine Casualty Investigation Board

H&C

Children Acts Advisory Board

2011

Bill scheduled for Report State in Dail on 18th January 2011

H&C

1. National Social Work Qualifications Board

2011

Health & Social Care Professionals Act 2005

2. Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

Requires separate Bill

3. Opticians Board

H&C

National Council for the Development of Nursing & Midwifery

2011

The Nurses & Midwives Bill was published on 22nd April 2010.

E&S

1. National Qualifications Authority of Ireland

2011

It is hoped to publish the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill during the current session. Allowing time for passage of the legislation and subsequent establishment, the amalgamation will take place in the second half of 2011.

2. Higher Education & Training Awards Council

3. Further Education & Training Awards Council

H&C

1. National Cancer Screening Service

Completed — 2010

Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009

2. National Cancer Registry Board

2011

Expected that Health Information Bill will be published in 2011

3. Crisis Pregnancy Agency

Completed — 2010

Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009

4. Drug Treatment Centre

2011

Legal issues have arisen in respect of the part ownership by a charitable trust of the Trinity Court premises and their explicit role in the day-to-day management of the Centre.

Table 2: Information on the outstanding Agency Rationalisation Decisions— continued

Department of:

Agencies/Bodies

Target Date of Completion

Status of Legislation

CE&GA

1. Equality Authority

CE&GA are now responsible for these bodies and implementing the recommendations in the context of securing economies by greater co-operation between the Department and its agencies generally; not solely by focusing on bilateral arrangements between the two NCSSBs

None

2. Human Rights Commission

ETI

1. National Consumer Agency

No target date

Department expects to submit Heads of Bill to Government shortly

2. Competition Authority

TCS

1. National Archives

No target date

Draft Bill circulated to the bodies concerned for their observations

2. Irish Manuscripts Commission

3. National Library of Ireland

TCS

1. Irish Museum of Modern Art

IMMA and National Gallery to remain standalone entities, and Crawford Art Gallery can be amalgamated with the National Gallery

Amalgamation of back-of-house services of the Crawford Art Gallery and the National Gallery is being examined.

2. Crawford Art Gallery

3. National Gallery of Ireland

Table 3: Additional Rationalisations Decisions (outside the BUDGET 2009 announcements)

Department of:

Agencies/Bodies

D/Taoiseach

The absorption by the National Economic and Social Council of the National Economic and Social Forum and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance. The two bodies were dissolved with effect from 1st April 2010 by Orders which were made under Section 35 of the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006.

D/Education

The transfer of functions and resources of the Advisory Council for English Language Schools in Ireland (ACELS) to the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI);

D/Education

The transfer of the functions and resources of the International Education Board Ireland (known as Education Ireland) to Enterprise Ireland and the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

D/Education

The decision to reduce the number of VEC from 33 down to 16 was taken in 2010 and implementation is ongoing.

D/Environment

In May 2010, the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency [HSCA] was established on an administrative basis to rationalise the functions of the National Building Agency [NBA], the Affordable Homes Partnership [AHP] and the Centre for Housing Research [CHR]. The AHP and the CHR have been closed down and the NBA is in the process of being wound down.

D/Defence

The Government decided to disband the Irish Sail Training Scheme which was run and managed by Coiste an Asgard in December 2009. Up to then, the company was in receipt of an annual grant-in-aid from the National Lottery in the sum of approximately €800,000. The company has been inactive since that decision.

EU-IMF Fund

Pearse Doherty

Question:

74 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if the €3.7 billion put into AIB in December 2010 made up part of the National Pensions Reserve Fund contribution to the EU-International Monetary Fund programme; if he will confirm whether the NPRF contribution to the €85 billion EU-IMF programme is €10 billion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3040/11]

The Government announced on 28 November 2010 that it had agreed in principle to a total package of €85 billion designed to support the finances of this country, made up of loans from the European Financial Stability Fund and the European Financial Stability Mechanism backed by the Member States of the European Union, bilateral loans from the UK, Sweden and Denmark and loans from the International Monetary Fund's Extended Fund Facility on the basis of specified conditions, and including a contribution from our own resources.

The external lending being made available amounts to €67½ billion and will be drawn down as required over the three-year period of the Programme. The State's contribution to the Programme will be €17½ billion, which will come from the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) and other domestic cash resources. It is envisaged that the moneys to be sourced from the NPRF will be used primarily to support the banking system. The precise application of the funds available under the Programme will be a matter for decision in the light of the evolving budgetary situation, Exchequer access to funding on the financial markets and the needs of the banking system.

On 23 December 2010 I directed the NPRF Commission to invest €3.7 billion in cash in AIB in consideration of the issuance of 675 million ordinary shares and 10.5 billion convertible non-voting shares ("CNV shares"), the cancellation of warrants held by the NPRF and the payment by AIB to the NPRF of certain fees. The CNV shares were issued in order to facilitate the ongoing disposal of AIB's Polish interests. The NPRF intends to increase its holding in AIB's ordinary shares by converting the CNV shares into ordinary shares following completion of the disposal of its Polish assets. The NPRF currently holds 49.9 per cent of the ordinary share capital of AIB and approximately 92.8 per cent of the total issued share capital of AIB.

I gave these directions to ensure AIB met its year-end capital requirement as set by the Central Bank. The capital injection of €3.7bn from the NPRF forms part of AIB's revised capital requirement of €9.8bn which must be raised by the end of February 2011. The remaining €6.1bn capital requirement is expected to be met through a combination of fresh capital from the State, the execution of a liability management exercise in relation to existing subordinated debt holders and other capital generative measures ongoing by the bank. This capital is essential to allow AIB to fulfil its role in supporting the Irish economy. The Government's provision of support to AIB is in accordance with the Joint EU-IMF Programme.

At 31 December 2010 the total value of the National Pensions Reserve Fund NPRF was €24.4 billion. This figure comprised €9.5 billion in the Directed Portfolio (the value of investments in Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks held on the direction of the Minister for Finance) and €14.9 billion in the Discretionary Portfolio (the balance of the Fund excluding directed investments).

Banks Recapitalisation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

75 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance where the money paid out from promissory notes starting in March to Anglo Irish bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society and in June to EBS was acquired from; if this money adds to annual expenditure; if he has included this yearly expense into the cost of running the State in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3041/11]

I provided for the injection of capital totalling €25.3 billion into Anglo Irish Bank in 2010, by way of a Promissory Note. Under the terms of the Promissory Note, 10 per cent of this amount — or €2.53 billion — shall be paid in March each year and the first such payment falls due at the end of March 2011. This payment will be made from the Central Fund and is factored into the non-voted capital expenditure estimates in Budget 2011. Expenditure from the Central Fund is funded through the collection of revenues and borrowing undertaken by the State.

In relation to the Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS), I provided for the injection of capital amounting to €5.4 billion 2010. This comprised a €100 million cash injection in return for a Special Investment Share in the institution and €5.3 billion by way of a Promissory Note. The €100 million cash injection was funded from the Central Fund and is classified as non-voted capital expenditure in the end-2010 Exchequer Statement published by my Department on 5 January. Under the terms of the INBS Promissory Note, 10 per cent of this amount — or €530 million — shall be paid in March each year and the first such payment falls due at the end of March 2011. This payment will be made from the Central Fund and is factored into the non-voted capital expenditure estimates contained in Budget 2011.

In relation to the Educational Building Society (EBS), I provided for the injection of capital totalling €875 million in 2010. €625 million of this was provided by way of a cash injection from the Central Fund in return for a Special Investment Share in the institution, and is classified as non-voted capital expenditure in the end-2010 Exchequer Statement published by my Department on 5 January.

The remaining €250 million is being provided to EBS by way of a Promissory Note. Under the terms of the EBS Promissory Note, 10 per cent of this amount — or €25 million — shall be paid in June each year and the first such payment falls due in mid-June 2011. This payment will be made from the Central Fund and is factored into the non-voted capital expenditure estimates contained in Budget 2011. There was no expenditure from the Central Fund associated with these Promissory Notes in 2010. By providing the capital injections in the form of Promissory Notes, the cost is spread out over a lengthy period and is therefore manageable in the overall budgetary context.

EU-IMF Fund

Pearse Doherty

Question:

76 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the sovereign bonds that are maturing over the next six years; the amount this will this cost year-on-year for the next six years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3042/11]

Irish Government Bonds maturing over the next six years are set out in the table below.

Bond

Maturity Date

Amount Outstanding January 2011

€m

4.0 Treasury Bond 2011

11-Nov-11

4,584.0

3.9 Treasury Bond 2012

05-Mar-12

5,762.5

5.0 Treasury Bond 2013

18-Apr-13

6,095.5

4.0 Treasury Bond 2014

15-Jan-14

11,880.2

4.6 Treasury Bond 2016

18-Apr-16

10,169.5

In addition to the above I would advise the Deputy that the €5 billion EFSM loan drawn down on 12 January 2011 is due for repayment on 4 December 2015 while the first tranche of IMF funding, amounting to approximately €5.8 billion, was drawn down on 18 January 2011. All funds drawn from the IMF will be repaid by a series of twelve equal semi-annual repayments beginning 4.5 years after the drawdown and finishing on the tenth anniversary of the drawdown.

The debt service estimates underpinning the Budget 2011 public finance forecasts are set out below. Projections are not currently available for the years beyond 2014.

2011

2012

2013

2014

Debt Servicing Costs €bn*

5.6

6.8

7.8

8.7

*Figures in table based on forecasts contained in Budget 2011.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

77 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the total interest in relation to the total draw-down in 2011 from the EU-International Monetary Fund programme; if he will provide a year-on-year breakdown of the total interest to be paid as a result of the drawing of funds down from the EU-IMF programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3043/11]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

78 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance when the capital on each input of the EU-International Monetary Fund programme will be repaid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3044/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 78 together.

There is provision under the EU-IMF Programme for external assistance amounting to €67.5bn to be made available to Ireland as follows:

€22.5 billion from the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM)

€22.5 billion from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and bilateral loans from the UK, Sweden and Denmark

€22.5 billion from the IMF.

The average (blended) interest rate on the €67.5 billion available to be drawn from these three external sources was estimated to be 5.82 per cent on the basis of market rates at the time of the agreement. The actual cost will depend on the prevailing market rates at the time of each drawdown and could be higher if market rates have deteriorated. The average life of the borrowings, which will involve a combination of longer and shorter dated maturities, under each of these sources is 7.5 years.

The total amount to be drawn down in 2011 will be determined by Exchequer funding and bank recapitalisation requirements. The total interest costs will be determined by the total amount drawn down and the interest rate applying to the various tranches. The position to date in 2011 is as follows.

The first drawdown of IMF funds under the Programme took place on 18 January 2011. The amount was SDR 5,012,425,200, equivalent to some €5.8 billion. All funds drawn from the IMF under the Programme will be repaid by a series of twelve equal semi-annual capital repayments of the initial amount beginning 4.5 years after the drawdown and finishing on the tenth anniversary of the drawdown. Interest will be paid quarterly at the IMF's standard interest applying to countries which draw on its Extended Fund Facility. This rate is set by reference to the IMF's basic rate of charge plus surcharges which are based on the size of the borrower's loan relative to its IMF quota. In November 2010, when the terms of the Programme were agreed, the IMF rate was estimated at about 4%. Based on market rates at the time of the agreement, this rate would have been equivalent to about 5.7% if swapped into 7.5 year fixed-rate euro. At current market conditions, the comparable rate would be some 5.75%.

Further drawdowns from the IMF of about €2.1 billion per calendar quarter are scheduled during 2011. Each of these drawdowns will be subject to Ireland's preceding quarterly review by the EU- IMF. The cost of these funds will depend on market conditions when the funds are drawn down. The precise amount to be drawn down will be determined in accordance with requirements. It is expected that there will be a small reduction in the IMF interest rate as a result of the impending change in Ireland's IMF quota when the 2008 reforms to the Fund's Articles of Association are adopted. In broad terms, the amounts drawn down from each of the three external sources are intended to be roughly equal over the course of the year.

With regard to the EFSM, Ireland received the first instalment on January 12th 2011. The nominal amount of the borrowing was €5 billion and this will be due for repayment on 4 December 2015. Ireland pays a yield to redemption of 5.51% on the borrowing reflecting the fact that the bond was issued at a price of €99.594 per €100 nominal. This interest is payable annually on 4 December.

The EFSF is planning its first market issuance, on behalf of Ireland, very shortly which based on the EFSF funding structure is expected to result in a disbursement of approximately €3.5bn from this source. The understanding is that this initial issue will be for a bond with a maturity in mid 2016 but this will depend on market conditions. The borrowing will carry an annual interest payment the exact amount of which will be determined at the time of issue of the bond. Funding from the UK is likely to commence in the third quarter of 2011 and discussions are ongoing as to the drawdown schedule. The rate of interest is expected to be about 5.9 per cent, based on current market conditions.

Banks Recapitalisation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

79 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 111 of 12 January 2011, if he will clarify whether the amount being paid to Anglo Irish Bank at the end of March 2011 will be €2.528 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3045/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 111 which contains a typographical error; the figure for the initial payment on the Promissory Note to Anglo Irish Bank at the end of March should read €2,528 million and not €2.528 million. I apologise for this error and can assure the Deputy that steps have been made to ensure the record is corrected.

In response to the Deputy's question, to date, Anglo Irish Bank has been provided with €29.3 billion in total capital, of which €25.3 billion was in the form of a Promissory Note. I can confirm that under the terms of the Promissory Note 10% of the initial principal amount will be paid in March each year to the holder of the Note. In the case of Anglo Irish Bank, this amounts to €2.53 billion per annum, with the first such payment at the end of March 2011 from the Exchequer.

Public Service Pensions

Noel Ahern

Question:

80 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the reductions in pensions for retired civil servants as announced in the budget; if it only refers to civil servants; if it applies to commercial semi-State bodies; if it refers to and includes FÁS; the reason for same; the way deductions can be made in a contributory pension scheme; the way deductions can be made where added years were purchased by the retired person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3058/11]

The public service pension reduction was legislated for in December 2010 in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010. It came into operation on 1 January 2011. The reduction is not confined to the pensions of retired civil servants. It applies to all public service pensions above €12,000 payable to persons retired from all parts of the public service including the civil service, local government, the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, non-commercial State Bodies and the health and education sectors.

The reduction does not apply to the pensions of persons retired from commercial State Bodies. Such bodies are not part of the public service and their staff do not enjoy membership of public service pension schemes. The reduction applies to the public service pensions of retired FÁS workers. As a non-commercial State Body FÁS is part of the public service.

The reduction applies in a standard manner to public service pensions, whether those pensions are contributory or non-contributory, and whether or not the pensions have been boosted by purchase of added years. The amount of reduction in each case is determined by application of the following set of annual income bands and associated reduction rates:

Annual Income Bands

First €12,000

0%

Between €12,000 and €24,000

6%

Between €24,000 and €60,000

9%

Above €60,000

12%

Tax Reliefs

Finian McGrath

Question:

81 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine a matter regarding section 23 relief (details supplied). [3073/11]

For the Deputy's information I have already received representations from the persons in question (details supplied) in relation to the proposals for Section 23 which I announced in the Budget. My Department has responded to those representations in the normal way. Details regarding these proposals will be set out in the Finance Bill.

Financial Services Sector

John O'Donoghue

Question:

82 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Finance his views on the purchase of Goodbody Stockbrokers by a Kerry-based company (details supplied); if he has had contact with either of the parties involved in the deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3112/11]

The sale of Allied Irish Banks' (AIB) entire shareholding in Goodbody Holdings Limited, including Goodbody Stockbrokers, was part of a strategic decision taken by the board of AIB to raise capital by the disposal of certain assets. This capital raising was necessitated by the bank having to meet set capital adequacy requirements as dictated by the Central Bank. I have had no involvement in the sale process. For the information of the Deputy, the acquisition of the Group by the named company was approved by the Central Bank on 24 December 2010, under the relevant regulations. The transaction was completed on 7 January 2011.

Proposed Legislation

John O'Donoghue

Question:

83 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries (Unclaimed Winnings) Bill 2010 provisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3118/11]

I understand that the Deputy's Private Member's Bill to which he refers proposes that unclaimed winnings from betting, gaming and lottery activities would be transferred to a new "Unclaimed Prizes Fund" and available for disbursement by a new "Unclaimed Winnings Board" to support certain types of social programmes or projects and that the Bill also proposes to give certain powers and functions to the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in relation to such matters. I can inform the Deputy that, in the case of the National Lottery, arrangements are already in place in relation to unclaimed prizes, reflecting the terms of the licence under which the National Lottery is operated. Unclaimed prizes are set aside and, with approval, may be used from time to time to fund additional prizes in further games or draws.

In relation to betting, I understand that the amount of unclaimed winnings from bets placed with bookmakers' shops or on-course bookmakers is likely to be very small given the nature and profile of the industry and its consumers. In the case of bets placed with remote or internet bookmakers, I understand that the issue of unclaimed winnings is unlikely to arise, as a person's account with a given bookmaker is automatically credited in a situation where the bet has been successful.

Departmental Correspondence

Finian McGrath

Question:

84 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine and support a matter (details supplied). [3121/11]

I have noted the further comments included in the details supplied with the Deputy's question.

National Procurement Service

Michael McGrath

Question:

85 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the contract for the supply of stationery and office supplies as advertised by the National Procurement Service; his views on the economic fall-out arising from the consequences of the contract for small and medium-sized stationery suppliers around the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3150/11]

The National Procurement Service (NPS) is currently engaged in a tender process for the procurement of Stationery and Office Supplies. This process is now at evaluation stage. No award has yet been made to any party. The NPS is anxious to support SMEs, and to this end included the following text in the Request for tender (RFT) of the Stationery and Office Supplies tender. It was felt that this strategy would enable SMEs participate in the process.

"NPS policy seeks to encourage participation by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in this Competition. SMEs that believe the scope of this Competition is beyond their technical or business capacity are encouraged to explore the possibilities of forming relationships with other SMEs or with larger enterprises. Through such relationships they can participate and contribute to the successful implementation of any contracts, agreements or arrangements that result from this Competition and therefore increase their social and economic benefits. Larger enterprises are also encouraged to consider the practical ways that SMEs can be included in their proposals to maximise the social and economic benefits of the contracts that result from this tendering exercise

The division of this tender into three distinct lots has also increased the possibilities for SMEs to tender individually, or form consortia that can enter competitive bids to win this State contract. Utilising this approach has significantly increased the potential opportunities for Irish SMEs to compete in this tender process.

It should be noted, however, that aggregating demand for a contract of this size, for low risk low value goods can yield substantial cost and administrative savings for the Exchequer as well as minimising legal exposure to the State, particularly in light of the recently transposed Remedies Directive.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

86 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding stamp duty (details supplied). [3151/11]

As the Deputy is aware, I announced in Budget 2011 a major reform of the charge to Stamp Duty on residential property transactions, which applies to all instruments executed on or after 8 December 2010. These changes have simplified the system by lowering the rates applicable and abolishing a number of exemptions and reliefs. The changes in rates are as follows:

Stamp Duty rates on transfers of residential property up to 7 December 2010

Aggregate Consideration

Rate of Duty

First €125,000

0%

Next €875,000 (up to €1m)

7%

Excess over €1,000,000

9%

New Stamp Duty rates on transfers of residential property from 8 December 2010

Aggregate Consideration

Rate of Duty

First €1,000,000

1%

Excess over €1,000,000

2%

In order to broaden the tax base, a number of reliefs and exemptions have been abolished as follows:

First Time Buyer's Relief;

Relief from Stamp Duty on new houses under 125 sq metres;

Reduced Stamp Duty on new houses over 125 sq metres

Consanguinity relief in respect of residential property transfers;

Exemption for residential property valued under €127,000; and

Site to child relief.

There is also a transitional measure in place, for circumstances where the effect of these changes is to increase the Stamp Duty payable on the transaction. Stamp Duty can be paid under the old regime where a binding contract is in place before 8 December 2010 and the instrument is executed before 1 July 2011.

Accordingly, if the case to which the Deputy refers satisfies these conditions, Stamp Duty can be paid under the old rates, if this would result in a lower liability. If further clarification by reference to an actual case is required, this can be obtained by presenting the Revenue Commissioners, Dublin Stamping District, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 with the exact details of the disposal and execution of the instrument.

Financial Services Regulation

Denis Naughten

Question:

87 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the response he received from the Financial Regulator on foot of an investigation (details supplied) requested by his predecessor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3165/11]

I am advised that this question involves a case where an individual made representations to the then Minister for Finance in regard to a dispute he was having with a regulated financial entity. The matter was referred to the then Financial Regulator who, I understand, referred the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman. I further understand that the Financial Services Ombudsman made a ruling on the matter.

My function, as Minister for Finance, is to put in place an appropriate legislative framework for regulation of the financial services sector. It would not be appropriate for me to become involved in individual disputes. At no point did the then Minister for Finance commission an investigation into the matter. Rather, he referred the matter to the relevant competent authority for appropriate follow-up action. The Financial Regulator confirmed to my Department that the matter was dealt with appropriately and in accordance with its regulatory remit.

Tax Code

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he proposes to examine the impact of budget 2011 on a number of section 23 beneficiaries given in some circumstances a wider economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3199/11]

I have sought to adopt a pragmatic and balanced approach to this issue. The measures announced in the Budget were targeted solely at passive investors and would restrict the use of and carry forward of capital allowances and limit Section 23 relief to income from the individual Section 23 property. Since the Budget, my officials have been engaged in a consultation process with various groups who have made representations in relation to the proposals. I have considered the various views received and full details of the Government's decision in relation to the issue will be set out in the Finance Bill.

Tax Collection

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

89 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance notwithstanding his reply to previous parliamentary questions in the matter, the way it can be determined that a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is deemed not eligible for refund of interest paid to lending institutions on foot of money borrowed to meet capital gains tax requirements set out by the Revenue Commissioners, which was subsequently abandoned due to failure of contract given that the person was without use of funds to the extent of €700,000 interest during the period in question; if these issues can now be reconsidered in view of the serious penalty imposed on the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3200/11]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer, in this case, borrowed money to pay a Capital Gains Tax liability that arose from a disposal that was covered by a contract dated 24 March 2004. At the time the sale was due to close the purchaser withdrew from it and forfeited the deposits paid. Revenue received confirmation that the contract was rescinded on 24 March 2009. As a result of this, the Capital Gains Tax liability was recalculated to reflect the actual consideration received and a refund of Capital Gains Tax was made on 7 July 2009. There is no legislative basis whereby a taxpayer can receive a payment through the tax system to meet the cost of interest he paid on borrowings to meet a Capital Gains Tax liability.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

90 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in her Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in her Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in her Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3008/11]

The primary aim of the programme of agency rationalisation within the health sector is to streamline service delivery, professional registration and policy making in a number of areas, through the integration and/or amalgamation of functions. The rationalisation programme involves a significant legislative programme and a considerable amount of work is ongoing in this area at present and considerable progress has been made in implementing the programme. In parallel, discussions with the agencies concerned are ongoing with a view to progressing the programme.

Efficiencies will derive over time from economies of scale and the elimination of duplication in areas such as recruitment, procurement, payroll and ICT systems. Savings also arise from the dissolution of Agency Boards, some of which attracted payment of travel and subsistence and /or Board fees.

With regard to staff numbers all staff employed by an Agency prior to rationalisation transfer to the employee of the receiving Agency. A reduction in numbers employed will only arise when staff leave on expiry of a contract at some future date or in the case of permanent staff reach retirement age.

The progress to date is as follows. The Women's Health Council was integrated into the Department of Health and Children on 1st October 2009. The Post Graduate Medical & Dental Board was successfully rationalised into the HSE on 1st January, 2009. The National Council on Aging & Older People was successfully subsumed into the Department of Health and Children in 2009. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency was subsumed into HSE in January 2010. The Drug Treatment Centre has a current target date for the merger of 1st March 2011. Legalisation is required to facilitate the rationalization of the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council, the National Social Work Qualifications Board and the Opticians Board into the Health & Social Care Professionals Council. It is envisaged that the legislation will be finalised during 2011.

The Government approved the inclusion of provisions in the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 to disestablish the Children Acts Advisory Board (CAAB) and to subsume some of its functions into the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on an administrative basis. The Bill was published on 16th September 2009 and completed report Stage in Seanad Éireann on 6th May 2010 and then completed Committee Stage on 11th November 2010. 6 staff members have been seconded to the Department of Health and Children with effect from 8 February 2010. This position will continue until the legislation is passed.

The National Cancer Screening Service has been integrated into the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme with effect from 1st April 2010. The dissolution of the National Cancer Registry and the transfer of its staff to the HSE will be dealt with under the Health Information Bill and is likely to be subsumed in the first quarter 2011.

The new Nurses and Midwives Bill was published on 22nd April 2010. The Bill provides for the dissolution for the National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery, and the transfer of the staff assets and liabilities to An Bord Altranais. Following enactment of the Bill, the Minister will commence a section which dissolves the Council and transfers staff etc. The Office of Tobacco Control was merged into the HSE on 1st January 2011. The Government has agreed to the retention of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Irish Medicines Board as independent stand-alone agencies.

Health Service Staff

Noel Coonan

Question:

91 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to reinstate a community welfare officer to an area (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if the officer will be reinstated this month; the reason this has not happened to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3036/11]

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

Health Services

Noel Coonan

Question:

92 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in north Tipperary waiting to receive speech and language therapy; the average length of time waiting; the number of therapists in the constituency; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3037/11]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Finian McGrath

Question:

93 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [3047/11]

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

Prescription Charges

Mary Upton

Question:

94 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the prescription charge should be applied twice to the same medication (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3049/11]

Section 59 of the Health Act 1970, as amended by the Health (Amendment) (No.2) Act 2010, provides for a charge of 50 cent per item supplied to medical cardholders by community pharmacists. The charges are subject to a cap of €10 per month for each person or family.

Health Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

95 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the level of paediatric diabetes service in County Donegal and the reason there is not a clinical nurse specialist in paediatric diabetes, in view of the fact there currently are more than 130 diagnosed children under 18 years with type 1 diabetes and noting that best practice and Health Service Executive guidelines dictate that there should be one clinical nurse specialist per 100 children diagnosed; her plans to follow best practice in this instance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3051/11]

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

Health Service Properties

Noel Ahern

Question:

96 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding requests made to the Health Service Executive as landlord of a sports club (details supplied); if the HSE will now grant approval to the bank of the sports club to commence loan; if approval will be given soon as the club is paying overdraft rates for months. [3055/11]

Management of the Health Service Executive property portfolio is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Charges

Noel Ahern

Question:

97 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the services organised and provided for medical card holders; if all services should be provided free; the reason a €60 charge is being levied for a dexa scan in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; if same should be free even if arranged within the private clinic by public services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3056/11]

A person with full eligibility who opts to be treated as a public patient in a public hospital should not be charged. As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

98 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [3064/11]

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

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

99 Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will add Crohn’s disease to the lifelong illness list as there is no cure for this disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3076/11]

There are no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme. Under the Drugs Payment Scheme no individual or family pays more than €120 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Sean Fleming

Question:

100 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Laois will receive an appointment to see a consultant in Portlaoise General Hospital, County Laois [3078/11]

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

Hospital Services

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

101 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene in a serious situation in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, where a closed ward is being used as a canteen thus contributing to a bed shortage resulting in additional pressures on accident and emergency facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3086/11]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

102 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having a person (details supplied) in County Cork with a disability assessed without delay for a specific item. [3087/11]

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

Community Care

Denis Naughten

Question:

103 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 105 and 106 of 12 February 2009 and 222 of 6 May 2009, the position regarding the issues raised; the breakdown of the figures in the primary community continuing care areas where waiting lists apply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3088/11]

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

Patient Statistics

John O'Donoghue

Question:

104 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who died from flu in Ireland in 2010. [3099/11]

John O'Donoghue

Question:

105 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who died from flu in County Kerry in 2010. [3100/11]

John O'Donoghue

Question:

106 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have died from flu in Ireland in 2011. [3101/11]

John O'Donoghue

Question:

107 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons from County Kerry who have died from flu in 2011. [3102/11]

John O'Donoghue

Question:

112 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the confirmed number of swine flu cases that have arisen in County Kerry in 2010 and in 2011. [3114/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 to 107, inclusive, and 112 together.

As this is a service matter the questions have been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Services

John O'Donoghue

Question:

108 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the current status of the Kenmare Community Hospital, County Kerry; the expected time line for its construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3104/11]

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

General Practitioner Services

John O'Donoghue

Question:

109 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the SouthDoc service in County Kerry; the services provided; the locations served; the overnight services provided and if any plans exist to expand the service. [3106/11]

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

Hospital Services

John O'Donoghue

Question:

110 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of unused surgical beds in Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3111/11]

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

John O'Donoghue

Question:

111 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the main door has been locked at St. Finian’s Hospital, County Kerry, on several days recently; if measures are being introduced to reverse this decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3113/11]

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

Question 112 answered with Question No. 104.

Public Service Agreements

Paul Connaughton

Question:

113 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not permitted to retire under the Croke Park agreement as opposed to retiring under the cost neutral method which appears to be the only option open to the person and other long serving colleagues; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that if the applicant retired on the only option open to the person at present he or she would lose almost €10,000; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that the retirement of long service nurses would provide an employment boost for younger nurses at a much lower salary base; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3130/11]

The Public Service Agreement provides that, where the circumstances require it, the Government may offer voluntary mechanisms to exit the public service generally, or in specific sectors, bodies, locations or services. In late 2010 the Government approved a targeted voluntary early retirement (VER) scheme and a voluntary redundancy (VR) scheme for staff in the management and administrative and general support staff categories in the public health service. The schemes were not targeted at those providing front-line services. I have no plans at this stage of introducing such a scheme in respect of nursing or other frontline services.

A critical part of the Government's strategy to restore the public finances is to achieve sustainability in the cost of delivering public services relative to State revenues. The proposal raised by the Deputy is not feasible given the current financial position as the pension costs and ongoing salary costs arising would not deliver the necessary level of savings.

The National Recovery Plan provides for an ongoing reduction in health sector employment of at least 1,500 in each of the four years (2011-2014) with consequential payroll savings. It is recognised that the employment controls impact on newly qualified nurses obtaining employment. However, the only way to ensure we have a sustainable health service in the future is to take firm action now to address the budgetary imbalance.

Public Sector Pay

James Reilly

Question:

114 Deputy James Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a breakdown of the money spent on non-core pay, such as premium, overtime and allowance in 2010 in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3139/11]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the Health Service Executive is set out in the table below. This information is set out in the 2011 National Service Plan and is a forecast outturn figure for both statutory and voluntary providers which is subject to verification and audit. Final figures for the statutory sector will be available in the Annual Financial Statements of the HSE which are currently being prepared. Whilst the Annual Financial Statements of the Executive will not provide a pay analysis for the voluntary sector, these are subject to separate verification and audit in the accounts of the voluntary providers.

2010 Forecast Outturn

€m

Overtime

280

Allowances

165

On-Call

91

Weekend / Public Holiday

260

Night Shift

101

Locum / Agency

152

In relation to the Department of Health and Children and the Office for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, expenditure of €0.202m and €0.248m was incurred in 2010 in relation to overtime and allowances respectively. In relation to the agencies directly funded by my Department, information in relation to non-core pay is not collected as a matter of course and is not readily available.

Health Services

Mary Upton

Question:

115 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will be provided with a double orthopaedic bed as recommended by Health Service Executive staff. [3140/11]

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

Michael McGrath

Question:

116 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding dental work required by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3141/11]

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

Medical Cards

Michael McGrath

Question:

117 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3145/11]

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

Vaccination Programme

Michael McGrath

Question:

118 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider a request for a cervical cancer vaccine in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3148/11]

The national HPV vaccination programme commenced in May 2010 in secondary schools for girls in first year. All girls currently in second year and those who entered first year in September 2010 have been offered vaccination. The programme will continue with the vaccine being offered to all girls in first year in secondary school each year. It is not proposed to extend the vaccination programme to other classes at present. Unfortunately it will not be possible to refund the costs of vaccinations administered privately.

Health Services

Pat Breen

Question:

119 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an application will be determined in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3164/11]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

120 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [3168/11]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

121 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [3169/11]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will have their case for orthodontic treatment reinstated in view of the fact that they were approved in 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3217/11]

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

State Airports

Pat Breen

Question:

123 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 489 of 12 January 2011, when these discussions will be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2997/11]

The position, as previously advised, is that the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) is in active discussions with the Lynx Group regarding the air cargo project at Shannon Airport. I understand from the DAA that they are not in a position to indicate when precisely these discussions will be concluded.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

124 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3012/11]

To date nine bodies under the remit of my Department have been rationalised in order to improve their effectiveness. The Dublin Transportation Office was absorbed into the National Transport Authority on 1st December 2009. The Commission for Taxi Regulation was also subsumed into the Authority on 1st January 2011.

Eight Harbour Authorities established under the Harbours Act 1946, (Sligo, Annagassan, River Moy, Youghal, Kilrush, Wexford and Westport) have been transferred to local authority control and Dingle has been designated a Fishery Harbour Centre. There are five remaining Harbour Authorities under the Harbours Act 1946. I expect that further transfers will take place in 2011.

In line with the McCarthy Report proposals, I have decided to merge the National Roads Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency. This will be progressed during 2011. It is also my intention to amalgamate the Commission for Aviation Regulation and the regulatory functions of the Irish Aviation Authority with the National Transport Authority.

The net effect will be that the number of State Agencies under the remit of my Department will be reduced substantially and in a manner that will ensure the enhanced efficiency in the delivery of transport services. It will take some years for the full benefits of rationalisation to be achieved. The table lists the funding provided by the Department towards the general administrative expenses for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010.

General Administrative Expenses

State Body

2008

2009

2010

€million

€million

€million

Railway Procurement Agency

11.0

10.6

10.1

National Roads Authority

16.3

15.9

14.5

Dublin Transportation Office*

1.1

1.0

Nil

National Transport Authority**

3.7

Commission for Taxi Regulation***

Nil

Nil

Nil

Commission for Aviation Regulation

Nil

Nil

Nil

Irish Aviation Authority

Nil

Nil

Nil

Arklow Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Nil

Nil

Baltimore Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Nil

Nil

Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Nil

Nil

Kinsale Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Nil

Nil

Tralee and Fenit and Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Nil

Nil

Wexford Harbour Commissioners

Nil

Nil

Nil

*Abolished 1 December 2009.

**Established 1 December 2009.

***Subsumed into the National Transport Authority 1 January 2011.

Air Services

John O'Donoghue

Question:

125 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Transport if the public service obligation contract arrangements for Kerry Airport will be expedited given the cancelling of the PSO contract that was due to run to July 2011 by a company (details supplied) and the notice that 20 staff at the airport are facing redundancy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3119/11]

All the current Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts for services linking Dublin Airport with the regional airports at Derry, Donegal, Sligo, Ireland West Airport Knock, Galway and Kerry Airports commenced on 22 July 2008 and are due to expire on 21 July 2011. The Value for Money (VFM) Review of Exchequer Expenditure on the regional airports programme has been considered by Government and was published on 12 January last.

Having considered the conclusions and recommendations of the Review, the Government has agreed to support the continuation of a Public Service Obligation (PSO) route between Donegal and Dublin and between Kerry and Dublin. The necessary work will now commence involving the European Commission for the PSOs to Kerry and Donegal. Once approved, specifications for the services will be settled and arrangements will be put in place for a tender competition in respect of these two routes. In line with EU rules it is anticipated that this process will take up to 6 months.

Public Private Partnership

Joe Costello

Question:

126 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the number of public private partnership contracts in which service commenced in each of the past five years; the future financial commitment of the State in each case; the total annual payments by the State; if extra payments have been paid by the State to date arising from any term of the contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3176/11]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21 while the implementation of individual national road projects, including Public Private Partnership schemes, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA). I should further clarify that the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads, is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

Road Network

Joe Costello

Question:

127 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport his policy on the tolling of roads and bridges; the number of roads tolled and the annual income in each case; his plans for further tolling on existing roads including the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3180/11]

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The planning, design and implementation of individual national road projects is in the first instance a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007. In addition, the allocation of funding in relation to the construction or maintenance of national roads is a matter for the NRA under Section 19 of the Roads Act, I should further clarify that the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

Proposed Legislation

John Cregan

Question:

128 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to allow persons the opportunity to pay any fine imposed on them by way of instalments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3083/11]

The Fines Act 2010 includes provision for the payment of fines by instalment. Section 15, when commenced, will allow a person on whom a fine has been imposed to make an application to the court to pay a fine in this way. It will be possible to pay a fine over a period of 12 months and exceptionally, over a 2 year period. I will commence these provisions as soon as necessary enhancements have been made to the Courts Service ICT system. Section 14 of the Act has however been commenced with effect from 4 January, 2011. This requires the court to take into account the person's financial circumstances before determining the amount of the fine, if any, to be imposed.

Pension Provisions

Pearse Doherty

Question:

129 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will introduce equity in pension entitlements between members of An Garda Síochána who left the force prior to 1 October 1976 and civil servants who left the public service prior to 1 June 1973 all of whom had five years service in view of the inequity in respect of former members of An Garda Síochána arising from the three years and four months advantage enjoyed by former members of the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3163/11]

The preservation of Garda superannuation benefits was agreed with the Garda Representative Bodies at the Garda Conciliation and Arbitration Council. Agreed Report 218 records this agreement and sets an effective date of 1 October, 1976. The Agreed Report did not make provision in respect of members who resigned prior to 1 October, 1976. There are, currently, no proposals to amend the pension regulations in this matter.

Garda Operations

Martin Ferris

Question:

130 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he has contacted his British counterparts in relation to the disclosure that a British undercover policeman (details supplied) was operating in this jurisdiction for several years. [3183/11]

Martin Ferris

Question:

137 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if the Garda was aware that a person (details supplied), a member of the British police force, was operating here as an undercover agent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3178/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 137 together.

I am aware of reports which have appeared in relation to the activities of the person in question. I can assure the Deputy that, as with any other individual, the person in question for so long as he may have been here would have been completely subject to our laws. Any person who may have information that the person in any way contravened those laws should make that information available to the appropriate authorities.

In view of the reports which have appeared I have sought a report from the Garda authorities in relation to any relevant information which is available on the activities of the person in question and when I have received that report I will consider whether, and what, further action may be necessary. I am also aware of reports that a series of investigations are under way in the United Kingdom in relation to the activities of this person. I should add that I am informed that the Department of Foreign Affairs has contacted the British Embassy about the reports which have appeared seeking clarification of the matter.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

131 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3009/11]

The Deputy will be aware that, as part of Budget 2009, a number of measures were agreed for my Department under the heading of Rationalisation of State Agencies. I can inform the Deputy that these measures insofar as they relate to my Department have been completed.

I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to my Department's long standing shared services approach for the delivery of IT, financial and human resources services to the Department and its agencies and associated bodies. This strategy, which has been in place for many years, has allowed my Department and our associated agencies in the Justice Group to benefit from significant economies of scale and other efficiencies. The shared service approach adopted by my Department is fully consistent with the November 2008Report of the Task Force on the Public Service which recommended greater use of a shared service approach for the delivery of services in the public sector. I might also add that the Department provides payroll and other financial services not only to organisations in the Justice Group but to other Government Departments and bodies.

TheReport of the Special Group on Public Sector Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (“McCarthy Report”) observed that there are “already some well-developed examples of the use of shared services across the Justice Group” citing my Department’s Financial Shared Services and IT Shared Service. The Department continues to keep the shared services approach under review with a view to achieving additional efficiencies and, where possible, extending the services to other bodies and agencies.

Garda Operations

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

132 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will make additional resources available to the gardaí at Tallaght, Dublin 24, to allow them to deal effectively with crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if he will appreciate the concern of the local community in respect of these matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3060/11]

The allocation of resources, including personnel, in the Garda Síochána is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and senior Garda management. I have however, been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Tallaght Garda Station and Tallaght Garda District, which cover the area referred to by the Deputy, on the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 199 and 275 respectively.

The area in question is regularly patrolled by uniformed and plain clothes members of the Mountain Bike, Community Policing, detective and other units in the Garda Síochána. There is also close liaison between Community gardaí and local community representatives and organisations. The specific needs of the area are continually monitored and reviewed by local Garda Management so that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible service is provided to the general public.

Garda Strength

Paul Kehoe

Question:

133 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of Garda superintendents who have retired in the past three years; the number of these posts that have been filled by permanent appointments and the number by acting appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3085/11]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number of members of An Garda Síochána of Superintendent Rank who have retired since 1 January 2008 are outlined below.

Voluntary Retirements

Compulsory Retirements

Total

2008

2

10

12

2009

25

1

26

2010

11

3

14

2011

Nil

Nil

Total

52

Positions at Superintendent level are not filled by ‘acting up'. In some cases, Inspectors are nominated to perform certain duties which they are empowered to do. The number of members at Superintendent rank, on the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 169.

Decentralisation Programme

Denis Naughten

Question:

134 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when the decentralisation to the new PRA offices in Roscommon town will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3089/11]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the new offices of the Property Registration Authority (PRA) in Roscommon Town have opened and that 76 staff who had been in temporary accommodation have moved into the building. Further staff will follow in due course.

Road Safety

Finian McGrath

Question:

135 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied) regarding HGV vehicles. [3171/11]

I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the information is available.

Coroners Service

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

136 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will list all coroners here; the number of inquests they presided over in the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; the amount each coroner was paid in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3175/11]

Details of coroners, the districts that they serve and their caseloads in 2007, 2008 and 2009 are published on the website —www.coroners.ie. Coroners are independent office holders and funded through the local authorities. Returns for 2010 have been sought by my Department and it is hoped to have these published on the website towards the end of February. Figures to date in 2011 are not yet available.

The payments made to coroners by local authorities in 2007, 2008 and 2009 are set out on the table. Payments to coroners are on a fee per item basis and cover not only inquests (€522.97 per case), but cases in respect of deaths reported which do not proceed to post mortem or inquest (€129.68 per case), and cases involving post mortems only (€188.54 per case). They also incorporate annual retainers paid to cover the costs of staffing, accommodation and general office costs.

Area

2007

2008

2009

Carlow

48,867.02

47,371.14

45,019.25

Cavan

64,371.03

58,010.67

65,544.12

Clare

97,423.42

107,804.92

86,781.03

Cork South

73,303.33

65,425.61

72,868.00

Cork North

80,092.71

82,827.16

90,823.56

Cork West

46,051.35

49,650.13

45,195.91

Cork City

257,229.54

297,104.06

275,055.53

Donegal SW

25,627.34

30,295.51

30,692.16

Donegal NE

16,573.13

27,737.93

28,582.34

Donegal NW

49,249.52

60,736.47

71,201.71

Donegal SE

23,933.50

29,399.04

31,954.17

Dublin County

422,406.16

476,537.92

506,464.91

Dublin City

328,534.66

332,356.15

351,135.39

Galway North

23,490.40

27,992.92

26,481.96

Galway West

120,730.45

135,937.02

129,585.74

Galway East

80,130.08

84,536.16

75,647.28

Kerry North

*

*

25,136.53

Kerry SE

39,119.18

47,696.41

45,966.20

Kerry West

*

*

60,110.31

Kildare

108,780.71

119,429.32

117,427.90

Kilkenny

57,220.45

71,697.24

46,113.90

Leitrim

38,911.34

32,691.02

37,129.26

Laois

51,444.13

52,443.44

52,708.47

Limerick SE

81,393.53

89,175.15

91,370.38

Limerick West

*

*

26,499.90

Limerick City

26,100.22

32,262.16

25,265.27

Longford

23,686.91

36,145.31

35,324.91

Louth

107,925.32

114,445.98

113,971.86

Mayo East

20,878.54

17,479.79

20,116.62

Mayo South

87,868.73

91,621.29

94,645.44

Mayo North

32,868.58

31,546.52

27,481.00

Meath

60,705.95

74,508.10

92,250.12

Monaghan N

25,559.60

29,615.94

25,919.01

Monaghan S

24,532.52

25,226.12

28,028.83

Offaly

51,439.75

55,367.62

62,424.62

Roscommon

50,469.61

70,888.34

50,596.28

Sligo

81,204.32

79,561.72

81,053.71

Tipperary NR

30,342.94

38,943.06

Amalgamated with Tipp West

Tipperary SR

38,685.13

60,147.72

69,494.02

Tipperary East

22,990.95

31,395.77

49,015.44

Waterford East

27,661.06

32,173.52

31,146.19

Waterford West

16,998.56

20,808.89

22,754.60

Waterford City

49,106.88

52,700.13

54,549.34

Westmeath

61,671.71

73,188.26

69,310.67

Wexford North

41,264.73

27,758.77

53,354.35

Wexford South

52,236.74

74,904.95

50,853.99

Wicklow West

24,387.40

24,709.43

25,309.01

Wicklow East

56,723.04

53,256.20

55,860.92

*Returns awaited.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 130.

Prison Staff

Denis Naughten

Question:

138 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 259 of 16 December 2010, his plans to recruit electricians within the prison system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3188/11]

I am informed by the Director-General of the Irish Prison Service that there are no plans at present to seek the recruitment of electricians for the Prison Service, as the requirement for electricians is adequately met by the resources currently available. The Deputy will also be aware that the Irish Prison Service is subject to the operation of Government Decision S180/20/10/0964C of 3 February and 24 March 2009 on the implementation of savings measures on public service numbers, more generally referred to as the moratorium on public sector recruitment; and is also operating within the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, more generally referred to as the Croke Park agreement. Any future requirement to recruit electricians to the Prison Service will be addressed in the context of these agreements.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if family reunification will be allowed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose guardian in the person’s homeland has passed away and whose well-being may be under threat; if arrangements can be made to facilitate reunification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3193/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that family reunification is permitted only in cases involving persons who have been granted either refugee status or subsidiary protection, and the person to whom he refers is not in this category. As I have informed the Deputy on many previous occasions, the granting of permission to remain under the revised arrangements for the non-EEA parents of children born in the State prior to 1 January, 2005, known as the IBC/05 Scheme, does not confer any entitlement or legitimate expectation on any other person, whether related to the person granted permission or not, to enter the State. All applicants to the Scheme signed an undertaking to this effect both in 2005 and on renewal in 2007. I should add that while the circumstances of this individual case, as outlined by the Deputy, are a matter of concern to me, more detailed information is required from the mother of the child concerned. I should also point out that it would appear to be open to her to return to Nigeria to take care of her daughter.

If the Deputy wishes to provide additional information I would remind him 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3194/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to is the subject of a Family Reunification application made in March 2009. I am further informed that INIS will be writing out to the legal representative of the person referred to shortly. INIS are also currently awaiting an inter-departmental report which once received will form part of the consideration of the application.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct 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.

Decentralisation Programme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if civil servants at various levels seeking to relocate to an area closer to their homes can or will be facilitated in instances where a person in their own Department or alternative Department is willing to transfer to their location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3197/11]

I am advised by the Human Resources Division of my Department that, in general, requests for "head-to-head" transfers are dealt with sympathetically, having due regard to the various protocols and arrangements in place to deal with transfers in the Civil Service. Where a "head-to-head" transfer involves another Government Department, both Departments must be satisfied as to the suitability of the transferees, with particular reference to their respective performance and attendance records.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the progress to date in the determination of residency or family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3205/11]

I refer the Deputy to my previous replies to Parliamentary Questions in this matter. I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to is the subject of a Family Reunification application made in April 2010. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. The investigation was completed in June 2010 and a report was forwarded to INIS. The application will be considered by INIS and a decision will issue in due course.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if the serious health conditions of a person’s child was taken into account when determining the residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; if compassionate or humanitarian circumstances were taken into account or will be taken into account; if he will defer any further action in the case to facilitate urgent hospitalisation requirements in respect of the child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3206/11]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his Parliamentary Question No. 540 of Wednesday, 12 January 2011, in this matter. The position in the State of the persons concerned is as set out in that Reply. The Deputy should note that all cases are considered on their individual merits and this will also apply in the cases of the persons concerned. The Deputy may be assured that all representations submitted for consideration, including those of a medical nature, will be carefully considered before a final decision is taken.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if the period of residency here and all other personal circumstances have been considered in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3207/11]

As the name of the person referred to by the Deputy does not match the reference number supplied, it is not possible to provide the information sought at this time. However, information on the particular case the Deputy is referring to will be provided if he supplies my Department with the correct name and reference number.

In that context 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent to which a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2 has permission to remain, study and-or work part-time; if required update of documentation is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3208/11]

I have been informed that the person referred to by the Deputy currently has permission to remain in the State on student conditions until 13 June 2011. Students who have a Certificate of Registration showing Stamp 2 from the Garda National Immigration Bureau are entitled to work 20 hours per week during college term and 40 hours per week during holidays. Students are entitled to remain in the State for the duration of their studies. Their permission to stay in the State is temporary and they would be expected on completion of their courses to leave the State.

Non-EEA students do not derive from this status permission to reside in the State beyond the duration of their studies. In particular, the period of time they spend in the State on student status does not count towards the qualifying criteria for long term residence or naturalisation as an Irish citizen.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if consideration has been given to the welfare and well-being in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo whom it is proposed to deport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3209/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent to which personal circumstances and potential threat to life and well-being in a person’s homeland was examined in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if human rights and humanitarian issues feature in any such evaluation; if the circumstances will warrant further review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3210/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.

I am satisfied that the application for asylum made by the persons concerned was fairly and comprehensively examined before decisions to refuse were arrived at. I am equally satisfied that the representations they submitted for consideration under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), together with all refoulement issues, were given the fullest consideration before the Deportation Orders were made. This being the case, the decision to deport them is justified.

There remains the option of applying to me for revocation of the Deportation Orders pursuant to the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended. However I wish to make clear that such an application would require substantial grounds to be successful.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the case history to date in the determination of residency in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3211/11]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 21 March 2007. Following investigation by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, it was established that the person concerned had previously made an asylum application in France and, as such, a determination was made that the person concerned should be transferred to France for the purposes of having his asylum application examined there. This determination was upheld following an appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Consequently, a Transfer Order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 1 May 2007. This Order was served on the person concerned which placed a legal obligation on him to present himself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), on Wednesday, 16 May 2007 to make arrangements for his formal transfer to France. The person concerned failed to ‘present' on this occasion and was therefore classified as having ‘evaded' his transfer. The person concerned became illegally resident in this State at that time.

The person concerned continued to evade his transfer with the consequence that the Transfer Order expired leaving Ireland responsible for processing his asylum application. At this point the case of the person concerned was referred back to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner for the purposes of having his asylum claims investigated. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 24 April 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3212/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in February 2010. The application is being processed in the normal way with a view to establishing whether the applicants meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision in due course.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct 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.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the procedures to date and yet to be followed in connection with an application for update and residency status, Garda National Immigration Bureau card, leave to remain or naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3213/11]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to his Parliamentary Question, No. 998 of Wednesday, 29th September, 2010 in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned. The Deputy should note that it is only in circumstances were permission to remain has been granted, that a Garda National Immigration Bureau card would be issued to a person.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when an updated Garda National Immigration Bureau card will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3214/11]

The Deputy should note that my Department has no record of the person concerned being granted permission to remain in the State. It is only in circumstances where permission to remain has been granted, that a Garda National Immigration Bureau card would be issued to a person.

The position in relation to the person concerned is that he applied for asylum on 18 April 2006. Following investigation by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, it was established that the person concerned had previously made an asylum application in Germany and, as such, a determination was made, in accordance with the provisions of the Dublin II Regulations, that the person concerned should be transferred to Germany for the purposes of having his asylum application examined there. Consequently, a Transfer Order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 14 July 2006. This Order was subsequently served on the person concerned, by letter dated 17 July 2006, which placed a legal obligation on him to ‘present' himself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), on Monday 24 July 2006, to make arrangements for his formal transfer to Germany. The person concerned failed to ‘present' on this occasion and was therefore classified as having ‘evaded' his transfer. The person concerned became illegally resident in this State at that time.

The person concerned continued to evade his transfer with the consequence that the Transfer Order ultimately expired leaving Ireland responsible for processing the asylum application of the person concerned. At this point the case of the person concerned was referred back to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner for the purposes of having his asylum claims investigated. Subsequently, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a recommendation that the person concerned be refused a declaration of refugee status.

In accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 21 February 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006).

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. The person concerned submitted an application for re-admittance to the asylum process under Section 17(7) of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended). Following consideration of the evidence submitted the application was refused. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 14 April 2008.

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

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 331 of 24 November 2010, if a detailed examination of the application for residency and leave to remain has been fully undertaken in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3215/11]

The person referred to by the Deputy applied for Asylum on 5/12/2005. The claim was assessed by the Refugee Applications Commissioner who concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. The Commissioner's recommendation was communicated to her by letter dated16/1/2008. This communication advised the person of her entitlement to appeal the Commissioner’s recommendation to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which she duly did.

The Refugee Appeals Tribunal considered the person's appeal, following which the Tribunal affirmed the Commissioner's earlier recommendation to reject her claim. The outcome of the appeal was made known to the applicant by letter dated 12/1/2011. In accordance with normal procedures, the applicant's file has been forwarded to my Department's Ministerial Decisions Unit for final processing of the asylum claim. A letter will now issue to her from my Department advising her formally that her asylum claim has been rejected and affording her three options as follows:

1. Return home voluntarily

2. Consent to the making of a deportation order, or

3. Make written representations to me within 15 working days under Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 and/or make an application for subsidiary protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (SI No. 518 of 2006).

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the extent to which an application for family reunification has been completed in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W in view of the humanitarian issues involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3216/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy is the subject of a Family Reunification application made by her son in January 2010. The investigation has been completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to INIS. The application is currently under consideration by INIS. INIS are currently waiting for an inter-departmental report, upon receipt of same INIS will contact the applicant.

I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding an application for long-term residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if this file will be reviewed at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3232/11]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 546 of Wednesday 12 January, 2011 in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply. 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the expected status in the case of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3233/11]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 29 June 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

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

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 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 Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3234/11]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Replies to his Parliamentary Questions, No. 970 and 1090 of Wednesday, 29 September, 2010 in this matter. The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

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.

Passport Applications

Richard Bruton

Question:

157 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will review the policy of not returning passports which have been found (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3084/11]

As part of the policy to protect the integrity, security and international reputation of the Irish passport, all passports which are reported lost or stolen are immediately cancelled. This cancellation notice is circulated to worldwide border control agencies through Interpol on a daily basis. This policy equally applies to those passports which are found by third parties and returned to the Passport Service. The policy has been developed in accordance with EU regulations and our international obligations to other States in relation to lost and stolen passports.

In relation to this specific case, the Passport Service received the passport from a third party. As the Passport Service could not be certain as to who had possession of the passport immediately before it was found, the only option available was to cancel the passport and to notify this cancellation to Interpol. This is normal policy and, whereas it may unfortunately be inconvenient for the passport holder, it is necessary and essential to ensure that the passport has not been compromised in any way. It should also be noted that where a citizen has a poor passport record, such as in the case where two or more passports have been lost, restrictions will apply to the validity period of the next passport obtained. The general advice to citizens remains that passports are valuable documents and should be kept it in a safe place while at home and looked after carefully when travelling.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

158 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3007/11]

There are no State agencies operating under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

EU Policy

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent, if any, to which any particular diplomatic initiative is planned to address issues in the various EU member states arising from the ongoing economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3218/11]

Addressing the very considerable economic challenges which the Union currently faces is a top priority of the incoming Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which has identified economic growth, the creation of employment and the enhancement of the sustainable competitiveness of Europe for particular focus during the first half of 2011. Ireland, in common with our EU partners, shares this focus and is committed to realising this goal.

Addressing the economic situation and related matters have already featured on the agenda of the first ministerial meeting of the Hungarian Presidency, the informal meeting of Ministers for European Affairs on 13 and 14 January, as well as at the Euro Group meeting and Ecofin Council earlier this week. Right across the various EU fora, the ongoing economic situation is receiving priority attention. The most recent meeting of the European Council last month agreed on the Treaty change needed in order to establish a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area as a whole. A process of consultation is now underway with the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. It is intended that this Treaty amendment will be formally adopted at the March European Council, following this process of consultation.

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will replace the existing European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM). The December 2010 European Council also called for Finance Ministers of the euro area and the Commission to finalise work on the intergovernmental arrangement setting up the future ESM by March 2011, integrating the general features set out in the Eurogroup statement of 28 November 2010, which were endorsed by the European Council. Work on the elaboration of the ESM will be undertaken in a Eurozone working group.

Furthermore last month, euro area leaders affirmed that they stand ready to do whatever is required to ensure the stability of the euro area as a whole, including through the development over the coming months of a comprehensive response to any challenges to the stability of the euro area as a whole.

At the same time, work is continuing on the roll out of the first European Semester this spring, which is designed to integrate and strengthen various aspects of existing EU budgetary and macro-economic surveillance procedures, and to deliver greater ex ante coordination of economic policies and discussion of national fiscal policy intentions before they take the form of detailed budgetary proposals later in the year. This process sees Member States submitting their Stability and Convergence Programmes, under the Stability and Growth Pact, as well as their National Reform Programmes, under the Europe 2020 Strategy for jobs and growth, both during the spring. The Commission has in turn, earlier this month, published its first Annual Growth Survey for the EU, including analysis of recent performance and prospective developments at Member State level. This will inform subsequent consideration by the ECOFIN Council and the Spring European Council. Based on this work, the Council will identify the main economic challenges facing the EU and provide policy guidance.

Strengthening European economic governance is an issue to which the European Council has assigned very high priority over recent months, including through the establishment of a Task Force, chaired by European Council President Van Rompuy, to address this issue. The report of this Task Force was endorsed by the October 2010 European Council. The Commission also published a set of legislative proposals in September 2010, which complement the recommendations of the Van Rompuy Task Force, designed to strengthen the Stability and Growth Pact and to broaden the scope of economic surveillance.

Across each and every one of these and other EU fora, Ireland is engaging proactively with our EU partners as well as with the institutions, to ensure that the focus of the EU remains on how it can address this most pressing of issues — the ongoing economic situation.

Question No. 160 answered with question No. 30.

International Diplomacy

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he and his EU colleagues continue to take to establish and improve dialogue with Cuba; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3220/11]

Minister Martin met with the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parilla on 19 May 2010 during his visit to Dublin. During this meeting, a range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including EU-Cuba relations were discussed. At the Foreign Affairs Council in October 2010, Ministers considered developments in Cuba, including the release of political prisoners and the announcement of economic reform. The High Representative was tasked with exploring the future relationship between the EU and Cuba, and this process of review is ongoing. It is my view that there have been significant developments in Cuba over the last six months and merit a response on the EU side in order to advance our bilateral relationship and encourage further progress.

Foreign Conflicts

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding human rights and other issues in Darfur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3221/11]

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

The best hope for an improvement in the conditions facing the Darfuri population is a comprehensive, negotiated settlement between the Government of Sudan and rebel groups, as provided for by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 which brought to an end the North-South civil war in Sudan. The African Union and the United Nations, through the efforts of the joint UN-AU mediator, Djibril Bassolé, and the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, are active in facilitating talks between the parties to the Darfur conflict, hosted in Doha by the State of Qatar. While some progress was achieved in 2010 in bringing the larger rebel groups into the process, other armed groups remain outside the talks process, and progress on substantive issues has been slow.

Regrettably, the Government of Sudan temporarily suspended its participation in the Doha talks process at the end of last year, citing a lack of progress on political issues, although it has reaffirmed its commitment to reaching a comprehensive settlement. A priority must be the conclusion of cease-fire agreements on the ground between the Sudanese Government and the rebel groups as a prelude to substantive negotiations. I call on the rebel groups to engage genuinely in such negotiations and I call on the authorities in Khartoum to return to the talks table in Doha so that progress can be achieved in the interest of the people of Darfur. It is to be hoped that a positive outcome to the referendum process in Southern Sudan will contribute to a political environment in which this progress can be achieved.

In the meantime, Ireland, together with its EU partners, remains committed to supporting AU and UN efforts to reach a negotiated settlement in Darfur that will address all aspects of the conflict including the humanitarian and human rights situation, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have continued to monitor the situation in each of the African states currently affected by war, famine, human rights or genocide; the degree to which assistance is being delivered in such situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3222/11]

There are several countries in Africa which are suffering from conflict, food shortages, and human rights abuses, and some which have suffered genocide. The international community continues to intervene to address these issues on the African continent, whether on a bilateral or multilateral basis. With regard to the issue of hunger and famine, it is estimated that more than a billion people today do not have enough food. Ireland is responding to this challenge, working bilaterally in our Programme Countries with our EU partners and other donors, and at a global level through the UN agencies.

With regard to security, UN and EU peace-keeping missions in Africa have a role in stabilising former and current conflict zones. Since the 1960s members of the Irish Defence Forces have participated in numerous UN and EU peace-keeping missions in Africa, and continue to do so.

With regard to the thankfully rare cases of genocide, there are a number of current situations in Africa which give rise to continuing concern. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is mandated to alert the international community to the potential of genocide in a particular country or region, and to make recommendations on actions to prevent or halt genocide.

Active participation in multilateral organisations such as the EU and the UN, in particular the Human Rights Council, provides opportunities for Ireland to voice its concerns regarding human rights abuses. Through these organisations, international pressure can be brought to bear on those responsible for the violation of human rights.

In developing a sustainable approach which properly addresses the root causes of all these issues, and other problems, Ireland takes the view that African leadership and responsibility are crucial. This is recognised by the EU and UN, which are both working to build the capacities of African States and the African Union to respond to these challenges. Ireland is committed to playing its part in this work, and I believe that our comprehensive and inclusive approach to these challenges stands the best chance of facilitating real and positive change in the lives of millions of people in Africa.

Emigrant Support Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has had any discussion with authorities in the US in the matter of the undocumented Irish; if he has or intends to put forward any new initiatives to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3223/11]

Finding a solution for our undocumented citizens in the United States remains an important priority for this Government. The Government is also committed to working with our friends in Congress to enhance Ireland's bilateral visa arrangements with the US through the establishment of a two year renewable E-3 visa facility. The Government is encouraged by President Obama's continued commitment to resolving this issue — a view he shared when the Taoiseach and Minister Martin met him in Washington in March of last year. President Obama has since reiterated that commitment on a number of occasions and will make his State of the Union address on January 25th, when the administration's policy priorities are expected to be also outlined.

However, the outcome of the Congressional elections on 2 November presents significant new political challenges for immigration reform legislation. The failure of efforts to pass the limited DREAM Bill at the end of 2010 highlights the difficulties involved in passing any immigration legislation in the period ahead.

Senior officials of my Department had talks in Washington in late November, on the issue of Irish immigration to the US. They discussed the issue of the undocumented, the conditions in which Irish citizens are held prior to deportation, the operation of the existing working holiday visa programmes and possibilities for the political agreement on the immigration issues following the November elections.

Our Ambassador in Washington met this week with the incoming Chairs of the House Judiciary and Immigration Policy and Enforcement Committees. As both have just taken up their new role, the meetings provided an opportunity to re-iterate our position, in particular in relation to the undocumented and the E-3 type visa and to learn more about their plans for the Committees. These Committees have not yet been fully constituted and it is unlikely that there will be moves in the near-term to introduce significant immigration reform legislation.

My Department and our Embassy in Washington, in particular, will continue to maintain very close contact with the US Administration and Congress, as well as with Irish community advocates, to address this issue in the period ahead. Since 2006, the Government has provided a total support of $325,000 to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and in September of this year, I met with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres and the Irish Lobby for Immigration reform to discuss the prospects for reform.

I am very much aware of the difficulties confronting undocumented Irish citizens in the United States and the distress which both they and their families in the US and Ireland experience arising from their situation. I would urge anybody who might be tempted to follow in the footsteps of the undocumented to take account of their plight.

Middle East Peace Process

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent, if any, to which he and his EU colleagues continue to address the humanitarian issues in Gaza; the extent to which he and his EU colleagues continue to engage with the Israeli authorities in an effort to resolve these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3224/11]

The EU has continued to follow closely developments in relation to the blockade of Gaza following the announcement by Israel in June of a significant easing of the terms of the blockade. The measures to ease the blockade have, so far, proved inadequate and we need to see much greater action from Israel and more quickly, if conditions in Gaza are to be genuinely improved. The level of imports in the first week of January still only amounted to about one-third of the level of routine shipments before the blockade was imposed. Serious concerns remain about the overall volume of goods, severe restrictions on construction materials, and refusal to permit normal movement of persons. This is a process which the EU is watching closely.

The EU's continuing concern over the situation in Gaza was reiterated at last month's meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, which also, yet again, called for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing points for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons, to and from Gaza. Since all shipments into Gaza remain subject to Israeli security checking, the physical capacity of the three remaining crossing points is a significant constraint on supplies to Gaza. This problem will be exacerbated by reports of the likely closure of the conveyor belt at the former Karni crossing. Its closure without replacing its capacity elsewhere would further exacerbate shortages of construction materials and vital food supplies in the territory.

The final closure of Karni would leave only two crossings open between Israeli and Gaza — Erez for pedestrians and Kerem Shalom for goods. The closure would run contrary to recent efforts to improve access to Gaza and Israel's expressed intention to facilitate the resumption of exports from the territory. The resumption of exports is essential to Gaza's economic recovery. While I welcome the intended resumption of exports, I would urge the Israeli authorities to reconsider the closure of the Karni crossing. The closure will lead to further shortages and affect the lives of ordinary Gazans.

HR Ashton has continued to pay close attention to the situation in Gaza and raised the issue during her visit to the region at the start of January. The EU is also considering practical assistance to the Palestinian side to help increase capacity at the border crossings. Ireland will both bilaterally and in discussion with our EU colleagues ensure that attention remains on the problems of Gaza. While there has been some modest progress, it is very clear that much more needs to be done, and more quickly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the Middle East process; the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have addressed the issues arising on an ongoing basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3225/11]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to the Priority Question on the same issue on today's Order Paper, a transcript of which is below.

As Deputies are aware, the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks were suspended shortly after they began in September, following Israel's refusal to extend its partial freeze on settlement construction. The United States, as the convenor of the talks, engaged in a period of intensive engagement with the parties, and particularly Israel, to try and bring about a resumption of that freeze, and thus of the talks. The US view was that a period of intensive and committed engagement to negotiations on the final status issues, especially the issue of borders, could take the heat out of the settlement issue, and allow for further progress.

Regretfully, but in my view realistically, the US concluded in December that this approach was not going to succeed, both because the demands of Prime Minister Netanyahu in return for a renewal of the freeze were too high, and because there was a general lack of confidence that the time provided by a short extension to the freeze would be enough to make real progress.

Secretary Clinton has made clear that the US Administration remains firmly committed to the talks process, which is expected for the moment to continue by reverting to the proximity talks model. The US is also engaged in internal reflection, and consultation with other parties, including the EU, on what might be the next steps to move the process forward. The Quartet are also expected to meet shortly with the same object.

The priority objective of the EU is to support these efforts to restart the talks. Clearly, a final agreement can only come about through the two sides working through the key issues, with whatever assistance the international community can give. High Representative Ashton visited the region on 5-6 January to learn the views of both sides and encourage them to move forward, and the EU has also continued to discuss these issues with the US, with other Quartet members, and with other parties in the region. Ireland will remain actively engaged, both bilaterally in the region and within the EU, to support this process. We will also continue to work to highlight and improve the practical justice and humanitarian issues on the ground resulting from the continued Occupation.

Natural Disasters

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and the international community are able to respond more rapidly to natural or humanitarian disasters throughout the world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3226/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs if any review has taken place at EU or UN level to address the issue of a more immediate response and focus in respect of international disasters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3227/11]

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

The international humanitarian system has undergone significant reform since the Asian tsunami of 2004. Important lessons have been learned in the intervening period regarding the shortcomings of the response to that disaster and major steps have been taken to improve the effectiveness, predictability and accountability of the system as a whole. Ireland has played an important role in this process in practical, financial and policy terms.

Together with a number of other like-minded donor countries, we have worked particularly closely with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to put in place new systems to improve the way in which aid is delivered and to ensure that coordination on the ground is improved. Central to these efforts has been the establishment of the Cluster System, which brings together different aid agencies working in sectors such as shelter, nutrition, water and sanitation. The aim of this system is to minimise duplication and to provide for better information sharing between the agencies involved.

Another important development has been the establishment of the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which is a pool of funding held by the UN and which can be released within hours of a disaster. Ireland, which was one of the original advocates and drivers behind the creation of this fund, has contributed €76 million to it since 2006. Ireland also contributes substantially to a similar pooled funding mechanism run by the International Federation of the Red Cross known as the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). This provides immediate support to national Red Cross or Red Crescent societies in the aftermath of an emergency.

At EU level, there have also been a number of improvements in coordination between Member States and the European Commission, which between them make up the largest donor of development assistance in the world. The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, signed by the Presidents of the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission in December 2007 commits the EU to working closely together to provide an emergency response based on need and to upholding the principles of good humanitarian practice, namely humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality.

More recently, the European Commission has put forward a number of detailed proposals on ways in which to further strengthen the EU's disaster response capacity both inside and outside the Union, including through the development of an EU Emergency Response Centre to act as a centre for EU planning, monitoring and coordination as well as the drawing up of an inventory of Member State assets which could be made available in the event of a disaster. The Government strongly supports the Commission's efforts in this regard and will work with it and with other Member States over the coming months, in close consultation with the UN.

At home here in Ireland, Irish Aid has also made a number of significant changes and improvements in how it responds to humanitarian emergencies in recent years. For example and as already indicated, a large portion of our emergency funding is now pre-positioned with partner agencies for immediate release in a crisis. This reduces red tape and ensures aid can be disbursed in the critical hours and days following an emergency.

In addition, Irish Aid has developed a network of humanitarian stockpiles around the globe and close to zones vulnerable to natural or other disasters. This means that emergency supplies can be airlifted at short notice directly to where they are needed. We have also established the Rapid Response Corps, a roster of skilled and experienced volunteers who make themselves available to deploy at short notice to work in humanitarian emergency situations. The Corps currently comprises 155 individuals with specialised skills in logistics, engineering, public health, humanitarian coordination and protection. Individual members of the Corps are deployed at the request of the UN and other humanitarian organisations in need of their specific skills.

All of these new efficiencies mean that Irish Aid is in a position to respond more quickly to an emergency and to have an even greater impact than previously at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

Of course, the challenges involved in responding to humanitarian disasters remain enormous whether for Ireland or for the wider international humanitarian system. Every emergency presents a unique and new set of tests. Nevertheless, and as most observers now agree, the present system represents a major improvement over its predecessors. We are not complacent however and are therefore constantly working both internally and externally with the UN to improve our capacity to respond and to learn lessons from the exceptionally difficult and challenging emergencies which took place in Haiti and in Pakistan last year. Ireland will continue to play an active role in ensuring that the lessons we learn from each and every experience can contribute to an improved and more effective humanitarian response in future emergencies.

Question Nos. 169 and 170 answered with Question No. 18.

EU Enlargement

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which he and his EU colleagues have engaged in addressing any issues emerging in the context of EU enlargement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3230/11]

As a beneficiary of past enlargement, and on the experience of more recent accessions, Ireland is generally supportive of enlargement. The prospect of enlargement bolsters economic and political reform processes and helps to promote stability, security and prosperity in Europe. Ireland takes an active role in discussions on the issue, both at Council meetings and in bilateral discussions with existing and aspirant member states. The issue of enlargement features regularly on the agenda of the General Affairs Council, which Ireland attends, and in bilateral discussions with EU Ministerial colleagues.

The December 2010 Council adopted detailed conclusions, subsequently endorsed by the European Council, regarding enlargement generally and in relation to the position of various aspirant member states. The Council reaffirmed the strong support of the EU for taking the enlargement process forward on the basis of the agreed principles and conclusions. The Council's conclusions reiterated that enlargement reinforces peace, democracy and stability in Europe, serves the EU's strategic interests, and helps the EU to better achieve its policy objectives in important areas which are key to economic recovery and sustainable growth.

Enlargement serves as a key driver for political and economic reform, and moves forward at a pace which is largely determined by the (potential) candidate countries' respect of the Copenhagen criteria and their proven capacity to take on the obligations of membership. Every opportunity has been taken to meet with counterparts from candidate and potential candidate countries. Minister Martin met with Croatian Foreign Minister Jandrokovic at the UN General Assembly in New York in September. In November Turkish Minister for European Affairs and Chief Negotiator, Mr. Egemen Bagis, visited Ireland and met with Minister Martin and Minister of State Roche. Most recently, discussions took place with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic when he visited Dublin last week.

Question No. 172 answered with Question No. 30.

Redundancy Payments

John O'Donoghue

Question:

173 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Social Protection when redundancy payment from the social insurance fund will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3070/11]

On 1 January 2011, the Department assumed responsibility for making redundancy payments from the Social Insurance Fund. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the fund i.e. rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation. I can confirm that a statutory redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the individual concerned was received on 22 September, 2010. This claim is pending processing. Lump sum claims dating from June 2010 are currently being processed.

Job Losses

John O'Donoghue

Question:

174 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons made redundant in County Kerry in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3115/11]

On 1 January 2011, my Department assumed responsibility for making redundancy payments from the Social Insurance Fund. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the fund i.e. rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation. The number of redundancies in County Kerry in 2010 was 1,144.

Redundancy Payments

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

175 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection the current average delay for applicants waiting for the processing of a redundancy claim by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3134/11]

On 1 January 2011, the Department assumed responsibility for making redundancy payments from the Social Insurance Fund. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the fund i.e. rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

The Redundancy Payments Section of the Department is currently processing both types of claims, in general dating from June 2010, so that the waiting time is currently around 6 months. In some instances, where the necessary supporting documentation is not provided or where queries arise, processing of claims can be further delayed until the required documentation is provided and/or outstanding queries are resolved.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

176 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in processing a redundancy claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14; if he will confirm that he has received the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3135/11]

On 1 January 2011, the Department assumed responsibility for making redundancy payments from the Social Insurance Fund. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the fund i.e. rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

I wish to advise the Deputy that there is no record of a valid redundancy claim on the Redundancy Payments System in respect of the individual in question. It is normal practice not to enter incomplete claims on the system as these claims cannot be processed until the necessary documentation is submitted. Forms are returned in order for missing details and/or supporting documentation to be submitted. Submission of correctly completed redundancy claim forms (RP50s) with all of the required documentation greatly facilitates the processing of claims.

Registration of Marriage

Pearse Doherty

Question:

177 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection with regard to notification of intention to marry, if it is the case that a person born in the Six Counties is required to present his or her birth certificate bearing an apostille stamp or a letter from the relevant embassy; his views whether this should be the case for persons born in the North of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3172/11]

If a party intending to marry was born in this jurisdiction the requirement is that a birth certificate be produced. If a party intending to marry was born in the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the options for a party intending to marry are to produce a birth certificate bearing an apostille or to have the birth certificate verified by stamping at the embassy.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

178 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3010/11]

The three statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Social Welfare Tribunal, the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board. In addition, the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department. On 1 July 2009, the Combat Poverty Agency integrated with the Office for Social Inclusion within this Department to form the Social Inclusion Division. From 1 May 2010, responsibility for the Social Inclusion Division transferred to the Department of Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs. Responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) transferred to the Citizens Information Board on 13 July 2009.

It was not envisaged that significant savings would arise on the assignment of responsibility for MABS to the Citizens Information Board. Rather the intention was, in line with the Programme for Government, to provide strong management support to the local voluntary MABS companies in the provision of a high quality service to meet the needs of people encountering debt difficulties. Cost efficiencies would be realised in the medium to longer term through co-location of premises and the integration of support services such as administration and IT.

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

It is not possible to quantify the total net savings which have been made arising from this integration; however, ongoing savings will arise in respect of board members' fees and as a result of the integration of support services such as combined personnel, payroll and ancillary services. Ongoing savings will also arise on account of the non-filling of a number of short-term temporary staff positions that ended in June 2009 and as a result of the redeployment of a small number of administrative and Human Resource support staff.

In accordance with the terms of the lease in place for the offices of the former Combat Poverty Agency, the Department will exercise its right to break out of the lease in March 2011. There will be no penalty for exercising this option and expected annual savings in respect of the facilities' costs are €228,000 (rent and car parking) and €50,000 (ancillary services). At present there are no further plans to abolish or amalgamate any of the other statutory bodies under the aegis of the Department.

Social Welfare Benefits

Martin Ferris

Question:

179 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for farm assist in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [3013/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 16 July 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received back in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 07 October 2010 and the appeal has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Appeals

M. J. Nolan

Question:

180 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [3035/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 04 August 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received back in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 26 October 2010 and the appeal has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

181 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will review the decision not to provide mortgage interest supplement in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Monaghan. [3039/11]

Supplementary welfare allowance, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has advised that mortgage interest supplement was refused in this case on the grounds that the person concerned was not in a position to enter the mortgage at the time of the original application, that the amount payable was in excess of what the HSE considered to be reasonable to meet the applicant's residential and other needs and that the mortgage arrears are of such magnitude that payment of a supplement would not prevent repossession of the property. The HSE has further advised that the person concerned has appealed this decision to its designated Appeals Officer and a decision on entitlement will be made in due course.

Social Welfare Fraud

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

182 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of social welfare fraud inspectors currently investigating social welfare fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3068/11]

Currently there are 406 inspector posts in the Department of Social Protection. Of this figure, 87 social welfare inspectors are employed on a full time basis in the special investigation units of the Department, whose sole responsibility is the investigation of social welfare fraud.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Ring

Question:

183 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the value of a person’s private family home was taken into account for income purposes for determining the free fuel allowance (details supplied). [3186/11]

The means test applied in determining this person's fuel allowance entitlement was based on information provided in his completed claim form, which was submitted in October 2009. In his claim form, the individual concerned indicated that he owned property (other than his own home), which was valued at €100,000. The applicable capital limit for eligibility for fuel allowance is €58,000. If his financial circumstances have changed in the interim, he is advised to submit a new claim for fuel allowance. On receipt of the completed claim form, his entitlement to the allowance will be examined and he will be notified of the outcome without delay.

Bernard Allen

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding supplementary welfare allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3190/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has advised that the person concerned was refused a rent supplement on the grounds that she was not considered to be habitually resident in the State. It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision to the HSE's designated Appeals Officer.

Pension Provisions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when contributory old age pension will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3195/11]

An application for State pension (contributory) was received from the person concerned on 13th December 2010. His pension entitlement is currently being examined. On completion of this examination, he will be informed in writing of the outcome without delay.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 is not in receipt of a full State pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3196/11]

The qualifying conditions for State pension (contributory) require the applicant to

have entered insurable employment before attaining the age of 56 years.

have at least 260 paid contribution weeks, from employment or self-employment, since entry into insurance.

satisfy the yearly average condition.

The person concerned satisfies the above conditions and has a total of 388 reckonable (paid and credited) social insurance contributions. When this total is divided by 10 (the number of years from date of entry into insurance to the end of the last tax year prior to reaching age 66), this gives a yearly average of 39 contributions, and entitles him to a reduced State pension (contributory) of €225.80 per week (98% of the maximum rate). In order to qualify for a maximum rate pension, a yearly average of 48 contributions or more would be required.

Civil Service Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if civil servants at various levels seeking to relocate to an area closer to their homes can or will be facilitated in instances where a person in their own Department or alternative Department is willing to transfer to their location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3198/11]

Civil servants in the circumstances outlined by the deputy are facilitated in accordance with agreed arrangements. Under formal protocols agreed between the Civil, Public and Services Union and the Department of Finance, the names of Clerical Officers and Staff Officers who apply for a transfer to an alternative location are entered on the Department's central transfer lists. While there are no formal protocols in place in respect of other grades, my Department maintains informal lists where staff members' interest in relocating is noted.

Staff, irrespective of grade, who wish to be considered for a transfer to a location designated under the Government's Decentralisation Programme are required to register their interest on the Central Applications Facility (CAF) which is administered by the Public Appointments Service. Officers' names are entered on both the central transfer and CAF lists in the order in which they are received and the Department has no discretion to deviate from the order of these lists.

The particular type of transfer to which the Deputy refers is known as a head to head transfer whereby, in effect, officers swop positions. Head to head transfers between officers in different locations can only be facilitated if the transfer clearly does not cut across the order of the transfer system as outlined above. In addition, when considering head to head transfer requests the Department must be mindful of the business needs of the offices in question with particular regard to critical staffing levels.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if back to education allowance can be paid retrospectively to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that she was mistakenly in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance on return to education; if alternative arrangements can be made given that she has been forced to drop out of college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3201/11]

Applications for the back to education allowance must be made prior to the commencement of an approved course. Late applications will be accepted only if received within 30 days of the commencement date of the course. As the person concerned commenced a full-time third level course on 25th September 2009, a retrospective application for the back to education allowance cannot be accepted at this stage. The person concerned has submitted an application for jobseeker's allowance with effect from 18th November 2010. This claim is currently being processed and she will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent support has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath in view of the fact that she has lived here continuously since 2003 and has three dependant children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3202/11]

Supplementary welfare allowance, which includes rent supplement, is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has advised that the person concerned was refused a rent supplement on the grounds that she was not considered to be habitually resident in the State. It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision to the HSE's designated Appeals Officer.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason jobseeker’s allowance has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath given that she has lived here continually since 2003 and has three dependant children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3204/11]

One of the qualifying conditions for receipt of jobseeker's allowance is that a person must be habitually resident in the State. A Deciding Officer disallowed the jobseeker's allowance claim of the person concerned with effect from 25 February 2010 on the grounds that she is not habitually resident in the State. She appealed this decision and her appeal was forwarded to the Appeals Office for a decision. When a decision is given she will be advised of the outcome.

Pension Provisions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if revised arrangements for qualification for old age pension on the basis of pre-existing partnership enabled a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to qualify for contributory old age pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3235/11]

The entitlement of the person to State pension (contributory) is currently being reviewed. She will be notified of the outcome of this review as soon as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has an entitlement to transition pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3236/11]

The qualifying conditions for State pension (transition) require the applicant to

have entered insurable employment before attaining the age of 55 years.

have at least 260 paid contribution weeks, from employment or self-employment, since entry into insurance.

satisfy the yearly average condition.

As the Deputy was advised in writing in June of last year, the person concerned has a yearly average of 18 reckonable paid and credited PRSI contributions. In order to qualify for a State pension (transition) a minimum yearly average of at least 24 is required.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

193 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in her Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in her Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in her Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3011/11]

The decision of the Government to combine the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Crawford Art Gallery and National Gallery of Ireland, while retaining their separate brand identities, was announced in Budget 2009 as part of an overall decision to rationalise agencies attached to several Government Departments. My immediate predecessor as Minister indicated subsequently to Dáil Éireann that it was his belief that IMMA and the National Gallery should remain stand-alone entities and that the Crawford Art Gallery could be amalgamated with the National Gallery of Ireland. The amalgamation of the support services of the Crawford Art Gallery and the National Gallery is being examined.

With regard to the merger of the Irish Manuscripts Commission and the National Archives into the National Library of Ireland, also announced in Budget 2009, the legislation that is required is being prepared. In this regard, Heads of a Bill have been drafted and transmitted to the Directors of the National Archives and of the National Library of Ireland and to the Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission for their observations. It is intended that the outline legislation will also be examined by the National Archives Advisory Council when it is reconstituted.

Richard Bruton

Question:

194 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3006/11]

There are some 20 bodies under the aegis of my Department, mainly non-commercial, undertaking quasi-judicial/ regulatory, advisory and developmental functions. These bodies are of varying size, with some having a particular governing structure differing from the conventional Board structure of State agencies, for example the Building Regulations Advisory Board, Designated Appeals Advisory Board and Comhar. As part of the rationalisation programme, I have an active consolidation programme in train that is reducing the total number of State bodies within my Department's remit by six.

In May 2010, I established the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency (HSCA) on an administrative basis to rationalise the functions of the National Building Agency (NBA), the Affordable Homes Partnership (AHP) and the Centre for Housing Research (CHR). The AHP and the CHR have been closed down and the NBA is in the process of being wound down. The merging of the CHR and the AHP in 2010 and their amalgamation into a single Housing Agency (HSCA) has seen a reduction in state grants from €3.37 million in 2009, to €2.13 million in 2010 and €1.8 million for 2011.

The establishment of HSCA will result in the reduction of staff across the original three agencies. The NBA is engaged in the redeployment of staff, with 4 staff having already moved. Savings from this redeployment amount to approximately €300,000 in 2011. When the redeployment is completed annual savings should amount to approximately €2.2 million.

The administrative functions of the Rent Tribunal were transferred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board with effect from 1 October 2009. The savings are estimated as being between €70,000 and €100,000 in a full year.

The functions of the Fire Services Council are now subsumed into my Department, with some savings in running costs, since the term of office of its members expired on 30 June 2009. It is not intended to reappoint the Council.

The Limerick Northside and Southside Regeneration Agencies are already serviced by a single executive. In June 2010 the Government approved the formal merging of the Agencies and work is ongoing in preparing the necessary primary legislation. The Agencies have also been proactively reviewing and changing their consultative structures in preparation for the formal amalgamation with many of these new structures already in place. The Government decision to support the phase 1 implementation plans for Limerick Regeneration will result in the overall workload of the agency expanding, so freed up resources will be reassigned within these structures.

Under the National Recovery Plan 2011-14, ambitious targets for the reduction of staff numbers have now been set for the public sector. The associated Employment Control Framework caps total numbers employed in all agencies under the aegis of my Department. My Department will continue to work with all agencies under my remit to ensure that they are operating as efficiently as possible and complying with Government policy on public service finance and numbers.

Fire Stations

John O'Donoghue

Question:

195 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to provide a fire service to replace the voluntary service in Castlegregory, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3108/11]

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs, the provision of a premises and the making of such other provisions as it considers necessary or desirable, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981. Accordingly, the issue raised in the Question is a matter for the relevant fire authority.

Wildlife Protection

John O'Donoghue

Question:

196 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of Moore Hall in County Mayo; if this building and site are protected; the length of time that protection status extends; if recent reports have been undertaken to assess the bat population at the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3116/11]

Moore Hall is a country house of substantial size located south of Ballinrobe and is regarded as an important component of the late eighteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Mayo. Mayo County Council designated the building as a Protected Structure in 2003 under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Moore Hall is also a candidate Special Area of Conservation because it is an important site for the Lesser Horseshoe Bat, a species listed on Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive as requiring the designation of SACs.

All bats and their roosting and resting places are protected under the Wildlife Acts and the EU Habitats Directive. It is an offence to kill or to deliberately disturb bats or to destroy their breeding sites. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department have undertaken a number of bat surveys over the years and identified lesser horseshoe bats in both the cellars of Moore Hall, which are used as a winter roost by the bats, and the adjacent coach house which is used as a nursery roost where the bats rear their young.

As a result of the declining number of bats in the coach house in 2009 due to the deteriorating nature of the coach house roof, the Department carried out refurbishment work to the coach house in 2010. As a consequence of this work the decline in the number of bats in the coach house has since been reversed. My Department has also fitted protective grills to the cellar access points in the main house, with the assistance of the Office of Public Works, in order to protect the bats at this location and to prevent unauthorised access to the winter roost.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

197 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the responsibility if any he has in relation to ensuring that bat surveys are carried out in areas of land owned by a local authority where it is planned to construct storage facilities adjoining mature trees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3166/11]

All bats and their roosting and resting places are protected under the Wildlife Acts and the EU Habitats Directive. It is an offence to kill or to deliberately disturb bats or to destroy their breeding sites. My Department has published guidelines which provide advice on how developments should comply with the legislation protecting bats. TheseBat Mitigation Guidelines have been widely circulated, including to local authorities, and can also be accessed on the website of the National Parks & Wildlife Service of my Department. The Bat Mitigation Guidelines contain detailed advice on when and how bat surveys should be conducted, including information on tree surveying.

Applications may be made to my Department for a derogation licence to permit actions affecting bats or their roosts that would normally be prohibited by law. The applicant must demonstrate that there is no satisfactory alternative and that the action will not adversely affect the favourable conservation status of the bats. Each case is considered having regard to its particular circumstances and an application may be refused.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

198 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3001/11]

The information the Deputy requested on the abolition and merger of agencies under the remit of my Department since its establishment in 2007 is outlined on the table below. Proposals numbered 3 to 7 were made in the report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (McCarthy Report). As the Deputy is aware that Report outlined a wide range of proposals across all Departments, a number of which, if agreed by Government to proceed, can only be achieved through restructuring over a number of years. The consideration of the proposals contained in the McCarthy Report for my Department and the Agencies under its aegis is ongoing.

Proposals since establishment of Department in June 2007

Current Status/Savings

1. Abolish The National Salmon Commission

Abolished on the enactment of the Inland Fisheries Act 2010. No Exchequer spending was incurred in relation to the National Salmon Commission in either 2009 or 2010.

2. Merge BCI and BCC

BCI and BCC were dissolved under the Broadcasting Act 2009 and subsumed into the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The BAI is now a levy based organisation and is not funded by the Exchequer. The last full year of Exchequer funding in 2008 amounted to €6.5m.

3. Merge DHDA with EI/IDA (McCarthy Report)

Review of DHDA currently underway

4. Merge ComReg with BAI (McCarthy Report)

Not implemented

5. Transfer IFCO into BAI (McCarthy Report)

Not implemented

6. Merge OSi and the Valuation Office with the PRA (McCarthy Report)

Not implemented

7. Merge Regional Fisheries Boards (McCarthy Report)

Merger took effect on 1 July 2010 on the establishment of Inland Fisheries Ireland following the enactment of the Inland Fisheries Ireland Act 2010. Direct Exchequer funding for Inland Fisheries Ireland was reduced by €2.582 million in 2010 compared to 2009 and a further €0.761 million is expected in 2011 although not all of this is attributable to savings arising from restructuring of the inland fisheries sector.

Energy Conservation

Noel Ahern

Question:

199 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the grants or other schemes available to private householders for insulation, particularly outside insulation, who are unemployed and aged under 66 years; if he can make a statement on the matter in relation to present and any future planned initiatives. [3054/11]

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers the Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) on behalf of my Department. The scheme aims to provide energy efficiency improvements to homes in, or at risk of, energy poverty and is targeted at householders who are in receipt of the Fuel Allowance, Disability Benefit or Invalidity Benefit. Measures undertaken include attic insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets, energy efficient lighting, cavity wall insulation and energy advice at no cost to eligible households. While a small number of households received external insulation under a pilot programme in 2010, it is not normally available under the Warmer Homes Scheme.

In circumstances where the homeowner is not in receipt of Department of Social Protection benefits, the applicable scheme is the Home Energy Saving (HES) Scheme, administered by SEAI, which is available to owners of homes built before 2006, including landlords and owners of multiple properties. The scheme provides grants of up to 40% of the typical cost of upgrade measures, including roof insulation, wall insulation, boiler upgrades and heating control upgrades. Dedicated hot lines for both schemes are available (WHS hot line — 1800 250 204 and HES hot line — 1850 927 000), and provide information on eligibility for the schemes.

Both these schemes will transition during 2011 into the new National Retrofit Programme, together with the Greener Homes Scheme (GHS). In advance of the transition to the National Retrofit Programme, the schemes will continue to operate.

Michael McGrath

Question:

200 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the national retrofit scheme he plans to introduce in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3143/11]

My Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) concluded a consultation process on the National Retrofit Programme towards the end of 2010. My Department is currently engaged in extensive dialogue with key participants in finalising a framework for the operation of the programme over the next three years. The programme will be launched in the near future.

The programme has an allocation in 2011 of €69.4 million and entails the transition of the existing Warmer Homes Scheme, Home Energy Saving Scheme and Greener Homes Scheme into the programme over the course of the year. In addition, the new energy efficiency tax relief scheme announced by the Minister for Finance on Budget Day will fully complement the retrofit programme. The programme envisages the involvement of energy supply and distribution companies, energy services providers, the construction sector, energy auditors, BER Assessors, SEAI and my Department working together to deliver very high levels of energy savings, energy cost reductions and ultimately smaller carbon footprints for energy customers throughout the country.

Alternative Energy Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

201 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details on the way the €13 million for the ocean energy strategy announced in budget 2011 will be spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3144/11]

The 2011 budget allocation for the Ocean Energy Strategy implemented by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is €13 million. The allocations will support the continued implementation of the Government's ocean energy policy objectives. Ireland's ocean energy resource can make a significant contribution towards economic growth and renewable energy targets.

The 2011 allocations will be utilised:

To support the development of wave and tidal device prototypes and supporting technologies through the Prototype Development Fund administered by SEAI, ensuring that the growth of the ocean energy industry and associated supply chain is based in Ireland.

Towards development of the grid-connected full scale wave energy test site off County Mayo. This is designed to attract and retain device and project developers; creation of a unique pre-operational test facility; and the build-up of a cluster of industry and expertise that can contribute to maximising the ocean energy supply chain in Ireland.

To operate and further develop the existing quarter scale test site at Galway Bay.

To enhance third level wave research capabilities through upgrading the HMRC at University College Cork to a National Ocean Test Facility.

To deliver strategic analysis including:

A review of the industrial development potential of offshore wind in Ireland;

A review of Irish companies capability to supply products and services to the marine energy sector;

A Strategic Environmental Assessment and Natura Impact Statement for Ireland's Draft Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan;

An assessment for Irish shipping and ports requirements for the ocean energy sector;

An update of wave resource studies.

Ministerial Appointments

Michael McGrath

Question:

202 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the appointment of persons to the Inland Fisheries Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3149/11]

The Fisheries Act 2010 (No. 10 of 2010) established Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) on 1 July 2010. All 9 members of the Board of IFI were subsequently appointed in accordance with sections 12 and 19 of the 2010 Act.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

203 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3000/11]

The executive functions of COFORD (the National Council for Forest Research and Development) were subsumed into my Department with effect from 1 August 2009 with COFORD Council continuing to provide an advisory function to the relevant sections of my Department in relation to COFORD work. The full year savings were estimated as €182,000. The Seafood marketing function was transferred from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) to An Bord Bia on 1 June 2009. The full year savings were estimated as €150,000. There are now 12 State Bodies/Agencies that fall under the remit of my Department and while there are no current plans to merge or abolish any of these Bodies/Agencies the situation is kept under constant review.

Grant Payments

Olwyn Enright

Question:

204 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly will receive a single farm payment and REP scheme payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3034/11]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 17 May 2010. The advance payment which issued on 18 October and the interim balancing payment which issued on 1 December were on the basis of those parcels cleared for payment at that stage, as a number of the land parcels listed on the application of the person named required re-digitisation. This process is now complete, and the final payment due will issue shortly. My officials were unable to process the 2009 REPS 4 application belonging to the person named until the process detailed above was completed. As this process has now been completed payment will issue shortly.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

205 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason REP scheme and single farm payment have not issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3079/11]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 16 April 2010. Advance Single Farm Payment issued to the person named on 18 October 2010 and Balancing Single Farm Payment issued on 01 December 2010. The REPS 4 file is currently under examination and my officials will be in contact with the person named when this examination is complete.

Michael Creed

Question:

206 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 858 of 12 January 2011, if he was advised of the outcome of contact between officials in his Department and a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3093/11]

The issues arising in this case have been resolved and payment issued to the person named on 18 January 2011.

Fish Quota

John O'Donoghue

Question:

207 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the unbalanced mackerel quota provided to the refrigerated seawater fleet over the polyvalent fleet; if his further attention has been drawn to the geographical implications for this unbalanced quota; in view of the increased mackerel quota, if the ratio could be renegotiated to be more balanced towards the polyvalent fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3103/11]

The internal sharing arrangements between different parts of the fleet is the subject of dissatisfaction and disagreement within the Irish industry with each group of vessels seeking increased its share. However, it is important to understand that any increase to one part of the fleet must involve a reduction to another part of the fleet.

Prior to the year 2000, polyvalent (multi-purpose) vessels caught only small quantities of mackerel. The mackerel fishery was prosecuted by Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) vessels in the pelagic segment of the fishing fleet which were subject to vessel catch limits since the mid 1980's. There are 23 vessels in this segment of the fleet and they are large purpose built vessels for the pelagic fisheries (mainly mackerel, herring and horse mackerel). At this time the typical total national catch of polyvalent vessels was of the order of 1,000-1,200 tonnes and a 1,500 tonne allocation was set aside for them out of the total national quota which ranged from a high of 99,000 tonnes (in 1994) down to a low of 52,000 tonnes between 1985 and 2000.

This situation changed materially from 2000 onwards as a number of polyvalent tank boats were introduced into the fleet. These vessels had much higher catching and storage capacity and the national polyvalent catch trebled to over 3,500 tonnes in the year 2000. Following extensive consultation and discussion with the various industry players throughout 2001, revised arrangements were eventually put in place in October of that year. In summary, that capped the total mackerel catch of polyvalent vessels at 7,000 tonnes, of which 1,500 tonnes was set aside to cover catches by vessels less than 65 feet in length. The balance of the available mackerel quota was divided between the 23 RSW vessels of the pelagic sector according to set formulae.

In 2001, when the allocation of 7,000 tonnes for the polyvalent fleet was agreed, the Irish mackerel quota was 72,000 tonnes. Since then, it has decreased and fluctuated at a lower level. In 2008 the total quota was only 49,643 tonnes. However, despite these quota reductions, the 7,000 tonnes reserved for the polyvalent sector remained unchanged until 2009 when an Irish quota of 66,070 tonnes was agreed and requests for a higher share of that quota was received from the polyvalent vessel owners.

Following a review, new arrangements were introduced in 2009 for the sharing of the national quota between the polyvalent and pelagic segments of the fleet. These involve an allocation of 87% for the RSW Pelagic segment and 13% for the polyvalent segment. As the quota for mackerel in 2011 will involve an increase over the 2010 quota, the polyvalent segment will receive a pro-rata increase in its allocation.

Any change in the current arrangements would be justified only if circumstances have changed since the 2009 review. At that time, Minister Killeen fully consulted with industry representatives and interested parties on the issue and as a result was fully aware of the divergent views that prevailed within the industry at that time in relation to the management of this fishery. The specific management arrangements for the allocation of the mackerel quota introduced in 2009 were developed by the Minister for the proper and effective management of the mackerel fishing opportunities while at the same time fully cognisant of the divergent views that existed on the issue within various segments of the fishing industry. At this time, I do not consider that there are substantially changed circumstances which would warrant a review of the existing arrangements.

I would like to comment at this point about the level of landings into Ireland. Of course, under the EU open market policy there can be no question of requiring or pressuring vessels to land into Ireland. The situation for 2009 was that almost all of the polyvalent vessels landed into Ireland while 60% of the landings by the RSW Pelagic segment vessels were into Ireland. The situation for 2010 has seen some change with 75% of the polyvalent landings and 64% of the RSW pelagic segment landings being into Ireland. It is clear that both polyvalent and RSW pelagic Segment vessels are capable of and do land a proportion of their quota abroad. From an employment and economic activity perspective I would like to see the vast majority of all landings into Ireland and I would encourage the vessel owners and the processors to work together to maximise landings into Irish factories.

Grant Payments

Jack Wall

Question:

208 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3142/11]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 6 May 2010. Payments under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme commenced nationally on 18 October 2010. The person named submitted an application with 6 land parcels, 3 of which required re-digitisation. The advance and interim balancing payments under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme issued to the applicant on 18 October 2010 and 1 December 2010 respectively based on eligible that was digitised at that stage. My Department has now completed this re-digitisation process and the final balancing payment under the Single Payment Scheme will issue to the applicant shortly.

Michael McGrath

Question:

209 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding a payment under the farm waste management scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3147/11]

The person concerned is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. The final instalment of grant-aid was issued by my Department to the applicant on 11 January 2011. I have also announced that a special ex-gratia payment not exceeding 3.5 per cent of the value of the deferred amount will be made to farmers whose Farm Waste Management grants were partially deferred. This payment will be made in the early part of this year.

Aquaculture Development

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

210 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he plans to wind up the cross-Border aquaculture initiative, EEIG, and to make the staff members involuntarily redundant; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Northern Ireland Executive has funds in place until 2012 to fund the Northern Ireland element, which will be lost if the organisation is wound up; if he has taken into account the fact that this valuable service to industry will be lost if this action is taken and how he plans to replace these services which are vital for job retention, job creation and seafood exports; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the aquaculture initiative provides vital services to the mussel industry worth €35 million per annum and employing 675 persons; how he will replace these valuable services to the sector without contravening Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2003 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3156/11]

The Aquaculture Initiative (CBAIT) was established in 1998 as a European Economic Interest Group (EEIG) under the European Communities (European Economic Interest Groupings) Regulations 1989 — S.I. 191 of 1989 with Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) listed as the member for Ireland. CBAIT was established for the purpose of assisting in the development of the aquaculture sector in the six counties of Northern Ireland and in the six border counties of Ireland.

Since its inception, CBAIT's operating costs were funded primarily under the PEACE Programme and its successors. That source of funding has now expired. BIM has also provided some funding to CBAIT since 2009 under both national and EU co-funded grants. The Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has committed to providing some limited funding to CBAIT until 2012 under an EU co-funded grant to cover the staff and associated costs of the Northern Ireland office of CBAIT.

In July 2010, BIM was authorised by my Department to provide funding to CBAIT on a strictly temporary basis and until the end of 2010 only, in order to allow CBAIT continue in operation while BIM examined the options for its future. Unfortunately, no workable solution has been found having regard to the constraints of employment control framework numbers and financial resources available. In the light of this my Department has in the circumstances advised BIM that no further funds from my Department's Vote or from BIM are to be expended on CBAIT and to immediately make arrangements for the orderly winding up of CBAIT.

Grant Payments

Seymour Crawford

Question:

211 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive a REPS 4 payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3192/11]

Payment will issue to the person named within 10 days.

Enterprise Support Services

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

212 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if there have been discussions to address the difficulty encountered by those who wish to access the EU Globalisation Fund to set up small businesses but who cannot get matching funds to take up grants offered by city or county enterprise boards; if she will arrange for access to loans for this purpose to be made available or if the requirement for matching funds can be dispensed with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3159/11]

The range of financial assistance available from the CEBs to eligible micro-enterprises includes Priming Grants, Business Expansion and Development Grants and Feasibility Grants. Priming Grants and Business Expansion and Development Grants are the primary grants utilised by the majority of eligible micro-enterprises as these grants cover a broad range of legitimate business costs associated with starting a business and with developing and growing that business. Both of these grants allow for the payment of up to 50% of the investment or €150,000 whichever is the lesser. The purpose behind the application of a grant aid limit is to ensure that the promoter of the business assumes a reasonable part of the risk in establishing and running the business These levels have been approved by the European Union.

It is considered inappropriate that funding levels for CEB supports should be increased above the current levels that apply under normal CEB eligibility criteria in respect of clients of an Enterprise Board who are accessing funds available under a European Globalisation Fund facility. I would point out that there has already been a significant loosening of normal CEB eligibility criteria in respect of the current EGF facilities in operation i.e. Dell, Waterford Crystal and SR Technics, such that grant assistance for locally traded services is permitted. There is a concern that this could have deadweight and displacement implications for some existing businesses in the locations concerned and it is important that a balance is maintained. I am satisfied that the current eligibility criteria are appropriate.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

213 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in her Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in her Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in her Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3005/11]

My Department currently has 13 State Agencies supporting us in our work. These are:

1. Enterprise Ireland

2. IDA Ireland

3. Science Foundation Ireland

4. Shannon Development

5. County and City Enterprise Boards (35)

6. National Standards Authority of Ireland

7. InterTradeIreland (the North / South Business Development Body)

8. Forfás

9. National Consumer Agency

10. The Competition Authority

11. Irish Auditing and Accounting Standards Authority

12. Personal Injuries Assessment Board, and

13. The Health and Safety Authority.

Among these Agencies, my Department is working to effect the merger of the National Consumer Agency (NCA) and the Competition Authority. In this regard, as both the NCA and the Competition Authority were established under statute, it is necessary to give effect to the newly merged body by way of primary legislation.

At the time the merger of the two bodies was announced, work on a review of the operation and implementation of the 2002 Competition Act was well underway. The various submissions received following a public consultation process were being considered, as was the report and recommendations of the Advisory Group on Media Mergers. Therefore, rather than give effect to the amalgamation of the NCA and Competition Authority in a stand-alone piece of legislation, to be followed in due course by legislation to amend, reform and update the 2002 Act, it was decided to introduce a single comprehensive Bill that will:

Create the new consumer and competition body,

Update existing competition law,

Strengthen the public interest test in respect of media mergers, in line with the report of the Advisory Group on Media Mergers,

Make some minor amendments to the consumer protection legislation, and

Give effect to the Government commitment under "Towards 2016” regarding the exemption of certain specified categories of vulnerable workers from competition law.

While work on the draft legislation on this basis has been progressing, developments in other areas have arisen which have led to additional requirements in the Bill. The Renewed Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to "implement a Code of Practice for doing business in the Grocery Goods sector to develop a fair trading relationship between retailers and their suppliers" and "to review progress of the Code and if necessary to put in place a mandatory code". An enabling provision for this code will be provided for in the legislation.

This all-encompassing approach to the draft legislation has to some extent delayed the legislation for the rationalisation of the two bodies. I am, however, of the view that we will be better served, in the long run, by a single legislative measure that both establishes the new body and provides for a combined and updated consumer and competition code with appropriate enforcement provisions being given to the new body. Work on the draft heads of this Bill is now completed and I intend to bring these draft heads to Cabinet shortly.

As this particular merger has not yet been implemented, no significant savings can be reported and the earliest date for the merger taking effect is late 2011. I should also indicate that I have finalised my proposals for the reorganization of the 35 County & City Enterprise Boards in an effort to streamline delivery of our supports for the micro-enterprise sector and I hope to bring formal proposals in this area to Government shortly.

Enterprise Support Services

John O'Donoghue

Question:

214 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding the Global Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence planned for Tralee, County Kerry; the negotiations that have taken place with those behind the project; the expected timeline for the development of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3105/11]

Representatives of the Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence (GPCE) met with the Taoiseach on 22 December last. At this meeting the Taoiseach reiterated his interest in the concept and welcomed the submission of a Business Plan as a significant step forward. An expert analysis of this plan is now being undertaken by an enterprise agencies team led by IDA and involving representatives from Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Shannon Development. The Taoiseach has requested that the Agency team provide analysis and advice to me by the end of the first quarter this year.

Redundancy Payments

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation whether redundancy is payable for a person employed for six years with the exception of a two month period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3237/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that in accordance with the Government Order entitled "Redundancy and Insolvency Payments (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial functions Order 2010" responsibility for the Redundancy and Insolvency Payments Schemes transferred to my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection with effect from 1 January 2011. Accordingly, issues arising under the Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967 — 2007 now fall to be considered by that Department.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

216 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3002/11]

As the Deputy is aware, the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes presented a set of options to reduce expenditure and staff numbers across the public sector. These options included recommendations relating to the abolition or merger of certain State Agencies.

In terms of specific recommendations by the Special Group, one key recommendation was predicated on the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs being dissolved and its functions transferred to other Departments. Other recommendations related to the abolition or transfer between Departments of specified functions. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that, as part of the restructuring of Departments and agencies announced in March last by the Taoiseach to ensure greater coherence and produce more efficient delivery, my Department has taken over responsibility for (i) social inclusion policy and family policy from the Department of Social Protection and (ii) equality, disability, integration and human rights from the Department of Justice and Law Reform.

In relation to other recommendations by the Special Group, it may be noted that:

A proposed Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill, which is anticipated to be published shortly, will provide, inter alia, for the dissolution of the Dormant Accounts Board.

Options regarding the future of the Western Development Commission remain under consideration in the context of the ongoing general review of enterprise structures.

Options in relation to the future functions of the Family Support Agency are also under review.

Proposals relating to the reallocation of some functions of the Equality Tribunal will fall to be considered in the context of the review of the equality and human rights bodies currently under way.

The future role and functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta are under consideration in the context of the recently published 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language. Substantive discussions will be taking place shortly with Údarás na Gaeltachta regarding these matters and I hope to be able to bring initial proposals for amending legislation to Government in the coming weeks.

In relation to bodies/agencies within my Department's remit that have already been abolished or merged, the Deputy may wish to note that in recent years:

Arramara Teoranta, a commercial State body founded to utilise the large resource of seaweed along the west coast of Ireland, became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Údarás na Gaeltachta;

Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge, the former State Board established to promote writing and publishing in the Irish language, was abolished and its functions and funding transferred to Foras na Gaeilge; and

the National Drugs Strategy Team was abolished in the context of the National Drugs Strategy 2009–2016 and its work subsumed into my Department.

Community Development

Pat Breen

Question:

217 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will clarify the situation regarding funding for a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3062/11]

The group referred to by the Deputy was funded previously under the Community Development Programme (CDP), which came to an end on 31 December 2009 and was superseded by a new integrated programme, the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP). The group in question was funded during 2010 under the new Programme.

The Deputy will be aware that my Department has set out a national model for integrating groups such as the one to which he refers into the Local Development Companies (LDCs), which are tasked with delivering the LCDP. By integrating with an LDC, this group will continue to be funded under the LCDP and thereby assist in meeting the challenges that the current economic downturn has brought to a range of disadvantaged groups in the local community.

It is important to note that integration does not mean cessation of CDP-type activities in any given area. Any worthwhile community development activity or service delivered formerly under a CDP can continue to be delivered under the new integrated LCDP structure. I remain committed to the LCDP and would urge all relevant groups, formerly funded under the CDP, which have not yet completed the integration process, to work with my Department and Pobal to bring any outstanding issues to an early conclusion.

Departmental Agencies

Richard Bruton

Question:

218 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the number of State agencies identified for abolition or merger in his Department; the number of agencies which have been merged or abolished to date in his Department; the total net savings which have been made in respect of each State agency arising from its merger or abolition in his Department; the likely date for merger or abolition and the reason for the delay in respect of each State agency which has not already been merged with another State agency or abolished in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3003/11]

The bodies under the aegis of my Department are the Civil Defence Board, the Army Pensions Board and the Board of Coiste an Asgard. In the context of settling the Estimates for the Department of Defence for 2010, the Government decided that the national sail training scheme operated by Coiste an Asgard would be discontinued as recommended in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure. As a result, no funding was provided in 2010 or 2011. The company has been inactive since that decision. There have been no abolitions or mergers of any agency in my Department in the past four years.

Defence Forces Reserve

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

219 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number of serving members of the Defence Forces Reserve in each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3162/11]

Details of the number of serving members of the Reserve Defence Force in each county are being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available.

Defence Forces Appointments

David Stanton

Question:

220 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the appointment of a judge advocate general of the Defence Forces; the qualifications for this position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3173/11]

Section 15 of the Defence Act 1954 provides for the appointment of a Judge Advocate General of the Defence Forces. It stipulates that the Judge Advocate General shall be a practising barrister-at-law of at least ten year's standing, but cannot be a member of the Defence Forces and shall be appointed by, and hold office during the pleasure of, the President. The current Judge Advocate General, Ms. Oonah McCrann, was appointed with effect from 24 September 2001.

Departmental Staff

Joe Costello

Question:

221 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the reason two cleaners (details supplied) were replaced by contract cleaners in Defence Force headquarters, Infirmary Road, Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3185/11]

All Dublin based civil servants (c. 170) of the Department of Defence, together with some 55 military personnel, moved to Newbridge, Co. Kildare under the decentralisation programme in early November 2010. As the entire Department was moving, civil service staff who opted not to decentralise to Newbridge, were transferred to other Dublin based Departments/Offices. It was clearly understood by all staff of the Department, including the cleaners, that under the decentralisation programme, staff who were not decentralising to Newbridge would be reassigned to other posts in Dublin. The cleaners have been assigned to other Departments/Offices in Dublin in line with decentralisation protocol.

The former premises of the Defence Forces Headquarters in Infirmary Road, Dublin 7, has effectively been vacated other than for a small number of about 50 military personnel who are to transfer to alternative accommodation during 2011. As with all buildings solely occupied by the Military, the maintenance and cleaning of military premises is looked after by the Military who employ their own cleaning staff.