Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 32, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 33 to 45, inclusive, answered orally.

Pension Provisions

Dara Calleary

Question:

46 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to any difficulties surrounding the issue of judges’ pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11722/11]

The issue of the treatment of pension benefits for taxation purposes is not the responsibility of my Department.

Prison Accommodation

Catherine Murphy

Question:

47 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the interim measures he plans to take or has taken to address the overcrowding currently in Irish prisons; the criteria an inmate must satisfy to be granted an early release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11720/11]

David Stanton

Question:

53 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to address overcrowding in prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11889/11]

Barry Cowen

Question:

59 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to tackle overcrowding in prisons. [11726/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 53 and 59 together.

There has been a significant increase in the total prisoner population in Ireland over recent years and as of 13 May 2011, there were 4,490 prisoners in custody and 835 on temporary release. The number on temporary release equates to 15.3% of the total prisoner population. There were 229 prisoners in custody serving sentences of less than 6 months and 389 serving sentences of between 6 to 12 months.

I am conscious of the level of overcrowding in our prisons and the impact that it has on services to prisoners. However simply increasing those numbers on Temporary Release to deal with overcrowding is not acceptable.

Measures have been and are being taken to both upgrade our prison capacity but also to ensure that alternatives to custody are available and used to deal with those where a custodial sentence is not necessary.

The State has been engaged in an ongoing capital programme with almost 600 additional prisoner spaces constructed and brought into use since January 2008. The construction of a new accommodation block at the Midlands prison will provide a potential 300 spaces, a new kitchen and work training/education block, and an extension to the visits/reception areas. It is planned to have the new block fully commissioned by mid 2012. A contract was awarded in late 2010 for the provision of 70 dormitory style spaces for female prisoners at the Dóchas Centre within the Mountjoy Campus which is due to be completed by end August 2011. The Irish Prison Service is also currently engaged in a project to upgrade and re-commission 36 cells with in-cell sanitation coming on stream by mid 2011 in the basement of the "C" Wing at Mountjoy Prison.

The Fines Act 2010 introduces a number of measures to prevent the automatic imprisonment of fine defaulters. In particular it has provisions dealing with capacity to pay, payment by instalments, recovery by appointment of a receiver and community service in default of payment of a fine. I intend to introduce further measures which will allow recovery by means of attachment of earnings orders.

One of the first Bills I brought before this House was the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Bill. It will require judges to consider imposing Community Service in any case where the appropriate sentence would otherwise be a custodial one of up to 12 months imprisonment. I also have asked my officials to look at a scheme where suitable long term prisoners might have the last period of their custodial sentence replaced by a form of Community Service.

The Deputy may also be aware that I recently established a committee to examine the need for new prison accommodation and they are to report by July. I look forward to considering their views.

The criteria for determining the temporary release of a prisoner are set out in section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1960 as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003. Candidates for temporary release are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. A primary concern is public safety.

Proposed Legislation

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

48 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amend the Domestic Violence Act to remove the restrictions caused by residency requirements and ensure non-married parties have better access to protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11874/11]

The Domestic Violence Act 1996, as amended by Acts of 2002 and 2010, makes substantial provision for victims of domestic violence who are not married to or in a civil partnership with their abuser. A person may apply for a safety order if he or she has been living with a person as husband and wife for six months in aggregate of the previous twelve, and may apply for a barring order if he or she has been living with a person for six months in aggregate of the previous nine. Contravention of an order under the Act is an offence and is subject to sanctions under the criminal law.

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill currently being drafted for publication as soon as possible this year will, it is intended, make further amendments to the domestic violence code. The requirement of a minimum duration of cohabitation in order to obtain a safety order will be removed. In addition, because the issue of access to children can sometimes give rise to violence on the part of one parent against the other, the protection of a safety order will be extended to couples or former couples who have a child in common, including where the couple do not live together and may never have lived together. The protections of a safety order or barring order will be made available to same-sex couples who have not registered as civil partners on the same terms that they are available to opposite-sex couples.

There are difficulties in providing in law for the complete removal of the residency requirement in relation to barring orders for persons who are not married or in a civil partnership. The minimum residency threshold that does exist has enabled the courts to have a reasonable degree of certainty that a couple is cohabiting in a sustained relationship and therefore that it may consider putting a barring order in place. The threshold is set so as to exclude short-term casual cohabitation from the protections of the domestic violence code, but ensuring that a relationship sustained over a period of months is encompassed within the protections. Given the serious consequences of a barring order, which may exclude a person from his or her own home and restrict his or her property rights, there are constitutional reasons for ensuring that a clear threshold is retained.

However, the Government Programme for National Recovery includes a commitment to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a manner that provides protection to victims. The Law Reform Commission, in its third programme of law reform, includes a general review of the law on domestic violence. I expect that the Commission will examine the residency requirements and any recommendations it makes will inform future legislative reform in this area.

Witness Protection Programme

Brian Stanley

Question:

49 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to enhance the witness protection programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11867/11]

As the Deputy knows the Programme for Government contains a commitment to provide statutory guidelines for the Witness Security Programme and it is a matter on which I will bring forward proposals in due course.

Since 1997, the Garda Síochána has operated a Witness Security Programme in response to attempts by criminal and other groups to prevent the normal functioning of the criminal justice system, including threats of violence and systematic intimidation of witnesses.

Legislation was not required to establish this Programme, but its operation is supported by complementary legislative provisions. Thus, Section 40 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 makes it an offence for any person, without lawful authority, to try to identify the whereabouts or any new identity of a witness who has been relocated under the Programme. The offence is punishable upon indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to five years.

In addition, the intimidation of witnesses is an offence pursuant to Section 41 of the Act. Section 41 specifies the offence as harming, threatening or menacing or in any other way intimidating or putting in fear another person who is assisting in the investigation of an offence by the Garda Síochána, with the intention of causing the investigation or course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with. The offence is punishable upon indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to ten years.

By virtue of the highly confidential nature of the Witness Security Programme and the need to maintain the protection of persons in that Programme, it would not be appropriate to detail the specifics of its operation. I can say that it is being operated in a significant number of cases at present, and it has proven its worth over the years in helping to secure the conviction of very serious organised crime leaders.

The Deputy may be aware that in 2003, the Court of Criminal Appeal made some comments about the WSP as it then operated. The validity of the operation of the Programme was upheld, including by the Supreme Court in 2005. Nevertheless, in deference to the weight that must be accorded comments made in the superior courts, a review was instituted by the Garda Commissioner. The outcome of the review resulted in some enhancements to the Programme so that it fully accords with international best practice in this area. The Programme as it now operates ensures the unambiguous separation of those responsible for the criminal investigation from the management of the Programme, to avoid any hint of a possible inducement being offered to the witness. The Programme is kept under review by the Garda Commissioner.

Proceeds of Crime

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

50 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide the number of persons that have had their assets seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau within the past three years; the regional breakdown of these persons; if he will provide an itemised list of the assets seized; the monetary value for each person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11859/11]

In accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996, an annual report on the activities of the Bureau is prepared and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The annual reports of the Bureau provide details of the activities of the Bureau during the particular year, including detailed statistics concerning actions taken in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime, Revenue and Social Welfare legislation.

The reports include information concerning the number of cases in which the Bureau took action; the number of cases concluded by the Bureau and the total sums realised by the Bureau to the Minister for Finance for the benefit of the Central Exchequer.

Annual reports for the years 2008 and 2009 are available in the Oireachtas Library and on the website of An Garda Síochána (www.garda.ie) and my Department (www.justice.ie) http://www.justice.ie/. The Annual Report for 2010 is currently being prepared.

With regard to the specific information sought by the Deputy, I am informed that to provide such information would not be without its difficulties. In particular, the Criminal Assets Bureau is prohibited by legislation from disclosing details of ongoing investigations or legal proceedings prior to their conclusion. It is therefore the policy of the Bureau not to disclose information on individual cases until investigations have been completed and a final determination has been made by the Courts.

In the circumstances, it is not possible to provide a regional breakdown of the persons targeted and an itemised list of the assets seized and the monetary value for each person, as to do so might identify individual persons and cases.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Pearse Doherty

Question:

51 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the efficiency of the Garda vetting unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11880/11]

Alan Farrell

Question:

156 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he proposes to provide the Garda Síochána with the necessary resources to improve the response time of the Garda vetting applications process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11920/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 156 together.

I share the concerns which have been expressed by various Deputies at the length of time currently being taken to process vetting applications. The vetting service has been expanded greatly in recent years as part of an ongoing, phased programme to roll-out vetting to an increasing number of organisations in the child and vulnerable adult care sectors. This target group is the clear policy priority and I am sure all Members of the House will agree with this approach. Obviously this has led to an increased number of applications for vetting being received in the Garda Central Vetting Unit. I recognise that it is important to process these applications within a reasonable time frame both for the benefit of the applicants and the organisations involved.

Responsibility for the deployment of Garda personnel is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner, taking into account all his requirements. I am informed by the Garda authorities that at present there are a total of five Gardaí, 76 full-time Garda civilian personnel and ten temporary civilian personnel assigned to the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU). This represents a very significant increase in the level of personnel assigned to the unit, which stood at only 13 before the current process of development in Garda vetting began in 2005.

A number of immediate measures are being taken to improve the situation. The sanction of the Department of Finance has been obtained to retain the services of ten temporary employees in the GCVU. A further sanction has been obtained to engage an additional ten temporary employees for the Unit and these are now being recruited. This should have an impact on processing times.

In addition, further steps are under consideration with a view to alleviating the pressure on the staff of the GCVU and to reduce the time taken for the processing of applications. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, at present, the average processing time for vetting applications received at the GCVU is approximately 10 weeks.

The average processing time for vetting applications fluctuates in line with periods of increased demand. In processing an individual vetting application, additional time may be required in cases where clarification is needed as to the details provided or where other enquiries need to be made, for example, when the person in question has lived and worked abroad. There will always be a reasonably significant time period required to process a vetting application. Registered organisations have been advised to take account of this in their recruitment and selection process. However, the Gardaí make every effort to reduce the time to the minimum possible consistent with carrying out what are very necessary checks.

Court Procedures

Pearse Doherty

Question:

52 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if measures adopted for vulnerable witnesses providing court testimony in this State are in accordance with the UN Guidelines on Justice in Matters Involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11879/11]

The Criminal Evidence Act 1992 contains a range of measures designed to protect vulnerable victims and witnesses. For example, section 16(1)(b), as amended, makes provision for the video recording of a statement made by a person under 14 years of age, or with an intellectual disability (in respect of whom a sexual offence or an offence involving violence is alleged to have been committed) during an interview with a member of An Garda Síochána or any other person who is competent for the purpose. It provides that such a video recording shall be admissible at a trial as evidence, provided that the person whose statement was video recorded is available at the trial for cross examination.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, given the need for sensitivity and confidentiality surrounding sexual crimes, there is a clear advantage from an investigative perspective both for An Garda Síochána and victims of such crimes in conducting such interviews away from Garda Stations. Dedicated interview suites have therefore been established in six strategically chosen locations throughout the State, which are used by An Garda Síochána to record interviews with such victims. Work is also nearing completion on the establishment of a further facility.

The 1992 Act also provided the basis for evidence to be given through a live television link by a person under 17 years or a person with an intellectual disability in any case involving a sexual offence or one involving a threat of violence or attempted violence. While such evidence is being given except through an intermediary, neither the judge, nor the barrister or solicitor concerned in the examination of the witness, shall wear a wig or gown.

Section 14(1) of that Act provides that, in the case types mentioned, where such persons are giving evidence, the court may, on the application of the prosecution or the accused, direct that questions be to a witness be put through an intermediary if satisfied that, having regard to the age or mental condition of the witness, the interests of justice require.

Several of these special provisions were replicated in the Criminal Procedure Act 2010 in order that they would also apply when such witnesses are giving victim impact evidence at sentencing hearings.

I am informed by the Courts Service that they comply with the relevant UN Guidelines in respect of child victims and witnesses of crime and provides the necessary video link facilities as required under the 1992 Act.

Subject to approval by the Government, I expect to bring forward further measures to take the formality out of court proceedings for children and prevent any intimidation by the accused.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 47.

Garda Strength

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

54 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to allocate additional resources to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11858/11]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation Unit (GBFI) is as set out in the following table.

Rank

Strength

D/Chief Superintendent

1

D/Superintendents

2

D/Inspectors

5

D/Sergeants

14

D/Gardaí

51

Included in the figures above are 11 additional Detective Gardaí that were assigned to the GBFI on 1 February 2011.

The responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner in consultation with his senior management team. An Garda Síochána is satisfied that the resources allocated to Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are sufficient to meet the ongoing daily demands placed on the unit to investigate incidents of fraud, including a number of high-profile complaints currently under investigation by the Bureau.

Victims of Crime

Michael Colreavy

Question:

55 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to improve communication between gardaí and victims of crime during criminal trials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11866/11]

The new Victims Charter and Guide to the Criminal Justice System, which was launched in July 2010, provides a number of undertakings in relation to the interaction between members of An Garda Síochána and victims of crime.

In relation to criminal trials, the Gardaí undertake to provide certain information to victims, including:

whether the suspect is being held in custody or is on bail, and any conditions of the bail (such as an alleged offender staying away from a victim or a victim's house);

the time, date and location of the court hearing;

the prosecution process and, if a victim is likely to be called as a witness, the support available from voluntary organisations which support victims of crime;

when the law allows a victim to give evidence to the court about the crime's impact;

about court expenses; and

the final result of the criminal trial.

An Garda Síochána also appoints Family Liaison Officers to assist victims of certain serious crimes and to victims and families of victims who have been or are being subjected to emotional or psychological trauma relating to homicide, kidnapping, false imprisonment, hostage siege situations, road traffic fatalities, suicide and crimes where violence, or an immediate threat of violence, has been visited upon the family.

Family Liaison Officers are appointed to keep victims' families informed of the progress of investigations and to ensure that they are afforded appropriate and relevant emotional, psychological, informational and practical support. In cases of rape and other sexual offences, a member of the investigation team, approved by the District Officer (Superintendent), performs the functions of the Family Liaison Officer.

At the launch of the Victims Charter, particular emphasis was placed on the further development of existing monitoring systems of services to victims, and the development of new systems where necessary, as one important means of ensuring that services to victims are improved.

I want to see the undertakings to victims in the Charter by the various criminal justice agencies, including An Garda Síochána, implemented in practice. This is good for the victims of crime and is ultimately good for the credibility of An Garda Síochána. In particular, victims who are also witnesses can have legitimate concerns about, and unfamiliarity with, the trial process. If these concerns are addressed, victims can give their full attention to the task of giving the best evidence they are able to give.

State Visits

Micheál Martin

Question:

56 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the security implications of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Ireland; and if he is satisfied that all security precautions have been taken. [10468/11]

The Garda Síochána, with the vital support of the Defence Forces, is responsible for the security of the visit of Queen Elizabeth. I have the utmost confidence in the Commissioner and his officers, who I know are totally committed to ensuring that these events pass off without incident. Senior Garda management is satisfied that all the necessary and appropriate measures are in place to ensure the safety and security of Queen Elizabeth.

There is, of course, a whole range of security considerations that have to be taken into account in relation to the visit and those considerations are based on an ongoing assessment of the risks involved. This visit will be welcomed by the vast majority of the people of Ireland. Obviously there are those who would seek to disrupt it. The right to protest is an important one and one that the Government will always uphold — but we will not tolerate those who seek to break the law in this regard.

An Garda Síochána will continue to make all the necessary arrangements to make sure the appropriate level of security is in place for the visit. This has of course caused a degree of disruption in terms of such things as temporary road closures. I am sure people generally will be understanding of the security arrangements which have to be made and will cooperate fully with them. Security arrangements are, of course, a necessary feature of visits of this kind to any country and I am sure they will not detract from the great welcome which Irish people will give to this distinguished guest.

Commercial Rent Reviews

Willie O'Dea

Question:

57 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when legislation to end upward-only rent reviews will be introduced. [9938/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government indicates that legislation will be introduced to end upward only rent reviews for existing leases. I am engaged in on-going consultations with the Attorney General in order to determine how this matter can best be expedited.

In addition to the legislation which has been specified in the Programme for Government, I am also very conscious of the fact that one of the difficulties in relation to rent reviews is the absence of readily accessible and accurate information in order to determine the market rent payable in respect of any given set of commercial premises. The Deputy will recall that I arranged for the restoration of the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 to the Order Paper. The Bill is now awaiting Committee Stage. I intend to bring forward amendments to the Bill to provide for the establishment of a public database containing relevant details of letting arrangements and rent reviews in the commercial property market. The Property Services Regulatory Authority will have responsibility for the management of this database.

The recommendation regarding the database was contained in a Working Group report which was published in August of last year. That report also contained a recommendation for the adoption, by landlords and tenants alike, of a rent review arbitration code which was drawn up by the experts who participated in the Group and which was appended to the report. A particular feature of the code is that it contains detailed provisions dealing with the production of comparative evidence in relation to property transactions and it also places a firm duty on all parties to disclose all relevant information which is in their possession. As matters stand, parties are free to specify that the code should apply in relation to rent review arbitrations. I welcome the endorsement of the code by a number of significant stakeholders in the sector.

Garda Deployment

Martin Ferris

Question:

58 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a company (details supplied) contributes to the cost of policing the Corrib operation; the amount, if any, it has contributed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11877/11]

The deployment of Garda resources to Police protest actions in the North Mayo area connected with the Corrib Gas Project is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. The aim is to prevent public order offences and to ensure that people can go about their lawful business. There is no question of seeking a financial contribution from any private company towards the cost of the Garda operation.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 47.

Garda Transport

David Stanton

Question:

60 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to renew the Garda motor fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11888/11]

Over the last number of years there has been a significant programme of investment in Garda vehicles. This investment has resulted in the expansion of the fleet with consequential benefits to Garda members in terms of safety and operational capacity. Additionally, all Garda fleet requirements are kept under review.

Future transport requirements will be pursued in the context of identified Garda priorities and in the light of available resources.

Joint Policing Committees

Brian Stanley

Question:

61 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of joint policing committees that have been set up; the local authorities that have not set up the structure to date; the reason for same; the chairperson of each joint policing committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11870/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

63 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ensure that joint policing committees become a greater facility for communities to interact with the Garda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11876/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 63 together.

The functions and powers of Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) are set out in the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which provides for a Committee in each local authority area. They provide the framework for a partnership process involving An Garda Síochána and elected members and officials of the local authority, which are the two organisations which make the most significant contribution to preventing crime in an area, with the participation of members of the Oireachtas and of the community and voluntary sector. The Act provides that JPCs operate under guidelines issued by the Minister for Justice and Equality after consultation with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that JPCs have been established in all local authority areas with the exception of Fermoy, Midleton and Skibbereen, where the establishment process for the Committees is being finalised. The Garda Commissioner has appointed Garda representatives to each of the JPCs in accordance with the guidelines.

Section 35(2)(c) of the Garda Síochána Act provides that the chairperson of a JPC shall be drawn from the elected members nominated by the relevant local authority. Details of the chairperson of each Committee are held by the relevant local authority.

Members of the public and community representatives and groups can interact with their JPC by communicating with the Committee directly or by communicating with any member of the Committee, including the appointed Garda representatives. All JPC meetings are as a rule open to the public, and all documents are available. Any person may submit questions in writing in advance of each JPC meeting. Each Committee is also required to hold regular public meetings, at which those attending have the right to make their views known and ask questions in accordance with the guidelines.

The Programme for Government makes a commitment to build on existing community policing partnerships and forums to enhance trust between local communities and their Gardaí. Accordingly, I believe that it is appropriate to commence a review of the operation of the Committees, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the local authorities. The review will take place in the context of the commitments in the Programme for Government to reform local government. In that regard, my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has said that he intends to publish at an early date a policy statement on local government, outlining government policy for an action programme to renew and develop the local government system.

Garda Deployment

Tom Barry

Question:

62 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will ensure that the distribution of Garda resources will adequately reflect changing criminal patterns, when travelling gangs of criminals are making the short journey to rural towns and communities and contributing to escalated burglary rates; and if he will ensure that the allocation of Garda resources now and in the future will take cognisance of this development. [11718/11]

I am acutely aware of the distress which burglaries can cause for affected householders and I have been assured that Garda management is constantly reviewing strategies to tackle this offence.

Responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner in consultation with his senior management team and the allocation of personnel is determined by a number of factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Division.

One of the key objectives in the Policing Plan of An Garda Síochána for 2011 is for Effective Roads Policing. This is achieved with measures to "increase roads policing capability in An Garda Síochána to deny the use of our roads for criminal activity" and particularly involves the use of intelligence led checkpoints and patrols and the continued development of the Automated Number Plate Recognition System. All members of An Garda Síochána, including those engaged in roads policing, play a pivotal role in targeting travelling criminals both on motorways and secondary roads, and work closely in a multi-agency approach to implement a co-ordinated use of Garda resources.

The Government's Programme for National Recovery also attaches a high priority to community policing. Community policing is at the heart of policing in Ireland, and has an important role in informing intelligence in relation to organised crime groups.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 61.

Prison Building Programme

Tom Barry

Question:

64 Deputy Tom Barry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the Kilworth prison project, County Cork. [11717/11]

The development of a new prison facility at Kilworth Co. Cork to serve the Munster region is a key element of the prisons modernisation programme. It is accepted that conditions at Cork prison are less than ideal and the new facilities at Kilworth will, when complete, allow for the decommissioning of the accommodation at Cork prison and its replacement with new modern prison facilities. It is anticipated that the capacity of the new prison will be in the region of 450. Unfortunately, with limited resources in the present economic climate, it is likely that ambitious projects such as the development of new prison facilities at Kilworth will take longer to progress.

Garda Operations

Timmy Dooley

Question:

65 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he plans to introduce new measures to tackle tiger kidnappings. [11724/11]

Regular meetings are held between An Garda Síochána and Financial Institutions to discuss bank security issues and in particular tiger kidnapping prevention and response protocols. The response procedures in place for dealing with such incidents, which An Garda Síochána does not disclose as a matter of policy and security, typically include the establishment of Crisis Management teams and agreed protocols designed primarily to ensure the safe return of those persons held captive during such incidents and thereafter securing the arrests and prosecution of the culprits involved. When the protocols are followed the Gardaí are given a great advantage in their efforts to foil these crimes and arrest those responsible. That has been proven to be the case. Obviously if the Garda Commissioner proposes new measures which he feels would aid his officers in tackling those responsible for these crimes then these will be considered and where appropriate put before the Oireachtas for approval.

Advice on personal security for staff members and on systems and processes in place for the conveyance, storage and dispersal of cash are provided on an ongoing basis and are subject of regular review. An Garda Síochána is absolutely committed to ensuring that the first priority during the preliminary investigation of any such incident is the safety of staff and their families and loved ones.

Legislation is now in place which provides for covert surveillance evidence to be used in Court, and the Gardaí are also in a position to utilise legislation which specifically targets the organised criminal gangs responsible for these reprehensible crimes. I want to assure the House that the Gardaí are totally focused in combating this form of criminality as part of the concerted efforts being made to tackle organised criminal gangs.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 41.

Proposed Legislation

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

67 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will publish legislation to allow for the collection and dissemination, when appropriate, of soft information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11884/11]

My Department is currently preparing legislation to provide a legal framework for the existing procedures relating to employment vetting by the Garda Síochána of:

i) persons applying for public sector employment and

ii) persons applying for employment working with children or vulnerable adults.

This legislation is being prepared in close co-operation with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the Garda Síochána.

The legislation will place on a statutory footing the procedures regarding disclosure of criminal records information. It is also envisaged that the legislation will provide for disclosure of information other than records of criminal convictions, in regard to persons applying for employment working with children or vulnerable adults only where such information provides a bona fide reason for believing that the person poses a particular risk to children or young adults. The proposed legislation will require various safeguards to ensure that we provide adequate protection to children or vulnerable adults, while also safeguarding the rights of an individual applying for employment.

I hope to be in a position to publish the General Scheme of a draft Bill in the next month or two, with a formal Bill being drafted and presented to the Houses of Oireachtas as soon as possible after that.

Garda Deployment

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

68 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí who will be used during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II; if he will provide a breakdown of the number of gardaí who will be used at each stage of the visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11885/11]

An Garda Síochána, along with the Defence Forces, is responsible for the security of the visit of Queen Elizabeth II. I have the utmost confidence in the Commissioner and his officers who I know are putting in place all appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of the Queen and her visit.

An Garda Síochána will make all the necessary arrangements to ensure the appropriate level of security is in place for the visit, with the support of the Defence Forces. There is a whole range of security considerations that have to be taken into account, and those considerations are based on an ongoing assessment of the risks involved.

For security and operational reasons, it is not possible at this juncture to disclose the number of Gardaí being used for the duration of the Queen's visit.

Garda Remuneration

Seán Crowe

Question:

69 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average amount paid in overtime to gardaí in each year since 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11863/11]

The amount of overtime paid from the Garda Vote for each of the years since 2005 is set out in the table below.

Year

Overtime Expenditure

2005

77,683,097

2006

102,653,111

2007

135,386,904

2008

112,476,173

2009

77,812,239

2010*

76,596,828

*The figure for 2010 is subject to final confirmation by way of the Appropriation Accounts process.

Crime Levels

Seán Crowe

Question:

70 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons convicted of offences of murder or assault against a woman in each year since 2000 who had previously stalked or harassed the victim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11860/11]

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

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 43.

Prison Inspectorate

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

72 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to strengthen the Inspector of Prisons by putting the office on a statutory footing and removing restrictions on publication by the Inspector of Prisons of his or her reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11875/11]

The Inspector of Prisons has been established on a statutory basis since 2007 by virtue of Part 5 of the Prisons Act, 2007 and is independent. I believe it is an important role ensuring an effective independent oversight of our prison system which will continue to have my full support in carrying out its remit.

As Minister, I am obliged to publish all of the Inspector's reports and it is my intention to do this with all reports presented to me. I might add that under Section 31(4) of the Act, material in the reports that is prejudicial to the security of the prison or State, contrary to the public interest, or which infringes the constitutional rights of any person may be omitted. In practice, however, no material has ever been omitted from the reports of the current Inspector. This provision was included to avoid a situation where the Minister would be obliged to publish a part of the report which both the Inspector and the Minister agree should be confidential, for example, a matter affecting security or where the Inspector wants to identify to the Minister a person who the Inspector believes committed a criminal act. It is also included to address a situation where comments made in reports might leave the Minister open to civil actions for defamation if published.

A commitment to strengthen the role of the Inspector is contained in the current programme for Government. In that regard, I am keen to build on the relationships between the various prison oversight bodies and have asked my officials to examine the possibility of strengthening the links between the office of the Inspector and Prison Visiting Committees in particular.

Deportation Orders

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

73 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there have been any cases in the past six months in which he has not signed a deportation order but has instead granted leave to remain here to a person in respect of whom an assistant principal officer in his Department had made a recommendation that a deportation order be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11887/11]

The Deputy should be aware that while the preparatory work in all repatriation cases is carried out at official level in my Department, decisions are made by the Minister. Records are maintained by reference to decisions made by the Minister and not on the basis of recommendations by officials.

Garda Ombudsman Commission

Martin Ferris

Question:

74 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to enhance the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission’s powers in relation to the Special Branch; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11878/11]

Under the terms of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the extensive powers and responsibilities of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission apply equally to all members of An Garda Síochána. This legislation is kept under review, and I am generally open to any views as to how it might be improved, but I see no reason, nor do I think it practical, to amend it so as to apply differing levels of oversight to different sections of the Garda Síochána.

Diplomatic Representation

Finian McGrath

Question:

75 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will meet the family of a person (details supplied) who is an Irish citizen and has been arbitrarily detained in Sri Lanka since September 2009. [12030/11]

I refer the Deputy to my recent Parliamentary reply, No 80 of 10 May 2011, in relation to the person mentioned by him.

As I confirmed to the Deputy in that reply, my officials remain in close and direct contact with the wife and family of the person mentioned by him and they liaise directly with her on any request for assistance or on any development on his case. The Ambassador and officers in the Embassy in New Delhi, which is accredited to Sri Lanka, have also been very active in pursuit of progress in this difficult case.

I understand that another meeting with the Head of the Consular Division and other senior officials of my Department is to be arranged in the near future and I can assure the Deputy that all possible consideration will be given to any requests that she may raise.

Overseas Development Aid

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

76 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide an update on the way he is ensuring a more coherent policy approach among various groups and Departments concerned with the issue of overseas aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12033/11]

Ireland is playing a strong role in international development, building on the efforts and contributions of individual Irish people and organisations and the effectiveness of the Government's aid programme. The Government is committed to the target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Official Development Assistance (ODA), and to seeking to achieve this by 2015. We recognise that ODA alone cannot provide sufficient resources for international development, and that developed countries need to work more effectively with developing countries on the mobilisation of domestic resources for this purpose. The reduction of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals requires a coherent and comprehensive approach beyond aid to include the other policy areas that have an impact on people living in poverty in developing countries.

The Government is committed to improving the coherence of our development policy, across all Government Departments. I look forward to discussing our approach at an early meeting of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Development, which brings together representatives from all relevant Government Departments with the goal of promoting a coherent approach to overseas development. My officials are also in close contact with other Departments concerning issues relevant to overseas development, including taxation, trade, agriculture and global challenges, including climate change.

The focus of Ireland's aid programme is very clearly on the fight against extreme poverty and hunger, especially in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa. It is important to ensure that our policy priorities are promoted at international level, within the EU and the United Nations, and in our dialogue with partner Governments in the developing world. I am also meeting with representatives of the Irish development Non-Governmental Organisations to discuss their work and to ensure that we co-operate to maximise the collective contribution which Ireland can make to the fight to end global poverty and hunger.

In keeping with the commitment in the Programme for Government, we are now preparing to review the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid. The review will involve wide consultation and will provide an opportunity to improve the coherence of our overall contribution to global development, through the aid programme, across Government, through our engagement with multilateral organisations and in co-operation with the non-Governmental sector.

Passport Applications

Finian McGrath

Question:

77 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will expedite an application in respect of a person (details supplied). [12057/11]

I am glad to be able to say that the passport was posted to the applicant on 13 May.

Trade Missions

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

78 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to undertake or lead trade missions to any of the following destinations: Russia, China, India or Brazil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12058/11]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

79 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the trade missions in which he proposes to participate during the remainder of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12059/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.

Discussions are ongoing with the current Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation in relation to the transfer of trade promotion responsibilities to my Department. As arrangements have not yet been finalised, I am not in a position to comment in detail on future arrangements in relation to trade missions. However, I anticipate that the two Departments will work closely together in the context of the Export Trade Council in prioritising such missions in the future and they will certainly include visits to the four countries identified by the Deputy. As the Deputy will be aware China, India, Brazil and Russia are all priority markets identified in the Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy Strategy and will remain a key focus for this Government.

The Taoiseach will lead a trade mission to China later this year and the details of any Ministerial participation will be decided after the dates for the visit are confirmed. I hope to visit Moscow later this year myself and during that visit a meeting of the Ireland-Russia Joint Economic Commission is likely to take place. My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, led a trade mission to India and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, with full support from our Embassies in those countries. I would add that the Embassies in each of the four priority markets identified by the Deputy and in all the other priority markets are very active, in close co-operation with the State Agencies, in pursuing Ireland's economic and trading interests.

Tax Code

Thomas Pringle

Question:

80 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce a scheme to assist hauliers with the cost of diesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11893/11]

I recognise that the price of fuel has increased in recent times. The increase in the price of fuel is an international phenomenon. Fuel prices are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty in Northern Africa and the Middle East with potential supply disruptions. There is currently some limited scope under the EU Energy Tax Directive to apply a lower rate of excise on auto-diesel for commercial use. However, any relief here would be extremely expensive especially in the current fiscal environment. The excise on auto-diesel is currently around 20 cents lower here than the UK. Furthermore, a lower commercial rate would require an extensive rebate system which would be administratively difficult, costly to operate and open to abuse.

The issue of rising fuel prices was discussed by the Finance Ministers at a recent ECOFIN meeting where the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were high, was reconfirmed i.e. a co-ordinated approach was endorsed towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.

For these reasons it is not proposed to introduce a tax rebate scheme to assist hauliers.

Tourism Infrastructure

Patrick Deering

Question:

81 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Finance the plans of the Office of Public Works to progress work at Altamont Gardens, Ballon, County Carlow, to enhance tourism potential in this part of County Carlow. [11894/11]

Since the death of the owner of the property Ms. Corona North, the Office of Public Works has managed Altamont Gardens, while the complex legal issues relating to the transfer to the State are being resolved in consultation with the Office of the Chief State Solicitor. The Gardens have been managed to a universally acknowledged high standard and the Gardens now form a very important part of County Carlow's tourism infrastructure, featuring strongly on the Carlow Garden Trail. The number of visitors to the Gardens also continues to increase under the stewardship of the OPW. When the issues surrounding ownership are fully resolved works to the overall property will be progressed to further enhance the site's tourism potential.

Tax Code

John O'Mahony

Question:

82 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance when the abolition of the travel tax will come into effect and if a refund of the tax will be made to passengers who have made bookings to travel after this date but whose bookings were made before this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11902/11]

As I announced in my Jobs Initiative statement on 10 May 2011, I will be providing in the forthcoming Finance Bill for the Air Travel Tax to be suspended on or after such a day that I may appoint by Ministerial Commencement Order. To be clear, the commencement of this measure is subject to an agreement being reached with the airlines to bring in additional passenger numbers. My colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is holding discussions in that regard.

Furthermore, a review of the measure will be conducted before the end on 2012 to evaluate its success in bringing in additional passenger numbers; if the measure is considered unsuccessful, the air travel tax will be reapplied. Consequently the relevant legislation measures will remain in place to allow for them to be re-commenced if so required.

On the question of refunds, airline companies are liable to air travel tax (ATT) only in respect of passengers who depart on their flights from relevant Irish airports. I consider that where an airline has passed the cost of the ATT on to its customers, it should refund this charge, without charging a handling fee, if the person does not travel or the ATT has been suspended at the time of departure.

Banking Sector Regulation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

83 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance in view of the fact that they are not among the commercial semi-State bodies listed in the schedule of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No 2) Act 2009, when he will apply the provisions of the Act to Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Nationwide Building Society and EBS Building Society, in each of which the Government is the sole shareholder or special investment shareholder and to which the taxpayer has so far contributed capital amounting to over €35 billion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11911/11]

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009 effected reductions in the remuneration of public servants with effect from 1 January 2010. Staff of the financial institutions referred to in the question do not meet the legal definition of public servant set out in this legislation and accordingly the provisions of the Act do not apply to the staff concerned.

In relation to the matter of staff remuneration, the NTMA have recently, on behalf of my Department, requested the CEOs of each of the covered institutions including those referred to in the question, to review remuneration policy and practices in their institutions. The institutions have also been asked to consider measures that could be undertaken to align staff expectations with regard to benefits/remuneration to the changed economic environment and the financial circumstances of the banks.

EU Surveys

Finian McGrath

Question:

84 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the reason Ireland no longer participates in collecting data to input in the European Economic sentiment indicator process (details supplied); if he considers it imperative that Ireland's participation in this important data collection process be resumed without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11912/11]

The European Economic Sentiment Indicator (or ESI) is generated through the amalgamation of the findings of a series of business and consumer sentiment surveys carried out in Member States. It is the European Commission, and not the Member States that is responsible for ensuring that these surveys are carried out.

It is my understanding that up to 2007 the component surveys were carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute for the Commission on a tender basis, but that, owing to a combination of factors they were unable to continue to do so.

In early 2009, representatives from my Department, and from the Central Bank, met a representative of the Commission, at the Commission's request, to discuss these surveys. During that meeting the Commission representative indicated that they were exploring new arrangements for the surveys to be carried out in Ireland. Both my Department and the Central Bank indicated their willingness to provide support to the Commission in making these arrangements if they could do so, and I hope that the Commission will find an appropriate solution.

Public Service Pay

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

85 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Finance the cost of public service increments for 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will be making further payments in 2011 and 2012. [11965/11]

Increments within the Public Service vary in terms of timing, cost and application both within and across the various sectors of the Public Service and estimates of cost are of necessity, tentative.

It has been estimated that the annual cost in a full year of increments would be around €250 million. However, significantly reduced recruitment and higher numbers on the maxima of scales will mean that this cost will reduce in the coming years and will be affected by other factors. These include retirements, voluntary redundancies, number reductions, recruitment rates and the numbers of employees reaching the maximum of the scale, which cannot be quantified.

No specific provision is made in the financial allocations to public service bodies as they are required to meet the cost within their allocations.

Suspending increments would affect some public servants but would have no effect on others. Generally, incremental scales are longer for lower paid staff than for higher. Accordingly a higher proportion of lower paid including front line staff would be affected by a suspension of increments.

I have no proposals to change the current arrangements in relation to the payment of increments as they would disproportionately affect the lower paid staff in the public service.

State Properties

Question:

86 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Finance when a decision will be made to transfer property at Knockaunglass, Athenry, County Galway to Galway County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11987/11]

The Office of Public Works has decided to transfer the property at Knockaunglass, Athenry, County Galway to Galway County Council by way of licence. OPW advises that the legal formalities on this issue are currently being addressed by the Chief State Solicitor, and that the County Council is aware of the details pertaining to the OPW decision.

Programme for National Recovery

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

87 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance when he will bring forward proposals on social impact bonds as included in the programme for Government and if those bonds will be administered by his Department or the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12003/11]

The Government Programme for National Recovery 2011-2016 provides that the Government will establish a new model of financing social interventions — called Social Impact Bonds — that focus on outcomes for particular target groups, and attract private capital to support social provision.

The Government will consider how best to establish this new and innovative mechanism and will bring forward proposals in due course.

Tax Code

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

88 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance his plans to take submissions on the review of the universal social charge included in the programme for Government; if the process of review will be advertised to members of the Houses of the Oireachtas; when he expects the review process to open and conclude; when the findings of the review will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12005/11]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to carry out a review of the Universal Social Charge (USC). As I have stated before in the house, I would encourage all interested parties to join the review of the USC by way of submission to my Department. My Department is currently accepting submissions from interested parties, however, if changes to the USC are being proposed I would request well thought-out and workable solutions to fill any revenue gaps created. The focus must be on maintaining the €4 billion yield.

It is anticipated that the review will be carried out over the coming months and be completed in time for Budget 2012.

When the review has been completed and the findings and recommendations are presented to me, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken.

University Debt

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

89 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he keeps a record of the debt burden of universities in Ireland; if those debts count towards the total sum of national debt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12006/11]

Under the Universities Act, university borrowings must be in accordance with a framework agreed between the universities and the HEA, following consultation by the HEA with the Minister for Education & Skills and the Minister for Finance. There is therefore a Borrowing Framework in place for the university sector and as part of that Framework the universities are required to report annually to the HEA on their borrowings. The HEA monitors these returns to ensure that they are in accordance with the Framework. As Minister for Finance, I am not required to maintain a record of the debts of universities.

Currently, in Ireland's case, the universities do not fall within the definition of General Government. The debts of universities therefore do not count towards the total sum of national debt. To clarify further, the debts of the universities are neither part of national debt nor of gross government debt (the latter being Maastricht debt).

Tax Code

Regina Doherty

Question:

90 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the legalities in relation to payment of housing stamp duty for second-time buyers who had entered into agreements but had not signed contracts on the day Budget 2011 was announced in December 2010; and if he will clarify the legalities in relation to payment of housing stamp duty for second buyers who had signed contracts on the day the budget was introduced in December 2010 but had not finalised sale. [12016/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the stamp duty regime applicable to residential property was reformed under Budget 2011. A new lower stamp duty rate of 1% was introduced for residential property transactions up to €1,000,000 with a higher rate of 2% applying to the excess over €1,000,000. The reform also involved the abolition of certain reliefs relating to residential property.

The stamp duty changes apply to instruments executed on or after Budget Day (8 December 2010). There are transitional arrangements in place to ensure that anyone who entered into a binding contract before 8 December 2010 is not disadvantaged by the new regime.

A second time buyer, who had entered into an agreement but had not entered into a legally binding contract before 8 December 2010, is subject to the new lower stamp duty rates where the instrument of transfer giving effect to the purchase is executed on or after 8 December 2010. Such a person will not be in a position to avail of the transitional arrangements where the stamp duty treatment that applied before 8 December 2010 is more favourable than the treatment introduced under Budget 2011.

A second time buyer, who had entered into a legally binding contract before 8 December 2010, will be entitled to avail of the new lower stamp duty rates where the instrument of transfer giving effect to the purchase is executed on or after 8 December 2010. Such a person will be entitled to avail of the transitional arrangements, where the stamp duty treatment that applied before 8 December 2010 is more favourable than the treatment introduced under Budget 2011, provided the instrument of transfer is executed on or after 8 December 2010 but before 1 July 2011.

Appointments to State Boards

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

91 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the appointments his predecessor made to State boards and State agencies under his remit for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12019/11]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to appointments made to bodies under the aegis of my predecessor is contained in the following tables:

2008

Name of Body

Name of appointee

Date appointed /reappointed

An Post National Lottery

Mr Donal ConnellMr James HylandMs Barbara Patton

all appointed08 Nov 2008

Valuation Tribunal

Mr Tony TaaffeMr James BrowneMs Fiona GallagherMs Veronica GateMs Mairead HughesMr Niall O’ HanlonMr Frank Walsh

16 Jun 200828 July 200828 July 200804 Aug 200807 Sep 200817 Nov 200817 Nov 2008

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

Mr Dermot Jewell ( Chairperson)Mr Paddy LeydonMr Frank WynnMs Caitriona Ní CharraMr Paddy LyonsMr Tony KerrMr Michael Connolly

All appointed29 Oct 2008

Civil Service Arbitration Board, Teachers, Gardaí and Permanent Defence Forces Arbitration Boards

Mr James Connolly SC, ChairpersonMr Derek HunterMr Tom WallMr George MayburyMr Hugh O’ FlahertyMr Kieran McGovern

1 July 2008

2009

Name of Body

Name of appointee

Date appointed /reappointed

An Post National Lottery

Mr Dermot GriffinMicheál Ó Muircheartaigh

06 Nov 2009

Valuation Tribunal

Mr Michael Connellan Jnr

23 Jan 2009

National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) Advisory Committee

Mr Hugh Cooney

1 Jan 2009

National Development Finance Agency (NDFA)

Mr John Corrigan (Chairman) Chief Executive, (NTMA) ex-officioMr Brian Murphy( Chief Ececutive) Director, (NTMA) ex-officio

Dec 2009Jan 2009

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

Professor Frances RuaneMr Brian Hillery

1 July 20091 July 2009

National Assets Management Agency

Mr Frank Daley (Chairperson)Mr Michael ConnollyMr William SoffeMs Eilish FinanMr Brian McEneryMr Peter StewartMr John Corrigan ( ex-officio)Mr Brendan McDonagh ( ex-officio)

All non ex-officio members appointed 22 Dec 2009

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority

Mr John DunneMr Dermot Quigley

1 May 20091 May 2009

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

Mr Thomas Fallon (Deputy Chairperson)

1 Jan 2009

2010

Name of Body

Name of appointee

Date appointed /reappointed

Conciliation and Arbitration Board for the Civil Service

Mr Turlough O’DonnellMr Tom WallMr Gerard BarryMr Kieran McGovern (Adjudicator)

All appointed 21 July 2010

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

Board Panel of whole-time officials of recognised trade unions nominated by General Council Staff Panel. (appointed for period of one year) on the 1 July each year )Civil and Public Services UnionMr Eoin RoynaneMr Kevin GaughranMr Derek MullinMs Theresa DwyerPublic Services Executive UnionMs Phyllis BehanMr George MayburyMr Billy HanniganIrish Municipal Public and Civil Trade UnionMr Tom HoareMs Geraldine O’ BrienAssociation of Higher Civil and Public ServantsMr John KelleherMr Ciaran Rohan

1 July 2010

Implementation Body under Public Service Agreement 2010-2014

Mr PJ Fitzpatrick

2 Jul, 2010

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal *

Dr. Jimmy LeitchMr. Niall MulvihillDr. John O’Keeffe

All appointedJuly 2010

An Post National Lottery Company

Ms Caroline MurphyMr Oliver Wilkinson

06 Nov 201006 Nov 2010

Central Bank Commission

Professor John FitzgeraldMr. Max WatsonMr. Michael SodenMr. Des GeraghtyProfessor Blanaid Clarke

All appointed01 Oct 2010

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

Mr Paul Carty (Chair)Mr Knut N KjaerMr John A Canning Jr

1 Aug 20102 Apr 20102 Apr 2010

National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) Advisory Committee

Ms Tytti NorasMr Brendan McDonaghMr Kevin Cardiff

1 Aug 20101 Sep 20101 Feb 2010

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

Mr Chris FitzgeraldMr Tony DelaneyBrigadier General Christopher Moore (retired)Ms Niamh Moran

20 Oct 201022 Feb 201022 Feb 201010 Mar 2010

Valuation Tribunal

Mr Fred DevlinMr John KerrMs Patricia O’Connor

4 Jan 20104 Jan 201022 Feb 2010

Credit Union Advisory Committee

Mr Pádraig O’Cearbhaill (Chair)Ms Iris WhiteMr Michael O’ConaillMr Gerry MurphyMs Noreen ByrneMs Denise O’ConnellMr Donal McKillop

All appointed01 Sep 2010

Decentralisation Implementation Group

Mr Ultan Herr

17 Dec 2010

National Assets Management Agency

Mr Steven Seelig

25 May 2010

*The appointments to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal are made by the Minister for Finance on the nomination of the Minister for Health and Children.

To date in 2011

Name of Body

Name of appointee

Date appointed /reappointed

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

Board Panel of Serving (or former) civil servants (appointed for period of 3 years)Revenue CommissionersMs. Lynda HenleyMs. Kathleen RedmondDepartment of Social ProtectionMs Patricia MurphyDepartment of Community Energy & Natural ResourcesMr David HanleyDepartment of Education & SkillsMs Ann McDonnellDepartment of Public Expenditure & ReformMs Patricia ColemanOffice of Public WorksMr Martin BourkeMs Eilis O’ ConnellOffice of the Attorney GeneralMr. Padraig McMahon

1 Mar 2011

National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) Advisory Committee

Mr Donal Roth

1 Jan 2011

Central Bank Commission

Mr Alan Ahearne

08 Mar 2011

Banking Sector Regulation

James Bannon

Question:

92 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance the action being taken by him to enact legislation that will make bankers accountable for their actions over the past number of years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12038/11]

The day-to-day regulation of banks and other financial service providers is primarily a matter for the Central Bank of Ireland (the Bank). The Bank has a range of enforcement tools available to it to ensure the regulation of the Financial Services industry up to and including the bringing of summary prosecutions. Other agencies such as An Garda Síochána, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Director of Public Prosecutions have their own role to play in effective regulation.

The Central Bank Reform Act 2010 provides for a fitness and probity regime for all persons working in senior or sensitive positions in the regulated financial services sector. The Bank is in the process of implementing that regime.

The Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2011 will be published by the end of July and I expect that it will provide for the further enhancement of the supervisory and enforcement powers of the Bank.

Flood Relief

James Bannon

Question:

93 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance his plans to address the four impediments in the Camlin and Shannon rivers which cause severe flooding in the Longford and Clondra areas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12042/11]

The Office of Public Works has no responsibility with regard to the specific issues raised by the Deputy. Primary responsibility for the hydro-electric scheme at Tarmonbarry; Burkes Lock; and new lock gates lies with Waterways Ireland, and responsibility in relation to the concrete wall at the Millwheel in Clondra lies with Longford County Council.

However, the Deputy should be aware that the Office of Public Works is currently involved in a number of initiatives to alleviate the flooding risk in the catchment concerned. The primary initiative in this regard is the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study for the River Shannon, which commenced earlier this year. This study will identify and examine in detail the causes of flooding throughout the Shannon catchment, and produce an integrated plan of specific measures to address the significant flood risk factors in a proactive and comprehensive way.

FÁS Training Programmes

Noel Harrington

Question:

94 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that a FÁS graduate (details supplied) will be given their certificate without delay in order that he can obtain work abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12011/11]

The certification of completion of any specific apprenticeship is an operational matter for FÁS in consultation with FETAC. I have no function in this matter.

However, I understand that FÁS has submitted a request to FETAC for certification in the case referred to by the Deputy and that FETAC is processing the request in its next certification period, which is in June.

Child Care Services

Patrick Deering

Question:

95 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide child care facilities in vocational educational committee schools here. [11896/11]

As part of a commitment in Budget 2010, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme was introduced in September 2010 by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to support students and trainees participating in certain FÁS and Vocational Education Committee (VEC) further education and training programmes. The CETS programme is expected to transfer shortly to the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Under the CETS programme, qualifying students and trainees can avail of free childcare places in daycare services across the country, including those operated by VECs, for the duration of their courses. Up to 1,000 service providers are participating in the programme and up to 2,800 full-time childcare places are available each year. Services participating in the programme are paid a capitation fee of €170 per week for each full-time place contracted under the programme at a cost of up to €24 million per annum. The operation of the CETS programme is being kept under review.

School Staffing

Martin Ferris

Question:

96 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that in the interests of health and safety that a school (details supplied) will be allowed retain a teacher. [11897/11]

The standardisation of the staffing schedule for Gaelscoileanna so that it is the same as that which applies to primary schools generally was one of a number of measures introduced in Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil /Green Party government to control and reduce teacher numbers. These changes are effective from September 2011.The school referred to by the Deputy will now have the same pupil thresholds as ordinary national schools for the appointment and retention of mainstream classroom teachers. Given the financial constraints in which this country now finds itself, it is not possible to reverse these changes.

This change will result in a reduction of the order of 50 posts in Gaelscoileanna. There are currently a total of over 1,500 teaching posts in these schools. The Gaelscoileanna movement is well established and I do not believe that the growth of Gaelscoileanna will be impeded by way of this measure.

The actual impact at individual school level, including the school referred to by the deputy, is determined as part of the allocation process for 2011/12 school year and schools were notified in the normal manner. My Department's Circular 19/2011 includes the criteria under which a school may appeal its staffing allocation and the process for same.

This Government will endeavour to protect front line education services as best as possible. However, this must be done within the context of bringing our overall public expenditure back into line with what we can afford as a country. All areas of Government, including Gaelscoileanna, will have to manage on a reduced level of resources. The challenge will be to ensure that the resources that are being provided are used to maximum effect and in a fair manner.

Martin Ferris

Question:

97 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills when funding will be made available for the reappointment of a school liaison officer at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry. [11900/11]

I have arranged for my Department to contact the Deputy directly, in relation to this matter.

Emergency Works Scheme

Arthur Spring

Question:

98 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider another source of funding for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry on the grounds of health and safety. [11904/11]

An application under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for the drainage problem has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy.

The purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is solely for unforeseen emergencies or to provide funding to facilitate inclusion and access for special needs pupils. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

This application was received in May and is being processed at the moment. The school will be notified of the decision in due course.

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

99 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding special needs assistants resource hours cuts (details supplied). [11914/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and 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. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts as well as a temporary suspension of the allocation of additional resource teaching support hours.

In respect of SNA support, the NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of SNA support to eligible schools.

The NCSE asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18th March, 2011 and intend to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible, in advance of the coming school year.

In respect of resource teaching support, the NCSE has issued a Circular to schools advising them that the final date for schools to submit any outstanding, completed, applications for resource teaching supports was 13th May 2011. On receipt of all outstanding applications the DES and NCSE will be in a position to consider resource allocation for the coming school year, in the context of the Departments Employment Control Framework obligations. Schools will be notified of their allocations as soon as possible.

In the interim, children who are eligible for resource/ learning support teaching can receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools.

Finian McGrath

Question:

100 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding education in respect of a person (details supplied). [11915/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that Special Schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with special educational needs from 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year.

At that point, the Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive assumes direct responsibility for young adults with special educational needs who are over 18 years. My Department, at that stage, may allocate resources towards an education component of such provision.

However, my Department will consider requests from schools who wish to retain students who are over 18 years of age, for an extra school year, in circumstances where they are following courses leading to accreditation at a level of FETAC 3 or above. Applications received from schools in respect of individual pupils will be considered in the context of my Departments policy in this regard, as set out above.

My Department encourages parents and school authorities to engage locally regarding pupils' education. It is open to the parents concerned to raise any queries they may have relating to their child's special educational needs, including education planning, directly with the school authorities.

I can confirm that my Department has received an application from St. Michael's Special School in respect of this person. When all applications for over 18s have been received, they will be considered in accordance with the criteria.

Departmental Funding

John Browne

Question:

101 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the professional development for support for teachers support service is cutting back the funding it is providing for Education Centres in 2011; if his attention has been drawn to the dramatic effect this is having on the centres’ finances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11941/11]

The Education Centre network plays a key part in the overall provision of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers, and in this context my Department provides funding to education centres in respect of core budget, local courses, and, where a centre is the host location for a national CPD support programme, for the administration and operation of the programme in question. The overall amount paid to education centres in relation to core budget and local courses in 2010 was €4.69m. In 2011, the overall allocation for these purposes is €4.71m.

The 21 centres in the national network of education centres, are bodies corporate with perpetual succession. The Centres have management committees to manage the business and staff of the centre.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) is a team of seconded teachers, which offers professional development support to primary and post-primary teachers on a wide range of topics. The PDST was established in September 2010, following a reconfiguration of the support services in existence prior to that date. 2011 is the first full year of the operation of the PDST. In allocating budgets for any PDST strands my Department aims to ensure that the approved allocation is commensurate with the level of activity, and there is ongoing communication between the Education Centres, PDST and my officials in this regard. In some instances, this may mean that a reduction in budget is appropriate.

The Deputy will appreciate that, as is the case with all expenditure, the level of funding to the education centre network as a whole, and indeed the teacher support services, is under regular review within my Department, with a view to ensuring value for money and economic efficiency, while providing a high quality service to the education sector.

School Registration Fees

John Lyons

Question:

102 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason students attending post-primary education are required to pay a school registration fee; if he will outline the rights of parents in this regard; and if assistance is available to families who simply are unable to afford this fee. [11951/11]

It is a fundamental principle of the free post-primary education scheme that no charge is made in respect of instruction in any subject of my Department's programme for Secondary Schools; recreation or study facilities where all the pupils are expected to avail themselves of these as part of the school programme; any other activities in which all pupils are required to take part.

The Department recognises that registration fees are sometimes requested by schools in order to avoid "double booking" of pupils in schools. Under current arrangements, schools are allowed to request a booking fee/registration fee when considering applicants for enrolment, provided this is refundable at all times following a decision on enrolment.

Voluntary contributions by parents or charges for optional extras over and above what is provided for in the general school programme are permissible under the scheme, provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay, and, that in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition.

Pension Provisions

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

103 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding pension arrangements in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11989/11]

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 provided the legal basis for a reduction in public servants pay, effective from 1 January 2010, while Section 3 provided that the reduction in pay under the Act would be disregarded for the purpose of calculating the public servant's pension and lump sum for those who retired in 2010. The period of disregard was later extended to 29 February, 2012 by Statutory Instrument (Number 80/2011) made by the Minister for Finance.

Accordingly, any public servants, including teachers, who are eligible to retire and do so no later than 29 February 2012 will have pension benefits calculated on the pre adjusted pay. Any proposal for extending further the period of disregard is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Vocational Education Committees

Seamus Kirk

Question:

104 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated savings to be achieved from the reconfiguration programme of the 33 vocational education committees across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11991/11]

Seamus Kirk

Question:

105 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated savings to be achieved form the proposed merger of County Louth Vocational Education Committee and County Meath VEC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11992/11]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

111 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has completed his consideration of the proposals for the reconfiguration of vocational education committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12061/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 105 and 111 together.

The previous government decided to reduce the number of VECs from 33 to 16 and on the merger of particular counties. I am anxious to ensure that progress continues to be made in the work on bringing about a reduction in the number of VECs.

The IVEA has recently responded to my invitation to them to submit alternative rationalisation proposals, following their expression of concerns regarding the configuration of the proposed new entities.

I will consider the IVEA's response and decide on the particular mergers in the coming period having regard to the potential for savings and to ensuring that the new structures will be fit for purpose.

It would be very difficult to accurately predict the savings which will arise from any one particular merger. Some of the likely savings from the restructuring of the VECs will come from the sale of existing VEC buildings. The potential revenue to be raised from the sale of these assets, however, is closely linked to the current state of the property market and it may not be possible to dispose of such buildings satisfactorily in the short term.

This reconfiguration can over time yield savings in the recurrent cost of the headquarter functions of VECs which at present is of the order of €42 million in total, primarily comprising pay provision. The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes suggested savings of €3 million. I am satisfied that a saving of that order is a reasonable projection in the medium term.

School Staffing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

106 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the withdrawal of special needs assistant services from a school (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11995/11]

Firstly, I wish to advise the Deputy that Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations are not permanent, as the level of SNA support allocated to a school may be increased or decreased as pupils who qualify for SNA support enrol or leave a school. They are also decreased where a child's care needs may have diminished over time.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and SNAs to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

I have therefore referred this query to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme will be to provide for an annual allocation of Special Needs Assistant support to eligible schools. The NCSE has asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18th March, 2011 and intend to inform schools of their annual SNA allocation as soon as possible, in advance of the coming school year.

As such, the school referred to by the Deputy will be advised of its allocation of SNA support for the coming school year, taking into account the care needs of all the pupils attending the school and any new entrants.

Teacher Training

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

107 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the professional development service for teachers support service has no Irish version of its website; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is contrary to the Official Languages Act 2003; if he will rectify this omission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11997/11]

The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) are currently in the process of developing a new website for the organisation. In September 2010, the PDST was created as a result of the reconfiguration of a number of services to provide a coordinated response to training needs of teachers at primary and post primary level. The current website is a temporary holding page providing links to the site of each of the former services which constitute the PDST. The new website, when available, will conform with requirements in relation to the Official Languages Act.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

108 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all professional development service for teachers support service provides bilingual versions as bearla agus as gaeilge of all documentation including but not exclusively handouts, booklets and leaflets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11998/11]

The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) is a team of seconded teachers, which offers professional development support to primary and post-primary teachers and schools on a wide range of topics. The service was established in September 2010, following a reconfiguration of the support services in existence prior to that date, and 2011 is their first full year of operation. The PDST aims to provide bilingual versions of its documentation, materials and resources in accordance with statutory requirements.

Where the PDST engages in face to face support with teachers and schools, documentation including presentations and handouts are provided through the language medium of theschool.

Generally, direct communications from the PDST to all schools are provided in both Irish and English.

Institutes of Technology

Sandra McLellan

Question:

109 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to initiate an inquiry into the expenses claimed by the president of Waterford Institute of Technology; if he will provide a detailed breakdown of expenses claimed by the president’s department over a six-year period; his plans to take immediate action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11999/11]

I am aware of recent steps taken by the Governing Body of Waterford Institute of Technology to commission an external review of spending incurred by the Presidents office at the institute. I understand that this has been considered at a recent meeting of the institute's Governing Body.The Higher Education Authority has now sought a report from the institute on the issues that gave rise to the decision to commission an external review and of any issues arising from the external review. That report will be expected to address details of expenditure over the period in question, whether any departures from appropriate policies and processes in place to monitor and control expenditure have occurred and any actions proposed by the Governing Body in light of its findings.

School Staffing

John Lyons

Question:

110 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the alleviation measures he will provide for a school (details supplied) in view of the detrimental effect the loss of three RTT posts will have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12004/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last Budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.

Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31st August 2011. Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.

Limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers.

In respect of Urban Band 1 DEIS, (Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools), Traveller enrolments have been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. The schools involved have already received their staffing allocations for next year.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 104.

Teacher Training

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

112 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he proposes to change the method by which newly qualified teachers are probated; if there is a timeline for any proposals which he proposes to implement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12062/11]

Access to the profession of teaching in recognised schools in Ireland is regulated. The Teaching Council is the designated Competent Authority for the regulation of the profession.

The Council requires that all primary teachers successfully complete probation in order to achieve full registration (registration without conditions). The Inspectorate of my Department evaluates the professional competence of primary teachers, in accordance with Circular 0058/2010, for the purposes of informing the Teaching Council's decisions regarding registration.

The Council requires that all post-primary teachers satisfactorily complete a period of post-qualification employment in order to achieve full registration (registration without conditions). The parameters surrounding this requirement are set down by the Council and involve principals of schools in verifying that the required conditions have been met.

In July 2010, the then Minister for Education and Skills wrote to the Teaching Council signaling that Section 7(2)(f) and Section 7(2)(g) of the Teaching Council Act 2001 will be commenced no later than 1 September 2012. The effect of this is that the Council will establish the procedures and criteria for the probation of teachers that the Council would wish to implement for primary and post-primary teachers following the commencement of these sections of the Act.

There are no plans to change current procedures for the probation of primary and post-primary teachers in advance of 1 September 2012.

Traveller Education

Nicky McFadden

Question:

113 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the availability of teachers for members of the Traveller community at a school (details supplied) and if more alleviation posts will be created to ease the heavy demand so that students who need to repeat a year can be accommodated. [12063/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision to withdraw Resource Teacher for Travellers was taken by the previous Government as part of the last Budget. The requirement to make expenditure savings and to ensure that staffing numbers remain within the Public Service Employment Control Framework prevent me from re-visiting this decision.

Resource Teacher for Traveller posts/Teaching Hours for Traveller pupils will be withdrawn, effective from 31st August 2011. Traveller pupils who are eligible for learning support teaching should receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools should select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.

Limited alleviation or adjustment measures are being provided to assist schools that have high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by Resource Teachers for Travellers.

In respect of DEIS, (Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools), Traveller enrolments have been included in the valid enrolment for the purpose of allocating additional staffing under DEIS from the 2011/12 school year. The schools involved have already received their staffing allocations for next year.

For schools other than DEIS schools in receipt of enhanced pupil teacher ratios, alleviation measures are being provided to assist schools with high concentrations of Traveller pupils who were previously supported by RTT posts. Any alleviation measures must be considered in the context of the limited resources that are available to my Department. As such, alleviation measures are being concentrated on schools which had 33 or more pupils supported by RTT posts, based on 2009/10 school year enrolments.

I understand that the school referred to by the Deputy has been allocated one learning support alleviation post.

Teacher Training

Nicky McFadden

Question:

114 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the regulation of teacher training here with specific reference to the oversupply of qualified teachers (details supplied) in the Irish market. [12085/11]

The Teaching Council is responsible for the regulation of the teaching profession in the State in relation to, inter alia, the recognition and registration of teachers, and the accreditation of programmes of initial teacher education.

As the Deputy may be aware, the following colleges are currently recognised for the provision of initial teacher education for primary teachers in the State: -St. Patrick's College of Education, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 -Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road, Limerick -Colaiste Mhuire, Marino Institute of Education, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9 -Froebel College of Education, Sion Hill, Blackrock , Co Dublin -Hibernia College, Clare Street, Dublin 2.

The level of student intake to the state-funded Colleges of Education is determined annually by my Department and it takes account of the supply of, and demand for, primary teachers. The level of intake to these Colleges has decreased in recent years in light of available resources and factors impacting on demand.

The Graduate Diploma in Primary Education offered by Hibernia College has been recognised for the purpose of qualification as a primary teacher for almost 10 years. As Hibernia College is a privately-owned institution providing a privately-run course, neither my Department, nor any other State body, has a role in regulating the number of students enrolled.

Psychological Service

Michael McCarthy

Question:

115 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of private psychologists who are currently registered on the panel for the scheme for commissioning psychological assessment; the number of psychological reports commissioned by parents under the scheme in 2009 and in 2010; the number of psychological reports from private practitioners in 2009 and 2010 which did not result in an application for a further service; the number of Irish primary schools who do not currently have a national educational psychological service; and the total number of psychologists employed directly by the National Educational Psychological Service. [12087/11]

I can inform the Deputy that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through my Department's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA) which is administered by NEPS. Assessments are commissioned by the school authorities under the scheme and not directly by parents.

Schools that do not currently have dedicated NEPS psychologists assigned to them have access to through the SCPA under which school authorities can commission assessments from a member of the panel of private practitioners approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the fees directly to the psychologist concerned. Private practitioners must satisfy a number of requirements for membership of the SCPA panel including, obviously, qualification to carry out the required educational psychological assessments. SCPA allows one assessment per 50 pupils enrolled in the school. Currently there are 77 private practitioners listed on my Department's website on the SCPA panel.

The scheme was introduced as an interim measure to provide this alternative service in advance of NEPS reaching its target complement of psychologist staffing and in the light of increases in that staffing in recent years SCPA has diminished in its extent. In the 2009/9 and 2009/10 academic years my Department processed claims for 2,917 and 2,593 assessments respectively. A fee of €306 is paid in respect of each assessment on receipt of relevant certification from the school authorities involved and in the academic years referred to above some €0.89m and €0.79 was expended by my Department in this connection.

To date some 175 psychologists are currently directly employed within my Department's NEPS service and an additional three are due to take up duties shortly. Some 80% of Primary schools, representing 88% of primary pupils, currently have a NEPS psychologist assigned.

Psychological assessment takes a number of forms and is used for a number of purposes. The primary purpose of assessment by psychologists in schools is to identify the strengths and needs of pupils within the context of the school. The main outcome of such assessment is to advise and support teachers on appropriate interventions to address the needs identified. The interventions agreed may involve the utilisation of resources available to schools under the General Allocation Model or may be provided by means of additional resources applied for by the school through the National Council for Special Education.

Although NEPS has received, in the past two years just, copies of the reports furnished to schools on foot of the SCPA, this material is only used for the purposes of randomised quality control and NEPS has no overall information on the recommendations therein nor the resources that may have been forthcoming from the reports.

Pension Provisions

Finian McGrath

Question:

116 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence regarding pension fund managers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11913/11]

The Government supports and encourages people to make provision for an adequate income in retirement. It does this through the provision of a State pension (contributory) which is currently 33% approx. of the gross average industrial earnings and through generous tax relief on supplementary pension savings.

It is important that an individual's pension savings is invested wisely and that charges incurred in the administration of a pension scheme are minimised. The National Pensions Framework which was launched in March 2010 recognises the difficulty that people can have in understanding the various charges that can arise and how these charges are applied. In this regard, it was proposed in the framework to introduce regulations to increase the transparency of pension charges.

Following the publication of the framework, the Government established a number of groups to analyse all options in relation to the National Pensions Framework. These groups, comprising officials from a number of Government departments and agencies are charged with overseeing all elements of the implementation process. One of these groups is charged, among other things, with examining the options to bring greater simplification and transparency to the issue of pension charges.

Social Welfare Code

Liam Twomey

Question:

117 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason different criteria apply depending on whether a person is applying for farm aid or fish aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11937/11]

The farm assist scheme is a means-tested payment broadly similar to the jobseeker's allowance scheme. It features a different means test, which takes account of the specific nature of farming. Unlike jobseeker's allowance (JA), farmers claiming this payment do not need to be available for work outside of the farm in order to qualify. Fish assist is not a separate scheme. It comes under JA and features a different means test than that for JA. The scheme applies to persons engaged in sea fishing in a self-employed capacity. A self-employed fisherman may qualify for jobseeker's allowance but must be, however, available for and genuinely seeking work. Across the spectrum of social welfare schemes, a range of different qualifying criteria and payment conditions apply that reflect the different contingencies facing various groups in society.

Michael Creed

Question:

118 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection if she is concerned at a trend emerging regarding claimants for domiciliary care allowance who are being refused in substantial numbers initially but are successful on appeal; if she will review the instructions and guidelines under which her Department’s medical assessors are interpreting medical evidence in such applications; if she will expedite an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork which is presently being referred to the appeals office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11959/11]

Eligibility for domiciliary care allowance is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted. The Department uses a set of consistent and objective guidelines in determining the medical eligibility of children for the scheme. These guidelines were drawn up prior to the transfer of the scheme from the HSE in April 2009 by a group, chaired by the Department's Chief Medical Advisor, comprising senior medical personnel from the HSE as well as eminent professionals in the areas of physical disabilities which affect children and child psychiatry and psychology. All claims are assessed by designated Departmental Medical Assessors who have received special training in Human Disability Evaluation. In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed by a different Medical Assessor specially designated for this task. Where a person is not satisfied with the decision of a Deciding Officer, they may appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Of the 5,333 applications processed in 2010, a total of 2,576 (48%) were allowed by a deciding officer. Of the 641 appeals finalised in 2010, 179 (28%) were successful. This figure is substantially lower than the average success rate on appeals across all the Department's schemes and is an indication that the current application and assessment process is working in a fair and consistent manner. The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 10 March 2011. 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 in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 12 March 2011 and the appeal will be referred, in due course, 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 the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

119 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision on an appeal has been made in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11988/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that a revised decision favourable to the person concerned has been made by Department who will, in due course, be in contact with her regarding this decision. 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.

Frank Feighan

Question:

120 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [12000/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hands, the Department has made a further nine additional appointments to the office in recent weeks. While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but he or she will be informed when arrangements have been made. 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 Code

Simon Harris

Question:

121 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason there has been a reduction in rent allowance on a property (details supplied); the criteria for rent allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12029/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that it has received correspondence from the landlord in relation to the rent limit applicable to the property in question and has further advised that the matters raised are under review. A reply will issue to the landlord of the accommodation concerned in due course.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

122 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an appeal will be heard in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12031/11]

Payment of illness benefit to the person concerned was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. An appeal was opened and in the context of that appeal her case was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, following receipt of the grounds of appeal from the person concerned, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Department have been sought. On receipt of its response, the case will be 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.

Billy Timmins

Question:

123 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (detail supplied) and if it will be dealt with as a matter of urgency. [12068/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hands, the Department has made a further nine additional appointments to the office in recent weeks. While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date for when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but he or she will be informed when arrangements have been made. 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.

Services for People with Disabilities

Frank Feighan

Question:

124 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Social Protection if there is any scheme in place within his or any Department to allow a person with a disability to receive a placement of work experience when it is the recommendation of Rehab that a person be placed in a work environment to build their confidence and give them a sense of responsibility. [12101/11]

In the absence of specific information, it is assumed the question refers to a person with a disability who is leaving the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire and seeking to return to the open labour market. In such circumstances, the person with a disability should register with his or her nearest FÁS Employment Service Office for a vocational guidance interview. These offices are the gateway for all FÁS services. The listings and locations are available on the FÁS website,www.fas.ie. I will set out the options available for consideration. There are vocational training programmes for people with disabilities who wish to return to the open labour market. Work experience is an integral part of these programmes. Alternatively, if the person is job-ready and seeking employment, he or she should consider the FÁS Supported Employment Programme, which covers job-seeking and support a by Job Coach in securing employment and support in the workplace. In addition, the Work Placement Programme provides a nine-month work experience opportunity. It offers the participant the opportunity to gain on-the-job work experience while retaining his or her Social Welfare entitlement. All of the above are available through FÁS Employment Services. The onus is on the individual to engage directly with them.

Departmental Staff

Michael Creed

Question:

125 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the reason persons (details supplied) are only being offered two month contracts which is at variance with their previous experience when they were offered eight and nine-month contracts in previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11974/11]

The Deputy will be aware that in line with the Government's drive to restore the public finances and reduce the budget deficit, all Departments have been asked to achieve a progressive reduction in staff numbers and payroll costs by implementing Employment Control Frameworks. In this regard, the Department of Finance now sets the numbers of temporary staff, referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied, that may be employed each month of the year. In line with the above stated Government policy to reduce public sector employment costs, I am advised that it has not been possible to offer the same number of contracts or contracts of the same duration as in previous years to the persons referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied. It should be noted that while some of the contracts offered to such persons have been offered for shorter periods than in previous years, my Department is committed to ensuring the most effective use of all its staffing resources across the country and also to ensuring delivery of the best possible services to the public within the confines of reduced budgets and funding. My Department will keep the staffing situation referred to by the Deputy under review.

Turbary Rights

James Bannon

Question:

126 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if he will facilitate the domestic peat turf cutters on the proposed new peat council recently established by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12103/11]

I have endeavoured to ensure representation on the Peatlands Council for domestic peat cutters through the participation of the Irish Farmers Association, the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association and Irish Rural Link. The input of peat cutters will play an important role in the work of the Council. It is open to them to make an input into the deliberations of the Council through the organisations mentioned above or through direct contact with the Council. The Council may be contacted by writing to The Secretary, Peatlands Council, 7 Ely Place, Dublin 2, by e-mail at peatlandscouncil@environ.ie or by telephone at 01 8883207.

Bog Fires Compensation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he intends that Bord Na Móna would accept liability for damage done to neighbouring properties during recent fires that originated on Bord Na Móna property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11935/11]

The matter in question is not one in which I have a function but is a day-to-day operational matter for the company. I have been advised by Bord na Móna that it continues to work closely with the local community and the fire service to prevent bog fires, protect property and reduce future risk.

Broadcasting Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

128 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if TV3 and TG4 are paying RTÉ NL in respect of their services on Saorview the digital terrestrial television service; if TV3 will be available on Saorview throughout its initial launch; if he has directed TV3 to appear on Saorview under its licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11969/11]

It is the responsibility of my Department — in conjunction with RTÉ, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), ComReg and other stakeholders — to progress the digital switch-over process so that it meets the 2012 timeline for analogue switch-off. Accordingly, the then Minister imposed by order a requirement on RTÉ to make its public service digital terrestrial television (DTT) multiplex available to 90% of the population from 31 October 2010. On 29 October, RTÉ launched the DTT service (called Saorview) to over 90% of the population on a pilot basis. RTÉ considered that a pilot phase was essential to provide for the roll-out of the network nationally, to test new content and to allow for technical testing. In addition, it considered that this period could be used to develop additional content and services and to ensure the availability of a variety of Saorview-approved receivers prior to the national launch. Due to the nature of this pilot phase, it was considered appropriate that TG4, TV3 and other third party broadcasters would not be charged for DTT services during this period. However, broadcasters including TV3 and TG4 will be required to pay for DTT services on the RTÉ digital network thereafter. The pilot network is available to the public and currently broadcasts RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2, TG4, TV3, 3e and two test services — RTÉ News Now and an RTÉ digital teletext service. RTÉ is proposing a full national launch in the second quarter of 2011. Further information on the RTÉ DTT service is available onwww.saorview.ie.

TV3 is the national commercial TV broadcaster and is licensed under contract with the BAI. This contract provides for TV3 to be carried on the analogue terrestrial TV network which is operated by RTÉ NL. Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 also provides for the Minister, at the request of the BAI, to make space available for TV3 on the RTÉ digital network. The BAI made such a request on behalf of TV3 in 2010 and TV3 was facilitated with space on the RTÉ digital network for both TV3 and 3e, which is owned by TV3. While a decision to use the RTÉ digital network is ultimately a commercial decision for TV3, I consider that TV3's request for space on the digital network is a positive indication of its continued interest in national broadcasting in Ireland and a clear signal of its intent in this regard.

Departmental Programmes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

129 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the specific spending programmes and amounts which are involved in achieving the €11 million savings mentioned in the jobs initiative. [12009/11]

An additional €30 million in funding was provided for the National Energy Retrofitting Programme by the Minister for Finance in the Jobs Initiative announced on Tuesday 10th May 2011. This funding comprises of an additional €19 million in Exchequer Funding with the balance of €11 million being provided from savings within my Department's existing capital allocation.

The specific spending programmes and amounts which are involved in achieving the €11m savings are as follows:

High Speed Schools' Broadband Programme: €3m

Postcodes Programme: €2m

Ocean Energy Programme: €6m.

Given the time of the year and the stage of progression of each of the above programmes/projects, these monies will not be required in these areas this year.

Special Housing Needs

Jack Wall

Question:

130 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reasons a Health Service Executive, HSE, initiative has not obtained its full potential (details supplied); if a board of directors is in place for the project or is it the responsibility of the HSE to control the units; if not, if he will ensure this aspect is addressed and that the potential of the project is fully realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11903/11]

Under my Department's Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) funding of up to 100% of the approved cost of accommodation is provided for accommodation by approved housing bodies for people with special housing needs. My Department's involvement with the voluntary and co-operative housing schemes relates primarily to the provision of funds for individual projects.

Funding of €292,039 was provided under the CAS in 1989 towards the cost of twelve units of accommodation for older persons by Athy Voluntary Housing Association at Saint Vincent's Hospital in Athy, Co. Kildare.

Approved housing bodies may be constituted as limited companies, societies registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies or as trusts incorporated under the Charities Acts. Each body must have a properly functioning governing body, board of directors or trustees which is responsible for the proper management and maintenance of dwellings provided under the terms of CAS and for the operation of letting policies and compliance with all relevant statutory requirements. It is a matter for the local authority, in this instance Kildare County Council, to ensure that the housing body is managing and maintaining the scheme in accordance with the terms of the CAS.

Community Development

Denis Naughten

Question:

131 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 21 of 14 April 2011 and the subsequent supplementary responses (details supplied), if he will outline the progress made to date in resolving the issues between the two Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12013/11]

The European Commission has confirmed that support/grant aid for adding value to agrifood products is not eligible under Axis 3 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP). Basic agricultural products are listed in Annex 1 to the EC Treaty and are commonly called Annex 1 products. Under the main Rural Development Regulation 1698/2005 support/grant aid for adding value to Annex 1 products is facilitated under Axis 1 of the programme.

As a result of this, grant aid under Axis 3 of the RDP for this type of activity has been suspended. My Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are currently working together with the support of the European Commission to resolve the issue, and discussions are ongoing with a view to reaching a solution as soon as possible.

Departmental Contracts

Regina Doherty

Question:

132 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the basis on which employment will be awarded to persons who are qualified to install water meters; the basis on which contracts will be awarded to companies who operate to install water meters; if employment will be awarded through local authorities or put out to tender for construction companies; and when employment is likely to commence in this area. [12015/11]

The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water. The objective is to install water meters in individual households and move to a charging system based on usage above a free allowance. My Department is currently preparing a strategy to implement these proposals, including the necessary procurement process for purposes of the purchase and installation of the meters and I will be making further details available following Government consideration of the proposals. It is likely that the installation of meters will commence early in 2012. The capital intensive nature of the installation of water meters to over one million households should offer significant employment potential. It is estimated that the metering programme could sustain between 1,200 and 1,800 jobs between 2012 and 2014 when the bulk of the works will be carried out.

Election Management System

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

133 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends to fulfil the previous Government’s commitment to dispose of the 7,000 e-voting machines; if so, the date of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11916/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 76 of 17 May 2011 which outlined the position in this matter.

Smokeless Fuels

Terence Flanagan

Question:

134 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the use of smokeless fuels in areas (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11917/11]

The Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale & Distribution of Fuels) Regulations, 1998 to 2004, prohibit the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous, or smoky, coal within certain designated restricted areas, in order to protect air quality in urban areas. The Regulations are enforced by the local authorities. Fuel suppliers who breach the ban are liable for prosecution.

The bituminous coal ban has been gradually extended since it was first introduced and now applies in sixteen towns and cities around the country. These are as follows:

Dublin City and County since 1990

Cork City since 1995

Arklow, Drogheda, Dundalk, Limerick City and Wexford Town since 1998

Celbridge, Galway City, Leixlip, Naas and Waterford City since 2000

Bray, Kilkenny, Sligo and Tralee since 2003.

Air quality monitoring carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the ban has reduced pollutant emissions very significantly in areas where it has been applied. Reductions of black smoke emissions range from a minimum of 45% in the smaller cities and towns to a high of 70% in Dublin. This has resulted in greatly improved ambient air quality in these areas with consequent health benefits.

The EPA also publishes a comprehensive annual report on air quality, the most recent being the report“Air Quality in Ireland 2009 — Key Indicators of Ambient Air Quality (November 2010)”. In this report the EPA found that levels of particulate matter in smaller towns outside the existing ban areas can be similar or worse than those in cities. The EPA has recommended an extension of the ban to additional areas in order to deliver further improvements to air quality. This recommendation will be considered as part of a consultation on improvements to the smoky coal ban which I intend to undertake in the coming months.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the criteria to be used to prioritise water and sewerage schemes in County Kildare in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11925/11]

TheWater Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 includes details of the contracts to commence in County Kildare, and nationally, over the period 2010 to 2012, as well as schemes to advance through planning in this period. A copy of the Programme is available in the Oireachtas library.

The specific environmental and economic pressures that have informed priorities and project selection in the Programme are:

Water conservation proposals which meet environmental and economic goals;

Environmental objectives including works required to respond to:

Judgments of the European Court of Justice;

Environment and Public Health Objectives arising, for example, from environmental regulation in respect of drinking water standards, wastewater treatment standards, wastewater discharge authorisations, bathing water standards, Pollution Reduction Programme for Shellfish Waters, fresh water pearl mussel plans, etc; and

Compliance with the Water Framework Directive requirements,

Projects which support economic development and employment creation.

My Department is currently undertaking an annual review of the Programme. There are two components to this review: a review of progress of all schemes and contracts currently in the Programme, and following that a consideration of the need for any reprioritisation of contracts and schemes, including addressing issues which have emerged since the Programme was published and which require an urgent response. The current scale of the published Programme was set in the context of likely available financial resources over the medium term. In light of this, and the short time which has passed since the extensive review undertaken in the development of the Programme, there is only scope for, and should only be a need for, minor adjustments to the Programme at this stage.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of group water schemes approved by each local authority in each of the past three years and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11926/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of group water and sewerage schemes funded by him in each of the past five years and to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11932/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 142 together.

Responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme, which includes group water and sewerage schemes, has been devolved to local authorities since 1997.

The selection and approval of individual group schemes for advancement and funding under the programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocation provided, is therefore a matter for the local authorities. The information requested may, therefore, be sought from the local authorities.

Local Authority Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way in which the local authorities might best assist economic recovery with particular reference to dealing with job creation or retention proposals through the planning system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11927/11]

Local authorities play a central role in supporting economic development and enterprise at local level. They do this in a number of ways including through their capital and current budgets, economic planning and development and the provision of goods and services as well as community infrastructure.

Business Support Units (or similar arrangements) have been put in place in all county and city councils. These Units provide a dedicated one-stop-shop, and provide information and arrange consultations on a range of issues including planning.

Looking ahead, the Programme for Government provides for an expanded role for local authorities in local enterprise and community development. This in turn will assist in maximising the impact of investment to produce jobs at local level. In addition, I will be asking local authorities to do all that they can to reduce rates and other charges which affect businesses. Furthermore, I will be considering how best local authorities can play their part in supporting relevant elements of the Government's Jobs Initiative.

Local Authority Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of local authority houses built by each local authority and occupied by tenants in each of the past three years and to date in 2011; the degree to which it might be possible to increase this number in view of the economic advantages both for the tenant and the national economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11928/11]

Data in relation to social housing starts and completions are published in my Department's Quarterly Housing Statistics Bulletins while data in relation to lettings are set out in Annual Statistics Bulletins. Copies of each are available in the Oireachtas library and on my Department's website,www.environ.ie. Data in respect of 2010 and 2011 are not yet available.

Notwithstanding the very significant easing of affordability we have seen over the last number of years, the current adverse economic circumstances have impacted on the demand for social housing and the capacity to meet this demand. The straitened resource environment has accelerated the shift away from reliance on programmes of construction and acquisition.

The main focus in terms of supports provided by Government will be on meeting the most acute needs, the housing support needs of those unable to provide for their accommodation from own resources. We are committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to these needs, including those of older people, through a variety of mechanisms including through increased provision of social housing, continued strong support for special needs provision through the Capital Assistance Scheme and the suite of adaptation grants for older people and people with disabilities.

This will necessitate a continuing restructuring of the social housing investment programme to allow for delivery of new social housing through more flexible funding models, to enable us to meet our social housing delivery commitments in the period ahead while protecting, to the greatest extent possible, programmes targeting special needs. The social housing leasing initiative and, in particular, the Rental Accommodation Scheme will each play their part as long term mainstream social housing supports.

The Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease, and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies, including from the Housing Finance Agency, for construction and acquisition.

Social and Affordable Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if and when he will meet with tenants of a housing scheme (details supplied) in County Kildare with a view to facilitating a meeting between the relevant officials of Kildare County Council, his Department and the tenants with the representative of the housing association with a view to addressing the long-standing grievances of the tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11929/11]

My Department's involvement with voluntary and co-operative housing schemes relates primarily to the provision of funds for individual projects. The detailed administration of the schemes, and the certification that projects comply with the terms and conditions of the funding schemes, are the responsibility of the local authority.

Approved housing bodies are responsible for the proper management and maintenance of dwellings provided under the terms of the funding schemes and for the operation of letting policies, the fixing of rents and compliance with all relevant statutory requirements. Tenancy matters are generally covered in the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement between the approved housing body and the tenant, and are broadly based on landlord and tenant legislation.

Leim an Bhreadain Voluntary Housing Association currently manage and operate a 32-unit voluntary housing scheme at Sli an Chanail, Easton Road, Leixlip. In accordance with terms of the funding scheme for this project, tenants are required to pay a rent based on the local authority Differential Rents Scheme. Kildare County Council wrote to my Department on 1 March, 2011, to advise that the housing body in question has a six-person Board of Directors in place and that information with regard to rents policy, annual accounts and insurance, as requested by the Council, had been received from the Board.

I understand that the Council noted an apparent error in the way rents were determined and this was brought to the attention of the Board of Directors and discussed at a subsequent meeting between representatives of the Board and Kildare County Council. The Council also advised my Department that the Board of Directors agreed to meet individual tenants who had concerns in relation to rent policy and the payment of rent arrears.

It is a matter for Kildare County Council to ensure that the housing body is managing and maintaining the housing scheme in accordance with the terms and conditions of the funding scheme. This includes oversight of tenancy arrangements and rents policy. My Department will ask Kildare County Council to review these matters and to report on compliance, by the housing body, with the terms and conditions of the scheme. Given that primary responsibility for the matters in question rests with the local authority a meeting such as suggested would not be appropriate.

Local Authority Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of occasions on which legal action was taken by each local authority for repossession of houses on foot of loan or tenancy agreements in each of the past three years and to date in 2011; the level of arrears on foot of which such proceedings were taken in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11930/11]

My Department does not collect information in relation to the number of legal actions taken by local authorities on foot of cases of mortgage arrears. However, information regarding repossession of houses on foot of loan arrears is available. Repossession figures are extremely low for local authority borrowers with only 128 repossessions across all local authority areas carried out in the period 2005-2010. This includes 58 voluntary repossessions or abandonments.

In terms of rent arrears my Department collects data on an annual basis from local authorities under section 62 of the Housing Act 1966.

In 2008, 553 warrants issued on foot of rent arrears, of which 130 were enforced. In 2009 local authorities sought 598 warrants of which 36 were enforced. Information regarding 2010 and 2011 is not yet available.

Local authorities can and do exercise the powers available to them and endeavour in all arrears cases to engage proactively and constructively with a distressed borrower or tenant with the aim of ensuring that arrears cases are handled in a manner that is sympathetic to the needs of the particular household, while also protecting the position of the local authority concerned.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of major water and or sewerage schemes and the cost throughout the country in each of the past four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11931/11]

The Water Services Investment Programme is a multi-annual investment plan for the provision of major water and sewerage schemes. The current plan, Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, is available in the Oireachtas Library, and sets out the plans for investment in major water services projects. Previous plans are also available in the Oireachtas Library.

The publication of the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 followed on from a comprehensive review of water services capital investment requirements including an extensive needs assessment exercise carried out by local authorities.

The current programme comprises some 340 contracts to be progressed to construction over the period 2010-2012 with a value of over €1.8 billion and some 190 schemes on which planning work will continue over the period.

Exchequer expenditure on water and waste water services for the last 4 years is set out in the table below. The expenditure covers a number of area including planning, construction and final accounts.

Year

Total Expenditure

Water Services Investment Programme

Rural Water Programme

2007

496.7

366.7

130.0

2008

496.4

391.4

105.0

2009

512.0

412.0

100.0

2010

495.0

407.0

88.0

The number of schemes/contracts completed in the last 4 years is set out in the table below. The published programme includes details by location of the schemes completed in the period 2007-2009, contracts in progress at the end of 2009 and contracts to commence over the period 2010 to 2012, as well as schemes to advance through planning in this period.

Completion Year

Wastewater

Water Supply

Total

2007

21

23

44

2008

23

18

41

2009

28

14

42

2010 (contracts)

39

33

72

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 136.

Emergency Planning

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the degree to which the local authorities are programmed to react effectively and expeditiously in emergency situations with particular reference to fire, flooding, chemical pollution or other emergencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11933/11]

For the purposes of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003, city councils, county councils and borough councils are fire authorities. Under the legislation, each fire authority is required to prepare, and as occasion requires revise, a Fire and Emergency Operations Plan. The making of this Plan is a reserved function of the local authority.Inter alia , the Plan sets out the resources, operational procedures and training arrangements in relation to responses to incidents such as fire, flooding, chemical pollution or other emergences.

All county and city councils also have effective crisis management arrangements in place in accordance with the Framework for Major Emergency Management which was approved by Government in 2006. Under the Framework, local authorities, An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive are designated as the principal emergency response agencies for the country. The Framework sets out common arrangements and structures for front-line public sector emergency management in Ireland, is based on the internationally recognised systems approach and is designed to fit with the ‘all hazards' approach to emergency management. One of the main purposes of the Framework is to set out the co-ordination mechanisms and working relationships between the various services which make up the front-line emergency response.

When the need arises, fire authorities use these procedures, which enable the principal response agencies together with the Defence Forces, Civil Defence and other voluntary agencies, to make and co-ordinate the appropriate response to significant incidents. Individual fire services escalate their response as they deem necessary, and use the generic co-ordination structures to ensure effective inter-agency collaboration where appropriate

It is a sound principle that emergency response builds from the local response level of emergency services in the area where the emergency event occurs. As an event unfolds, the response can be escalated, if required, to a regional response. If the situation escalates to an exceptional extent, a whole of Government approach may be initiated, with one of the main objectives being to support the local and regional responses.

I believe that we have appropriate and effective planning, co-ordination and implementation systems in place, as demonstrated successfully during the severe cold weather and flooding of 2009 and 2010 and in the response to the Cork Airport tragedy.

Social and Affordable Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the provision currently being made to meet the housing requirements of persons whose homes are being repossessed by lending institutions other than local authorities in view of the obligation on the local authorities under the housing Acts to meet the housing requirements of such persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11934/11]

The Government is acutely conscious of the difficulties many households are facing in terms of mortgage arrears and our Programme for Government sets out a range of credible and meaningful measures that will help households challenged to meet mortgage commitments.

However, it is important to note, particularly for households worried about possible repossession, that the level of repossessions in Ireland has actually been quite low. The Central Bank's quarterly data series on Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossessions shows that the level of repossession activity in the courts, with respect to the primary residence of borrowers is not high when compared with the scale of mortgage arrears pertaining. For example, the level of home repossessions per hundred thousand mortgages in the UK is over 5 times greater than the Irish rate. It can also be observed that the majority of repossessions taking place are not by way of a court order, rather via voluntary surrenders and abandonments.

Repossession is even rarer for local authority borrowers with only 128 repossessions across all local authority areas carried out in the period 2005-2010. Clearly, where repossession does occur it is a last resort and my Department is aware that it generally involves those households in arrears who refuse to engage with the local authority lender.

In terms of the social housing supports available for households who have had their homes repossessed and are unable to provide for alternative accommodation from own resources, the Government is committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to these and other acute needs.

This will necessitate a continuing restructuring of the social housing investment programme to allow for delivery of new social housing through more flexible funding models, in order to enable us to meet our social housing delivery commitments in the period ahead while protecting, to the greatest extent possible, programmes targeting special needs. The social housing leasing initiative and, in particular, the Rental Accommodation Scheme will each play their part as long term mainstream social housing supports.

The Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease, and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies, including from the Housing Finance Agency, for construction and acquisition.

Recycling Policy

John Browne

Question:

145 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when an application for funding of a recycling centre (details supplied) in County Wexford will be approved. [11938/11]

A letter issued from my Department to the County Council concerned on 6 April 2011 requesting clarification of a number of matters in the application for grant assistance submitted by the Council in respect of this recycling facility.

I am awaiting a response from the Council to the issues raised before the matter can be considered further.

Social and Affordable Housing

Dan Neville

Question:

146 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when funding for the Ardagh Clúid housing scheme at Ministerland, Ardagh, County Limerick will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11962/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No 208 of 19 April, 2011, which sets out the position in relation to this matter.

Departmental Funding

Joan Collins

Question:

147 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the type of assistance and the level of funding, if any, he provides each year to the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, the Association of County and City Councils, the Local Authority Members Association (LAMA) and the County and City Managers Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11985/11]

My Department does not provide any funding or other assistance to the Associations in question.

Social and Affordable Housing

Derek Nolan

Question:

148 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the new housing regulations which came into force this year preclude those with stamp 4 immigration status from joining housing lists and that this in turn means they cannot claim rent allowance in view of the fact that to do so persons must be registered on a housing list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12008/11]

To be eligible for social housing support, a person must have a long-term right to reside in the State, decisions on which are a matter within the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality. My Department has given guidance to authorities on how to assess whether an applicant for housing support has such a long-term right to reside in the State. The latest guidance to local authorities in respect of access to social housing supports for non-Irish nationals, including non-EEA nationals, is set out in my Department's Circular letter SHIP 2010/19 of 24 September 2010. This guidance was restated in documents issued to housing authorities at the time of commencement of the recent Regulations putting in place a new system of social housing assessment from 1 April 2011, but the advice is not part of the Regulations nor is it affected by them.

Generally speaking, a non-EEA national with a Stamp 4 endorsement for at least 5 years is eligible on residence grounds to be considered for social housing support.

Eligibility for rent allowance is determined by the Department of Social Protection and is subject to that Department's separate rules on "habitual residence".

Departmental Schemes

Joan Collins

Question:

149 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 96 of 12 May 2011, if he will provide the breakdown of moneys allocated to each project (details supplied). [12022/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No 96 of 12 May, 2011.

In terms of the €7 million capital allocation to the former PPP regeneration projects, this funding will be used to support a diverse range of activities and investments reflective of the different stages of each of the projects ranging from planning/design, demolition works, site enabling works and construction as well as property acquisitions to facilitate de-tenanting. Dublin City Council has indicated that the funding will be utilised as follows:

€0.875 million for demolition and site enabling works at St. Michael's Estate and O'Devaney Gardens;

€3.5 million for St. Michael's Estate — Construction of Phase 1;

€2.625 million for relocation of tenants to facilitate future regeneration capital works at O'Devaney Gardens, Dominick Street, St. Theresa's Gardens, Dolphin House, and Croke Villas.

It is a matter for the City Council to determine the prioritisation and location of the works to be undertaken and to apportion the funding accordingly.

Planning Issues

James Bannon

Question:

150 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will instruct local authorities to relax the regulations in relation to signage being used by businesses to promote their premises or businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12040/11]

Section 254 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides for a licensing system for the placement of various structures and appliances on, under, over or along a public road, including maps for indicating directions or places. This licensing system enables a local authority to exercise control over the placing of structures on roads to prevent traffic hazards arising.

The Planning and Development Regulations 2001 prescribe the level of fees to be charged in respect of structures and appliances licensed under Section 254 of the 2000 Act. Schedule 12 of the Regulations prescribes a fee of €630 for an advertisement structure or €50 in the case of an advertisement structure, that is of a fingerpost type not exceeding 1 metre in length, consisting of a direction sign to indicate tourist accommodation. Consideration is being given in my Department to reviewing this matter and the associated fees, in consultation with planning authorities.

I am also considering the introduction of an exemption from planning permission for temporary advertisements announcing any local event promoted or carried on for commercial purposes, similar to the existing exemption in place for community-related, non-commercial advertisement, subject to certain conditions and restrictions. Under section 262 of the Planning Act, the making of regulations to introduce such exemptions will require the prior resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Unfinished Housing Developments

James Bannon

Question:

151 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider a better estates scheme to encompass non-council unfinished estate in which residents’ associations have been established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12043/11]

Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) provides that, where estates have not been completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority and enforcement proceedings have not been commenced within the relevant period, the planning authority must, if requested to do so by the majority of owners, initiate the procedures for taking the estate in charge.

A further provision was added in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 to provide that a planning authority may take in charge an unfinished estate, at the request of the owners of the housing units, at any time after the expiration of the planning permission, in situations where enforcement actions have commenced or where the planning authority consider that enforcement action will not result in the satisfactory completion of the estate by the developer. Planning authorities have also been empowered to take in charge part of an estate or some, but not all, of the facilities in an estate.

The decision as whether to take an estate in charge is ultimately one for the elected members of a local authority.

A high-level Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments was established in October 2010, following the publication by my Department of aNational Housing Development Survey database. The Advisory Group’s Final Report was submitted to me on 6 May. I am currently considering its findings and recommendations and will bring proposed actions and recommendations to Government for approval shortly, with a view to publishing the Report thereafter.

Departmental Programmes

James Bannon

Question:

152 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding funding for the insulation of local authority houses in 2011 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12044/11]

Under my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses.

My Department requested local authorities specifically to target vacant dwellings in 2011 with the objective of returning the maximum number of vacant units to productive use at reasonable cost. However, necessary improvement works to occupied houses will continue to be eligible for funding from within the allocations notified to individual authorities.

Some €31million is being provided to local authorities in 2011 in respect of their social housing improvement works programmes. An allocation of €425,000 was notified to Longford County Council in respect of this measure. It is a matter for the Council to determine the properties to be selected for improvement in 2011.

Garda Operations

Brian Stanley

Question:

153 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total cost of lifting, checking and sealing manholes and drains and related works in advance of the visit here of Queen Elizabeth II; the projected cost of lifting, checking and unsealing manholes and drains when she leaves the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12010/11]

The Garda Commissioner is the Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána does not maintain a separate record of the costs referred to by the Deputy. In addition, I understand that to seek to provide such a breakdown would involve the expenditure of a significant amount of Garda time and resources. In the circumstances I regret that I am not in a position to supply the information the Deputy has requested.

Appointments to State Boards

Catherine Murphy

Question:

154 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he intends to include a gender quota in respect of the appointment of chairpersons of State boards; if so, the quota that will be set; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11691/11]

The Programme for Government 2011 — 2016 includes a commitment to take steps to ensure that all State Boards have at least 40 per cent of each gender. Composite data on women's participation on State Boards during 2010 will be made available to the Government shortly and are expected to show that about 34 per cent of places on Boards were held by women in 2010. However a smaller percentage of women chair these State Boards at present. My colleague, Ms Kathleen Lynch T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Older People, Equality and Mental Health is currently chairing a working group which is looking at the advancement of women into leadership and decision-making roles including on State and Corporate Boards. The report of that group will be available in the Autumn and I will consider its findings before making proposals to Government in relation to the introduction of quotas on the appointment of chairpersons.

International Terrorism

Dara Calleary

Question:

155 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has received a security briefing on the presence of terrorist cells in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11948/11]

While I receive regular briefings from the Garda Commissioner on security matters it is not the practice to disclose publicly the details of these briefings. I can assure the Deputy, however, that An Garda Síochána maintains extremely close and regular contact with their international counterparts in relation to a broad range of issues, including security and terrorism related issues and they keep myself and the Government fully informed on any emerging threat or issue in this area.

Question No. 156 answered with Question No. 51.

Crime Levels

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of crimes committed by category in each of the past five years and to date in 2011; the degree to which the perpetrator was brought to justice in each category; the extent to which he proposes to address any issues arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11923/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total amount of money taken in the various reported robberies in each of the past three years to date in 2011; the extent to which subsequent action and prosecution was successful including the recovery of moneys stolen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12081/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 173 together.

Following the submission in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from An Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, the CSO is now compiling, publishing and responding to queries regarding recorded crime statistics. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is the policy of An Garda Síochána not to disclose the amount of money taken during incidents of robbery. All such incidents, including so-called tiger kidnappings and cash in transit robberies, are investigated and prosecutions taken when warranted.

Regular meetings are held between An Garda Síochána and financial institutions to discuss security issues and in particular tiger kidnapping prevention and response protocols. There are response procedures in place for dealing with such incidents, which An Garda Síochána does not disclose as a matter of policy and security.

The Programme for Government contains a number of commitments which aim to strengthen the measures available to bring those responsible for committing crime to justice. These commitments include a DNA database which will be established to assist An Garda Síochána in the investigation of serious crimes. I also plan to introduce legislation to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to forfeiting the proceeds of crime, including drug trafficking and dealing. We are also committed to freeing up Gardaí for front line policing by allocating administrative duties to civilian staff and by reforming case management systems so that Gardaí are not unnecessarily detained in the courts.

As well as taking forward as quickly as possible the specific commitments in the justice area in the Programme for Government, I intend to build on the work which has been under way for some time on the preparation of a White Paper on Crime. My ultimate objective is to provide a comprehensive framework for future crime policy, in the form of a National Anti-Crime Strategy. I want to make sure that we, as a community, are best placed to deal with the problem of crime in all its manifestations — not just the challenges we face now, but those likely to emerge in the coming years. In drawing up that Strategy, the White Paper process will mean that we will be able to take measures which are based on a rigorous analysis of what works and take on board a range of ideas from community, expert and voluntary interests.

Garda Strength

John Browne

Question:

158 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Garda numbers will continue to be reduced due to retirements and other reasons; the effect this will have on Garda operations in the future; his plans to introduce a Garda recruitment campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11939/11]

The Government's Programme for National Recovery has set a target for a reduction in the numbers employed in the public service between now and the end of 2015. I will be discussing with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and my other Cabinet colleagues, the details of how this reduction will be applied across those parts of the public service which I am politically responsible for. I expect that a final decision on this will be taken in the context of the comprehensive review of expenditure currently under way. A decision on when Garda recruitment will recommence will take into account both the target reduction and the rate of retirements from the Garda Síochána.

While there is no getting away from the reality that public expenditure and public service numbers have to be reduced, I am determined, as are all my Cabinet colleagues, that this will be accompanied by real and substantive reform, reform which will make the delivery of public services more efficient and cost-effective. Our Programme for National Recovery recognises that a key objective of this reform is the protection of frontline services, and I regard that as a priority for the Garda Síochána.

Garda Recruitment

Michael McCarthy

Question:

159 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he expects the Garda Síochána will begin to absorb new recruits into Templemore college, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11994/11]

As the moratorium on Public Service Recruitment continues to apply to An Garda Síochána, no date has been fixed for future intakes into the Garda College or for the commencement of a recruitment competition. A decision on when recruitment will re-commence will take into account the rate of retirement in the Garda Síochána and Government targets for reductions in public service numbers.

Garda Deployment

Alan Farrell

Question:

160 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí allocated to stations within Dublin north. [12012/11]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of each Garda Station in the DMR North Division on 30 April 2011, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

Strength

Balbriggan

68

Garristown

3

Lusk

7

Rush

5

Skerries

11

Ballymun

121

Dublin Airport

25

Santry

83

Whitehall

45

Coolock

119

Malahide

37

Swords

84

Clontarf

77

Howth

40

Raheny

71

Total

796

The responsibility for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner in consultation with his senior management team.

Garda Transport

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

161 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide one additional public order van and one additional unmarked vehicle for a garda station (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12018/11]

The detailed allocation of Garda resources, including transport, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner to decide in accordance with his identified operational requirements and priorities. At Divisional level, responsibility for the efficient deployment of Garda vehicles is a matter for the Divisional Officer. I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently 11 unmarked vehicles and 2 public order vehicles attached to the Garda station referred to by the Deputy. In addition they have indicated that the current policing arrangements for the area make the optimum use of Garda resources.

Garda Training

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

162 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the length of time for the advanced driving course, method of entry course and the public order unit training course for the Garda Síochána; his plans to provide additional resources to reduce waiting list delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12020/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a five stage Competency Based Driving (CBD) Programme has been developed in An Garda Síochána and this is in the process of being rolled out at present. CBD Level 4 (Advanced Driving) training is four weeks in duration and there is no waiting list for these courses. Method of Entry training is five days in duration. The courses are delivered on demand and are run on a monthly basis (where possible) to cater for applications. In order to ensure that there is always a cohort of members trained in each Division, candidates are selected on a geographical (Divisional) basis. Public Order Unit Training is six days in duration and courses are delivered at Divisional level.

I am further informed that apart from the formulated lists associated with the general planning and administration of courses, no known major issues exist as regards waiting lists for courses.

Proposed Legislation

David Stanton

Question:

163 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he expects to publish the mental capacity Bill needed for ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities; the other legislative and administrative actions required for ratification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12023/11]

The Government Legislation Programme announced on 5 April 2011 indicates that the Mental Capacity Bill is expected to be published in late 2011. The Bill will reform the law on mental capacity taking into account the Law Reform Commission's Report on Vulnerable Adults and the Law. The Bill will replace the Wards of Court system with a modern statutory framework governing decision-making on behalf of adults who lack capacity.

It is the Government's intention to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary legislative and administrative requirements under the Convention are being met. In the case of my Department, this is the enactment of the mental capacity legislation. As the Deputy may be aware, Ireland does not become party to treaties until it is first in a position to comply with the obligations imposed by the treaty in question, including the amendment of domestic law as necessary.

The ongoing implementation of our National Disability Strategy in many respects already comprehends many of the provisions of the Convention. In addition, the Inter-Departmental Committee on the UNCRPD monitors the remaining legislative and administrative actions required to enable the State to ratify the Convention. The Committee has developed a programme on which work is progressing to address the matters that need to be aligned with the UNCRPD.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Simon Harris

Question:

164 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider reducing the cost of special exemption orders required by nightclubs from €410 to €200 on the basis that the current charge is a disincentive to nightclubs operating additional nights thus costing jobs and excise and VAT revenues to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12064/11]

Special exemption orders which permit extended opening hours may be sought from the District Court for special occasions. A special exemption order expires where it extends to any Monday that is not a public holiday at 1.00 a.m., and in other cases at 2.30 a.m. Drinking-up time of 30 minutes is also permitted.

The increase in fees applicable to such orders provided for in the District Court (Fees) Order 2008 (SI 202 of 2008) was the first such increase since 2004. The current court fee is €300. While I am aware of the pressures on licensees, there is a need to maintain a balance in this matter and I am satisfied that the current fee is warranted in view of the very considerable costs to the State which arise from late night drinking.

Simon Harris

Question:

165 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amend the licensing system that will govern the opening hours of nightclubs; his views that there could be potential positive tourism benefits to such a move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12065/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

166 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will expedite the sale of alcohol Bill in order to allow for the early introduction of a nightclub permit in view of the fact that no such definition of a nightclub exists in current legislation; the details of the nightclub permit that is to be introduced as part of the sale of alcohol Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12066/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 166 together.

The Government Legislation Programme provides for publication of the Sale of Alcohol Bill in late 2011. This Bill will update the law relating to the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2010, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008, and replacing them with provisions more suited to modern conditions. It will include provisions relating to the operation of nightclubs. As regards the contents of the Bill, I intend to consult with relevant interests, including the nightclub sector, before finalising its provisions.

Criminal Prosecutions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of incidents of alleged protection or racketeering reported to the Garda in each of the past three years to date in 2011; the degree to which follow-up action and prosecution took place; the number of prosecutions; the number of such prosecutions that were successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12075/11]

In the time available it has not been possible for the Garda authorities to provide a report on the matters raised by the Deputy. I will be in further contact with the Deputy as soon as that report is to hand.

Witness Intimidation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of reported instances of intimidation of witnesses in each of the past three years to date in 2011; the action taken arising therefrom; the number of successful prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12076/11]

Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 makes it an offence to harm or threaten or in any other way intimidate or put in fear another person who is assisting in the investigation by An Garda Síochána of an offence, or is a witness or potential witness or a juror or potential juror in proceedings for an offence, or a member of his or her family, with the intention thereby of causing the investigation or the course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that separate records are not maintained of offences under section 41 as between those directed against witnesses and those directed against jurors. Accordingly, the information available from the Gardaí covers both categories of individuals. The Deputy will appreciate that, of their nature, instances of intimidation of jurors are less likely to come to notice than instances of witness intimidation.

The table below shows the position with regard to the number of proceedings commenced and convictions for offences under Section 41 of the 1999 Act for the period from 2008 to 15 May 2011.

Year

Proceedings

Convictions*

2011

9

0

2010

41

6

2009

31

10

2008

18

5

*Figures provided are provisional and figures will change in the light of the outcome of court proceedings.

The statutory provisions available to counteract jury intimidation reflect the gravity of the offence. The Gardaí rigorously enforce these provisions and, of course, will continue to do so. Further legislative action has being taken in the context of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, including a significant increase in the penalty following conviction for jury intimidation from up to ten to 15 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which criminals are known to run criminal empires when in prison in each of the past three years to date in 2011; if precise statistics have been determined in this regard; the action or actions taken or proposed to address the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12077/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent, if known, to which organised criminal gangs have access to persons serving prison sentences; if any restrictions can be placed on such activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12079/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 171 together.

The issues referred to are of great complexity for which there are no easy solutions short of isolation for all prisoners in custody. Clearly this is undesirable, would be counterproductive in many cases and would also be incompatible with human rights principles. As a result of a number of successful cases taken by An Garda Síochána, there are a large number of high ranking members of organised criminal gangs who are now in prison custody. In common with other prisoners, they have a legal entitlement to access to the public by means of, for example, visits, phone calls, letters and court appearances. They also associate with other prisoners on a daily basis on the landings of the prison that they are detained in.

The Prison Service is committed to preventing such individuals having an inappropriate influence over prisoners associated with these gangs or indeed other persons in custody or in the community, and is in contact as necessary with An Garda Síochána regarding possible criminal activity within the prisons. Measures taken on a continuous basis include regular targeted searching, placement in high security institutions, screened visits, barring of certain visitors, the use of CCTV and mobile phone detectors, examination and monitoring of mail, close supervision of all visits, metal detectors, the setting up of the Operational Support Group (OSG) and the introduction of drug detection dogs.

OSG staff operate in all closed prisons (excluding the Training Unit and Arbour Hill) and perform a number of functions. These include acting as dedicated search teams, being the first respondents to any alarm or incident, the designated control and restraint team for cell removals and relocations and acting as the on call fire pickets.

The OSG has the additional responsibility of gathering and collating all intelligence information in the prison, carrying out high profile escorts, assisting the security chief officer in the continuing assessment and improvement of security within the prison.

A Drug Detection Dog Unit (Canine Unit) has been established on a national basis and became operational in all prisons in 2009. As of May 10th, the Canine Unit has 26 dog handlers, with 34 trained dogs, consisting of 8 conflict resolution dogs, 3 active dogs, and 23 passive dogs. Conflict resolution teams are available for deployment to any prison on request from the Governor.

While I am not in a position, for security reasons, to go into the exact details of all measures being applied to tackle the operation of such criminal gangs, the Deputy can be assured that I am committed to doing everything legally possible to disrupt their activities.

Prison Committals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of persons that have served a prison sentence in each of the past three years to date in 2011 for failure to discharge debt to banks, individuals, companies or State institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12078/11]

I can advise the Deputy that a total of 431 persons were committed to prison in the time-frame referred to, as a result of the non-payment of a court ordered debt. It is not possible to provide the full information requested by the Deputy without the manual examination of the numerous records concerned and obviously this would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort which can not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources. However, a breakdown of the number of persons committed to prison solely for non-payment of debts for each of the years from 2008 to date is set out in the following table:

Year

Number of Persons

2011 (as of 16th May)

9

2010

5

2009

162

2008

255

Total

431

Debtor offences comprise a failure to meet loan repayments to banks and other financial institutions, including credit unions, but also include failure to pay maintenance debts, hire purchase agreements or creditor loans. As the Deputy will be aware debt is a civil matter and does not result in a criminal conviction. The Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009 introduced a provision that a debtor cannot be subject to a committal order if he or she is simply unable to pay a debt. This legislation also provides that the debtor must be present in court and where appropriate shall have an entitlement to seek legal aid. The court must be satisfied that the debtor has the ability to pay but wilfully refuses to and that there are no goods to seize to satisfy the debt. The court may also request the debtor and creditor to seek resolution by mediation. Accordingly, a person can now only be imprisoned in default of a debt as a final resort, where the debtor can afford to pay but wilfully refuses to abide by the court order.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 169.

Judicial Appointments

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of judicial positions to be filled at District, Circuit or higher court levels; the procedures to be followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12080/11]

There are three judicial vacancies at present; two in the High Court and one in the District Court. The current procedures are set out in the Courts and Court Officers Act, 1995. In accordance with the provisions of section 16(2) of that Act, I have requested the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board to furnish me with the names of those persons it considers suitable for the current vacancies together with the name of each person who has informed the Board of his/her wish to be considered for appointment.

Following receipt of the lists from the Board, the Government will nominate persons for appointment by the President.

I should mention that I have asked my Department to examine the judicial appointment procedure and this review is currently in train.

Question No. 173 answered with Question No. 157.

Garda Communications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the most modern communication systems are available and fully operational to the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12082/11]

All radio communications within An Garda Síochána are carried out over the National Digital Radio System (NDRS) which provides a modern and fully secure communications platform for An Garda Síochána.

The roll-out of the NDRS to the Garda Síochána commenced in June, 2009. The last phase of the roll-out of the system was completed in March 2011.

Garda Reserve

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of the Garda Reserve currently available for duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12083/11]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of the Garda Reserve on 30 April 2011, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 761.

Garda Strength

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of the female membership of the Garda Síochána at each rank level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12084/11]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the total number of females in An Garda Síochána, broken down by rank on 30 April 2011, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was as set out in the table hereunder:

Rank

Strength

Commissioner

0

D/Commissioner

1

A/Commissioner

0

C/Superintendent

4

Superintendent

12

Inspector

25

Sergeant

296

Garda

3,093

Total

3,431

Visa Applications

Finian McGrath

Question:

177 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the case of a person (details supplied). [12088/11]

The Short-Stay Visa Waiver Programme provides for visa-free travel to Ireland for the holders of UK visas from certain countries. The Waiver Programme is aimed at people on short trips to the UK who might wish to also visit Ireland and it is expected to cover mainly tourists and business people from the countries concerned. It is also intended to introduce procedures which could cater for, insofar as is possible, citizens of the countries concerned who are long term residents of the UK and who wish to visit Ireland for short stays such as business or tourism and who present an insignificant risk of irregular migration.

The Waiver Programme will be introduced on a pilot basis from 1 July of this year to October 2012 (to cover London Olympics period and beyond). This start date is based on enacting secondary legislation (by way of Statutory Instrument) to define the categories of people covered by the Waiver Programme. The pilot programme will be monitored throughout its running and is capable of being amended or expanded at any point.

In relation to the specific case referred to by the Deputy, there are no plans at present to include nationals of the country in question in the pilot scheme. However, in the circumstances outlined by the Deputy, the person in question may well be advised to consider exercising their entitlements to travel throughout the EU as a family member of an EU citizen.

Prison Commitals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of jail sentences imposed in lieu of non-payment of debt in each of the past five years to date in 2011; the number of persons imprisoned on foot of same; if the liability arose from lending institutions, the Revenue Commissioners or others; the extent of which more than one sentence was imposed or served on foot of the same or subsequent liability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12102/11]

As the Deputy will be aware debt is a civil matter and does not result in a criminal conviction. The Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009 introduced a provision that a debtor cannot be subject to a committal order if he or she is simply unable to pay a debt. This legislation also provides that the debtor must be present in court; he or she is entitled to seek legal aid; the court must be satisfied that the debtor has the ability to pay but wilfully refuses to and that there are no goods to seize to satisfy the debt. The court may also request the debtor and creditor to seek resolution by mediation. Therefore, a person can now only be imprisoned in default of a debt as a final resort, where the debtor can afford to pay but wilfully refuses to abide by the court order.

The number of persons imprisoned in each of the past 5 years is set out in a table. It should be noted that imprisonment does not extinguish an outstanding debt.

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Total debtors imprisoned

194

201

255

162

5

9

The Courts Service has advised that details of the creditors who brought the proceedings and the extent to which more than one sentence was imposed for the same debt liability can only be retrieved by way of a manual examination of each individual court record. As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, this would require the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of staff time and resources and it is therefore not possible to provide the level of detail sought.

Naval Service Vessels

Paudie Coffey

Question:

179 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Defence his plans to re-instate the sail-training programme Coiste an Asgard; if he has considered replacing the Asgard II sailing vessel which sank off the coast of France on 11 September 2008; if he has received an insurance payment for the vessel following its sinking; if so, the purpose for which the insurance payment was used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11921/11]

The position is that the previous Government decided in the context of settling the Estimates for the Department of Defence for 2010 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, the sum of €3.8m representing the insured value of Asgard II was transferred to the Department of Finance as Extra Exchequer Receipts.

Paudie Coffey

Question:

180 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Defence his plans to invest in new vessels for use by the Naval Service to protect Irish waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11922/11]

Following a two-stage tender competition a contract was awarded in October 2010 to the preferred bidder, Babcock Marine in the UK for the provision of two new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Naval Service. Preparations for the construction of these new vessels have commenced and the first new vessel is scheduled for delivery in early 2014. The second vessel will follow one year later. The acquisition of these modern new vessels, combined with a continuous process of refurbishment and repair, will ensure that the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a satisfactory level.

Irish Red Cross

Finian McGrath

Question:

181 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the current vice chairman of the Irish Red Cross intends to go forward for another term on the board of that organisation at its council meeting of 25 May 2011 next bringing his total service to date on the board to 20 years; if he considers this is compatible with best practice governance guidelines especially with regard to board rotation and renewal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12024/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

182 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence in view of impending new legislation and a new constitution for the Irish Red Cross, he will consider asking the current long serving vice chairman of the IRC to follow the example set by the former distinguished chairman and step down and not go forward for election this year in order to allow for a new start for the Red Cross in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12025/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

184 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if he will consider incorporating specific term limits for members of the executive committee of the Red Cross into any new proposed Red Cross legislation; if he will consider including the concept of retrospection that is previous service being taken into account for any new members of the executive committee going forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12027/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 to 184, inclusive, together.

My Department is engaged in consultations with the Office of the Attorney General on the extent of changes that can be made to the Irish Red Cross Order 1939. Following receipt of legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General, which is expected in the coming weeks, I will review the legislative changes that are proposed and consider bringing them to Government for approval. Amongst the issues that will be considered will be the question of introducing mandatory breaks in service.

With regard to the Deputy's Question concerning the term of Board members and best practice governance guidelines, I have commenced an exchange with the Society concerning governance matters.

Finian McGrath

Question:

183 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in filling the vacancy for a Government nominee to the central council of the Irish Red Cross; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12026/11]

As I indicated in my recent answer to a similar question (PQ No. 8253/11 refers), my Department has been informed of the resignation, for personal reasons, of one of the previous Government's nominees to the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross Society. I am now considering how this vacancy might be filled and I will make a decision on the matter shortly.

Question No. 184 answered with Question No. 181.

Army Barracks

James Bannon

Question:

185 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on plans for the future of Connolly Barracks, Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12041/11]

Longford County Council have expressed some interest in acquiring Connolly Barracks. Discussions with the Council are ongoing with officials from my Department.

In the event of these discussions not reaching a satisfactory outcome this property will be disposed of taking account of the market conditions, so as to maximise the return to the Defence Forces and generate funding for reinvestment in Defence Forces equipment and infrastructure.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

186 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Defence the planned military budget for 2011. [12091/11]

The total gross provision for the Defence Vote (Vote 36) for 2011 is €725.5m. €1.5m in respect of capital supply services was also carried over from 2010 to 2011. The gross provision in the Defence Vote for military expenditure is €694.9m, which provides for pay and allowances and capital and current costs relating to the Defence Forces. The Defence Vote also includes an administrative allocation of €23.2m and provides for funding of €7.4m for other services (Grants-in-Aid, etc).

A full breakdown of the Vote is available in the published Estimates for 2011.

Defence Forces Equipment

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

187 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Defence the planned military purchases for 2011. [12092/11]

Investment in new equipment for the Defence Forces is provided for under various Subheads of the Defence Vote relating to defensive equipment, mechanical transport, aircraft, Naval Service ships and stores, communications and Information Technology equipment. The provision for defensive equipment for 2011 will allow, inter alia, for the acquisition of a range of equipment, e.g. Chemical Detection Equipment, Body Armour, Force Protection Equipment, Rifle enhancement, Communication Equipment etc. in order to maintain the Defence Forces capabilities.

The provision for ammunition in 2011 is circa €16m. This will cover the acquisition of a range of different ammunition types necessary to maintain stocks given the training and overseas requirement throughout the year.

One of the most significant allocations provided for this year, and which will be required in the coming years, relates to the Naval Service subhead which provides for the development and provision of two new Off Shore Patrol vessels, the first of which is to be delivered in 2014. The priority this year is on maintaining the capability of the Defence Forces to deliver effective services across all of the roles assigned by Government.

Departmental Bodies

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

188 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will privatise Coillte; and if he has any plans to sell the leaseholds for trees in State ownership. [11970/11]

Coillte was one of 28 commercial state bodies reviewed by the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities, chaired by Colm McCarthy, which reported recently. The Government is now considering the findings of the Report and its recommendations in detail. However, no decision has yet been taken by the Government about the future of Coillte.

Fishing Quotas

Anne Ferris

Question:

189 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to relax the current quotas for Irish persons fishing in Irish waters; if he will re-examine the criminality issue pertaining to this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11910/11]

The annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and annual national quotas are established each year at the December EU Fisheries Council. The management of Ireland's fish quotas is determined at national level in close association with industry representatives. My Departments meet industry representatives on a monthly basis to review whitefish quota uptake and bring forward proposals for allocations to vessel owners on a monthly basis. The recommendations are generally robust and take account of the issues for the industry as a whole and, in most cases, I am able to adopt these recommendations. Pelagic quotas are allocated based on policy in place which is reviewed and amended as required in full consultation with industry.

The Programme for Government has committed to replacing the criminal sanctions system for minor fisheries offences with administrative sanction system to bring Ireland into line with other European jurisdictions.

I have requested the advice of the Attorney General on the implementation of the Government commitment. Any amendment to provide for such a system would be included in the planned amendment to the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006 which is required to provide for the EU obligation to implement a penalty points system for the masters of vessels in respect of serious infringements of the Common Fisheries Policy rules, in accordance with the provisions of EU Council Regulation 1224/2009.

Grant Payments

John Browne

Question:

190 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a sheep subsidy will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [11940/11]

While an application under the 2010 Grassland Sheep Scheme was received from the person named on the 23 April 2010, no payment is due, as, while the closing date for submission of the annual Sheep Census was 9 April, the Sheep Census of the person named was only submitted on 18 May 2010.

Dan Neville

Question:

191 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if an official from his Department will contact a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11960/11]

An official from my Department has been in direct contact with the person named and has provided clarification relating to the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and to the National Reserve of the Single Payment Scheme.

Paudie Coffey

Question:

192 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a grant that has been approved to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford under the agri-environment options scheme will be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11976/11]

The person named has been approved for the AEOS scheme with a start date of 1 September 2010.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Agri-Environment Options Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. I expect that payments to participants in the scheme in respect of the first year will commence in August and that payments in respect of year two will commence in October.

John O'Mahony

Question:

193 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their suckler cow grant payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11979/11]

The person named registered 20 animals under the 2010 Suckler Welfare Scheme. The validation process in respect of eleven animals has been completed and payment will issue shortly. The person named has not submitted details of the required scheme measures for the remaining animals. No payment can be made to the applicant until this information is submitted to my Department and has been found, during validation checks, to comply with the terms and conditions of the scheme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

194 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their REP scheme payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11993/11]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in April 2008 and has received full payment in respect of both years 1 and 2. Following an inspection on 15 December 2010, penalties totalling 65% of the third year payment were imposed. An appeal dated 25 January 2011 was received. My officials informed the person named by letter on 12 May 2011 that their appeal had been partially successful with the penalty now reduced to 35%. The person named has leave to appeal this decision to the Agricultural Appeals Office within three months, if they so wish. My officials are currently processing the third-year payment application and provided all administrative checks are passed, payment will issue at the earliest possible date.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

195 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a REP scheme 4 payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12017/11]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in January 2010. A new REPS 4 plan correcting errors on the original plan was received on 16 March 2011.

All the required checks have now been completed on this amended plan and payment will issue within ten working days.

James Bannon

Question:

196 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when overdue payment will be made under the agri-environment options scheme for 2010 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford. [12036/11]

Under the EU Regulations governing the Agri-Environment Options Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. I expect that payments to participants in the scheme in respect of the first year will commence in August and that payments in respect of year two will commence in October.

Departmental Staff

James Bannon

Question:

197 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will rectify an error made regarding the rightful position on the panel of candidates for promotion, which was denied due to an error made by the interview board in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12067/11]

The individual to whom the Deputy refers competed in an internal promotion competition in 2006. Initially an error was made by the interview board when listing the successful candidates. This error was subsequently corrected and the individual in question was placed on the panel of successful candidates in advance of any post being offered to the panel.

Health Services

Martin Ferris

Question:

198 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children when an assessment of a person (details supplied) will be undertaken. [11899/11]

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

Departmental Funding

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

199 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will, recognising the great service an organisation (details supplied) provides, ensure that such funding will be provided on a regular basis into the years ahead; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12086/11]

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

Nursing Education

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

200 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will reverse the pay cut imposed without consultation or agreement on fourth year undergraduate nurses and midwives undertaking rostered clinical placements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12126/11]

Derek Nolan

Question:

224 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the review of the elimination of payments to fourth year student nurses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12007/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 224 together.

I have approved a review of the decision to abolish payments to student nurses during their fourth-year pre-registration rostered placement. The nursing unions have been invited to contribute to the review process. My Department has advised the unions that submissions will be accepted up to 3 June 2011.

Accident and Emergency Services

Billy Kelleher

Question:

201 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will confirm the numbers waiting for admission in hospital accident and emergency departments and for primary care teams; and the contact that he has had with the Health Service Executive regarding these figures. [11305/11]

Billy Kelleher

Question:

202 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health and Children his views that the figures provided by the Health Service Executive in regard to the number of patients on trolleys in accident and emergency departments in hospitals has been understated; the action he will take to have this matter investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11708/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

The most widely available information on waiting times in Emergency Departments relates only to those who have been assessed as in need of admission. These "trolley wait" figures provide an important snapshot but they exclude patients who do not require admission. The INMO and the HSE have been publishing trolley wait figures at different times and using different methodologies. As a first step, I have decided that the basis on which the INMO has been producing the snapshot figures is one that we should use from now on. These figures will be validated by Nurse Managers in Emergency Departments and bed managers within each hospital.

The next step is to collect full waiting time data for all patients, whether admitted or not, from time of registration at an ED, to time of discharge or admission. The HSE is working intensively to put this data system in place. The target we are working to achieve is that all patients will be treated and discharged or admitted as required, within 6 hours of arrival at an ED.

In order to help make sure that happens, I am establishing a Special Delivery Unit (SDU) to improve access to the emergency and elective care system. The SDU is a Government priority and as such is included in theProgramme for Government 2011-2016, to be achieved within the first 100 days. Extensive work is currently being undertaken in designing the Unit, which will be modelled, in part, on the successful special delivery unit in Northern Ireland which substantially reduced waiting lists over two to three years.

The difficulties in our Emergency Departments must be addressed on the basis of a health wide approach. I believe that Primary Care Teams are capable of safely dealing with a number of the cases that present at our Emergency Departments. The development of Primary Care Teams and Primary Care Services is a priority under the Programme for Government. The aim is to provide the maximum possible in health and social care in local communities and this will be achieved by increasing activity in the primary care setting and the redirecting of services away from acute hospitals to the community.

Primary Care Strategy

Billy Kelleher

Question:

203 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will confirm the number of primary care centres and units established under the primary care plan of the Health Service Executive; the recent contact that he has had with the HSE in regard to this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11711/11]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

228 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he has taken since coming into office to progress the implementation of the primary care strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12060/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 228 together.

The development of Primary Care Teams and Primary Care Services is a priority under the Programme for Government. The aim is to provide up to 95% of health and social care in local communities and this will be achieved by increasing activity in the primary care setting and the redirecting of services away from acute hospitals to the community.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for the development of Primary Care Centres in line with the Primary Care Strategy. It is the HSE's plan that the majority of Primary Care Centres will be provided by the private sector through leasing agreements.

In this context, the Executive has developed a generic design model for Primary Care Centres, with accommodation for up to three Primary Care Teams per centre. It is the HSE's intention to deliver up to 200 Primary Care Centres using this leasing strategy. The HSE states that, to date, 32 Primary Care Centres are complete and in operation. 16 of these have opened under the leasing arrangement, accommodating 23 Primary Care Teams.

Primary Care Centres in disadvantaged urban and small rural towns / isolated areas will continue to be funded from the Exchequer.

In accordance with the Primary Care Strategy, modern, well-equipped primary care centres will be central to the effective functioning of Primary Care Teams (PCTs). The centres will allow multidisciplinary services, provided by GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others, to be made available on a single site, providing a single point of access for the user and will encourage closer coordination between providers. The new centres will greatly assist in the provision of modern services, in particular the provision of chronic disease management by multi-disciplinary teams.

The criteria for the location of PCTs include population size; availability of GPs in local areas; existing General Medical Services (GMS) patterns and the location of existing and proposed Primary Care Centres.

There are significant variations across the PCTs in terms of their stage of development and the number of clinical team meetings held, the number of patients discussed and the number of Patient Care Plans agreed. It is a key priority for this Government that all PCTs are fully functional. I have met with the HSE on a number of occasions in recent weeks and have asked HSE officials to make significant progress on this issue over the next 12 months.

General Medical Services Scheme

Thomas Pringle

Question:

204 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the charging by general medical practitioners under the general medical scheme of medical card patients for routine blood samples; if this is in line with the GP contracts; if he will allow this practice to continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11891/11]

Under the General Medical Services (GMS) contract, a general practitioner (GP) is expected to provide his/her patients who hold medical cards or GP visit cards with all proper and necessary treatment of a kind generally undertaken by a GP. Where blood tests form part of the investigation and necessary treatment of patients' symptoms or conditions, these should be provided free of charge to medical card and GP visit card holders. The HSE points out that, in many GP surgeries, it is the practice nurse who takes blood samples. The HSE significantly subsidises the cost of employing practice nurses.

I would be most concerned if it were to emerge that GMS patients are being charged inappropriately by GP contractors. If the HSE is made aware of any such cases, it will arrange to have them investigated as appropriate. A report has been requested from the Primary Care Unit Managers in the HSE on the extent of complaints received and the status of same.

Health Services

Patrick Deering

Question:

205 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Health and Children the structure he is putting in place to replace the transport system that has ceased, in order to ensure that elderly persons with no transport can get to various medical clinics around the country. [11895/11]

There must be a clear national approach to non-emergency transport which, where provided, should be in the most cost-effective way and with clear conditions.

The HSE is developing a national policy which is focused on addressing, consistently, the eligibility and affordability of patient transport services across the country, as well as achieving the €15m in savings recommended in the McCarthy Report. This policy is almost complete and I will be considering its implications once it has been made available to my Department in the coming weeks.

General Medical Services Scheme

Joe Costello

Question:

206 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) who has a medical card is now required to pay the chemist for their B12 injections; the person who receives the €7 per injection charge; if general practitioners are paid to administer such injections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11901/11]

There are two licensed intramuscular vitamin B preparations available on the Irish market. Both are reimbursed under the GMS and community drugs schemes. Supply difficulties have been experienced for both of these products. In March 2010 the HSE put in place arrangements to reimburse the costs of both licensed products and equivalent products not licensed for the Irish market. GMS patients should not be charged by their pharmacists for these products.

I would be most concerned if it were to emerge that GMS patients have been charged inappropriately by community pharmacy contractors. If the HSE is made aware of the details of such cases it will arrange to have them investigated as appropriate.

Under the General Medical Services (GMS) contract, a general practitioner (GP) is expected to provide his/her patients who hold medical cards or GP visit cards with all proper and necessary treatment of a kind generally undertaken by a GP.

Health Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

207 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will give consideration to proposals by a group (details supplied) regarding the reorganisation of diabetes paediatric services in eight networks, one of which would serve more than 1,100 children with diabetes in counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow in order that intensive therapies can be assessed with greater ease locally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11906/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the shortfalls of current paediatric diabetes services, the proposed policy document by Diabetes Action, if there are any immediate plans to re-organise paediatric diabetes services in the Dublin mid-Leinster area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11924/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the way policy is determined in the Health Service Executive in County Kildare with particular reference to changes in the deployment of services such as the dental service at Carbury; if his attention has been drawn to the gradual centralisation of services in larger urban areas to the detriment of services that have existed for generations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11936/11]

The HSE must ensure the most efficient and effective use of staff and resources and the highest level of patient safety. In providing dental services to schoolchildren in Co. Kildare the HSE is obliged to take into account external standards to maximise patient safety, for example HIQA standards for infection control. The HSE plans opening a new dental clinic in Naas, which will meet these high standards. Any relocation of services by the HSE will be done to ensure the maintenance of the highest standards and the best outcomes for patients.

Hospitals Building Programme

John McGuinness

Question:

210 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has made an assessment of the impact on plans for the new children’s hospital following the resignation of the chief executive officer of the projects development board; his proposals to deal with this new situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11944/11]

I understand the CEO of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board is being offered the post of CEO of Tallaght Hospital. She will not be leaving her current post until later in the year. It is anticipated that the recently initiated review of the National Children's Hospital project will have been completed before she leaves.

Any decision with regard to the future of the Project will be taken based on the outcome of the Review. In all consideration of matters relating to this Project it is my intention to ensure the best possible clinical outcomes for children within the resources available.

Medical Cards

John McGuinness

Question:

211 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [11945/11]

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

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

212 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [11950/11]

The person concerned was issued with a General Practitioner Visit Card on 11 April 2011.

Health Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

213 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a proposed methadone clinic at Strand House, Phillipsburgh Avenue, Dublin 3, in view of the fact that there is local confusion and misinformation concerning this issue. [11952/11]

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

Ciara Conway

Question:

214 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will consider reorganising current diabetes paediatric services in the Health Service Executive south and south east areas in order that intensive therapies can be accessed locally; if he will appoint additional staff to this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11958/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Ciara Conway

Question:

215 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Waterford will be given an appointment to be seen urgently by the orthodontic service in Waterford in view of the fact that this person is waiting more than two and a half years to be seen. [11964/11]

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

Medical Cards

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

216 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the centralisation of medical card waiting lists; the current waiting times for a decision by applicants; the number of persons waiting more than three months, six months and nine months for a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11966/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is moving ahead with its plans to centralise the processing of all medical cards and GP visit card applications and renewals to its Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin. This project is well under way and almost 40% of medical card applications are now processed centrally by the PCRS.

Last year a new on-line Medical Card application service was launched (www.medicalcard.ie) which guarantees a 15-day turnaround for complete applications. This new facility was developed to enable people, anywhere in the country, to apply on-line for a medical card, as is the case with many other public services. More than 5,000 on-line applications are being received each month with more than 50% of these made outside of normal office hours. The new on-line medical card application is suitable for people who are likely to quality for a medical card on income grounds. On line assessments are immediate and for applicants who supply all evidence / documentation and are eligible on income grounds, medical card delivery is guaranteed within 15 days of receipt of the completed application pack. Applicants who are over the income limits (i.e. discretionary cases) are informed immediately and may apply to the HSE for assessment in the normal way, if they wish. Any person who has applied through the national office can now view the status of their medical card application or review on-line, using a unique reference number which is provided to each applicant immediately on application receipt. These on-line facilities are under continuous development with additional on-line services to be made available throughout 2011.

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However I have asked the HSE to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

217 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical card owners that will be in the State by the end of 2011; the cost to the Exchequer and the percentage of our population in receipt of these cards and that these figures be supplied for total medical cards and general practitioner only cards. [11967/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Preschool Services

Ciara Conway

Question:

218 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will review the application of a person (details supplied) for a second year on the early childhood care and education scheme for them due to the persons special needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11972/11]

The free Preschool Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010 as a universal programme to provide children with a free preschool year, normally in the year before they commence primary school. There is no entitlement under the ECCE programme for a second year of free preschool provision. Where a child has special needs, his or her parents can apply to have the preschool year split over two years on a pro-rata basis, for example, availing of the scheme for two days a week in the first year and for three days a week in the second year. However, I understand that the pro-rata option has not been availed of in the case referred to by the Deputy and the child in question will have availed of the full free preschool provision at the end of this academic year.

Under the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme which is also implemented by this Department, funding is provided to community-based child-care services to enable them to charge reduced child-care and preschool fees to families on low incomes. Parents and children holding medical or GP visit cards will qualify for a weekly subvention payment of €33 towards the cost of a preschool place, regardless of whether they have already benefited from the ECCE programme. Further information regarding the CCS programme can be obtained from the local City or County Childcare Committee.

Pharmacy Services

Terence Flanagan

Question:

219 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the disposal of medication (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11978/11]

There is no national scheme in place currently for people to return out of date or unused medicines for disposal. However, many community pharmacies do accept unused and out of date medication for disposal. The HSE has, from time to time, run campaigns in conjunction with community pharmacies, in some areas of the country, to make provision for the disposal of such medicines.

The Regulation of Retail Pharmacy Businesses Regulations 2008 set out the standards applicable to the operation of community pharmacies. Under these Regulations, persons operating registered pharmacies may accept patient-returned medicines for disposal. Pharmacy owners are required to ensure that when disposing of medicines, they must do so in a manner that will not result in a danger to public health or a risk to the environment.

In May 2011, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland issued detailed guidance on the sourcing, storage and disposal of medicines within registered pharmacies. These guidelines set out how patient-returned medicines are to be managed by pharmacies to ensure that returned medicines are never re-used and are disposed of in an appropriate timeframe.

Medical Cards

Jack Wall

Question:

220 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an appeal for a full medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11981/11]

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

Ambulance Service

Arthur Spring

Question:

221 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Health and Children if he intends to continue the policy of centrally locating nationally the control function for ambulances. [11983/11]

As Minister for Health and Children, I am very focused on the increasingly important role of pre-hospital care within the wider health services. A patient's outcome can depend on the amount of time it takes for an ambulance to respond to an emergency call. The ambulance response time, in addition to the expertise of the paramedics attending the scene, can significantly improve the patient's prognosis.

The Health Service Executive National Ambulance Service (NAS) has embarked on a rationalisation programme of ambulance command and control centres. The rationalisation is in line with a number of health sector reports and international best practice all of which emphasise speed of access to quality emergency services. The reconfiguration of ambulance control centres was first recommended in the Report of the Review Group on the Irish Ambulance Service in 1993. Rationalisation of control centres was further recommended in a Strategic Review of the Ambulance Service in 2001.

Since January 2011, the NAS has been working towards achieving improvements in emergency response times against the recently published HIQA Response Times and Quality Standards. Of critical importance to achieving these response times is the need to reconfigure the NAS command and control infrastructure and invest in the latest technology. From the patient's perspective, the key benefit is that on-line advice and support can be provided and that the nearest resource responds to each emergency situation in the shortest time possible, regardless of location or geographical boundary.

It is the NAS's intention that there will be one system for ambulance control operating in Ireland. The main site will be located on the east coast, with a live stand-by site operating on the west coast in Ballyshannon. All existing ambulance control centre functions will move to these two locations. Existing staff who do not wish to be re-assigned will be redeployed within the wider National Ambulance Service. There will be no compulsory redundancies or job losses. I believe that these developments are in the best interests of patients and that they are a key part of the Government's work to ensure high quality emergency care.

Medical Cards

Jack Wall

Question:

222 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11984/11]

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

Hospital Services

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

223 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health and Children when the necessary operational funding for St. Francis Hospice, Blanchardstown, Dublin, will be made available by the Health Service Executive to enable it to begin accepting patients. [12001/11]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive and I will revert to the Deputy with the reply.

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 200.

Hospital Accommodation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

225 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if all 100 bed community nursing unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital Raheny, Dublin 5 are opened; if not, when will the remaining beds be opened and the average number of beds being used. [12021/11]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive and I will revert to the Deputy with the reply.

Health Services

James Bannon

Question:

226 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans being made to deliver full services locally for the approximately 100 children and adolescents in counties Longford and Westmeath with type 1 diabetes, in view of the fact that many are forced to travel to Dublin to receive intensive treatment and check-ups which are required four or five times a year to limit potential damage in adulthood, as the local paediatric facilities are under resourced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12034/11]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, I have asked the Health Service Executive to supply this information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Medical Cards

James Bannon

Question:

227 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a full medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12035/11]

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

Question No. 228 answered with Question No. 203.

Child Care Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

229 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will review the case of a person (details supplied). [12089/11]

The free pre-school year in early childhood care and education programme was introduced in January 2010 as a universal programme to provide children with a free pre-school year, normally in the year before they commence primary school.

There is no entitlement under the ECCE programme for a second year of free pre-school provision. Where a child has special needs, his or her parents can apply to have the pre-school year split over two years on a pro-rata basis, for example availing of the scheme for two days a week in the first year and for three days a week in the second year. However, I understand that the pro-rata option has not been availed of in the case referred to by the Deputy and the child in question will have availed of the full free pre-school provision at the end of this academic year.

Under the community childcare subvention programme which is also implemented by this Department, funding is provided to community-based childcare services to enable them to charge reduced childcare and pre-school fees to families on low incomes. Parents and children holding medical or GP visit cards will qualify for a weekly subvention payment of €33 towards the cost of a pre-school place, regardless of whether they have already benefited from the ECCE programme. Further information regarding the CCS programme can be obtained from the local city or county child care committee.

Public Transport

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

230 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the recent monthly ticket price hikes by Dublin Bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11990/11]

Any proposal by Dublin Bus to vary passenger fares requires the approval of the National Transport Authority as part of its independent statutory mandate and the exercise of its powers to enter into public service contracts with the company. I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if there is no reply within ten working days.

Road Network

Jack Wall

Question:

231 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if projects advertised by the National Roads Authority as Public Procurement Partnerships are always on a 50:50 cost basis; if a cost analysis of the project has to be completed before Exchequer funding is allocated for the commencement of the project; if ministerial permission is necessary prior to any contracts being signed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11898/11]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual national roads are matters for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects, including PPP projects, is a matter in the first instance for the NRA in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act. Noting that, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if there is no reply within ten working days.

As regards Ministerial approval, the sanction of the Minister for with responsibility for public expenditure and reform is required for PPP contracts.

Jack Wall

Question:

232 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views regarding a submission (details supplied); if due regard is given to the overall cost of such a project in the present economic circumstances; if he has determined or has information being made available to him regarding the number of outlets within a 20 kilometre radius of the proposal that operate similar such facilities, thus ensuring the safety of drivers, and if due consideration has been given to the loss of employment factor in relation to such facilities if the proposal is agreed to; if the viability of such projects on other motorways has been determined; if the cost through the involvement of the National Roads Authority to the Exchequer of the proposal has been determined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11949/11]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads, including the provision of service areas, is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007.

Within its capital budget, it is a matter for the NRA to assess and prioritise individual projects. As regards service areas, I am aware that the NRA has recently sought expressions of interest from interested parties in relation to the provision, on a commercial basis, of service areas at two locations, including Kilcullen.

Noting the Deputy's interest in the matter I have referred his question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if there is no reply within ten working days.

Port Development

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

233 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the future for Dundalk Port Authority; and the future use of the port itself. [11968/11]

The current recession has inevitably had a negative impact on the finances of all the State port companies. Dundalk Port Company, being one of the smallest ports, has been badly hit. From a high of 221 ships in 2006, only 64 ships entered the port in 2010, and the figures for 2011 show no signs of improvement.

Earlier this year, an independent business review of the company was carried out. The review examined all the possible options for dealing with the current situation, including the prospects for recovery and the possibility of amalgamating the company with another State body. I am currently considering this report and I will make a decision regarding the future of the company shortly.

A public consultation on future ports policy took place last year and the intention is to publish a revised policy document by year end. A key policy issue raised in the consultation is the current structure of the sector, whereby the State owns ten separate port companies of very varied size. The recent McCarthy group report recommended that the number of port companies be reduced through amalgamations. These wider policy issues will be addressed in the revised policy document.

Rail Network

Joe Higgins

Question:

234 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will engage with Iarnród Éireann and Fingal County Council to service the immediate opening of the new Hansfield train station in west Dublin, which has been lying idle for a year despite a major demand for public transport in the area. [12014/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority on December 2009, the implementation and development of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area, such as Hansfield train station, comes under the remit of the NTA. The legislative basis for this is section 11(1)(e) of the DTA Act 2008: “Principal Functions of Authority — The principal functions of the Authority are to secure the provision of public transport infrastructure”. Noting this I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if there is no reply within ten working days.

Notwithstanding the above, I have engaged with the relevant parties -Irish Rail, Fingal County Council and the NTA. Funding is available in the NTA budget to provide a carpark for the station once an access road has been built. Fingal County Council appears willing to amend the SDZ planning scheme for the area to facilitate progress on this, though this has not happened to date. A major stumbling block is the ownership of the land and the loans associated with it, as the Deputy will be aware. The developers of the land around the station have not complied with their obligations to provide the access road. I continue to work on this matter and will see it through.

Taxi Hardship Panel

Terence Flanagan

Question:

235 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to parliamentary Question No. 251 of 29 March 2011, when Pobal will respond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12032/11]

The Deputy's original question did not issue to the agency due to revised procedures in my office, and I apologise for that. My Department contacted Pobal in this regard last week and I understand that the response will issue to the Deputy this week.

Ministerial Meetings

Finian McGrath

Question:

236 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will meet with a person (details supplied). [12090/11]

I have not received any request to meet the individual or organisation referred to by the Deputy. The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, who has responsibility for sport, and my officials are of course available to meet this organisation should it seek such a meeting.