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 18, inclusive, answered orally.

International Organisations

Robert Troy

Question:

19 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which Ireland hopes to contribute to stability and democratic development in Europe through its chairmanship of the OSCE in 2012. [20084/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

50 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the involvement he anticipates for his Department in Ireland’s presidency of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. [19804/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 50 together.

Ireland assumes the Chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in January 2012 for one year. Comprising 56 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE deals with a range of issues in areas such as democratisation, human rights, arms control and conflict resolution. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the OSCE has contributed enormously to stability and democratic development in Europe. Its 16 field operations in the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and Central Asia undertake important work in effecting positive change on the ground and helping in a real way to improve the lives of people. The Organisation's human rights bodies, such as the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the High Commissioner on National Minorities work to nurture and promote democracy and human rights in the region.

This is the first time Ireland will chair the organisation. The Chairmanship represents an excellent opportunity for Ireland to set the OSCE's agenda and to provide fresh impetus and leadership. It is also consistent with this country's strong commitment to multilateralism and the promotion of human rights and democratic values. Last month, I travelled to Vienna to address the OSCE's Permanent Council on Ireland's plans for its Chairmanship next year. I told the Council that Ireland's approach to the Chairmanship will be pragmatic, ensuring balance and coherence to the work of the Organisation across its many areas of activity. Freedom of the media, in particular internet-based media, and good governance will be among the thematic priorities that Ireland aims to focus on next year.

The Chairmanship will also provide us with an opportunity to contribute to the OSCE's role in conflict prevention and resolution, drawing both on our experiences from the Northern Ireland peace process and on our well-established international reputation in this area. A number of protracted conflicts remain unresolved in the region, including in the Southern Caucasus and Transnistria. As OSCE Chair, Ireland will make every effort to facilitate resolution efforts within the existing agreed formats. I intend to visit the region next year to investigate at first hand what might be done to make progress in resolving these conflicts and I also plan to appoint a Special Representative to assist me in this work. Finally, Ireland will contribute to the ongoing reconciliation process in the Western Balkans through support for the OSCE field operations there and through ensuring cooperation between the EU and the OSCE in this region.

Regarding the question of the role of my Department in the OSCE Chairmanship, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I will be the Chairperson-in-Office for the duration of our Chairmanship and bear overall responsibility for the executive action of the organisation and the co-ordination of its activities. My officials have been working on preparations for our Chairmanship since last summer and a dedicated OSCE Task force has been established within my Department. In addition, a team of officials will be working at Ireland's OSCE Mission in Vienna. Ireland has been an active participant in the OSCE since its origins in the 1970s and we have always viewed the organisation as a cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in Europe and Central Asia. I greatly look forward to the challenge of our Chairmanship in 2012.

Human Rights Issues

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

20 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had any contact with the Department of Health in relation to the plight of Irish trained doctors in Bahrain; his views on whether it would be useful for the Department of Health to engage with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on this matter in view of the influence the RCSI has in Bahrain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20082/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

34 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has communicated directly with the Bahraini head of state King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa or with his Bahraini counterpart in the Bahrain administration concerning the ongoing plight of Irish trained doctors imprisoned in Bahrain. [20080/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

35 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to secure the safety and liberty of doctors and medical personnel trained here and now facing trial and imprisonment by the Bahraini authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20110/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

46 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had direct communication with the Bahraini authorities regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain. [20081/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 34, 35 and 46 together.

I have already outlined my concerns to this House about the ongoing detention and trial of forty eight medical personnel, a number of whom were trained by the RCSI and also worked in Ireland at one stage. I have called clearly for such personnel to be released, unless charged or unless the Bahraini authorities can present clear evidence that they may have committed serious criminal offences, and for independent observers to be allowed monitor the ongoing legal proceedings. I welcome the fact that a considerable number of the medical personnel charged are no longer in custody and that a decision has now been taken to transfer the ongoing legal proceedings from a military to a civilian court.

The Government has already relayed its concerns directly to the Bahraini authorities on this matter. Ambassador Holohan met on 20 June with the Bahraini Ambassador in Riyadh to inform him of my own deep concerns, and those of the Irish Government and people in relation to recent events. The Government has also been pressing for an active response at EU level. High Representative Ashton has issued a number of strong statements, most recently one on 1 July which welcomed the establishment of an independent international commission into the events of February and March. The Taoiseach also raised Bahrain at the European Council on 23-24 June, where Ireland succeeded in having a reference to the current unsatisfactory human rights situation in Bahrain, including the trials and sentencing of opposition members, made in the final Declaration. The Government will continue to convey its concerns in the fullest terms to the Bahraini authorities, through our Embassy in Riyadh and through EU and other appropriate channels.

As regards the RCSI, I have already made clear that my Department has had contact with the RCSI in relation to the situation in Bahrain. I met Professor Cathal Kelly, the CEO of the RCSI, yesterday at his request to discuss the situation further. I am also aware that the Minister for Education and Science has met with Professor Kelly and the RCSI at their request. My understanding is that the Minister for Health has not had any discussions with the RCSI on Bahrain.

It is important to recall that the RCSI is a private third-level institution which has its own relationships in Bahrain and which has been involved on a commercial basis in Bahrain for some years now. The medical campus and facilities which it operates there represent a very substantial investment which is of direct economic relevance to this country. I would further add that I regard the activities of the RCSI in assisting with the training of foreign medical personnel overseas as a highly worthwhile activity through which the College makes a significant contribution to the quality of life of millions of people around the world.

Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 14.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

22 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he intends to lobby the Sri Lankan Government to lift the Prevention of Terrorism Act; if he intends to press the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission to inform relatives when a citizen is arrested; if he will urge the Sri Lankan Government to adhere to a 2006 presidential directive by registering detainees, informing families and the human rights commission of the place of arrest and detention; and if he will urge the Government of Sri Lanka to allow the Red Cross full access to prisons where those still detained after the conflict are held. [20092/11]

The political and human rights situation in Sri Lanka continues to give cause for concern. Despite the best efforts of the United Nations and the wider international community, the Sri Lankan Government has to date refused to co-operate with the Panel of Experts appointed by UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon and has failed to address the recommendations contained in their report. The Deputy has highlighted two of the recommendations made in the report: the call for the immediate repeal of the Emergency Regulations and for relatives of detainees to be informed when a citizen is arrested. I fully support these and the other recommendations made by the Panel of Experts.

I also support the additional suggestions put forward by the Deputy arising from the 2006 Presidential Directive which requires the registration of detainees with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission and informing their families and the Human Rights Commission of the place of arrest. I support granting access for the International Red Cross to all prison facilities in Sri Lanka. These issues will be covered in our ongoing bilateral contacts with the Sri Lankan authorities.

It is important for the long term peace and stability of Sri Lanka that issues related to the conflict, including addressing the crimes of the past, are addressed as part of a comprehensive reconciliation process. Officials from my Department have conveyed this position to the Sri Lankan authorities both directly in bilateral contacts and in other multilateral fora, including through the European Union and at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The promotion of human rights is a key element of the Government's policy towards Sri Lanka. Ireland played an active part in the European Union decision in 2010 to suspend duty free access for Sri Lankan exports under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP plus) after the Sri Lankan Government failed to deliver written undertakings on human rights conventions dealing with torture, children's rights and political rights. I believe that the international community can play an important role in facilitating dialogue and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. I would again urge the government in Colombo to co-operate fully with the UN and address the recommendations made by the Panel of Experts.

Overseas Development Aid

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

23 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline his response to the rapidly emerging food crisis in Somalia; and if he will undertake to co-ordinate an intensive EU response to the crisis. [20079/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

57 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action he has taken or proposes to take unilaterally or in conjunction with his EU or UN colleagues to address the issues of starvation in the Horn of Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20344/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

58 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which the international community has addressed the issues arising from drought and associated issues in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and other countries in the region; if a review of long-term planning is required to deal with the situation now emerging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20345/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 57 and 58 together.

As Deputies will be aware from recent media coverage, Somalia and the Horn of Africa region more generally are experiencing the most severe food crisis in the world today. Between 10 and 12 million people in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are affected. The immediate cause of the crisis is a prolonged drought and the failure of at least two seasonal rains. Malnutrition across the region is at critical levels. There is particular concern about malnutrition rates among children and refugees fleeing Somalia for Kenya and Ethiopia. Large numbers of livestock are dying, leaving people without their main assets, at the same time as food prices are increasing dramatically. Displacement and refugee flows are increasing, especially from conflict-ridden Somalia.

The Government has been following the developing situation with great concern for several months. Earlier this year, in anticipation of the crisis which many experts had predicted, we pre-approved humanitarian support to the region of €4 million. This funding has been allocated to a range of partners including UN agencies, Concern, Trócaire, Goal and World Vision. It is being used to target some of the most vulnerable populations across the region through the provision of emergency food, water, sanitation and healthcare.

Last week, as the situation deteriorated further, I approved an additional allocation of €400,000 for Concern, which will be used to provide food to 10,000 of the worst-affected people in Somalia, as well as treating 1,800 malnourished children in and around Mogadishu. I also approved the disbursal of €100,000 in funding to Trócaire for emergency livestock restocking, cash for work and waterhole rehabilitation in five regions of Kenya. Irish Aid has deployed 11 members of the Rapid Response Corps to humanitarian agencies working in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda. The Corps is a roster of highly-skilled humanitarian specialists, who can deploy at short notice in the event of an emergency.

Irish Aid officials, together with our Embassy in Addis Ababa, are in close contact with our humanitarian partners across the region, as well as with the United Nations and the authorities of the countries concerned. We are also working closely with the European Commission's Humanitarian Affairs Department which is preparing a comprehensive response and has already announced the provision of over €5 million in funding for refugees arriving at the Dadaab camp in Kenya. Through these contacts, we are assessing the most pressing needs on the ground and the possibilities for further Government assistance in the days ahead.

Foreign Conflicts

Pearse Doherty

Question:

24 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will advise which way he will vote should Palestine seek recognition at the United Nations for a Palestinian state this September, if Palestine’s preferred option of resuming direct negotiations with Israel to achieve the state of Palestine through a comprehensive peace agreement does not materialise before then. [20090/11]

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

42 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will vote for a Palestinian state at the UN conference in September; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19981/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 42 together.

I refer the Deputy to my answer to the priority questions on this subject taken earlier. The continuing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories is at the heart of the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. The issues which have been critical for Israel for most of its history — the existence of the State of Israel and its right to live in peace and security — have for many years now been accepted in principle by most Arab and Palestinian opinion. It is the continuing Occupation, and the creation and growth of illegal settlements on the occupied lands, which are now the major obstacles to peace. I consider it an urgent priority objective, both for Ireland and the EU, to help achieve the end of the Occupation and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, living in peace alongside Israel. This has been the consistent view of Irish Governments since 1980. It is indeed long overdue. It remains my view that there should be a State of Palestine, and very soon.

It is widely expected, if the negotiations process remains effectively suspended, that the Palestinians will in the autumn seek some form of recognition at the UN for Palestinian statehood. They have made clear that for them this is very much a second choice, and that what they really want to be engaged in in the autumn is serious negotiations with Israel to achieve their objective of statehood through a comprehensive agreement. They are, as I am, more interested in achieving a state that exists in reality, rather than only in a UN Resolution, which will not of itself bring that state about. It is also important to note that the Palestinians themselves have not yet decided exactly what, if any, action they will seek to take at the UN. This could range from full entry as a UN member state, to a General Assembly Resolution which could take many forms. Some of these possibilities would principally involve the Security Council, of which Ireland is not currently a member.

There is thus no proposal on the table on which we can take a view, although our general support for the establishment of a Palestinian State is well known. In discussions at EU level, however, I have agreed with the view that assuring either side now of our support would be premature, and simply reduce the incentive on them to return to real talks, which is the more important objective. As I have stated in answer to previous Questions, if the issue of recognition arises at the United Nations in the autumn, the Government will consider Ireland's response very carefully. We will take into account factors such as Ireland's long-standing support for the achievement of a Palestinian State, the exact terms and nature of what may be proposed, the positions of EU partners and other friends, the progress on the wider peace process, and our assessment of the practical impact of any such decision.

Passport Applications

Derek Keating

Question:

25 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is satisfied with the service that is provided by the Passport Office; if he will give consideration to a feasibility study to have the passport service privatised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19974/11]

Derek Keating

Question:

37 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there is any alternative to the practice whereby passport applicants have to queue in the rain or cold for hours to complete their application for a passport; if he will examine this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19975/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 37 together.

I am satisfied with the service that is provided by the Passport Service although I do very much regret the delays currently being experienced by customers. The Service is currently coping with a level of demand 12% higher than that experienced in recent years. I do not believe that privatising the Passport Service would resolve that underlying issue. It has been pointed out that the Irish Passport is one of the most modern and cheapest in Europe and notwithstanding the current demand led difficulties, the Passport Service provides excellent service, including a 24/7 duty officer service at home and abroad for genuine emergencies. For reasons of national security, data protection and security of delivery, most countries maintain Government control of their passport production facilities. A rise in attempted passport fraud has increased the need for security measures.

The Passport Service recommends that applications based in Ireland apply through the express passport services operated by An Post in the Republic and The Post Office in Northern Ireland. Anybody who applies in this way and whose application is in order should currently receive their passport in 15 working days. I expect this waiting time to improve in the coming weeks before returning to the normal ten working day guaranteed turnaround. More than 70% of all passport applications lodged within the State are made through this service. Applications can be submitted at over 1,000 post offices nationwide. There should be no need for any citizen, other than those who have a requirement to obtain a passport at short notice, to attend one of the Passport Service public counters in person.

Unfortunately, an average of 400 people per day are currently calling to the passport offices in Dublin and Cork. In most cases, these are people whose passport has elapsed, is about to elapse, or has been lost or stolen and who wish to travel on a date earlier than would be possible were they to use the passport express service. The staff of the Passport Service do their best to facilitate theses customers, particularly those who need to travel for a genuine emergency. Regrettably, this can only be done by diverting resources that would otherwise be used to serve customers who have submitted postal applications.

I would again strongly appeal to the public to assist the Passport Service by checking the validity of their passports before making bookings to travel abroad. A valid passport should be the first item on any check list when considering foreign travel.

Exports Sector

David Stanton

Question:

26 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by Irish exporters due to a shortage of availability of freight shipping containers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20086/11]

The issue of any difficulties being experienced by Irish exporters due to a shortage of availability of freight shipping containers has not been previously raised with me or with my officials. My Department has consulted the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on the matter raised by the Deputy and inquires have also been made with Enterprise Ireland, the Dublin Port Company and the Irish Exporters Association. It appears that the ongoing strong performance of our exporters, which is very welcome, may indeed be causing some difficulties at present in terms of the availability of containers here in Ireland. Following the consultations to which I have referred, I am advised that a resolution of any continuing difficulty in this area is essentially a matter for the shipping companies active in the market.

Trade Missions

Micheál Martin

Question:

27 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his updated programme for his personal participation in trade missions during the remainder of 2011. [16291/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

41 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the trade missions he is due to take part in for the remainder of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20096/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 41 together.

Trade missions are a valuable support to Irish business in developing markets abroad and particularly important in the context of the export-led growth which is crucial to our economic recovery. In general, proposals for trade missions to be led at Ministerial level are submitted by Enterprise Ireland on the basis of the priority markets being targeted by their client companies. Following the recent transfer of certain trade promotion functions to my Department from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland will in future submit such proposals simultaneously to both me and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, reflecting the close involvement of both our Departments in trade-related matters. The Export Trade Council, which I will chair and which will hold its first meeting later this month, will also consider the overall programme of trade missions in the context of our priority markets.

Both Minister Bruton and I are currently considering proposals from Enterprise Ireland for trade missions during the remainder of this year. I can assure the Deputies that my colleague, the Minister of State for Trade and Development, Jan O'Sullivan TD, and I, intend to be active in promoting trading opportunities both through specific missions proposed by Enterprise Ireland and in the course of other working visits abroad. I intend to visit Japan and Korea, both priority markets, in October and there will be a strong economic dimension to my working programmes there, including through my participation in the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum in Seoul on 14 October 2011. I also anticipate that there will be a meeting of the Joint Economic Commission with Russia during a visit I intend to make to Russia in the Autumn.

Foreign Conflicts

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

28 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have given attention to the need for ongoing dialogue on the Middle East peace issues; the extent to which ongoing and permanent structures are in place or being put in place to encourage and facilitate peace negotiations with emphasis on the utilisation of every opportunity to deal with the issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20064/11]

The urgent need for dialogue and a resumption of direct negotiations on the Middle East Peace Process remains a key concern of myself and my EU colleagues. I have been anxious in particular that, with so much else happening in the region, and the natural tendency to focus on specific events such as the flotilla, we must not lose sight of the real danger of continuing inactivity on the Arab-Israeli dispute. I am convinced that a real opportunity still exists to finally resolve this conflict, but I am deeply concerned that this is not being grasped. The meeting on Monday of the International Quartet was an important opportunity for the international community to consider how it can push the process forward. Baroness Ashton will report on the meeting to the Foreign Affairs Council next week. I feel the international community, ideally through the Quartet, need to be more vocal and proactive on this issue.

There is in my view no shortage of structures and processes in place to try and support or impel the parties into real engagement with the remaining issues. Special Representatives are in the field from the EU, the US, the UN, Russia and the Quartet, and the Arab League is also closely involved. What has unfortunately been lacking, and more so I have to say on the part of the Israeli Government, is sufficient political will and courage to overcome the difficulties and achieve the comprehensive settlement which almost all observers believe is well within reach.

Human Rights Issues

Denis Naughten

Question:

29 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress being made to ban female genital mutilation at both EU and UN level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19972/11]

The practice of female genital mutilation is a clear violation of the human rights of women and girls. It also infringes on children's rights to special protection. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 100 million and 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital mutilation. In Africa alone, it is estimated that three million girls are at risk annually.

Ireland is playing an active role in policy development, funding and research to address this appalling practice. It is a form of gender-based violence, and is one element in our comprehensive approach to ending such violence through the overseas aid programme. Through Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Government is co-operating with United Nations agencies in a concerted effort to end the practice of female genital mutilation. We are working closely with the new Agency, UN Women, which is prioritising the prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. The Government is providing €1.2 million to support the work of the Agency in 2011.

We are also supporting the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in their work on child protection, gender equality, reproductive health and maternal mortality. At EU level we are working with partners to ensure that violence against women remains a focus of EU development policy, and of programmes funded by the EU in Africa.

Progress is being made. On 6 February 2011, the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation, the United Nations reported that there has been success in reducing the incidence of the practice in a number of African countries. The key to this progress has been the ability to engage with communities and persuade them to take the decision to abandon the practice.

Foreign Conflicts

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

30 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether the Israeli authorities’ permission for an average of only 715 truckloads of construction material per month for the rebuilding of Gaza is insufficient when a report by 25 non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International, and based on UN data, requires 670,000 truckloads of construction material to rebuild the region after the war that ended in January 2009, and that this easing of restrictions by the Israeli authorities is unrealistic in view of the fact that it would take an average of 78 years to rebuild Gaza under those circumstances with a completion date in 2088. [20091/11]

I have stated consistently my view that the slight relaxation in the blockade of Gaza, while welcome, has not gone nearly far enough or fast enough. I agree that the volume of construction materials being allowed into Gaza is entirely insufficient for the essential reconstruction needs of both people and infrastructure. While overall volumes transferred to Gaza have increased, they remain at only one-third of pre-blockade levels. This is all the more frustrating when we know that Hamas and other groups of most concern to Israel are readily able to access building materials through the tunnel economy, and indeed raise substantial income from controlling the import through the tunnels of goods and materials for private use. The Israeli restrictions therefore impact principally on the UN and other international bodies, who can only use materials from authorised sources, and the many ordinary Gazans who cannot afford the smuggled materials.

Of similar concern is the almost complete lack of provision for exports from Gaza, without which economic life and employment cannot recover, leaving more than half the population directly dependent on humanitarian aid. Moderate leaders and businessmen who might provide constructive leadership in the community are thus weakened at the expense of militants who are able to exploit the frustration and economic hardship caused by the blockade. The blockade as currently enforced is therefore not only unjustified but counterproductive even on its own terms.

While much international attention is focused on the political process, on events in the wider Middle East, or on events such as the flotilla, Ireland has consistently sought, both nationally and at EU level, to maintain a focus on the need to bring the blockade to an end. I repeat my call for the crossing points into Gaza to be reopened to all normal movement, in and out.

Departmental Bodies

Sean Fleming

Question:

31 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he envisages that the export trade council will be established. [14623/11]

The recent transfer of certain trade promotion functions from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to my Department has given it responsibility for the management of the Export Trade Council which will subsume the work of the previous Foreign Trade Council. I will chair the new Council with support from the Minister of State for Trade and Development, Jan O‘Sullivan TD. In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, I intend to involve the private sector in its work, in addition to the Government Departments and State Agencies which have been involved to date in the work of the Foreign Trade Council. I intend to convene the first meeting of the new Council before the end of this month.

Human Rights Issues

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

32 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views that the arrest and detention on 7 June 2011 of a person (details supplied) for tweeting messages which were considered insulting to the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian ruling families, was unlawful and in breach of Kuwait’s international obligation to uphold freedom of expression as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Kuwait is a state party; and, if so, the steps he will take to ensure the person is protected from torture and other ill-treatment and provided access to their family, a lawyer of their choice and adequate medical care. [20087/11]

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and should be respected by all governments. As the change sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East has shown, attempts to suppress this right can only damage the legitimacy of those who do so and are ultimately unlikely to be unsuccessful. In relation to the particular case cited by the Deputy, I am aware that Mr. Nasser Abul has been arrested for posting criticisms of the Bahraini and Saudi royal families and is likely to face trial in Kuwait in the coming weeks. I am also aware of reports that Mr. Abul claims to have been seriously assaulted while in custody.

As in the case of any person potentially facing serious charges, it is vital that all efforts are made by the Kuwaiti authorities to respect due process and to ensure the right to a fair trial and access to legal representation. Together with our EU Partners, Ireland will continue to monitor developments in this case, from the point of view of ensuring that Kuwait fulfils all its international obligations in the human rights area.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 14.
Questions Nos. 34 and 35 answered with Question No. 20.

Trade Relations

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

36 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the work being undertaken in developing bilateral trade relations with India; if he will encourage high level diplomatic and trade interests to visit Ireland; if he will consider issuing a formal invitation to the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to visit Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20078/11]

The Government attaches importance to developing our trade and bilateral links with India. The latest available data shows that total merchandise trade has continued to increase over the last three years. We will be building on the excellent relations that exist between our two countries to further enhance our trade, investment, education and tourism links.

The Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015 has identified India as a key high-growth and high-potential market for Ireland, and the local market team set up under the Strategy, with the participation of the relevant State Agencies, and chaired by our Ambassador is already working actively to develop further trade links. A local market plan for India has been prepared by this team and its implementation will be reviewed by the Export Trade Council, which I will chair, and which will hold its inaugural meeting later this month.

In order to build on our trade and investment links with India, both Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have established offices there. Our Embassy in New Delhi also supports SFI in their work to develop valuable science and technology links with India, such as through the recent SFI researcher's symposium held in Bangalore in March.

High level visits are a valuable means of advancing bilateral economic relations. Useful discussions on economic and trade related issues were held with Mr Salman Khurshid, the Indian Minister for Corporate Affairs, during his visit to Ireland in June 2010. My colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton, TD led a trade mission to New Delhi and Mumbai in April, to promote trade and education and met with the Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, TD visited New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai for St. Patrick's Day in 2011, and met with a number of Government Ministers to discuss strengthening the economic ties between Ireland and India. There is an outstanding invitation to the Indian Prime Minister to visit Ireland.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 25.
Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 14.

Trade Promotion

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

39 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the programme of work for his department and Irish embassies in the area of trade promotion overseas in the time ahead. [20095/11]

The promotion of Ireland's economic and trade interests has always been a core function of my Department and the Embassy network. This role has become even more crucial in the face of the economic and financial crisis and the need to drive an export-led recovery. It was given further impetus by the recent transfer to my Department of responsibility for trade promotion

Our Embassies abroad have access to the highest level of host country Governments, business and the media. They offer a valuable platform and access abroad for the State Agencies with which my Department works very closely and they are also in a position to assist a wide range of Irish exporting firms whether in manufacturing or services. Ambassadors operating in a range of key priority markets chair local trade, tourism and investment teams with the participation of the State Agencies. These teams are working to implement a market plan for 2011 based on Agency targets. The plans will be updated on an annual basis and their overall implementation will be reviewed by the new Export Trade Council which I will chair and which will hold its first meeting before the end of this month. The Council will include the relevant Government Departments and the State Agencies and, in accordance with the Programme for Government, I will invite participants from the private sector to participate in its work.

The transfer of trade promotion functions to my Department will result in an even closer working relationship with Enterprise Ireland, including in relation to trade missions led by myself or the Minister for State for Trade and Development, Jan O‘Sullivan TD. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD and I are currently considering proposals for such missions for the remainder of this year. I also intend to include a strong trade and economic dimension to my planned visit to Japan and Korea in October, when I will participate in the annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum. I will visit Moscow in the Autumn and it is anticipated that a meeting of the Joint Economic Commission between Ireland and Russia will take place at that time.

We have Joint Economic Commissions with a number of key countries and responsibility for these has also transferred to my Department as part of the new arrangements for trade promotion. In general, meetings of the Commissions take place every two years, alternating between Ireland and the other country and they offer further useful opportunities to support trade promotion. I am confident that the enhanced role for my Department in trade promotion will facilitate an intensified focus on this work in close co-operation with the other involved Departments and the State Agencies both at home and throughout the Embassy network.

EU Enlargement

David Stanton

Question:

40 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding countries wishing to join the EU; if he will advise on the timetable, if any, for accession of applicant countries to the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20085/11]

The enlargement portfolio of the EU continues to be a dynamic aspect of the EU's external relations giving strong encouragement to political and economic reform in the enlargement countries and reinforcing peace, democracy and stability in Europe. Candidates have to meet well-established political and economic criteria and the terms of accession are set in a negotiation based on the body of Union laws. As in any negotiation, the eventual outcome and timeframe cannot be predetermined. Each applicant is considered on its own merits.

With the official completion of negotiations on the acquis on 30 June, Croatia is now in the ante-room for EU membership. Work continues on the drafting of the Accession Treaty which I hope to see signed before the end of this year. The ratification process will follow with an indicative date of 1 July 2013 set for EU accession. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Croatia on the huge achievement in concluding the negotiation phase. I know this has involved great efforts on the part of the Croatian government and administration, particularly in the last few weeks. To ensure that the reforms made, particularly in the areas of justice and fundamental rights, are properly bedded down the Council has approved a monitoring mechanism to operate between now and accession. The Commission will therefore continue to report to Member States on the Croatia's progress in this crucial area so that we can be satisfied that the country is ready to fully assume the obligations of membership from the date of accession.

There remain two countries whose accession negotiations continue: Iceland and Turkey. At an Intergovernmental Conference with Iceland on 27 June, the first four negotiating chapters were opened and two immediately closed, as Iceland was already fully in line with the acquis in these areas. The Icelandic Foreign Minister has set the ambitious, but feasible, target of opening all the remaining chapters in the next 12 months. Ireland will be paying particular attention to the chapters on agriculture and fisheries which may be opened in the latter part of this year.

Progress on negotiations with Turkey has been slow of late, due in part to parliamentary elections which took place there last month. With the return to office of Prime Minister Erdoðan's party, the reappointment of Foreign Minister Davutoðlu, and the appointment of the former Chief EU negotiator Bað is as the new Minister for EU Affairs, we would expect efforts to pick up the pace in the next six months. The Polish Presidency is committed to trying to open at least two chapters during its tenure, though ultimately it will be up to Turkey to comply with the opening benchmarks. The eight negotiation Chapters suspended in 2006 will remain so until Turkey fulfils its obligations regarding the Ankara Protocol and makes progress towards normalising its bilateral relations with Cyprus.

Macedonia is also an official candidate for EU membership, though negotiations cannot begin until the name issue is resolved with Greece. Parliamentary elections held there at the beginning of June, to which Ireland sent four observers as part of an OSCE mission, were well administered and passed off peacefully. The new government will need to resume the reform process to build on progress made so far.

Montenegro, granted candidate status last December, has still to comply with some outstanding issues identified by the Commission before negotiations can be opened. The Commission is due to publish its enlargement strategy on 12 October. In addition to updating on the progress made by Montenegro, it will issue its opinion on the membership application made by Serbia. We will await the Commission's overall assessment on its level of preparedness for accession negotiations.

The EU continues to recognise the European perspective of the other countries of the Western Balkans, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Albania has applied for EU membership, though it has still to comply with a number of recommendations made by the Commission before it can be considered for candidate status. Neither Bosnia and Herzegovina nor Kosovo have yet made official applications though a Stabilisation and Association Agreement has been signed with Bosnia and Herzegovina which has yet to enter into force.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 27.
Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 24.
Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 14.

Human Rights Issues

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

44 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether there is demonstrable consistency in the EU’s approach to regimes encountering domestic democracy and rights movements across the Arab world with the proposed EU resolution that will suspend bilateral co-operation programmes with Syria, calls on the European Investment Bank to suspend new financing arrangements in Syria and imposes a new set of sanctions on that country. [20093/11]

The EU's response to the momentous events in North Africa and the Middle East has been directed towards encouraging transitions to democracy across the region. The conditions and circumstances of each country appropriately determine the response in each country but the guiding principle of encouraging and incentivising a transition to democracy and greater political and economic reforms has been consistent throughout the region.

In relation to Syria, the EU is reacting to an ongoing, brutal and nationwide crackdown against peaceful protesters which has left over 1,400 people dead since the protests began in March. In particular, Ireland and the EU are concerned about the fatal shootings of unarmed protestors, the detention of thousands of Syrians for participating in protests, torture including of children and in some cases so severe as to cause death, and the large-scale deployments of the Syrian military against civilians. The situation in Syria is more severe than any other country in the region apart from Libya. Military action is not an option, partly because Russia and China have made it clear they would veto any such proposal at the UN Security Council and partly because engagement in Libya means that there is a reluctance to intervene elsewhere. The EU has focussed on other political and economic measures to persuade President Assad to change course from the current ruinous strategy of violent repression.

Accordingly, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed in May that it would not take further steps with regard to the conclusion of the EU-Syrian Association Agreement and to suspend bilateral cooperation programmes with the Syrian authorities, except those benefiting Iraqi refugees, regional projects or projects with civil society or international organisations. The EU has also imposed sanctions targeted at individuals and entities within the ruling regime, including President Assad, responsible for, or associated with, the violent repression against the civilian population. The EU has also suspended a guarantee to the European Investment Bank against losses incurred on projects outside the Community area. EIB operations in Syria already in train will continue as these can only be suspended in the case of the borrower not meeting its contractual obligations.

I fully support the steps taken by the EU, including these targeted measures, which are aimed at achieving a fundamental change of policy by the Syrian leadership. These measures will remain in place until there is an end to unacceptable violence against the civilian population, and decisive progress towards fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. I urge the government of Syria to end its violent attacks on its own civilians and immediately allow an independent investigation into the horrific events of recent months. I note the recent launch of dialogue in Syria and hope that this results in a meaningful debate leading without undue delay to genuine reforms. The EU stands ready to reverse the measures it has taken if Syria opts for the path of reconciliation and reform.

The EU will continue to tailor its approach to each country in the region as it unfolds, bearing in mind the relative severity of events, and the willingness of the government in question to engage in dialogue and undertake meaningful reforms. At all times, the EU's guiding principle is to encourage transitions to democracy across the region.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 14.
Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 20.

Official Engagements

Robert Troy

Question:

47 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the content of his recent discussions with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20083/11]

As part of the diplomatic initiative, that I announced at the beginning of April, through which the Government has sought to restore Ireland's standing as a respected and influential member of the European Union and to ensure understanding of and support for Ireland's approach to our EU/IMF programme, I visited Paris on 24-26 May 2011. The centrepiece of my visit, apart from attendance at the OECD's fiftieth anniversary Ministerial Council Meeting, was a bilateral meeting with my French counterpart, Alain Juppé, Ministre d'État (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs at the French Foreign Ministry.

I had a good exchange with Minister Juppé concerning the rigorous steps being taken to fulfil our commitments under our EU/IMF programme. I was glad to be able to deepen my French colleague's understanding of the extent of the correction we have already undertaken and of our determination to succeed in the programme and return to the markets. I raised in this overall context and with a view to assisting Irish success, our wish to see the interest rate which applies to our loans reduced, in accordance with the agreement in principle reached among Eurogroup leaders at their meeting on 11 March. I set out very clearly that the Irish Government will not increase our corporation tax rate, as to do so would be counter-productive both in terms of our ability to attract foreign direct investment and to grow our way out of our current situation, something which is in the interests of the entire Eurogroup and indeed the entire EU.

France is an influential member of the Union and our two countries have extensive relations of long standing. I had very useful exchange during our meeting covering developments in the EU's Southern Neighbourhood, developments related to the Middle East peace process as well as the situation in Lebanon where both France and Ireland now have troops serving with the UNIFIL force. We touched on the issues of the EU's next multiannual finance framework and support for the Common Agricultural Policy, as well as the issue of migration. I also briefed Minister Juppé on our preparations for our forthcoming chairmanship of the OSCE in 2012 and raised Ireland's candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council.

State Visits

Joe Higgins

Question:

48 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the total costs to the State of the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and the President of the USA. [19973/11]

As I am sure the Deputy can appreciate I am not in a position to answer his question with regard to the total costs to the State of the visits but I will answer with regard to costs accruing to my own Department. In this regard, I would refer the Deputy to my written replies to his questions of 16 June and 5 July on this matter. I am aware that the Deputy has put this question to the Taoiseach and that Minister for Defence has also addressed this issue in the House.

The updated costs accruing to my Department from the State visit of Queen Elizabeth II are €231,702.15 and the visit by President Obama are €63,302.16. These costs relate to expenditure on transport, car hire, overnight accommodation and subsistence costs for staff, official entertainment and catering, I.T. and administrative costs as well as overtime payments to some staff working on the visits. There still remains some further expenditure to cover residual costs which have not yet been finalised; this will not add significantly to the costs outlined.

EU Summits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

49 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which any debate has occurred at EU level with a view to the reaffirmation of the European ideals as laid out by such persons as Monnet, Schuman and Adenauer; if attention has been given or is likely to be given to what appears to be a departure from this vision; if there is a consciousness within all member states as to the desired direction of the future of Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20063/11]

The European Union Member States and institutions considered and debated extensively the framework for their co-operation in integration in the process that culminated in the Lisbon Treaty. That Treaty entered into force in late 2009, amending the original Treaties. In the Treaty on European Union the Member States recalled the historic importance of ending the division of the European continent and the need to create firm bases for the construction of the future Europe and set out in its 55 Articles the vision, values and institutions and procedures which should underpin this. This is a process in which Ireland took a full part and our effort now, as that of our partners, is concentrated on effective implementation.

The pre-eminent tasks facing the Union now are in the economic area. Responding to the global economic and financial crisis and the ongoing difficulties in the euro area represents the greatest challenge to face Member States since the foundation of the European Union. Underlying our response to the crisis is a shared and enduring commitment to the European project. The unprecedented steps we have taken are proof of a European Union that is working more closely together than ever before.

There is a healthy ongoing debate about the future of Europe, in our media, in our universities and in a range of European policy institutes and think-tanks. This debate holds the political leaders of Europe to account and contributes to a wider assessment of the extent to which their actions measure up to the ideals of the founders of the European Union.

Regular engagement with this debate is an important element of my wider diplomatic initiative, whether in the regular media briefings I give to European journalists, the most recent of which was in Berlin last Friday; or in my frequent contacts with diverse policy institutes across Europe. Recent examples of these include speeches to the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin and the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. I am looking forward to meeting members of the European Policy Centre in Brussels next week in advance of attending the Foreign Affairs Council to continue the debate about the sort of Europe we want to build.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 19.

Northern Ireland Issues

Sean Fleming

Question:

51 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his strategy regarding confidence building measures towards various groups in Northern Ireland. [19799/11]

The Government continues to avail of every suitable opportunity to build and assist confidence throughout the island of Ireland in the achievements of the peace process so far and to help ensure that further progress is achieved over the period ahead. Confidence in the relations that have developed between the traditions which share this island have improved greatly over the decades of the peace process. This improvement was evident from the recent State Visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II which did so much to encapsulate the transformation in relations that has been achieved. The conduct of the campaign for the recent Northern Ireland Assembly Elections, where all the main political parties campaigned on a platform of making the devolved institutions work for all of the people in the North, was a further demonstration of the progress that has been made in building confidence among the community in Northern Ireland.

However, we are all too aware of the deep divisions that the conflict have left and of the ongoing challenges posed by sectarianism. The rioting that has returned to the streets of Northern Ireland this summer is a reminder that there is still much work to be done to overcome this legacy. The ongoing threat posed by so called dissidents is being met with a concerted response from the Garda and the PSNI. These challenges serve to remind us that the work of reconciliation and consolidation of the peace process is long-term and will require the ongoing commitment of the two governments, of the NI Executive and of community leaders and wider society across these two islands. As Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade I will do my utmost to this end during my term in office.

In my recent meeting with Secretary of State Owen Paterson in Dublin on 27 June we discussed ways in which the two governments can work together to assist the NI Executive in this long term process of reconciliation and confidence building between the communities. My own Department operates Reconciliation and Anti-Sectarianism Funds which assist individuals and organisations involved at grass-roots community levels in peace-building and reconciliation work and provide opportunities for outreach by the Government towards both sides of the community in Northern Ireland. This was reflected in the attendance last month by over two hundred community and youth workers from all sections of society throughout Ireland at a Reconciliation Networking Forum event hosted by my Department in Dublin earlier this month.

With a particular emphasis on the handling of various key historical anniversaries that will arise over the coming decade, the Forum provided a platform for discussion and debate on how to deal with both our shared past and how to secure a shared future free from violence and hatred. In my keynote address, I also availed of the opportunity to call for the development of a ‘Version 2.0' peace process, in which the key focus is on the kind of society we want to build on this island and on the way we relate to our neighbours.

These are not issues for Government alone and I acknowledge that much is already being done by other committed non-governmental organisations and individuals to help advance such an agenda. I very much look forward to the newly reconstituted Good Friday Agreement, under the able chairmanship of my colleague Deputy Dominic Hannigan, playing its part in this work. We should continue to approach this work together to the very best of our abilities and in a spirit of co-operation.

Official Travel

Gerry Adams

Question:

52 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to travel to the Middle East. [19679/11]

The resolution of the Middle East Peace Process is a foreign policy priority for the Government. There are also many other political issues in the wider Middle East region, not least arising from the events of the Arab Spring, as well as important trade opportunities for Ireland. It is therefore certainly my intention to make a first visit to the Middle East as soon as I can. At this point, however, no specific visit has yet been scheduled.

International Organisations

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

53 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his priorities for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe once Ireland assumes the presidency in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20125/11]

Ireland will chair the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) from January 2012 for one year. Comprising 56 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE deals with a range of issues in areas such as democratisation, human rights, arms control and conflict resolution. As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I will be the Chairperson-in-Office for the duration of our chairmanship and will bear overall responsibility for the executive action of the organisation and the co-ordination of its activities. Preparations for the OSCE Chairmanship began last year and, to this end, a dedicated OSCE Taskforce has been established in my Department.

Last month, I addressed the OSCE in Vienna to provide an outline of Ireland's plans and priorities and my full statement is available on the Department's website. The Chairmanship will be used to promote a number of thematic priorities, which are currently being elaborated in co-operation with relevant Government Departments. The priorities will be finalised over the course of this year, in consultation with other participating States and our OSCE Troika partners, current Chair, Lithuania and previous Chair, Kazakhstan.

Human rights, known as the Human Dimension within the OSCE context, will be a key priority, with a particular focus on freedom of the media, and in particular, digital media. In the Economic and Environmental dimension, we plan to focus on governance issues. In the Politico-Military Dimension, Ireland will hope to see continued progress on updating confidence and security building measures and enhancing the conflict prevention capacity of the organisation. I will also give priority to facilitating efforts to resolve the protracted conflicts, drawing on expertise in conflict resolution.

Human Rights Issues

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

54 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will meet with representatives of the Bahrain Government to demand the release of Irish trained doctors from the Royal College of Surgeons held in detention centres at some undisclosed locations in Bahrain. [20375/11]

I have already outlined my concerns about the ongoing detention and trial of forty eight medical personnel, a number of whom were trained by the RCSI and also worked in Ireland at one stage. I have called clearly for such personnel to be released, unless charged or unless the Bahraini authorities can present clear evidence that they may have committed seriouscriminal offences, and for independent observers to be allowed monitor the ongoing legal proceedings.

I welcome the fact that a considerable number of the medical personnel charged are no longer in custody and that a decision has now been taken to transfer the ongoing legal proceedings from a military to a civilian court. The Government has already relayed its concerns directly to the Bahraini authorities on this matter. Ambassador Holohan met on 20 June with the Bahraini Ambassador in Riyadh to inform him of my own deep concerns, and those of the Irish Government and people in relation to recent events.

The Government has also been pressing for an active response at EU level. High Representative Ashton has issued a number of strong statements, most recently one on 1 July which welcomed the establishment of an independent international commission into the events of February and March. The Taoiseach also raised Bahrain at the European Council on 23-24 June, where Ireland succeeded in having a reference to the current unsatisfactory human rights situation in Bahrain, including the trials and sentencing of opposition members, made in the final Declaration. The Government will continue to convey its concerns in the fullest terms to the Bahraini authorities, through our Embassy in Riyadh and through EU and other appropriate channels.

Travel Documents

Michael Creed

Question:

55 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding Irish couples who have a child by way of surrogate outside of the EU and the entitlement of that child to enter the country legally; if this entitlement is by way of Irish citizenship or visa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20180/11]

The legal situation of children born through surrogacy arrangements is a very complex area in Irish law. Whereas there is no specific legislation in Ireland relating to surrogacy, a range of Irish laws relating to the areas of citizenship, guardianship, consent for the child to travel and other parental rights must be comprehensively addressed by applicants before any travel document may issue. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has responsibility for the issuance of passports, but it may only do so when the above issues, which largely relate to areas of law within the competence of other Departments, such as the Department of Justice and Equality, have been resolved.

Legislation on surrogacy is required, as provided for in the Programme for Government, to safeguard the rights of intended parents, surrogate mothers and, first and foremost, the children involved. Accordingly I have written to the Minister for Health, who has responsibility for bringing forward the legislation, regarding the necessity to address this issue as a matter of priority. In the interim, the Attorney General's Office is formulating guidelines on the issue of surrogacy in conjunction with, amongst others, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Social Protection and my Department.

In respect of a child that has been born through surrogacy, the submission of a certificate of birth per se does not provide sufficient evidence of citizenship. Applicants may therefore be required to present DNA evidence and a series of court orders to address Irish legal requirements in these areas. It will not be possible to issue a passport (including an emergency passport) to a child born through surrogacy unless these questions of citizenship, guardianship and parental rights are comprehensively addressed. Applications for a passport can only be considered after the birth of the child and on a case by case basis. In view of the complexity of these matters, intended parents are advised to plan for the possibility of the child having to remain in the country of birth for some time until all issues have been addressed. They may therefore wish to make appropriate provision for the child, on such matters as accommodation and medical care/insurance etc., to remain in the country of birth until such time as a travel document can issue.

It should also be noted that an emergency travel certificate will only issue in exceptional cases of genuine emergency and where all the relevant statutory requirements, including the issue of consent, under the Passports Act 2008 are satisfied. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade strongly advises Irish citizens arranging to have a child by surrogacy to engage the services of a lawyer to deal with all the complex issues involved. The issuance of visas is a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Overseas Development Aid

Sean Fleming

Question:

56 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the budget for Ireland’s overseas development aid programme for 2011; the position regarding same for 2012; if he will publically recommit to the 0.7% overseas development aid and GNI target by 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20216/11]

For 2011, Ireland will provide a total of €659 million in Official Development Assistance (ODA). Of this funding, €524 million will be administered by Irish Aid, in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which manages the Government's aid programme. The remaining €135 million is accounted for by contributions to international development by other Government Departments and by Ireland's share of the EU development cooperation budget. On current projections, this allocation will ensure that Ireland provides approximately 0.52 % of GNP for development assistance in 2011.

The Government is strongly committed to Ireland's overseas aid programme, which is central to our foreign policy. We are committed to the international 0.7% of GNP target, and we are working to achieve it by 2015. We have launched a review of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid, to ensure that we have a clear set of priorities for the aid programme in the years ahead, taking account of the changing economic circumstances, in Ireland, across the European Union and in the developing world. The Government is determined to ensure that Ireland continues to make a strong contribution, through our aid programmes and international policy discussions, to the fight against global poverty and hunger.

ODA allocations for 2012 will be agreed in the upcoming estimates process and set within the overall budgetary framework and fiscal constraints facing the country. The allocations will be announced by the Minister for Finance in his annual Budget Statement. I can assure the Deputy that I will make the strongest possible case for the 2012 development aid allocation.

Questions Nos. 57 and 58 answered with Question No. 23.

Trade Promotion

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

59 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he intends to encourage and promote dialogue leading to trade in the various countries in Latin America; the extent to which he has examined the potential for expansion of trade in each case having particular regard to Irish connections in many such countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20346/11]

The Government is committed to implementing progressively the recommendations in the Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015. Under this Strategy, in Latin America Brazil has been identified as a priority market country. The local market team set up under the Strategy and chaired by our Ambassador has developed a detailed market plan and is already active in pursuit of specific targets identified by the State Agencies. Other countries in Latin America offer diverse opportunities for Irish companies in particular niche areas. In Mexico and Chile, for example, there are opportunities to market medical and pharmaceutical products. Our Embassies in Latin America, together with the State Agencies who are active in the region, work to assist Irish companies in responding to such opportunities as they arise.

As the Deputy will be aware Ireland has long-standing historic links with many Latin American countries. The various commemorations last year which marked the bicentenary of the independence of Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile helped raise awareness of the significant role that the Irish born or Irish descendents, such as Admiral William Brown, played in the transition of these countries to independence. Last year, my Department worked closely with the Naval Service on the visit to Central and South America by the LÉ Niamh which visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and the United States. In addition to participating fully in bicentenary celebrations, the ship hosted a number of activities in conjunction with my Department and Enterprise Ireland. These were designed to strengthen links with the region, and to encourage trade and marketing opportunities. In excess of 12,000 people visited the ship, including key business leaders.

Our footprint in Central and South America is modest, with resident Embassies only in Brasilia, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. I can assure the Deputy that my Department and our Embassies in the region will continue to work in co-operation with the State Agencies to build increased trade links wherever possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he intends to examine, monitor and promote trade with each of our EU partners with particular reference to the need for the European member states to maximise, through trade, the benefit of economies of scale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20347/11]

Ireland's trade with our European partners is already significant; the EU and EFTA account for 62% of Irish merchandise exports and merchandise trade with these countries in 2010 amounted to over €85 billion. Membership of the EU has provided Irish companies with access to a single market of over half a billion people and enabled Irish companies both to grow in established markets and to diversify into new markets.

The Government is focused on achieving maximum growth in exports, including through the development of both new and existing markets, and has committed to progressively implementing the recommendations in the Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015. The Export Trade Council, which will be established shortly, and which I will chair, will monitor implementation of the Government's Trade Strategy under which many of our EU partners have been identified as priority markets. Local market teams set up under the Strategy and chaired by our Ambassador, in these priority markets, have developed detailed market plans and are already active in developing further our trading and investment links in those countries.

During my official visits to EU member States, I ensure that trade and business related elements are included in programmes and discussions, wherever possible and take every opportunity in discussions with EU colleagues to promote Ireland's economic interests. This was the case during my visit to Berlin last week, as it was during my recent visits to Paris, London and Vienna. I also availed of my recent visit to Oslo to raise our economic relations in discussions with the Norwegian Prime Minister and the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Membership of the EU benefits Irish companies not only in providing access to the Single Market but also to external markets. In negotiating access to international markets, the EU speaks with one voice. Our membership of the EU gives us considerable influence and leverage when seeking to open new markets and enhance the conditions in existing markets.

Diplomatic Representation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

61 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if it is intended to open up further embassies or locate trade delegations in countries not yet having an Irish embassy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20348/11]

Ireland maintains diplomatic relations with 174 States through a network of 76 missions (58 Embassies, 7 multilateral missions, 8 Consulates General and 3 other offices) overseas. As well as their country of primary accreditation, many Ambassadors are also accredited to additional countries on a non-resident basis which further enhances the cost effectiveness of our external representation. Decisions relating to the establishment of missions are a matter for the Government. The scale and presence of the Irish diplomatic network is being considered, along with all aspects of my Department's operations, as part of the Government's Comprehensive Review of Expenditure.

I can assure the Deputy that my objective is to optimise the capability of Ireland's diplomatic representation overseas. This was the focus of briefings at the Conference of Ireland's Ambassadors held in Dublin last month. Our missions abroad are in the frontline of efforts to secure external recognition and support for the actions undertaken by the Government to meet current budgetary challenges and to promote the foreign trade and investment essential to economic recovery. Accordingly, any adjustments to our diplomatic network will continue to be strategically focused, taking account of national priorities and available resources in the context of our current budgetary situation. In addition, I can assure the Deputy that all Government Ministers take every opportunity to include a trade element in their programmes when undertaking visits abroad.

Trade Promotion

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which it is intended to renew efforts to increase diplomatic initiatives with a view to increasing trade with Russia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20349/11]

Ireland has very good trade relations with Russia. Bilateral trade is performing well, with two-way merchandise trade increasing by over 64% in 2010 to reach its highest ever level. Trade in goods and services in now worth over €1.6 billion per annum and there is good potential for this trade growth to continue. The Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015 has identified Russia as a key high-growth and high-potential market for Ireland. The local market team set up under the Strategy, with the participation of the relevant State Agencies, and chaired by our Ambassador, is already working actively to develop further trade, investment and education links. A local market plan for Russia has been prepared by this team and its implementation will be reviewed by the Export Trade Council, which I will chair, and which will hold its inaugural meeting later this month.

I hope to visit Russia in the autumn. A meeting of the Ireland-Russia Joint Economic Commission is planned to take place during my visit. This meeting will provide an opportunity to examine any current technical issues in the trade relationship and explore how our trade and business links with Russia can be further developed.

Irish Communities Abroad

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

63 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent it is intended to promote and encourage dialogue with the Irish diaspora in business and academia worldwide with a view to maximising efforts towards economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20350/11]

The Government is strongly committed to further developing our relationship with the global Irish community. In addition to the continued support for Irish communities through the Emigrant Support Programme, I am also determined to harness the expertise and influence of leading Irish members of the international business, cultural and academic community.

The second Global Irish Economic Forum, to be held at Dublin Castle on the 7 and 8 of October, will make an important contribution to this process. The Forum will provide an opportunity for the Government to meet directly with many of the most influential members of the global Irish and to discuss our priorities for economic renewal, job creation and the restoration of Ireland's reputation abroad. Most of those invited to Dublin Castle are members of the Global Irish Network. The Government and Missions overseas have already engaged extensively with the Network and it is intended that the Forum will provide renewed focus and strategic direction to its ongoing valuable work.

While the precise details of the programme and agenda are currently being finalised, the topics to be discussed will cover specific economic areas identified as priorities in the Programme for Government. The importance of engaging the current and future generations of the global Irish and the role of Irish culture in promoting Ireland abroad will also feature as important themes.

The 2009 Forum — in which I participated — led to the implementation of a series of significant initiatives across a range of areas, including: business network development; innovation; tourism; the promotion of Irish culture; and diaspora engagement. In the context of preparing for the 2011 Forum, a comprehensive review of all the recommendations was undertaken by my Department, in consultation with all relevant Government Departments. A copy of this review is available on my Department's website.

EU Directives

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

64 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will examine carefully the long-term impact of all pending and future EU directives likely to inhibit economic development, recovery and progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20352/11]

While my Department has an overall coordinating role in EU matters, responsibility for examination of proposed EU Directives as well as transposition of EU Directives into Irish law rests with those Departments with responsibility for the policy areas covered by individual EU measures. During negotiations on proposed Directives the long term impacts of such proposals are carefully considered, including ensuring that they do not inhibit economic development, recovery and progress.

Economic Recovery

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

65 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he continues to engage with members of parliament or policy makers within the EU in the context of reiterating this country’s basic and urgent requirements with particular reference to economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20353/11]

As part of the diplomatic initiative, which I announced at the beginning of April and in line with the Government's commitment to restoring Ireland's standing as a respected and influential member of the European Union, I have sought regular engagement with policy makers in all the institutions of the European Union. During these meetings I have made clear the economic and financial realities confronting this country and the steps that we have taken to get our public finances in order, to repair the banking sector and to restore growth. I have emphasised our determination to see this process through to a successful conclusion and sought to inform and to persuade, pointing to the benefit for the euro area and EU as a whole of Irish success.

In addition, I have travelled to London, Paris, Vilnius and Berlin for bilateral consultations with my opposite numbers. I have also had bilateral meetings with my Finnish and Luxembourg colleagues in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council. On Monday, I met European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek during the course of his official visit to Ireland. I will continue my programme of bilateral engagements with Ministerial colleagues over the period ahead.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

66 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his efforts to date or intentions to convince without exception each of our EU partners of the necessity to recognise that Ireland’s ability to meet its obligations arising from ECB and IMF-EU member state rescue provisions should not be undermined by any attempt to restrict this country’s economic capacity by a way of interference with already established tax regimes including corporate taxation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20354/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

67 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he continues to reiterate Ireland’s fundamental opposition to any attempt to alter in any negative way any aspects of taxation policy within this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20356/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

68 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when it is likely that EU colleagues will come to accept that there is no obligation on any member state to concede any of the provisions of previously adopted treaties on the basis of any emerging necessity whatsoever; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20357/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 to 68, inclusive, together.

In all engagements with EU partners, the Government has stated clearly and categorically that Ireland will not accept any adjustment in the Irish corporation tax rate. I know that this is a view shared by the vast majority of members of this House and by the Irish people. Any increase in our corporation tax rate would be counter-productive both in terms of our ability to attract foreign direct investment and to grow our way out of our current situation, something which is in the interests of the entire EU.

As part of the diplomatic initiative announced in April to restore Ireland's standing as a respected and influential member of the European Union and to ensure understanding of and support for Ireland's approach to our EU/IMF programme, my colleagues in Government and I have taken every appropriate opportunity to seek to ensure a broad understanding and appreciation of our position among our partners on this issue.

Since taking office, I have met my European colleagues on many occasions at EU and other Ministerial meetings. In addition, I have travelled to London, Paris, Vilnius and Berlin for bilateral consultations with my opposite numbers. I have also had bilateral meetings with my Finnish and Luxembourg colleagues in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council and on Monday, I met with the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, during the course of his official visit to Ireland. I will be continuing my programme of bilateral engagements with Ministerial colleagues over the period ahead.

The publication by the European Commission in March of a formal proposal on a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) represents the beginning of what will be a lengthy process. We have done considerable preparatory work concerning the CCCTB issue and look forward to making our contribution to these deliberations. The Government is sceptical about many aspects of a CCCTB, but we are willing and committed to work constructively with the Commission and other Member States on the issue. This proposal was made on a legal base requiring unanimity.

Ireland is not opposed to greater co-operation within the European Union on tax policy matters. Indeed, under the Euro Plus Pact, work will be taken forward by Finance Ministers and the Commission on pragmatic coordination of tax policies on issues such as, the exchange of best practices, avoidance of harmful practices and proposals to fight fraud and tax evasion. As the Deputy may recall, in June 2009, the Heads of State or Government of the 27 Member States of the European Union decided with respect to the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon, in the area of taxation that, "nothing in the Treaty of Lisbon makes any change of any kind, for any Member State, to the extent or operation of the competence of the European Union in relation to taxation".

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

69 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20389/11]

Securing Ireland's interests in the EU and contributing fully to the Union's future development is a core function of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. To this end, the Department has a dedicated European Union division with 28 full-time equivalent staff. The Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels is also a key resource for EU Division and the Department as a whole in monitoring EU policy developments. Its staff, some 79 persons of whom 40 are posted from the Department's headquarters, is in daily contact with deliberations in the European Union at Working Group, COREPER and Council level, as well as with the Commission and the European Parliament.

Due to the wide-ranging nature of the EU's work, a certain number of staff in other divisions of my Department, notably those in the Political Division and the Development Co-operation Division, devote some part of their time to monitoring EU developments in the policy areas that concern them. This is also the case for staff in Ireland's bilateral embassies in the 26 other EU member states, whose monitoring and reporting on the approach of our partners to EU developments forms an important input into analysis and policy-making at headquarters.

Social Insurance

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

70 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that all the required social welfare employer and employee contributions were made by two sub-contracting companies (details supplied) employed at a construction site; and if he will confirm that the employees of the two companies in question satisfy the terms and conditions of RCT1. [20276/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have noted the matter raised by the Deputy. For reasons of taxpayer confidentiality, they are unable to comment further on the individual case.

Price Inflation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which an effort continues to be made to examine the wisdom of the use of interest rate increases as a means of combating inflation in view of the likelihood that such increases are ultimately most likely to penalise EU countries with the greatest debt liabilities and consequently their ability to repay debt with obvious consequences for the future of the European Union itself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20355/11]

The policy interest rate is a key tool for controlling inflation in many regions. In the euro area, the independent European Central Bank (ECB) is responsible for monetary policy and has sole discretion for policy interest rate movements. The ECB's requirement is to maintain price inflation in the euro area as a whole, close to but below 2%. The latest estimate for the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices in June was 2.7% for the euro area. For indebted euro area member states, the best way to reduce the burden is to implement fiscal consolidation measures and to enhance the economy's growth capacity by implementing structural reforms and boosting competitiveness.

Tax Code

Seán Kyne

Question:

72 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance if he will grant an exemption from the vehicle registration tax in respect of an organisation (details supplied) in view of the fact that this volunteer-led organisation is securing vehicles for use in its vital mountain rescue function. [20137/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 132(3)(d) of the Finance Act 1992, as amended, provides that category D vehicles are charged at a rate of 0% of the value of the vehicles. These vehicles are defined in Section 130 of that Act as “namely, an invalid carriage, a refuse cart, a sweeping machine, a watering machine used exclusively for cleansing public streets and roads, an ambulance, a road roller, a fire engine, a fire-escape, a vehicle used exclusively for the transport (whether by carriage or traction) of road construction machinery used only for the construction or repair of roads and a vehicle used exclusively for the transport (whether by carriage or traction) of life boats and their gear or any equipment for affording assistance in the preservation of life and property in cases of shipwreck or distress at sea”. There are no provisions in this section under which an exemption of VRT can be granted to vehicles for use in mountain rescue functions. There are no plans to change the legislation.

Financial Services Regulation

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

73 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the equity release schemes and home reversion schemes as financial products being offered to older persons here; his plans to ensure that the sale and purchase of such financial products do not lead to the impoverishment of older persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20182/11]

Since 1 June 2008, the provision of all equity release products have been subject to the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code (the Code). As defined in the Code, an equity release product means a lifetime mortgage or a home reversion agreement. The Central Bank Act 1997, as amended by the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2007, provided that, with effect from 1 February 2008, home reversion firms have to be authorised by the Central Bank. There are two authorised home reversion firms in this country — Residential Reversions Limited, trading as "Sixty Plus Finance"; and Shared Home Investment Plan Limited, trading as "SHIP".

In addition to the General Principles set out in the Code, specific provisions apply to equity release products. In this regard, Chapter 4 — "Loans and Equity Release" — stipulates that entities regulated by the Central Bank must:

advise the consumer of the consequences of equity release products including details of the total costs involved, including all interest, charges and the effect on the existing mortgage, if any;

ensure that consumers are made aware of the importance of seeking independent legal advice; and

include the following warning on any information document, application form or any other document given to the consumer in connection with an equity release product: "Warning: Purchasing this product may negatively impact on your ability to fund future needs".

This warning must also be included on any advertisement for an equity release product. The Central Bank has advised that additional measures regarding vulnerable consumers will form part of the Central Bank's revised Consumer Protection Code that will be issued later this year.

Consultancy Contracts

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

74 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the amount paid to consultants for services to the National Asset Management Agency for each of 2009, 2010 and 2011. [20240/11]

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

75 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the amount paid to each individual consultancy company or individual for services rendered to the National Asset Management Agency for each of 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will identify each such consultancy company or individual. [20241/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 75 together.

I am informed by NAMA that the contractual details of all contracts between the agency and individual service providers are negotiated on a case-by-case basis, are commercially sensitive and are confidential. I am advised by NAMA that legal and consultancy fees incurred in 2009 in setting up NAMA were €1.63 million and relate to legal and consultancy expenses associated with the establishment of NAMA. The aggregate costs for 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 are set out in the table.

2010

Q1 2011

Financial Adviser and Consultancy Fees

€5.01 million

€0.17 million

Portfolio Management

€5.09 million

€0.57 million

Legal and Tax Fees

€3.78 million

€0.88 million

Consultancy incurred by NTMA in set up

€0.83 million

-

Audit

€0.70 million

€0.54 million

IT Costs

-

€0.29 million

Treasury

-

€0.18 million

Total

€15.41 million

€2.63 million

Fees and expenses incurred by NAMA are recovered through the operating activities of the agency. They are published in the quarterly reports of NAMA, which are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published on the NAMA website. The financial advisor and consultancy fees incurred in 2010 include fees paid for accounting, financial and business process advice over the period from the incorporation of NAMA to the end of 2010. NAMA employed staff seconded from external consultancy firms and financial advisers to assist in the initial set-up of business units and the development and implementation of processes and policies, until NAMA officers were recruited by the NTMA. The portfolio management fees incurred in 2010 relate to the review of debtor business plans. The legal and tax costs incurred in 2010 relate to fees paid to professional service firms in respect of legal and tax advice and the secondment of staff for legal due diligence.

It is expected that the level of professional and consultancy costs in future will not be as significant as the costs incurred during 2010 given that the latter included costs associated with the establishment of NAMA, particularly relating to the secondment of staff prior to the recruitment of NAMA's own staff. In addition to the above figures, NAMA incurs due diligence costs as part of the process of acquiring loans and related derivatives from the participating institutions. These costs include legal, valuation and property due diligence fees together with the fees of the audit co-ordinator. NAMA incurred due diligence costs of €29.6 million in 2010 and €9 million for the first quarter of 2011. However, NAMA had factored these costs into the acquisition price of the assets and these were recovered from the participating institutions in the form of a reduced payment for the assets.

Banking Sector Regulation

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

76 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the efforts, if any, that have been made to recoup the €1,000,000 bonus paid by Irish Nationwide Building Society to Michael Fingleton which Mr. Fingleton indicated he would return; if he proposes to take any action on this promise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20242/11]

The outgoing board of Irish Nationwide Building Society made many efforts to recoup the bonus paid to the former CEO of the Society in 2008. Now that the INBS has merged with Anglo Irish Bank, I regard the commitment of the former CEO to return the bonus to the society as one that remains outstanding to the new merged entity. Therefore, I have asked the Board of the new merged entity to continue to strongly press this matter. I fully encourage and support its efforts to recoup the payment in accordance with the commitment made by the former chief executive of INBS.

Consumer Protection

Seán Kyne

Question:

77 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance pursuant to the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004 and the SI 190 of 2005, if he will confirm that sole traders and persons operating a business which is not a limited company are excluded from the definition of consumer for the purposes of being eligible to have a complaint investigated by the Financial Services Ombudsman; and if so, if alternative remedies exist, other than internal complaints procedures, for such persons who encounter problems and disputes with financial institutions. [20281/11]

The Financial Services Ombudsman's Bureau has confirmed that, under current legislation — the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act, 2004 and S.I. 190 of 2005 — sole traders as natural persons acting in the course of, or in connection with, the carrying on of a business are excluded from the definition of "consumer" (and accordingly "eligible consumer") for the purposes of bringing a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman. Such persons, who may have disputes with financial institutions, have the right to apply to the courts for redress. If the sole trader's complaint relates to the refusal or reduction in credit from a NAMA participating bank, in certain circumstances he or she may be entitled to lodge an appeal with the Credit Review Office. On application from a borrower who is a farmer or a small or medium sized enterprise operator, that office will carry out an independent review of a NAMA participating bank's decision to refuse or reduce credit.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

78 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20388/11]

At present, there are 30 staff at various grade levels working in my Department who are assigned full-time to monitor EU policy developments. In some cases, the officer's role encompasses both EU and domestic policy developments. I have set out below details of those roles which are most heavily engaged in monitoring EU Policy. A Second Secretary attends Eurogroup and ECOFIN with the Minister and represents Ireland at Economics and Financial Committee (EFC) meetings. This official also holds responsibility for advising the Minister on Irish Budgetary Policy. An Assistant Secretary is responsible for the development of Ireland's budgetary and economic policy and ensuring we meet our obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact, the National Reform Programme and the Euro Plus Pact. He is also involved in developing Ireland's negotiating position in the EU Budget negotiations for 2014-2020.

There are three Principals directly engaged in EU policy through attendance at EFC, Economic Policy Committee (EPC) and Management of the External Programme Compliance Unit. In addition, one Principal has responsibility for monitoring EU Budget developments and co-ordination of Ireland's response to the latest proposals. This involves consultation with a number of other line Departments. The Principal also has responsibility for international financial institutions. There are four Assistant Principals and seven Administrative Officers fully engaged in monitoring EU developments with the EU Budget and at EFC, EPC, Eurogroup and ECOFIN and preparation of the Minister's brief for attendance at EU meetings. Two Principals, three Assistant Principals and two Administrative Officers monitor Financial Services Regulatory and Financial Stability developments at EU level and ensure Irish Financial Regulations and Financial Stability and Crisis Management policies conform to EU standards. They are also involved in other financial services sector responsibilities.

A Principal, an Assistant Principal and an Administrative Officer are directly involved in the examination of the Commission Proposal on the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, among other duties. Also, one other Principal, an Assistant Principal and an Administrative Officer deal with VAT policy developments at EU level as part of their overall role in the management and development of VAT policy on foot of the Irish budget. In addition, there are other officers who deal with EU tax policy on different tax heads, as needed. With regard to the Permanent Representation, one Principal Officer and three Assistant Principals are on secondment from the Department of Finance in Brussels. They monitor economic, financial services, EU budget and fiscal policy on a daily basis and represent Ireland at various working party meetings. The Deputy will be aware that the Permanent Representation comes under the remit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am conscious of the importance of being fully informed about EU developments. I believe the staff complement assigned by me to EU related duties reflects the importance placed by me on ensuring all EU policy proposals are rigorously evaluated.

School Staffing

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

79 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any resolution will be found regarding the eligibility of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford seeking a permanent teaching post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20225/11]

The primary redeployment panel rules agreed between the relevant education partners and my Department are published on my Department's website and provide supplementary panel rights to eligible fixed-term teachers with between three and five years reckonable teaching service. The supplementary panel becomes operational when all permanent and CID holding teachers have been redeployed into vacancies that exist in other schools. The process of allocating teaching resources to schools for 2011-12 and the arrangements for filling vacant or new teaching posts, including temporary posts, takes place in the context of the EU-IMF Programme of Support for Ireland and the Public Service Agreement 2010-14.

It is necessary for my Department to exercise additional control and reporting measures this year to ensure the number of teachers employed in schools is consistent with the EU-IMF Programme of Support for Ireland. Flexible redeployment arrangements are required to ensure all surplus permanent teachers are redeployed into vacancies. The country simply cannot afford to have surplus teachers in a school while permitting recruitment to take place in another school. The teacher referred to by the Deputy has insufficient service to be included on the supplementary panel. It is the intention of the Department to restore recruitment from fixed-term teachers on the redeployment panels and public advertisement as appropriate at the earliest possible opportunity after all the surplus permanent teachers have been redeployed.

Special Educational Needs

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

80 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the special needs assistance requirements in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20157/11]

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. The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for the 2011-12 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 asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18 March 2011. It is in the process of informing schools of their annual SNA allocation for the coming school year.

School Curriculum

Arthur Spring

Question:

81 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills his position on curriculum provision and children’s entitlements with particular reference to English in the junior and senior infant classes at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20183/11]

The Department of Education and Science issued a circular to Irish-medium schools in 2007 stating that the teaching of English could not be delayed beyond the end of the first term in Junior Infants. The circular was the subject of an application for judicial review by An Foras Pátrúnachta and two Gaelscoileanna. Having considered submissions regarding proposals to prescribe the primary school curriculum by regulation and following discussions with Irish language interests, the Department is proposing to proceed by introducing a regulation that will prescribe the primary curriculum. The regulation will stipulate that the teaching of English may be delayed in Irish-medium schools up to the end of the first term of senior infants, subject to the approval of the school's board of management and following consultation with the patron, teachers and parents' association. The Minister intends to provide a copy of the draft regulation to the education partners and Irish language organisations, prior to laying it before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Schools Building Projects

Robert Dowds

Question:

82 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for a three classroom extension to a school (details supplied) in County Dublin. [20192/11]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. In January of this year, my Department issued authorisation to the school and its design team to complete stage 2(b) of architectural planning. A request for additional design team fees is currently under review by my Department. When this issue has been resolved, the Design team will then proceed to completion of stage 2(b) of architectural planning. Upon completion of Stage 2(b) the Design Team will submit the required documentation to my Department. Subsequently assuming no further issues arise, my Department will be in contact with the Board of Management with regard to the further progression of the project.

Special Educational Needs

Michael McGrath

Question:

83 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the allocation of a special needs assistant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [20194/11]

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.

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 asked schools to submit all applications for SNA support to them by 18th March, 2011 and are currently in the process of informing schools of their annual SNA allocation for the coming school year.

The NCSE will advise schools early in the new school year of a review process to review allocation decisions to ensure that correct procedures were followed and that they comply with my Department's policy. The merits of individual allocation decisions will not be open to appeal under this mechanism. It will be expected that schools, before requesting a review, will be in a position to demonstrate that they have made every effort to manage their allocation of SNA posts to best effect.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

84 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a special needs assistant (details supplied) will be given preference for full-time work if such work becomes available. [20204/11]

Firstly, I wish to clarify for 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. A Special Needs Assistant whose post is surplus to the approved allocation to the school may be entitled to a redundancy payment under the terms of circular 58/2006 — titled Redundancy Arrangements for Special Need Assistants. Support to SNAs who may have been made redundant is provided for within the terms of this scheme.

The recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are matters for the individual Principal/Board of Management. The Board is the SNA's employer and the terms of employment are subject to the conditions of the contract of employment. The Deputy will be aware 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 SNAs to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support, which now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

The NCSE has issued a circular to all schools advising of the allocation process for SNA support 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 are currently in the process of informing schools of their annual SNA allocation for the coming school year.

Clare Daly

Question:

85 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will restore the mild general learning disabilities class at a school (details supplied). [20206/11]

I wish to clarify for the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports. This includes the allocation of resource teaching hours to schools as well as the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required and the discontinuation of such classes where the need no longer exists. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such supports.

In respect of special classes, schools are required to observe Department policy in enrolling children to these classes. This includes having a professional assessment confirming that the child's attainment levels meet the Department's criteria and a recommendation for special class placement. Schools are eligible for resources for special classes when the pupils enrolled meet the Department's criteria and where there are enough eligible pupils to retain a class.

In respect of pupils with mild general learning disability enrolled in the class being suppressed due to reduced pupil numbers, these pupils will have access to additional teaching support through the teaching resources allocated to the school under the General Allocation Model (GAM). Schools in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme with Band 1 status, including the school in question, receive beneficial GAM allocations in addition to enhanced pupil-teacher ratios. There may be instances where children who are enrolled in a MGLD class fall within the low incidence disability category. These children may qualify for individual resource teaching support through the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and it is open to schools to liaise with the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) in this regard.

School Transport

Clare Daly

Question:

86 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary is permitted to use school transport to access a school in view of the fact that this school has been established by all experts as the school which is best placed to meet their needs and enable them to develop their potential as they are entitled to under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004. [20207/11]

The child, referred to by the Deputy, is not eligible for school transport under the terms of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Needs. My Department is finalising arrangements to introduce concessionary transport, in certain circumstances, for ineligible children with special educational needs from the beginning of the 2011/12 school year. Detailed information on the updated scheme will be available on my Department's website shortly.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

87 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the appointment of a design team for an extension to a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork. [20209/11]

Additional information has been sought from the Patron in relation to the project. When this information is received, the project will be further progressed.

Sean Fleming

Question:

88 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding planning for a school project (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20214/11]

A major project for the school referred to by the Deputy was included on the list of projects on the work programme for 2011, which was announced on 24 January last. The Accommodation Brief has now been agreed with the School Management which will include the provision of a Special Needs Unit. The next stage involves the appointment of a Design Team and this process is expected to commence shortly.

All large scale building projects, including this proposed project, will be considered within the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the provision of permanent accommodation for this school at this time. The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including this project, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

Higher Education Grants

Sean Fleming

Question:

89 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of the reduction in grants payable to students attending third level college depending on their distance from home; the amount of these payments that will be reduced; his views on students who are finding these reductions in the grant very difficult to sustain and to remain in college as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20215/11]

The Deputy is referring to a change to the student grant scheme introduced by his Government under Budget 2011 which changed the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24kms to 45kms. Some 18,000 students qualifying for grant support are estimated to live between 24kms and 45kms from their colleges. From next September, students eligible for a maintenance grant in this cohort will receive the adjacent rate of grant together with payment of their fees or student contribution. All students on particularly low incomes will continue to receive a "top-up" in the special rate of grant. The Student Assistance Fund at some €5m continues to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need.

Departmental Properties

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

90 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reasons, stipulated by his Department, preventing the use of schools, primary or secondary, for community purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20220/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the primary responsibility of my Department in this area is the provision of school facilities for the effective delivery of the curriculum. In addition, the Deputy might note that school authorities have a considerable degree of autonomy in relation to how their premises are managed and utilised at local level.

However, I do recognise that there is a lack of recreational facilities for community use in certain areas which could be met if school premises were made available to the wider community. To encourage schools in this respect, my Department issued a circular to Trustees, Boards of Management and Principals of Primary and Voluntary Secondary Schools in March 2005 urging Trustees and Boards of Management to make their facilities available where possible for community education and recreation purposes. Decisions in relation to the use of school facilities remain entirely at the discretion of the school authorities, subject to the condition that the needs of the students attending the school are prioritised in the first instance.

My Department has also progressed a number of school building projects within the Fingal County area of Dublin with the Local Authority and Developers to produce an integrated solution to education and community facilities that matches the delivery of new housing. I believe that the lessons learned from this approach can be used to advantage across the country in future, particularly in the area of shared community facilities.

My Department's position generally is that the availability of such facilities should be self-funding i.e. adequate to cover the heat/light/caretaking arrangements as well as making some contribution to the repair of wear and tear on premises caused by increased use. Of utmost importance, schools should ensure that insurance and security are covered as it is unlikely that the school's insurance policy would cover non-school activities or that a caretaker would be routinely available to open/lock up premises.

Educational Projects

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

91 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will release funding for the national roll out of the FÍS digital literacy network in primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20243/11]

My Department acknowledges the good work of the FÍS visual literacy and film project. A request for additional information has been made by my Department in relation to this project. Once all relevant information is available, a decision will be made as soon as possible thereafter.

Skills Development

Dessie Ellis

Question:

92 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the joint work undertaken by the skills expert group and the expert group on future skills to assess the skills demand across the island of Ireland and the implementation of their recommendations; the steps taken by him in conjunction with the relevant Department in the North to address the current and future skills needs across the Island; if he will detail meetings held with the relevant Minister in the North on developing a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to meeting the skills needs across the island; if he will detail discussions held with the relevant Minister in the North to ensure the delivery of effective and efficient skills training to meet the needs of Border counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20250/11]

I understand from Forfás, Ireland's policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation, that in recent years there have been many examples of both Forfás and the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning working together to share information and to understand more fully the labour market on both parts of the island of Ireland. These include joint meetings of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and the (then) Northern Ireland Skills Expert Group, the production of the All Island Skills Report the All Island Skills Conference in 2008 and the steering of research into management skills North and South.

A Comprehensive Study on the All-Island economy (2006) commissioned by the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, emphasised the benefits of working together in a co-ordinated way to ensure that the necessary skills are in place to encourage sustained growth. The two skills expert groups established North and South — the NI Skills Expert Group and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs agreed to work together on an All-Island Skills Study to provide the evidence for delivering the required workforce skills across the island. This Study was completed in October 2008 and provides an evidence base for future partnership and effective working between the two skills expert groups by providing a comprehensive picture of skills demand on an All-Island basis.

The Study was launched at a conference held in Derry on 9th October 2008. The conference provided an opportunity to share good practice and maximise opportunities for future North/South cooperation. It discussed future challenges and opportunities facing economies North/South and potential responses to help sustain future economic and social development. Since then a number of meetings have been held between the chairperson and head of the Education, Skills and Labour Market Policy, Forfás and the new Northern Ireland Skills Adviser. The purpose of the meetings is to provide an exchange of information on the role, functions and work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and on the prospective work of the Northern Ireland Skills Adviser and on respective research work being undertaken — such as on the demand for high-level ICT skills and the skills demand needs of the green economy.

A senior Forfás official is a member of the Northern Ireland Employment & Skills Advisory Group and provides input and advice into discussions and sharing of related information on learning arising from the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs on a regular basis. I also understand that the CEO Forfás addressed the Department for Employment and Learning's Annual Skills Conference in Belfast on 25 May 2011.

As regards North South cooperation in the education sphere, in the context of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, my Department co-operates with the Department of Education Northern Ireland to take forward this co-operation through the structures of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in four designated areas of cooperation: special education needs, educational underachievement, teacher qualifications and superannuation and school, youth and teacher exchanges. The area of skills training is not currently an agreed area of North South cooperation in this context.

The Northern Ireland Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) has responsibility for further/vocational and higher education matters as well as employment matters and skills training in Northern Ireland. While my Department does not formally engage with DEL within the structures of the NSMC, both Departments liaise on North South education cooperation issues as required. There is also good co-operation between third level institutions in both jurisdictions in relation to third level courses and research programmes. My colleague, Minister Ruairí Quinn T.D., will be meeting with Minister Stephen Farry, M.L.A., the Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning, next week on a bilateral basis to further the process of developing closer linkages between the two Departments and to discuss areas where joint working might prove beneficial.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Griffin

Question:

93 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the building of a new school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if a projected time frame for the project will be given. [20269/11]

A major project for the school to which the Deputy refers was included on the list of projects on the work programme for 2011, which was announced on 24 January 2011. The project brief has now been agreed with the School Management. The next stage involves the appointment of a Design Team and this process is expected to commence shortly.

All large scale building projects, including this project, will be considered within the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the provision of permanent accommodation for this school at this time. The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including this project, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

94 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will prioritise the building of a new school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20270/11]

A major project for the school to which the Deputy refers was included on the list of projects on the work programme for 2011, which was announced on 24 January 2011. The project brief has now been agreed with the School Management. The next stage involves the appointment of a Design Team and this process is expected to commence shortly.

All large scale building projects, including this proposed project, will be considered within the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the provision of permanent accommodation for this school at this time. The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including this project, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

School Staffing

Brendan Griffin

Question:

95 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a second English, as an additional language teacher, will be retained at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20272/11]

The Deputy will be aware that school to which he refers lodged an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board for a review of its allocation for language support for the 2011/12 school year (Circular 15/2009). Having considered the case at its meeting on 30 June 2011, the Board refused the appeal and the school has been notified of the outcome. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Asbestos Remediation Programme

Martin Heydon

Question:

96 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will put in place necessary safeguards to ensure that all asbestos removal works carried out in schools are performed by approved asbestos removal contractors who are authorised to carry out such work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20273/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that procedures and guidelines are already in place to ensure the safe removal of asbestos from schools. When a school authority receives funding from my Department to carry out refurbishment works to their school building, they are advised of their responsibilities as Client for the project under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 504 of 2006.

In particular school authorities are advised that they must receive written confirmation from all Consultant(s) appointed by them to assist with the delivery of their approved project that they are aware of the contents of the School's Safety File and the School's Asbestos Register. The school management authority is also required to provide written confirmation that their consultants has checked the school safety file and have taken appropriate action in relation to the safe removal of asbestos before my Department will issue any payments in respect of the approved works. In addition school authorities are informed that guidelines documents on "Asbestos Management in Schools" and the "Code of Practice for Management of Asbestos Material in Schools" are available on my Department website at www.education.ie.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Seán Crowe

Question:

97 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the provisions that have been made by him to obtain 50% of the cost of compensation paid out to victims of institutional abuse, arising from the provisions for the 2002 redress Act, who were resident in institutions that did not profess a Roman Catholic ethos; the moneys that have so far been paid to the State by such institutions; the history of discussions between civil servants and the representatives of these institutions; and his views that the failure to obtain or even to pursue 50% of compensation, arising from payments under the redress Act to residents of institutions professing a non-Roman Catholic ethos, from these institutions might imperil, as a result of possible court challenges, payments from Roman Catholic bodies and/or institutions, considering the provisions of Article 44.2 and 44.3 of the Constitution. [20277/11]

A total of 139 institutions were included in the schedule of specified institutions to the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002 to 2005. Religious ethos was not a criterion for inclusion in the Schedule. While the majority of these institutions were managed by the 18 religious congregations who were party to the 2002 Indemnity Agreement, others were managed by other congregations, State bodies, voluntary bodies/management committees or pursuant to Trusts. My Department has written to the management bodies of specified institutions, outside of the eighteen congregations who were party to the 2002 Indemnity Agreement, requesting them to consider making a contribution towards the costs of the response to residential institutional abuse. No contributions have been realised from this process to date. As announced last week, the potential of the management bodies, outside of the 18 congregations, to similarly transfer school infrastructure will be explored.

School Staffing

Brendan Smith

Question:

98 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has examined whether there should be pension consequences for retired teachers taking up short-term teaching posts or substitute positions; and the outcome of this examination. [20366/11]

The Department applies abatement of pension to retired teachers where the amount of pay together with the pension being received is greater than the pay on which the pension is based. The effect of this is to reduce or sometimes stop pension where a retiree returns to teaching.

There have been a number of employment related changes introduced in the past year which impact on teachers in receipt of a pension. From 1st January 2011, teachers who are in receipt of an occupational pension and who return to teach are remunerated at the first point of the reduced salary scales instead of their pre-retirement personal rate of pay. Given that the majority of teachers retire at the top of the incremental salary scale, this represents a significant reduction in the pro-rated payments for these teachers. Also, from 1 September 2011, schools are required to hold a list of registered teachers who are not in receipt of a pension and who are available for short-term positions or substitute work. Only where a school cannot source an unemployed registered teacher may it employ a registered teacher who is in receipt of a State pension.

In light of these significant reforms, and the availability of teachers who are not retired, I expect the number of retired teachers undertaking substitute work in schools to reduce in the 2011/2012 school year. My Department will, however, monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and I remain open to considering other options, including those relating to pension, in the event that these measures are not effective.

Brendan Smith

Question:

99 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions taken to date to ensure that all schools around the country keep a list of appropriately qualified registered teachers who are available for substitute teaching at short notice. [20367/11]

I recently issued Circular 31/2011 which requires that, from September 2011, schools keep a list of appropriately qualified registered teachers who notify the school that they are available for substitute teaching at short notice. The principal of the school must report to his or her Board of Management, as his or her employer, on a regular basis on the fact that such a list is being maintained.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

100 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20386/11]

My Department's involvement in EU education and training issues is co-ordinated by its International Section, which is based in Dublin. At present, the duties of some two staff members of that section include a substantial involvement in monitoring EU policy developments and co-ordinating the processing of reporting requirements, dissemination of information and handling of requests and enquiries from EU institutions. In addition, one member of the staff of the Department is seconded as Education Attaché to Ireland's Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. The duties of the Education Attaché also include a substantial involvement in monitoring and reporting on EU policy developments, particularly in the education and training area.

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

101 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20279/11]

The following issues of European relevance fall under my responsibility:

Policy development, management and implementation of Ireland's EU Structural Funds Programmes under the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) including co-ordination of all EU Funds and promoting Ireland's interest in the debate on future EU Cohesion policy;

Representation of Ireland in eGovernment/ICT related activities at EU level, including the Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA) EU programme 2010-2015 and participation in the EU Commission's eGovernment Benchmarking Exercise;

Participation in the EU Working Group on Staff Regulations — effectively the pay and conditions of EU officials, which is up for renewal next year;

Participation in the European Public Administration network (EUPAN) — EUPAN is an informal network of the Directors General responsible for public administration in the Member States of the European Union and the European Commission.

Currently, there are 1 Principal, 4 Assistant Principals, 2 Higher Executive Officers, 2 Executive Officers and 1 Clerical Officer dealing with EU Structural Funds Policy. In addition, 2 Assistant Principals, 1 Administrative Officer and 1 Executive Officer who, as part of their brief, also deal with EU policies relating to eGovernment and associated programmes. 1 Assistant Principal is involved in work on the Group Statut which requires attendance at approximately 12 meetings in Brussels/Luxembourg each year. All staff dealing with EU related issues are based in Dublin.

Departmental Staff

Sean Fleming

Question:

102 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons from outside the Civil Service who have been interviewed for positions by the top level appointments committee in the past four months. [20283/11]

Seven people from outside the civil service, six from the private sector and one from the public sector have been interviewed by the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC) in the past four months.

Fiscal Policy

Sean Fleming

Question:

103 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the work on making the Estimates available online in searchable form was begun; and the regularity with which he intends updating same. [20284/11]

The Estimates of Expenditure data have been prepared in electronic form within my Department for a number of years and, I understand, that work on preparing this data on a searchable time-series basis for internal use has been progressing for the past 2 or 3 years in particular. However, the decision to make all of this data accessible to the public was taken soon after the establishment of the new Department of Public Expenditure & Reform.

In the first instance, a searchable spreadsheet version of the indicative 2011 Revised Estimates was published as part of the launch of my Department's website in early May 2011. It is my intention that all Revised Estimates Volumes from this point on will be made available in such a format shortly after their publication. Moreover, a new “Databank” web page was made publicly available in June 2011, following a couple of months of technical development of the internal data. The Databank — available at http://databank.per.gov.ie/ — gives full information on gross and net voted expenditure, together with expenditure for the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) and the National Training Fund (NTF), back to 1994 broken down by individual Department and vote. Work is currently underway to make all of the subhead level detail within each Vote available on the Databank over the coming weeks.

I should emphasise that this is the beginning, and not the end, of the process of making this type of information available to the public. Over time, my Department will put all appropriate information in the hands of the public via the new Databank.

Proposed Legislation

Micheál Martin

Question:

104 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the timetable for the publication and enactment of legislation regarding constitutional amendments during 2011. [19805/11]

The Programme for Government contains commitments to the holding of referenda to amend the Constitution to reverse the effects of the Abbeylara judgement and to protect the right of citizens to communicate in confidence with public representatives. The Government has also announced that it intends to hold a referendum on the right to alter judicial pay. It is my intention to bring to Government constitutional referenda proposals on both the ‘Abbeylara' and confidentiality of communications between citizens and public representatives issues before the summer recess. My colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality is also progressing work in relation to the referendum on judicial pay.

As previously indicated to the Deputy, the holding of a referendum will require the enactment of a Constitutional Amendment Bill by the Oireachtas. Once passed, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government by order appoints the day and time for the referendum. Polling must be not earlier than 30 days and not later than 90 days after the date of the order. Before any constitutional amendment is finalised there needs to be detailed consideration of the complex legal issues involved but assuming satisfactory progress can be made between now and the Autumn it is intended that the people will be asked to make a determination on these three separate issues on the day they choose a successor to President McAleese.

World Trade Negotiations

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he intends to impress upon his EU colleagues the necessity to ensure that EU trade negotiations in the context of the World Trade Organisation do not impact negatively on this country’s national economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20351/11]

The World Trade Organisation's Doha Development Round of negotiations is about promoting trade liberalisation with a particular focus on helping developing countries. As Ireland has shown, countries that are open to trade and investment and position themselves to gain most from globalisation, can be more successful than others in sustaining growth and moving up the development ladder. Trade openness contributes to long term growth and employment, provided that it is complemented by appropriate policies.

At the DDA talks the EU Commission negotiates on behalf of all member States, including Ireland. Through the EU Trade Council, the EU Council's Trade Policy Committee and in other fora, I and my Department will continue to co-ordinate Ireland's strategic approach to the ongoing negotiations and to strongly promote Ireland's interests in every aspect of the DDA talks. Finally, the Government remains committed to the achieving the development aims of the Doha Development Round, especially for the Least Developed Countries through an ambitious, fair and balanced outcome from all parts of the negotiations. This reflects our position as a society and a trading nation with diverse manufacturing, service and agribusiness interests.

Job Creation

Tom Fleming

Question:

106 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of new jobs the Industrial Development Agency created in County Kerry in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and to date in 2011; if he is satisfied with the IDA’s performance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20148/11]

Tom Fleming

Question:

107 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the plans or proposals the Industrial Development Agency has to replace the jobs lost in County Kerry to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20149/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 107 together.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are supported by the industrial development agencies. Data is compiled on an annualized basis and figures for 2011 will not be available until the end of the year. The survey shows that in the four year period, 2007 to 2010 inclusive, there were a total of 350 new jobs created in IDA supported companies in County Kerry. Details of the number of new jobs created in each of those years are set out in the tabular statement.

IDA Ireland continues to promote Kerry for new inward investment across the ICT, International Financial Services and Globally Traded Business sectors. In line with the National Spatial Strategy, the Agency concentrates its efforts on the linked hub locations of Killarney in South Kerry and Tralee in North Kerry. At then end of 2010, there were 15 IDA Ireland supported companies in Kerry employing 1,313 permanent staff. Regrettably job losses occur every year for a variety of reasons including changing competitiveness, competition from sister sites, product and technology lifecycles or global location rationalisation as a result of mergers and acquisitions. In selecting locations to show companies, IDA Ireland seeks to include locations which have been affected by closures/job losses. While IDA Ireland seeks to influence the selection of location, the final decision on location is taken in all cases by the promoting company.

Year

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Number of new jobs created

73

116

86

25

50

John Lyons

Question:

108 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps each of the State agencies in his remit are undertaking to promote job creation in Dublin north west; the number of innovation vouchers awarded to companies in this constituency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20152/11]

John Lyons

Question:

110 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to develop innovation hubs in Dublin north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20154/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 110 together.

Job creation is central to our economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate job creation. The Jobs Initiative announced in May focuses our limited resources on measures that offer the greatest potential for expansion and employment creation in the domestic economy. Additionally, it has a significant focus on tourism, and the reduction in the VAT Rate, along with the abolition of the travel tax will provide an important stimulus to tourism businesses in Dublin.

The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and driving our Smart Economy. The allocation of €508 million in funding for 2011 will ensure that the core programmes of the enterprise agencies are sustained and targeted as well as driving investment in research and development. This investment in the Enterprise Development agencies will drive recovery in the economy by facilitating the winning of foreign direct investments, the growth of indigenous exports and the creation of sustainable jobs.

The primary role of IDA Ireland is the attraction of high quality foreign direct investment to Ireland. Dublin has a variety of high quality manufacturing and office buildings in business parks that are owned by both IDA Ireland and private developers. They are strategically placed throughout the City region and are capable of providing immediate property solutions. In terms of attracting foreign direct investment, Dublin has been a success story with a critical mass of population, skills pool, educational infrastructure, international access connections, ongoing business activity across all sectors and extensive property solutions for future activity. In 2010, there were 481 IDA supported companies operating in Dublin while employment in IDA supported companies in the Dublin City Region stood at 48,465. In that regard, North Dublin now confidently hosts world-class companies such as Citibank, Hertz, eBay, Pay Pal among many others. Recent announcements include decisions by PayPal, Marketo and Symantec, which have the potential to create 150 jobs at PayPal, 125 jobs at Marketo and 60 jobs at Symantec.

The role of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) in the Dublin area is to provide a source of support for micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. During 2011, the CEBs will continue to support enterprise development through the provision of both direct financial assistance and through indirect or "soft support" assistance such as management development capability support and the development and delivery of activities to highlight and promote enterprise. During 2010 the Dublin City Enterprise Board, which encompasses the Dublin North West area, issued almost €755,000 in grant assistance to 79 clients and provided training assistance to over 1,479 participants, as well as providing a range of business advice and mentoring services.

Enterprise Ireland will continue to support job creation through a number of interventions, such as supporting the establishment and growth of high potential start-up companies and supporting companies to target new opportunities in overseas markets. Enterprise Ireland has 1,055 client companies in Dublin City employing 22,235 people on a full time basis with a further 4,187 people on a contract or part time basis. North Dublin has a wide selection of enterprise space to cater for micro enterprises and start-up enterprises including Community Enterprise Centres. To date, 255 Innovation Vouchers valued at €5,000 each have been awarded to companies on the North side of Dublin in order to help them explore new commercial ideas or source innovation solutions to business problems in higher education institutions.

Enterprise Ireland's campus incubation programme provides a protective environment on third-level campuses where new companies can grow significantly in their formative years. To date, DCU and its Invent Centre has received €2.3m, of which €1.65m went towards business incubation space and €0.65m towards more specialised "bio space". At present, there are in the region of 15 enterprises in the centre employing about 70 people. In addition, the "Invent" centre has been funded over €1.9m by Enterprise Ireland in order to support the employment of technology transfer professionals in the centre.

In 2008, Enterprise Ireland approved over €1m in funding towards the development of IT Blanchardstown's incubation centre, to assist start up businesses. The funding was used to assist the college in providing extra incubation space within the Institute's Learning and Innovation Centre (LINC).

John Lyons

Question:

109 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of jobs in companies in Dublin north west that are being supported by Industrial Development Agency grants; the companies involved; their location in the constituency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20153/11]

In terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), Dublin has been a success story with a critical mass of population, skills pool, educational infrastructure, international access connections, existing business activity across all sectors and extensive property solutions for future activity.

I am informed by IDA that data is provided on the Dublin City Region as a whole and is not broken down by area. At the end of 2010, there were 481 IDA client companies employing 48,465 people located in the Dublin City Region. Dublin traditionally has been a centre for manufacturing industry for FDI but in recent years there has been a shift away from manufacturing to more knowledge-based higher value-added projects in fund management, e-Commerce, Software and high-end back office functions. To date in 2011 there have been a significant number of investment announcements for Dublin with the potential to create over 1,000 jobs. Details are set out in the tabular statement.

Announcements in Dublin 2011

Date

Company

Jobs

Project Activity

10/01/11

Murex

30

Expansion of Financial Software systems development centre

16/02/11

PayPal

150 customer support positions

European operations and customer service headquarters

30/03/11

LinkedIn

100 jobs

Sales, business development, marketing and customer services

6/4/11

Asset Control

50 jobs

Technology centre of excellence

19/4/11

Gilt Groupe

100-200 jobs

International HQ and Software development centre & Customer support centre

30/5/11

Marketo

125 jobs

Software

7/6/11

Dell

150 jobs

Cloud Computing

10/06/11

Zynga

Zynga’s biggest European office and multilingual operations centre in Dublin plans to recruit additional talent to service the international players of its games with customer support in multiple languages

15/06/11

BNY Mellon

50

BNY Mellon, a global leader in investment management and investment servicing is to establish a new company in Dublin, BNY Mellon Clearing International

21/06/11

Symantec

60

Global leader in security, storage and systems management, is to establish a new team within its European Operations Centre in Dublin.

23/06/11

Butterfield

60 jobs (bringing workforce total to 100)

Butterfield Fulcrum, a leading fund administration company, is to increase its workforce in Dublin city centre to 100 people. The investment is supported by the Irish Government with the aid of IDA Ireland.

07/07/11

SAP

100

SAP announced that it is extending its commitment to its Irish operations with the news that it is to sign a lease on a new 1,350 square meter facility in Citywest and is currently recruiting for 100 jobs.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 108.

Research Funding

Dessie Ellis

Question:

111 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the targets set by him to draw down funding under the seventh framework programme for research and development; if he will provide details on a year by year basis of the drawdown of funding from the seventh framework programme for research and development; the number of projects funded, and their value, from the seventh framework programme for research and development that have a significant North-South dimension; the number of projects and their value in which the bodies from here are a lead partner that includes a researcher based in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20282/11]

The EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, (FP7) covers the period 2007-2013 and has a budget of approximately €50 billion. The national target for drawdown by Ireland from FP7, over the seven-year period, is €600 million. The tabular statement that is being provided with the official reply provides details of the amounts of funding awarded to Irish participants to date.

The number and value of projects funded from FP7 which have a North-South dimension, are as follows:

Some 43 projects, securing €35.2 million, have a North-South dimension. These projects involve 119 Irish participants (47 from Northern Ireland and 72 from the State). The amount of funding awarded was €8,495,247 to Northern Ireland participants, and €26,699,845 to participants from the State. The period covered, for which latest figures are available, is from 2007 to April 2011, inclusive.

Details of the number and value of projects funded, in which the lead partner is from the State and includes a researcher from Northern Ireland, are as follows:

16 projects securing €20.9 million, have the lead partner in the State and include a researcher from Northern Ireland. The breakdown of funding to these projects is €17.5 million to the participants from the State and €3.4 million to participants from Northern Ireland.

FP7 has long been identified as an area where cross-border collaboration is feasible and makes eminent sense. In order to maximise Irish participation in FP7, Ireland's National Support Office, which is headed by Enterprise Ireland, leads an all-island approach by all of the relevant agencies to promote FP7 and support the participation of companies and research organisations to provide significant competitive advantage for the island of Ireland. The aim is to focus on areas and instruments that present opportunities for cross-border collaborations, including opportunities to exploit existing and future sectoral networks. One example of this approach was the recently held Regions of Knowledge Conference in Belfast, on 30th June, 2011, which was attended by representatives of the research community from both sides of the border.

Table

Overall funding from FP7 to Irish participants per annum to date

€m*

2007

49

2008

32

2009

72

2010

116

2011

26**

Total

295

*Amount of funding notified by the Commission for allocation to Irish-based participants (not including Northern Ireland) in proposals approved for funding during the year in question

**This figure to April 2011 only.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

112 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; and if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments, when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20390/11]

My Department has an EU Affairs Section specifically dedicated to monitoring EU developments. There are 4 staff in the EU Affairs Section of the Department. The role of the Section is primarily to:

1. Define, coordinate and develop the Department's position on EU policy matters and its relationship with the EU Institutions.

2. Oversee key aspects of the Department's EU priorities with particular regard to the Europe 2020 Strategy and the coordination of relevant inputs into Ireland's National Reform Programme and other cross-cutting and horizontal issues at EU level.

3. Manage and coordinate planning and preparation for Ireland's EU Presidency 2013.

The Department also has 5 staff in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels (PRB). The Department's staff in the PRB serve the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), other key EU Committees, Working Groups and liaise with EU Affairs Section and relevant Policy Sections in the Department. They cover areas such as Trade policy, Company Law, Consumer Issues, Competition, Research and Development, Intellectual Property and Patents, Industrial Policy, State Aids, Internal Market and Employment. In addition, staff across every division within my Department are involved in policy formulation in their areas nationally and contributing to developments at EU level through engagement with the EU institutions and other Member States.

Social Welfare Code

Robert Dowds

Question:

113 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection when the national carer’s strategy will be launched and implemented. [20189/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

114 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the half-rate carer’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20190/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

115 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on the carer’s grant; and the amounts to be paid to carers. [20191/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 to 115, inclusive, together.

The Government is committed in the Programme for Government to developing a carers' strategy. It will consider how best to progress the development of the strategy, taking into account the prevailing economic realities and the work that was carried out previously. The Department of the Taoiseach chaired an interdepartmental group in 2008 which undertook work, to develop a National Carers' Strategy. The Departments of Finance, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Health and Children, and Social and Family Affairs, as well as the Health Services Executive (HSE) and FÁS were represented on the group.

As my Department is responsible for providing income supports for carers, it will of course have a role in developing and implementing a strategy. However many of the issues of most concern to carers are the responsibility of other Departments, in particular the Department of Health. As the strategy has not yet been developed it is not possible at this time to give any estimation as to the plans for implementation, however it will have to be developed within existing available resources. In developing and implementing the strategy, the Government will take account of our IMF and EU commitments, as well the outcomes of the comprehensive review of expenditure currently being undertaken by each Department.

Despite the cuts experienced by carers under 66 in the last two budgets, over the last decade weekly payment rates to carers have greatly increased and the qualifying conditions for the schemes have been eased. The rate of carer's allowance for those over 66 years of age did not change in the last Budget and remain at €239. The current rate of carer's allowance for someone under 66 is €204.

There are currently 51,100 people getting a carer's allowance payment from the Department. This includes 21,500 who are receiving a half-rate carer's allowance in addition to another social welfare payment. This allowance was introduced in September 2007 following commitments given in "Towards 2016" and recommendations made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs Report on the Position of Full-Time Carers. Recipients of all weekly welfare payments, other than jobseeker's benefit/assistance and supplementary welfare allowance, are eligible to receive a half-rate payment if they are providing full time care and attention. All qualified adults are also eligible to receive the payment, including jobseeker's qualified adults.

There are also 1,700 people in receipt of carer's benefit. Carer's benefit was introduced in October 2000. It is a payment for people who have made social insurance contributions and who have recently left the workforce and are looking after somebody in need of full-time care and attention. In addition over 17,000 people who are not in receipt of a carer's allowance or benefit payment received the annual respite care grant of €1,700 in June. The respite care grant was introduced in June 1999. It is an annual payment for full-time carers who look after certain people in need of full-time care and attention. The payment is made regardless of the carer's means but is subject to certain conditions.

Civil Registration Service

Catherine Byrne

Question:

116 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the requirements for persons who wish to have a civil ceremony of marriage or a civil partnership; if public notification of the ceremony at the chosen venue is mandatory; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20271/11]

The requirements in relation to marriage and civil partnership are set out in the Civil Registration Act 2004 (as amended). Parties to an intended marriage or civil partnership must attend at a registrar's office to give three months notice of that intention, to sign declarations that there is no impediment to the marriage or civil partnership, and to provide proof of identity and capacity to marry or enter a civil partnership. The legislation provides that a marriage may be solemnised by way of a religious or a civil ceremony but that a civil partnership registration can be carried out only by way of a civil ceremony.

With regard to marriage, a civil ceremony may take place either at the office of the registrar or at a venue chosen by the parties to the marriage and agreed to by the registered solemniser with the approval of the HSE by reference to guidelines laid down by the Minister. In relation to civil partnership, a civil partnership registration may take place either at the office of the registrar or at a venue chosen by the parties to the civil partnership and agreed to by the registrar with the approval of the HSE by reference to guidelines laid down by the Minister.

In respect of any venue, other than the office of the registrar, whether for the purpose of marriage or civil partnership, it is required that a notice must be prominently displayed at the main public entrance to the venue at least 1 hour before the marriage or civil partnership and during the proceedings. The main purpose of the requirement for a public notice at a venue is to facilitate the making of an objection to a marriage or civil partnership as provided for in the Act referred to above.

Social Welfare Benefits

Niall Collins

Question:

117 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the outcome of a specific application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [20364/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned made an application for an exceptional needs payment in respect of funeral costs on 19 January 2011. The HSE further advised that the person concerned was requested to provide further information in order to process his application. The person concerned did not provide the requested information and accordingly the claim was closed in February 2011.

Social Welfare Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

118 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to reform the social welfare entitlement system for self-employed persons who go out of business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20128/11]

Self-employed workers may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments such as Jobseeker's Allowance. They can apply for the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. There are no plans to reform the social welfare entitlement system for self-employed persons who go out of business. Any such measure would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered within a budgetary context.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

119 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20133/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned has been awarded a rent supplement of €104 per calendar month from 1st June 2011.

Tom Hayes

Question:

120 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an application under the back to school clothing and footwear scheme will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20136/11]

The administrative arrangements for the 2011 back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme differ from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of back to school clothing and footwear allowance entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers. As the person in question was not one of the customers who received an automated payment they are required to complete an application form that is available for download from www.welfare.ie or by texting “Form BTSCFA”, followed by their name and address to 51909. Completed application forms should be returned to Department of Social Protection, PO Box 131, Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brian Walsh

Question:

121 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will examine a case regarding a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway, which has been ongoing for some time; and if a decision will be expedited. [20166/11]

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 hand, the Department has made a further 9 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 s/he 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

Brendan Griffin

Question:

122 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider extending the travel pass to cover carers and the people for whom they care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20173/11]

The free travel scheme is available to people aged 66 years or over, those in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension.

In the majority of cases, persons who are being cared for will be in receipt of a payment in their own right (for example a State pension or disability allowance) and will be entitled to have a free travel pass. This includes anyone aged over 16 who qualifies for disability allowance. For those children under 16 requiring full-time care, a domiciliary care allowance of €309.50 per month may be paid to the parent or guardian. This payment is not means tested and is to provide for the additional costs involved in providing care and supervision that is substantially more than that normally needed by a child of the same age. This may include additional travel costs. Funding for the free travel scheme is currently frozen at 2010 levels of expenditure as outlined in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 and the 2011 Budget. The Department, therefore, is not in a position to extend the scheme at this time.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Creed

Question:

123 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal on a domiciliary care allowance application will be held in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20178/11]

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 hand, the Department has made a further 9 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 s/he 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.

Question No. 124 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

125 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been refused mortgage interest relief; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20195/11]

In the time frame available, I regret that my Department is not in a position to reply to this question. My Department will be in contact with the Deputy over the coming days and will reply in full to the question raised.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

126 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection the various types of financial support available to families in the aftermath of the November 2009 floods; the grants available for families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20208/11]

The Government provided various types of financial support to families in the aftermath of the November 2009 floods. Assistance was provided towards:

immediate needs such as clothing, food, bedding and emergency accommodation.

essential household items such as carpets, flooring, furniture and white goods,

essential repairs and

meeting individual's ongoing accommodation needs.

Subject to certain conditions the Government decided that support may also be available to a small number of households who are continuing to experience significant housing problems as a result of the November 2009 flooding who are considering the possibility of relocating rather than resuming living at their original home.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

127 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 196 of 7 June 2011, regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork for payment of an exceptional needs payment in respect of a deposit, the reason correspondence supplied was not classed as such an appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20212/11]

In the time frame available, I regret that my Department is not in a position to reply to this question. My Department will be in contact with the Deputy over the coming days and will reply in full to the question raised.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a social welfare payment will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20218/11]

The person concerned claimed one parent family payment from 27 July 2006. Following a review, her claim was disallowed by a deciding officer from 2 June 2011 on the grounds that she failed to submit documents requested by an inspector and that she is co-habiting with her partner. She was informed of her right to appeal this decision but no appeal has been received to date.

Social Insurance

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

129 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has received a request to forward details of an insurance record to the Customer Operations National Insurance Contributions, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20236/11]

Details of the insurance record for the person concerned were forwarded to the UK authorities on 26 November 2010.

Social Welfare Benefits

Catherine Byrne

Question:

130 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will clarify the payments awarded in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20252/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has advised that the person concerned is currently in receipt of a weekly basic supplementary welfare allowance payment while her entitlement to a disability allowance payment is determined. Her claim for disability allowance is currently being considered by the Chief Appeals Office. The HSE has further advised that the person concerned is also in receipt of a rent supplement of €98.00 per week which is her full entitlement based on her personal circumstances.

Departmental Expenditure

Catherine Byrne

Question:

131 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of money that was spent by her on the one-parent family payment in 2010; the number of recipients; the number of male and female recipients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20256/11]

My Department incurred a total expenditure of €1.1bn during 2010 in respect of the One-Parent Family Payment scheme in 2010. The total number of persons in receipt of this payment in 2010 was 92,326 of which there were 2,156 male and 90,170 female recipients. Further information on this scheme, and on all of my Department's schemes, is available in the Department's Annual Statistics Report. The Report, "Statistical Information on Social Welfare Services 2010" is published on my Department's website, www.welfare.ie.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

132 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of staff in her Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if her Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20280/11]

The Department does not have staff working exclusively on monitoring EU policy developments. This function is undertaken by the EU/International Section of the Department which is responsible for ensuring that Ireland meets all its international obligations in the social welfare area. This includes monitoring EU developments, as well as taking part in a number of EU-level groups/committees and generally supporting the Department's EU business. As well as the EU, this section covers Ireland's social security responsibilities in relation to bodies such as the Council of Europe and the ILO and the various bilateral social security agreements it has negotiated with non-EU countries. The section is based in Dublin and is at present staffed by 6.4 posts. In addition, the Department has one member of staff seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and based in Brussels dealing with EU matters in the area of social affairs.

Question No. 133 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Catherine Murphy

Question:

134 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason supplementary allowance has been withdrawn in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the supplementary allowance will be reinstated pending the final decision on their claim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20378/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to individual cases. The HSE has advised that the payments under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme have been withdrawn from the person in question as she is not habitually resident in the state.

Dan Neville

Question:

135 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for back to school clothing and footwear allowance will be processed in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Limerick. [20379/11]

The administrative arrangements for the 2011 back to school clothing & footwear allowance scheme differ from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of back to school clothing and footwear allowance entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers. As the person in question was not one of the customers who received an automated payment they are required to complete an application form that is available for download from www.welfare.ie or by texting “Form BTSCFA”, followed by their name and address to 51909. Completed application forms should be returned to Department of Social Protection, PO Box 131, Letterkenny, Co Donegal for processing in due course.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

136 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20382/11]

My Department has two staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments and one of these is based in Brussels.

Fisheries Protection

Brendan Griffin

Question:

137 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an account of the accomplishments of the funding provided to communities through development agencies after the end of drift net salmon fishing; the reason that crew members from the affected boats were not directly compensated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20132/11]

In 2007 following the alignment of the management of the wild salmon fishery with the scientific advice ending the mixed stock fishery at sea, a Salmon Hardship Scheme was established to address any hardship experienced by affected commercial salmon licence holders. I understand that a Community Support Scheme was also provided, directed primarily on those communities where commercial salmon fishing has been a well-established activity and where its withdrawal demonstrably impacts on the economic and social fabric, for example, Gaeltacht areas. Former crew members, as well as others, were eligible for this scheme. The scheme focussed on retraining of the affected labour force, diversification into non-salmon fishing activity and projects to promote the quality of the local environment.

The Community Support Scheme was administered through 14 LEADER companies and Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann in respect of island communities and Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta, in respect of the Gaeltacht areas. The following table sets out the amounts allocated under the scheme to each LEADER Company.

Leader Company

Allocation

Clare Local Development Co Ltd

€183,000

Comhar na nOileain Teoranta

€189,405

Donegal Local Development Co Ltd

€294,930

Galway Rural Development Co Ltd

€182,047

Inishowen Development Partnership

€282,367

Louth Leader Rural Development Co

€90,533

Meath Partnership

€91,500

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teo

€842,800

North & East Kerry Development

€161,040

Sligo Leader Partnership Co

€137,250

South & East Cork Area Development

€188,000

South Kerry Development Partnership

€342,210

Waterford Leader Partnership

€615,400

West Cork Development Partnership

€733,300

West Limerick Resources

€183,000

Wexford Local Development

€91,500

I am advised that all projects have been completed in accordance with the criteria establishing the scheme.

Energy Prices

Question:

138 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason the cost of re-connections for electricity has increased, especially after two years of disconnection; if there is a new policy on quoting these figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20120/11]

I have no function in the matter of disconnections of electricity customers regardless of the supply company involved. In addition, responsibility for the regulation of reconnection fees is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body, with no Ministerial role or function in this matter.

It is nevertheless the case that the increase in disconnections in the past twelve months is a matter of considerable concern for the Government, the CER, voluntary organisations and energy suppliers. The current economic climate is placing additional pressures on consumers and many consumers are experiencing problems meeting outgoings including energy costs. The primary responsibility to manage customer debt rests with the energy suppliers and the customer. The key message for all customers is to contact their suppliers to make arrangements before the situation gets to the point of disconnection.

The CER, a statutorily independent body established under the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999, has responsibility for overseeing the regulation of Ireland's electricity and gas sectors. CER promotes competition in the electricity and natural gas markets so that customers can ultimately benefit from competitive pressures on prices, and also protects the interests of final customers, especially the disadvantaged and the elderly, by ensuring that standards of services are set and codes of practice are in place to protect vulnerable users.

As part of its customer protection remit, the CER took a number of initiatives in relation to disconnections policy during 2010. In November, changes were introduced to the allocation of costs of both disconnections and reconnections for non payment between the supplier and customer. Instead of the customer bearing the entire cost, these costs are now shared equally by the supplier. This is an interim measure and effective until December 2012. CER has also issued updated Guidelines for the Disconnections Code of Practice and reviewed the cost of disconnection and reconnection for domestic customers. In December 2010 these costs were reduced from €174 to €70 for electricity and from €123.48 to €61.74 for gas, effective from January 2011.

However, when a customer is disconnected for over six months ESB Networks also requires a certificate from a registered electrician to ensure the safety of reconnection. If a dwelling is disconnected from the electricity supply for more than two years the Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) is deregistered. After two years therefore, residents of such dwellings would have to apply for a new connection instead of reconnection. In 2011 new connection fees are €1,795 (including VAT) for a standard connection to a single house (urban or rural) that is not part of a multi-unit residential or mixed development. I have no function in the matter of connection or reconnection fees which are regulated by the CER.

CER is also working with the energy supply industry on interim prepayment solutions and is also consulting with industry and other interest groups, such as the Money Advice and Budgeting Service and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, on addressing the challenges of so-called Debt Hopping. The Commission has a statutory responsibility to provide a complaints resolution service to customers with an unresolved dispute with their supplier or network operator. An Energy Customers Team has been set up within the Commission to deal directly with customers who have complaints. CER also provides a dedicated Energy Customers website at www.energycustomers.ie, which provides consumer information on the electricity and gas market and, in particular, on how to engage with its complaints resolution service.

I welcome the fact that CER is working with energy suppliers to ensure that they take all reasonable steps to assist customers through this difficult period and that electricity and gas disconnections because of genuine inability to pay are minimised and only occur as a very last resort after numerous steps have been taken by a supplier to try to prevent this happening.

Postal Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

139 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will address a proper licensing and regulation system in order to protect the integrity, reputation and trust that postal customers are currently experiencing; if he will downstream access in order that there is no reconfiguration of the collection and delivery network and loss of jobs; if he will recognise the social value of the mail; and his views on the issues raised in the proposed postal service Bill. [20380/11]

The postal market has been open to competition since 1 January 2011 under the Third Postal Services Directive. The Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Bill seeks to put in place a robust and appropriate regulatory framework to reflect the key provisions of this Directive and offer certainty and protection to An Post, its competitors, and postal service users.

While reputation and trustworthiness is for postal service providers to earn from their customers, the Bill amends the objectives of the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in the exercise of its functions to include promoting the interests of postal service users. The Bill also provides for effective regulation of all postal service providers and introduces certain changes to the present system of authorisation. All providers of postal services will be required to register with ComReg; to have complaints and redress procedures in place; and to submit requisite information to ComReg on request.

Reflecting the key role the postal service plays at a social-economic level, a key principle of the Bill is the continuing provision and maintenance of the universal postal service, the essential element of which is the collection and delivery of mail to every home and premises throughout the State on every working day. As regards downstream access, Section 28 of the Bill currently provides that postal service providers have the right to negotiate access to the An Post network on a commercial basis and it sets out a role for ComReg only where agreement cannot be reached. I believe that this is the right approach.

How An Post configures its business, including its employment arrangements, is a commercial matter for the Board and management of the company and not one in which I have a role. Furthermore, it would not be appropriate to legislate around the specifics of network access as it is not possible to predict future work arrangements and business models of postal service providers. Any legislative restriction on access could potentially be detrimental to all players including An Post.

However, I am aware of, and have listened to the concerns that have been expressed on the issue of downstream access and I recently signalled to the Select Sub Committee on Communications that I would explore with the Parliamentary Counsel the possibility of introducing an amendment at Report Stage in the Dáil to go some way towards addressing concerns in this regard.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

140 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20383/11]

Two members of staff in my Department are currently seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs on assignment to the Permanent Representation in Brussels. Among the key duties of their posts they monitor EU developments generally and developments internationally, and in other international institutions relevant to the EU, in the fields of Energy, Telecommunications and the Knowledge Society. In addition staff working in policy areas in my Department monitor EU policy developments as a matter of course in the performance of their duties.

Waste Management

Joe McHugh

Question:

141 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in the context of the planned introduction of competitive tendering in household waste collection, if he will explain the impact of new policy on existing waste operators who provide employment in each county and who have collaborated with the regulator for several years; if the new policy will put operators outside the greater Dublin area at a comparative disadvantage under the new system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20112/11]

I have recently published a discussion document to help inform the public consultation process on the Government's commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, whereby service providers will bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service. The discussion document provides some details of how such a reorganisation of household waste collection might work, identifies potential benefits and presents some questions to which it is hoped consultees will respond. The discussion document is available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie

I invite all participants in the waste industry, including current service providers and consumers, to engage with the consultation process, which is open until 2 September 2011. Should a current service provider have specific concerns, these can be raised with my Department, through the contact details provided in the discussion document.

Planning Issues

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

142 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to proposals made to some local authorities to vary development plans in order to allow retirement villages be built; if he has considered the possibility of such developments adding to the surplus in land zoned for housing development; the guidelines available to local authorities regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20184/11]

In accordance with Part II of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010 the making, reviewing and varying of development plans are reserved functions of the elected members of a planning authority. Section 10(2) provides, as a mandatory objective in development plans, for the integration of the planning and sustainable development of the area with the social, community and cultural requirements of the area and its population. Part III of the First Schedule to the Acts includes facilities for the elderly as an objective which may be provided for in development plans.

My Department issued Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans in June 2007 to assist planning authorities in carrying out their responsibilities in these regards. The Guidelines state that planning authorities must respond to the circumstances of their own local communities when formulating development plans and emphasise the importance of consultation with the public and relevant Government Departments and agencies. My Department also issued Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas in May 2009 to promote high quality, sustainable residential development at all levels of the urban hierarchy, including towns and villages. The Guidelines provide specific advice on planning for sustainable neighbourhoods including for healthcare facilities, indicating that consideration should also be given to the variety of residential needs including the needs of the elderly.

It is a matter for planning authorities in the first instance to consider whether they wish to vary their development plan, having due regard to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area and to Government policy, as appropriate. As a consultee in respect of all development plans, I make my views known as appropriate through the statutory variation process, taking account of the legislative and policy framework including policies articulated in the foregoing guidelines.

Local Authority Charges

Timmy Dooley

Question:

143 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on allowing for the payment of the non-principal private residence charge by monthly instalments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20221/11]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities. The charge is levied on a fixed liability date in each calendar year and payment becomes due two months after that date. There is then a further month's grace period to pay the charge, giving a total of three months during which the charge may be paid before penalties for late payment commence. The Act places collection of the charge under the care and management of the relevant local authority, and interpretation and implementation of the legislation is a matter for the local authorities in the first instance.

Social Welfare Payments

Catherine Byrne

Question:

144 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the proposed transfer of the rent supplement scheme to local authorities will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20251/11]

The new housing policy statement published by my Department on 16 June 2011 signalled key reforms in housing policy, including the phased transfer of responsibility for meeting the housing needs of long term rent supplement recipients from the community welfare service to the housing authorities. Together with Minister Burton I have already established a steering group to oversee the development of the project and a number of working groups have been established to address the wide range of complex issues arising. Pending completion of the work of the various working groups, including a Regulatory Impact Analysis, no decision can be made on the timetable for transferring responsibility for providing assistance for households currently on rent supplement to housing authorities.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

145 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20387/11]

Overall monitoring of EU environmental policy is co-ordinated by a unit in the Environment Division of my Department consisting of 6 staff who also have wider responsibilities in relation to international environment matters and sustainable development. Two more staff are on secondment to the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels to deal specifically with EU policies impacting on my Department. Other business units within the Department also contribute extensively to the development of EU environmental policy in a range of areas planning, water services, air, climate change and waste.

The Community Division of my Department is also responsible for the implementation of Axes 3&4 of the EU Rural Development Programme. The Programme is derived from EU Rural Development Policy and is part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In this context a small number of staff in the Community Division have a role in monitoring and participating in the continued development of CAP as it pertains specifically to Rural Development Policy.

Proposed Legislation

Timmy Dooley

Question:

146 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which the Mental Capacity Bill will be published; the steps he will take to ensure that he ratifies the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20115/11]

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.

The enactment of the mental capacity legislation is one of the key requirements towards enabling the State to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 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 by amending domestic law as necessary. It is the Government's intention to ratify the Convention as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure all necessary legislative and administrative requirements under the Convention are met.

The ongoing implementation of our National Disability Strategy in many respects 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 ratification. The National Disability Authority, the lead statutory agency for the sector, has also been requested to independently assess the remaining requirements for ratification so as to ensure conclusively that all such issues will be addressed.

Departmental Investigations

Seán Crowe

Question:

147 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views, in the context of his decision to appoint Senator Martin McAleese to review interactions between the State and Roman Catholic Magdalene Laundry institutions, but not a directly comparable institution with a Protestant evangelical ethos (details supplied) that this is a form of discrimination against residents in the home that may contravene Article 44. 3 of the Constitution; and the reason he will not allow Senator McAleese to look also at State interactions with the home. [20278/11]

The Government has charged the inter-departmental committee with clarifying any State interaction with the Magdalen institutions and producing a narrative detailing such interaction. There are presently no plans to expand its brief beyond those institutions. Magdalen institutions are not a particularly Roman Catholic phenomenon. Many such institutions were founded by lay people in the 19th century both in Britain and Ireland to provide a place of refuge or asylum for women. However at the time the State was established, the 10 Magdalen institutions in the 26 counties were run by Roman Catholic religious congregations.

Visa Applications

Billy Timmins

Question:

148 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding a visa application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20227/11]

Billy Timmins

Question:

149 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding a visa application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20246/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 149 together.

Based on the information supplied by the Deputy, I am informed by officials in the Visa Office of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a visa application was created on-line on 26th May, 2011 by the person referred to by the Deputy. However no supporting documentation was submitted by the applicant and consequently the application lapsed on time. It is of course open to the applicant to make a new application at any time.

When completing an on-line visa application the applicant is assigned a unique visa transaction number. This number must be provided where a query on the status or other enquiry regarding a visa application arises to ensure that the most accurate and up-to-date information is provided. If the Deputy could provide the relevant detail to my officials in INIS through the Oireachtas Email facility referred to below, an update can be provided. Comprehensive information on the visa application process is also available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service at www.inis.gov.ie.

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

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

150 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20392/11]

The monitoring of European Union policy developments in the Department of Justice and Equality and the consequent engagement with EU working groups and delegations are undertaken by staff in line Divisions of the Department with responsibility for specific policy areas. My Department is represented on some 20 EU working groups. There are seven staff in the International Policy Division of my Department whose primary role is to contribute to the implementation of EU policy on Justice and Home Affairs issues. In addition, there is a further five staff who are on secondment to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to cover Justice and Equality matters and are based in the Irish Representation to the European Union in Brussels.

Juvenile Offenders

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

151 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress he has made in emphasising alternative programmes for young offenders through extensions to the juvenile liaison officer scheme and the diversion programme in conjunction with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19879/11]

The Programme for Government gives a commitment to tackle youth crime on a number of different fronts including giving a special emphasis to alternative programmes for young offenders through extensions to the Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme and the Diversion Programme. The Deputy will be aware that the Diversion Programme, which is operated by An Garda Síochána under Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, has been successful in diverting young persons away from crime by offering guidance and support to the young people and their families. The work of the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers under the Programme is strongly supported by the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) through the funding and oversight of 100 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) across the country.

I wish to inform the Deputy that I will continue to maintain responsibility for the diversion and community aspects of the work of IYJS, while my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will take responsibility for the Children Detention Schools in Oberstown. I will be consulting closely with my Ministerial colleague and with the Garda Commissioner in the continuing development of programmes to tackle youth crime.

I am aware that IYJS, in close partnership with An Garda Síochána, is engaged in a major change programme to enhance the effectiveness of GYDPs. These projects are developing outcome focused programmes for young people in their charge based on evidence informed service planning and delivery. The outcomes for young people relating to reduced impulsivity, increased empathy and improved pro-social behaviours, offer an effective means, alongside other complimentary interventions, of impacting high volume crime such as alcohol, drug and public order related offending. The projects continue to build capacity towards impacting on as many of these young people as possible. I will monitor the impact of these latest developments and the results will be taken on board in considering future developments in this area.

Proposed Legislation

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

152 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the special rapporteur on child protection has made numerous recommendations that the process of grooming be criminalised; the position regarding the joint work of his Department and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on the drafting of legislation to criminalise grooming; the current stage of the Bill; the expected date of publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19901/11]

The recently published fourth report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection discusses the issue of sexual grooming in the context of his review of child trafficking and prostitution and recommends the introduction of a specific offence of sexual grooming. Under section 6 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Act 2007, any person who intentionally meets, or travels with the intention of meeting, a child, having met or communicated with that child on two or more previous occasions, and does so for the purpose of sexual exploitation of the child, is guilty of an offence. The definition of sexual exploitation is very broad. It includes inviting, inducing or coercing a child to engage in prostitution, using a child for prostitution, and inviting, inducing or coercing a child to participate in any sexual activity which is an offence under any enactment.

The Special Rapporteur has stated that the 2007 Act does not actually criminalise the act of grooming, i.e., the initiation and encouragement of a relationship by an adult with a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation by that adult or others. He recommends that a specific offence of grooming be enacted, and also that the scenario where arrangements are made for the child to travel to the adult, be addressed.

My Department has been conducting a wide-ranging examination of the law on sexual offences. Arising from this review, legislative proposals, inter alia, to enhance the protection of children against sexual abuse and exploitation, including exploitation through prostitution and child pornography, are at an advanced stage of preparation. These include amendments to the 2007 legislation to address the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations. The review is close to completion and I expect to bring legislative proposals to Government in the coming months.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

153 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Defence the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if they are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20385/11]

Policy issues arising at EU level in the context of the Union's Common Security and Defence Policy are dealt with by the International Security and Defence Policy Branch in my Department in Newbridge. The Branch also deals with and manages Ireland's participation in the European Defence Agency; in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP); in the OSCE from a Defence perspective; and our engagement with the UN in relation to peacekeeping operations and the overseas deployment of personnel, together with all other bilateral and multilateral relationships in the Defence arena.

There are 6 staff in the Branch dealing primarily with EU and EU related policy issues, although these staff would also deal with a range of other areas as outlined above. There are also 6 staff, including support staff, based in the Permanent Representation in Brussels and in the NATO/PfP Liaison Office dealing with EU and NATO/PfP Issues. Military staff are assigned duties within Defence Forces Headquarters, providing military advice in relation to Defence issues arising at EU level and within NATO/PfP, the OSCE and the UN. Military staff are also deployed in the Permanent Representation in Brussels, the NATO/PfP Liaison Office, the OSCE in Vienna and Ireland's Permanent Representation to the UN in New York.

While the deployment of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force on overseas operations is very much the public face of the Defence organisation's international engagements, International Security Policy and Ireland's pro-active engagement at the policy level in the development of CSDP and NATO/PfP is important in terms of our international credibility and our re-engagement with the European Union. Monitoring developments and representing Ireland's interests in these fora is a key focus for the team in my Department who work in this area.

Paudie Coffey

Question:

154 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in view of the potential and objectives in Harvest 2020 if he will accede to a request from Teagasc to hire 16 extra teaching staff which would allow the enrolment of more than 300 students in agricultural colleges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20113/11]

The availability of a well educated and skilled work force has a vital role to play in supporting sustainable farming and in enabling the agri-food sector meet the Food Harvest 2020 targets for growth. The achievement of these targets will contribute significantly to economic recovery.

In light of the above and following consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I have agreed to prioritise six new contract teaching posts in the Agricultural Colleges for a three year period as an exception to the moratorium. I expect that this exceptional approval of new posts will be matched by further initiatives by Teagasc to devote more resources to the Agricultural Colleges including redeploying staff from other areas of the organisation, examining class sizes in certain programmes, use of remote teaching and subcontracting where feasible. I am confident that the combined impact of these measures will allow Teagasc offer a significant number of additional places to students over the coming weeks.

Forestry Sector

Martin Ferris

Question:

155 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide details of the value of Coillte forestry under the European Union emissions trading scheme; and the value of any potential mining rights, fishing rights and hunting rights on Coillte owned lands. [20244/11]

While forestry units are used for national compliance with greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, they cannot be used under the EU emissions trading scheme. I understand that, under Irish Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), there is no value included in the Coillte Group Annual Accounts for the other assets to which the Deputy refers.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

156 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding an application for a single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry in view of the fact that an explanation has been provided for the late application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20122/11]

Under the provisions of the governing EU Regulations, the deadline for the receipt of applications under the Single Payment Scheme is 15 May. There is provision for the acceptance of late applications up to 25 working days after that deadline subject to the imposition of a late penalty. Applications received after this 25 day limit are subjected to a 100% late penalty. An application for the 2010 Single Payment Scheme submitted by the representatives of the person named, who is deceased, was received in my Department on 6 July 2010. In accordance with the provisions of the Regulations, this application was deemed ineligible as it was received after 11th June 2010 (25 day limit) when a 100% late penalty was applied.

Following contact by an official from my Department with the representatives of the deceased person, it has been decided to accept the Single Payment application without the imposition of a late penalty on the grounds of force majeure/exceptional circumstances. Payment of the 2010 Single Farm Payment application is being processed and will issue in due course.

David Stanton

Question:

157 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 527 of 5 July 2011, if he will supply a list of the organisations that received funding; and the amount received by each organisation in each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20130/11]

The following is the list of animal welfare organisations awarded Ex-gratia funding in each of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. The funding is provided to these, largely voluntary organisations, to assist with their work in the provision of animal welfare services.

2008 awards to Animal Welfare Organisations

Allocations €

Animal Help Net Kerry

1,000

Animal Magic, Kilmallock Co Limerick

1,000

Animal Rescue Skibbereen, Co Cork

5,000

Animal Trust Fund, Co Sligo

5,000

Animals In Need, Co Donegal

8,000

Athlone Cat Protection, Co Westmeath

2,000

Audrey Quinn, Edenderry, Co Offaly

3,000

Avalon Greyhound Sanctuary Pro Animal Ireland Ltd. Woodford, Co Galway

8,000

Bilberry Goat Heritage Trust, Waterford

3,000

Carlow SPCA

9,000

Carrick Dog Shelter. Co Monaghan

2,000

Cat and Dog Protection Association. Dublin

18,000

Cats Aid, Mulhuddart, Dublin

12,000

Cavan SPCA

15,000

Chippers Sanctuary, Gorey, Co Wexford

2,000

Clare Animal Welfare Ltd. Ennis, Co Clare

15,000

Clare SPCA, Clonoghan.

5,000

Clifden Animal Rescue, Co Galway

2,000

Clondalkin Animal Aid Ltd, Dublin

8,000

Collon Animal Sanctuary, Louth

9,000

Cork Animal Care Society

18,000

Cork Cat Action Trust

10,000

Cork Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG)

3,000

Cottage Rescue, Co Tipperary

5,000

Cry for Help Cattery, Co Westmeath

3,000

Dog Rescue Ireland, Dublin

10,000

Dogs Aid Animal Sanctuary

5,000

Dogs in Distress, Dunboyne, Co Meath

5,000

Drogheda Animal Rescue, Co Louth

18,000

Dublin Animal Rescue Group

2,000

Dublin SPCA,

100,000

Dundalk Dog Rescue, Castlebellingham, Co Louth

2,000

Dungarvan SPCA Rescue Kennels, Co Waterford

15,000

East Galway Animal Rescue

2,000

Enniscorthy SPCA, Co Wexford

12,000

Friends of Animals Rescue, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

10,000

Friends of Ben Dog Rescue, Leixlip Co Kildare

2,000

Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue

2,000

Galway SPCA

25,000

Glansillagh Animal Rescue, Co Cork

1,000

Hillview Animal Sanctuary

8,000

Inistioge Puppy Rescue, Co. Kilkenny

7,000

Irish All Pure Bred Rescue, Co Kilkenny

4,000

Irish Horse Protection League, Wicklow

5,000

Irish Horse Welfare Trust Wicklow,

20,000

Irish Raptor Research Centre, (Eagles Flying)Sligo

10,000

Irish Seal Sanctuary, Co Dublin

10,000

ISPCA, Longford

100,000

Joan’s A.R.C., Glengevlin, Co Cavan

5,000

Kerry Greyhound Connection, Beaufort, Co Kerry

5,000

Kerry SPCA

18,000

Kildare and West Wicklow SPCA

15,000

Kilkenny SPCA

9,000

KLAWS, Kenmare, Co Kerry

2,000

Laois SPCA

12,000

Last Hope Animal Charity, Navan, Co Meath

5,000

Leitrim Animal Welfare

25,000

Limerick Animal Welfare Ltd

20,000

Limerick SPCA

15,000

Longford SPCA

15,000

Louth SPCA Ltd

20,000

MADRA, Co Galway

3,000

Marie Healy Animal Sanctuary LSPCA Co Roscommon

9,000

Mayo Animal Welfare, Westport, Co. Mayo.

3,000

Mayo Cat Rescue

3,000

Mayo SPCA Ltd

8,000

Meath SPCA

15,000

Monaghan SPCA

20,000

Monkey Sanctuary Ireland Ltd. Co. Wicklow.

1,000

New Ross SPCA, Co Wexford

12,000

North County Dublin SPCA

20,000

North West Pet Protection Ltd. Donegal.

15,000

North West SPCA Ltd Mayo

15,000

North Wexford SPCA, Gorey, Co Wexford

10,000

Offaly SPCA Ltd.

20,000

PAWS Animal Rescue, Co Tipperary

25,000

Petwatch Ltd, Dublin

10,000

Remi Le Mahieu T/A Animal Sanctuary Hubasha. Wicklow.

12,000

Renvyle Animal Rescue Group, Co Galway

2,000

Roscommon SPCA

10,000

Roscrea SPCA, Co Tipperary

12,000

Safe Haven, Co Offaly

4,000

Sathya Sai Sanctuary Trust for Nature, Sligo

10,000

Second Chance Animal Rescue Ltd. (SCAR) Co Clare

3,000

Sligo Dog Welfare Services

4,000

Sligo SPCA Ltd

15,000

South East Birds of Prey Ltd. Co Wexford

2,000

St Francis Dispensary for Sick and Injured Animals, Dublin

10,000

The Athlone & West Midlands SPCA, Co Westmeath

10,000

The Daisy Fund, Kerry

5,000

The Donkey Sanctuary, Cork

50,000

The Equus Foundation, Co Kildare

3,000

The Inner City Cat Rescue Group, Dublin

2,000

The Irish Blue Cross, Dublin

40,000

The Sunset Appeal, Co Wexford

5,000

Tigger Trust, Kerry

1,000

Tipp Friends Of Animals SPCA, Co Tipperary

15,000

Tipp-Off Animal Rescue, Birr, Co Offaly

1,000

Tipperary SPCA

10,000

Traveller Animal Welfare, Co Wicklow

3,000

Tryfanberg Animal Rescue Co. Mayo.

3,000

Waterford Animal Welfare

1,000

Waterford SPCA

18,000

West Cork Animal Welfare Group, Clonakilty, Co Cork

20,000

Westmeath SPCA

8,000

Westown Animal Shelter, Naas, Co Kildare

7,000

Wexford Pet Helpers, Enniscorthy

3,000

Wexford SPCA

22,000

Whiskers New Park Animal Sanctuary, Co Galway

12,000

Wicklow SPCA

25,000

2009 awards to Animal Welfare Organisations

Allocations €

Ability Dogs Ltd, Rockchapel, Co. Cork

3,000

A Dog’s Life, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

1,000

Animal Help Net, Co Kerry

3,000

Animal Magic, Kilmallock, Co Limerick

1,000

Animal Rescue Skibbereen, Co Cork

6,000

Animals In Need, Co Donegal

6,000

Audrey Quinn, Edenderry, Co Offaly

2,000

Avalon Greyhound Sanctuary Pro Animal Ireland Ltd. Woodford, Co Galway

8,000

Bilberry Goat Heritage Trust, Waterford

3,000

Carrick Dog Shelter. Co Monaghan

5,000

Cat and Dog Protection Association. Dublin

17,000

Cats Aid, Mulhuddart, Dublin

8,000

Cavan SPCA

15,000

Chippers Sanctuary, Gorey, Co Wexford

2,000

Clare Animal Welfare Ltd. Ennis, Co. Clare

5,000

Clare SPCA, Clonoghan.

6,000

Clifden Animal Rescue, Co Galway

3,000

Clondalkin Animal Aid Ltd, Dublin

8,000

Collon Animal Sanctuary, Co. Louth

9,000

Cork Animal Care Society

16,000

Cork Cat Action Trust

10,000

Cork Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG)

3,000

Cork SPCA, Cork

8,000

Cottage Rescue, Co Tipperary

5,000

Cry for Help Cattery, Co Westmeath

3,000

Dog Rescue Ireland, Dublin

7,000

Dogs Aid Animal Sanctuary, Dublin

5,000

Dogs in Distress, Dunboyne, Co Meath

6,000

Drogheda Animal Rescue, Co Louth

18,000

Dublin Animal Rescue Group

2,000

Dublin SPCA,

100,000

Dundalk Dog Rescue, Castlebellingham, Co Louth

3,000

Dungarvan SPCA Rescue Kennels, Co Waterford

12,000

East Galway Animal Rescue, Co Galway

4,000

Enniscorthy SPCA, Co Wexford

10,000

Fairy Glen Community Animal Sanctuary, Roscommon

9,000

Friends of Animals Rescue, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

8,000

Friends of Ben Dog Rescue, Leixlip, Co Kildare

2,000

Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue

2,000

Galway SPCA

25,000

Gerry Maginn, Co Kildare

1,000

Glansillagh Animal Rescue, Co Cork

1,000

Inistioge Puppy Rescue, Co Kilkenny

7,000

Irish All Pure Bred Rescue, Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary

4,000

Irish Horse Protection League, Wicklow

5,000

Irish Horse Welfare Trust, Wicklow

20,000

Irish Raptor Research Centre, (Eagles Flying) Sligo

6,000

Irish Seal Sanctuary, Co Dublin

10,000

ISPCA, Victor Dowling Equine Rescue Centre Cork

8,000

ISPCA, Longford

100,000

Joan’s A.R.C., Glengevlin, Co Cavan

5,000

Kerry Greyhound Connection, Beaufort, Co Kerry

6,000

Kerry SPCA

15,000

Kildare and West Wicklow SPCA

15,000

Kilkenny SPCA

9,000

KLAWS, Kenmare, Co Kerry

3,000

Laois SPCA

10,000

Last Hope Animal Charity, Navan, Co Meath

5,000

Leitrim Animal Welfare

25,000

Limerick Animal Welfare Ltd

20,000

Limerick SPCA

15,000

Longford SPCA

15,000

Louth SPCA

18,000

MADRA, Co Galway

3,000

Mandy Ellis, Co. Clare

1,000

Mayo Animal Welfare, Westport, Co. Mayo.

3,000

Mayo Cat Rescue

4,000

Mayo SPCA

8,000

Meath SPCA

10,000

Monaghan SPCA

20,000

Monkey Sanctuary Ireland Ltd. Co. Wicklow.

2,000

New Ross SPCA, Co Wexford

10,000

North County Dublin SPCA

18,000

North West Pet Protection Ltd. Co. Donegal.

15,000

North West SPCA, Mayo

15,000

North Wexford SPCA, Gorey, Co Wexford

10,000

Offaly SPCA Ltd.

18,000

Pauline’s Rescue, Cork

1,000

PAWS Animal Rescue, Co Tipperary

18,000

Petwatch Ltd, Dublin

7,000

Remi Le Mahieu T/A Animal Sanctuary Hubasha. Wicklow.

12,000

Renvyle Animal Rescue Group, Co Galway

2,000

Roscommon SPCA

10,000

Roscrea SPCA, Co Tipperary

10,000

Sathya Sai Sanctuary Trust for Nature, Sligo

6,000

Second Chance Animal Rescue Ltd. (SCAR) Co Clare

12,000

Sligo Animal Rescue, Sligo

1,000

Sligo Dog Welfare Services

8,000

South East Birds of Prey Ltd. Co Wexford

2,000

St Francis Dispensary for Sick and Injured Animals, Dublin

8,000

Sylvia Muhlbachler, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

1,000

The Athlone & West Midlands SPCA, Co Westmeath

8,000

The Daisy Fund, Kerry

3,000

The Donkey Sanctuary, Cork

50,000

The Equus Foundation, Co Kildare

3,000

The Inner City Cat Rescue Group, Dublin

2,000

The Irish Blue Cross, Dublin

45,000

The Sunset Appeal, Co Wexford

3,000

Tipp Friends Of Animals SPCA, Co Tipperary

14,000

Tipp-Off Animal Rescue, Birr, Co Offaly

2,000

Tipperary SPCA

10,000

Traveller Animal Welfare, Co Wicklow

3,000

Tryfanberg Animal Rescue Co. Mayo.

3,000

Waterford Animal Welfare

2,000

Waterford SPCA

18,000

West Cork Animal Welfare Group, Clonakilty, Co Cork

17,000

Westmeath SPCA

9,000

Westown Animal Shelter, Naas, Co Kildare

7,000

Wexford Pet Helpers, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

4,000

Wexford SPCA

22,000

Whiskers New Park Animal Sanctuary, Co Galway

10,000

Wicklow SPCA

23,000

2010 awards to Animal Welfare Organisations

Allocations €

Ability Dogs Ltd, Rockchapel, Cork

5,000

A Dog’s Life, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

2,000

Animal Heaven Animal Rescue (AHAR), Co Kerry

6,000

Animal Help Net Kerry

3,000

Animal Trust Fund, Co Sligo

1,000

Animal Rescue Skibbereen, Co Cork

15,000

Animals In Need, Co Donegal

12,000

Audrey Quinn, Edenderry, Co Offaly

1,000

Avalon Greyhound Sanctuary Pro Animal Ireland Ltd. Woodford, Co Galway

8,000

Bilberry Goat Heritage Trust, Waterford

3,000

ISPCA (Carlow Branch)

2,000

Carrick Dog Shelter. Co Monaghan

10,000

Cat and Dog Protection Association. Dublin

14,000

Cats Aid, Mulhuddart, Dublin

8,000

Cavan SPCA

20,000

Chippers Sanctuary, Gorey, Co Wexford

2,000

Clare Animal Welfare Ltd. Ennis, Co Clare

3,000

Clare SPCA, Clonoghan.

6,000

Clifden Animal Rescue, Co Galway

1,000

Clondalkin Animal Aid Ltd, Dublin

4,000

Collon Animal Sanctuary, Louth

9,000

Cork Animal Care Society

4,000

Cork Cat Action Trust

9,000

Cork Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG)

6,000

Cork SPCA, Cork

11,000

Cottage Rescue, Co Tipperary

10,000

Cry for Help Cattery, Co Westmeath

2,000

Deise Animal Sanctuary, Co Waterford

1,000

Dog Rescue Ireland, Dublin

5,000

Dogs Aid Animal Sanctuary, Dublin

5,000

Dogs in Distress, Dunboyne, Co Meath

6,000

Donegal Donkey Sanctuary

1,000

Drogheda Animal Rescue, Co Louth

15,000

Dublin Animal Rescue Group

2,000

Common Agricultural Policy

Catherine Murphy

Question:

158 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the likely ending of the EU single payment scheme for farmers in 2013, with consequent extra burden on the Irish taxpayer, he intends to provide for a cross compliance requirement, as is done in England and Wales, to allow reasonable access to the countryside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20139/11]

Negotiations on the CAP post 2013 are at a very preliminary stage at present with a first legal text due from the European Commission in the autumn. Although it is anticipated that the Single Payment Scheme will continue, it is too early to speculate on the likely shape of the overall package and the payment model that will replace the existing scheme.

Grant Payments

Tom Fleming

Question:

159 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when REP scheme will be paid in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [20151/11]

The above person commenced REPS 4 in June 2009 and received his Year 1 in August 2010. 75% of the Year 2 payment, amounting to €4543.50, issued on 27 June 2011. The balancing payment of 25% will be processed at the earliest possible date.

Michael Creed

Question:

160 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive their forestry payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20161/11]

Remedial works were required on this plantation before any further payments could be made on this contract. Confirmation was received from the person concerned on 20th June 2011 that the necessary works were completed. The matter has been referred to the district inspector who must confirm that the works were completed to the standard required by the Forest Service. Such inspections are normally completed within a month. If the standard of the works is deemed satisfactory, payment of the afforestation second instalment grant and seventh premium will then be processed as soon as possible.

Milk Quota

Michael Creed

Question:

161 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is entitled to additional milk quota under the hardship scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20170/11]

The person named has submitted an application for an allocation of milk quota under the Hardship Category of the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal for the 2011/ 2012 quota year. The closing date for receipt of applications for this Scheme was 1st July last. Officials of my Department are currently processing the applications. The Tribunal will shortly commence consideration of these applications in strict order of receipt. When a recommendation has been made in this case a letter will issue to the person named and his Co-Operative advising of the result.

Flower Sector

Gerald Nash

Question:

162 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he or the relevant State agency has carried out an analysis of the flower propagation, production and export industry; his views that this area could be further exploited and developed from an economic point of view; his plans to further develop this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20172/11]

The flower sector could potentially include a number of very different areas of production including bulbs, wildflowers, annuals or biennial flowers. It could also be extended into ornamental nursery stock. Each of these areas has very different propagation and production techniques requiring very different approaches in equipment and facilities.

Bord Bia has recently published an Amenity Sector Strategy review, which includes in its recommendations:

Development of new cut foliage varieties suitable for Irish growing conditions and European market requirements

US Daffodil Bulbs Market trade promotion of Irish bulbs

Micro-propagation and trials site development of new range of Irish-bred plants suitable for licensing and/or exclusive production of finished plants in Ireland

Development of programme for stock cleaning and development of new plants

Point of sale/labelling system/website and campaign to raise awareness of Irish—grown plants using Bloom and other consumer events

Facilitation of exporter's forum and provision of UK market expertise.

Facilitation of inward buyer trips aimed at maximizing use of National Plant Fairs, Bloom and GLAS amenity showcase

Bord Bia, in association with Teagasc and my Department, are involved in various programmes and initiatives to promote the sector and to implement these recommendations. In addition, my Department has provided grant aid of €2.8 m to the nursery stock and related ornamental sectors since 2008 with a further €0.5 million allocated to 47 projects this year. With these initiatives and actions, I expect modest growth in the ornamental sector over the next few years.

Aquaculture Development

Tom Fleming

Question:

163 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the coastal management plan for Castlemaine Harbour, County Kerry has been finalised; if he will now open the harbour to the sourcing of mussel seed, before the seed is destroyed by predators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20196/11]

The public consultation on the Fisheries Natura Plan and Appropriate Assessment of mussel seed fishing within Castlemaine Harbour was completed on 6 June 2011. Under the European Communities (Habitats and Birds) (Sea-fisheries) Regulations 2009 (S.I. 346 of 2009), the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is a statutory consultee, stemming from his remit as competent authority for the EU Habitats and Birds Directives in Ireland. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht submitted considerable comments on the Appropriate Assessment report. This was not unexpected, as this was the first full appropriate assessment of a marine Natura 2000 site in Ireland. Over the course of June 2011, my Department and the Marine Institute liaised with the NPWS for the purpose of clarifying the position on the issues raised.

On 4 July 2011, an ad-hoc technical advisory committee met to discuss the Castlemaine Harbour appropriate assessment and Fisheries Natura Plan, together with all submissions received. This advisory committee has previously been convened to consider previous interim appropriate assessments for Castlemaine Harbour and Dundalk Bay. The Committee was chaired by my Department and comprised of experts from the Marine Institute, BIM and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority and also included representatives of the Environmental Pillar and mussel seed fishing interests in Castlemaine Harbour. The Committee was tasked with considering the aforementioned documentation and providing a consensus recommendation to me on opening of the mussel seed fishery and any conditions that should apply. However, the Committee was unable to make a consensus recommendation to me as the Environmental Pillar representatives disagreed with the conclusions of the Appropriate Assessment, while other members of the Committee supported those conclusions.

In accordance with the 2009 Regulations, I will now consider all the documentation in the case, together with the divergent views expressed through the Advisory Committee, and make my statutory decision on the fishery.

Harbours and Piers

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

164 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to dredge the harbour and enhance the port facilities at Howth, County Dublin in view of the build-up of mud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20197/11]

Funding for capital works at my Departments six Fishery Harbour Centres is provided on an annual basis under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. In 2011, €1,195,000 has been allocated to Howth Fishery Harbour Centre under the Programme. The following is a summary of the moneys allocated:

Safety & Maintenance

250,000

Disability Access

20,000

Upgrading of Electrical System

600,000

East Pier Breakwater Surveys

175,000

Implementation of Parking Scheme Phase 1

150,000

No funding has been allocated for the dredging of the harbour in the 2011 Programme. All decisions with regard to funding projects for future years will be dependent on the availability of exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

165 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for investment in the harbour and marine tourist facilities at Howth, County Dublin; if he will report on the works in progress at the middle pier; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20198/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

166 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to enhance and improve ship and boat repair facilities at Howth Port, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20199/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

168 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to enhance and support small business and marine tourism related facilities at Howth Port and to redevelop local employment in these activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20201/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

169 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to promote maximum usage and small business development at the Port of Howth, County Dublin; if he has met Irish Rail and Dublin Bus in relation to these objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20202/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165, 166, 168 and 169 together.

Howth Fishery Harbour Centre is one of six Fishery Harbour Centres (FHC) for which my Department is responsible. I am conscious of the unique and valuable contribution Howth FHC has to make both to the fishing industry and the wider economic environment. Notwithstanding the prevailing economic environment in which we operate, I am happy to be able to advise that I have allocated almost €1.2 million towards maintenance, development and upgrading works at Howth FHC as part of my Departments Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. This investment will result in a significant improvement of the parking facilities, the access available to persons of reduced mobility and the electrical infrastructure available. It will in addition serve to act as a catalyst for the enhancement of facilities available to the marine tourism industry, boat repair facilities and indeed business generally in the harbour.

I can also confirm that my Department continues to facilitate a considerable amount of business development in the harbour area. As part of the support process my officials facilitate a Harbour Users Forum at the harbour which affords the various stakeholders an opportunity to discuss their own views and hear at first hand the views of my Departments officials. I have not met with officials of Irish Rail and Dublin Bus in relation to Howth FHC.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

167 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to address the issue of decommissioned vessels at Howth Port, County Dublin occupying important port space; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20200/11]

The removal of decommissioned vessels from Howth Fishery Harbour Centres is an ongoing process and is constantly monitored by my Department. The owners of such vessels have been requested by the Harbour Master to remove them from the harbour. The Harbour Master is currently in the process of arranging for the removal and disposal of vessels where the co-operation of the owner has not been forthcoming.

Questions Nos. 168 and 169 answered with Question No. 165.

Grant Payments

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

170 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20248/11]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 13 April 2010. During validation of the application, an over-claim was established in respect of one land parcel declared by the applicant. My Department wrote to the applicant on 10 September 2010 informing him of the over-claim and my Department's decision was accepted on 23 September 2010. The application was then processed for payment in respect of the eligible area declared by the applicant. The advance payment was issued on 18 October 2010 and the balancing payment issued on 1 December 2010. The applicant has received his full Single Farm Payment based on the eligible land declared.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

171 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20381/11]

Given the major role of the EU in establishing the policy framework for Irish agricultural policy, significant numbers of staff in various line divisions of my Department are engaged with EU policy matters on an ongoing basis. These include officers in all policy areas of the Department, in the animal, plant and public health areas and in the operational divisions of the Department dealing with EU-related schemes. There is a dedicated EU and International Trade Division of the Department, comprising nine officials, to co-ordinate EU policy matters. In addition 12 officers from the Department have been assigned as Counsellors or attachés at Irish Embassies or Missions abroad, five of whom are based in Brussels.

Children in Care

Brian Walsh

Question:

172 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children in care in each local health office administrative area; the number of social workers currently employed by the Health Service Executive with a breakdown by Health Service Executive administrative area; the number of the 60 additional social worker positions created earlier this year that have now been filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20158/11]

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

Health Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

173 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 198 of 08 June 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive [20365/11]

I have been advised by the HSE that an answer to the Deputy's Parliamentary Question No. 198 of 08 June, 2011 is being issued today, 13th July, 2011

Child Care Services

Simon Harris

Question:

174 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will investigate whether a newly established crèche (details supplied) in County Wicklow is eligible for funding under the early childhood care and education scheme for the upcoming academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20234/11]

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010 and provides a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school. Almost every pre-school service in the State is participating in the ECCE, ensuring that it is available to children in all areas, and 63,000 children, or 94% of the eligible age cohort, are currently availing of the pre-school year.

The deadline for application to enter the ECCE was 1 April 2011. While the service mentioned by the Deputy sought to join the programme after the deadline had passed, I understand that special circumstances applied. Consequently, I understand that officials in my Department are giving active consideration to admitting the service in time for the September 2011 contractual period. No further late applications will be accepted at this stage.

Youth Services

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

175 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the grants provided to organisations under the youth service general scheme and the special projects for youth scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20368/11]

Funding is provided by my Department on an annual basis to 31 national and major regional voluntary organisations under the Youth Service Grant Scheme (YSGS). The funding provision under this scheme in 2011 is €11.444m. The continued funding of voluntary youth organisations through the Scheme is intended to ensure the emergence, promotion, growth and development of youth organisations with distinctive philosophies and programmes aimed at the social education of young people.

Under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme (SPY), funding of some €18.156m has been allocated by my Department in 2011. This funding is provided by way of grant-in-aid to 182 projects with particular emphasis on young people at risk or disadvantaged. Priority is given to projects in the spheres of special youth initiatives, young homeless people, young substance abusers and young travellers.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

176 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of staff in her Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if her Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20384/11]

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was established on June 4th on foot of a government order which also transferred a significant range of functions to me as Minister. Further transfer of powers will be required by primary legislation and subsequent government orders, beginning with the Child Care (Amendment) Bill which is to be reintroduced to the Dáil at Report Stage next week. The Government recently appointed the Department's first Secretary-General.

My new Department brings together policy and programme functions in a wide range of areas:

Child Protection & Welfare

Children's & Youth Participation

Youth Affairs and Youth Work

Early Childhood Care & Education

Family Support

Irish Youth Justice Service

National Education Welfare Board

Adoption & Fostering

I am currently putting in place the administrative structures of the Department and while the monitoring of EU policy developments will be an integral part of the work of the Department it has not yet been decided if a permanent presence is required in Brussels for this purpose. Any decisions in this regard will have regard to the current economic situation.

Health Service Staff

Clare Daly

Question:

177 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health the reason the Health Service Executive management in St. Brendan’s Hospital and on the north side of Dublin continues to outsource the core maintenance work of directly employed HSE tradesmen including bricklayers and plasterers to private contractors at a greater cost to the taxpayer; the reason directly employed HSE tradesmen responsible for maintenance work in St. Brendan’s and HSE premises in the north side of Dublin are being asked to relinquish their trade and allow themselves be redeployed to unsuitable office work while the core work they have performed for decades remains to be done; and the reason the HSE management in St. Brendan’s and the north side of Dublin have not adhered to the terms of the Croke Park agreement in terms of redeployment — specifically not investigating the option of redeploying under-utilised HSE tradesmen to another branch of the public service. [20146/11]

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

Care of the Elderly

Jim Daly

Question:

178 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Health further to his visit to Clonakilty Hospital, County Cork, and subsequent meeting at his Department with the Clonakilty Hospital Action Group, the progress he has made with the Health Service Executive in respect of the proposed bed closures at the hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20119/11]

During a visit to the region in April 2011, my colleague, Minister Reilly, took the opportunity to visit Clonakilty Community Hospital, to inform himself on the range of services provided at the hospital, the rationale for the reduction in long stay beds at the hospital and the potential impact of this decision. As the Deputy is aware, Minister Reilly also met with the Clonakilty Hospital Action Group in May 2011.

The Department is currently considering the future of HSE Provision of Residential Care for Older People. This review will consider the position of all HSE residential facilities for Older People in terms of meeting the National Standards and Regulations. It will also consider local demographic pressures and the extent of existing public and private provision, with a view to developing an overall strategy on how the Executive should continue to provide this service in view of current budgetary and other pressures. Any plans that the Executive may have to close or withdraw residential care beds is suspended until the Minister has had an opportunity to consider the findings of the review. I should make it clear, however, that, providing quality and safe care for our long stay residents will have to remain at the heart of these considerations.

Hospital Services

Joe McHugh

Question:

179 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health if he will address a paediatric issue (details supplied) at Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20121/11]

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

John Browne

Question:

180 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Health the number of deaths over the past ten years following the Whipple’s procedure operation carried out at Dublin hospitals both public and private; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20126/11]

The Deputy's question relates to service delivery matters and accordingly I have asked the HSE to respond directly to him.

Food Safety Standards

Gerald Nash

Question:

181 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health his views on the apparent increase in the use of glucose fructose in food products; if he is concerned at claims that the ingredient contributes to weight gain, obesity and other major public health problems; if he will take action to limit the use of the ingredient; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20140/11]

I have been advised by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) that the use of glucose fructose in food products in Europe, and Ireland in particular, is minimal. In the circumstances they have advised that there is no need for concerns regarding the contribution of this ingredient to increasing obesity and diabetes rates in Ireland. They stressed however that, as with all foodstuffs, sugar and related products should be eaten in moderation and as part of a well balanced diet. In addition, they outlined that consumers who had concerns about the consumption of food products containing glucose fructose should pay particular attention to the terms "isoglucose" and "glucose-fructose syrup" on the labels of foodstuffs.

Health Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

182 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health, further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of June 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20141/11]

The Health Service Executive replied directly to the Deputy on the 12 July 2011.

Medical Cards

Tom Fleming

Question:

183 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will renew a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [20142/11]

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

Health Services

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

184 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a place on a waiting list for speech therapy in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20143/11]

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

Ambulance Service

Sandra McLellan

Question:

185 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health if he will make a commitment not to replace ambulance vehicles with first responder cars in the east Cork area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20145/11]

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

Health Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

186 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health if he will make a commitment not to reduce the number of South Doc GP out of hours service in the east Cork area from three to two; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20147/11]

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

Hospital Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

187 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health if it is the intention of the Health Service Executive to downgrade Mallow Hospital, County Cork, to an urgent care centre; when this is likely to happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20150/11]

In April this year, HIQA published its report on Mallow General Hospital. I am satisfied that the actions taken in relation to the hospital have substantially addressed the report's recommendations on the safety and quality of the hospital's services. This work has involved close consultation with senior clinicians, professionals and management.

Detailed planning for the remaining changes, including changes to the Emergency Department (ED) will also involve significant local consultation. The involvement of GPs will be an important element of the consultation process and the final proposals will be cleared with my office before formal implementation commences. The overall approach at Mallow is in line with my vision for smaller hospitals — that they are a vibrant element of local health services, providing treatment and care at the appropriate level of complexity to patients in their areas. It confirms the crucial role that the hospital will play, as part of a wider network of acute hospitals across Cork and Kerry, in providing care for the population of North Cork.

Tom Fleming

Question:

188 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the number of beds in Kerry General Hospital, County Kerry, that are currently closed; his plans to reopen additional beds; if he will give assurances that no further bed closures will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20155/11]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

189 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the number of beds in community hospitals in County Kerry that are currently closed; his plans to reopen additional beds; if he will give assurances that no further bed closures will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20156/11]

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

Health Service Staff

Brian Walsh

Question:

190 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Health the number of public health nurses and area medical officers currently providing public health services in County Galway; the number of retirements from these positions in the past two years; the number of PHN and AMO positions in the area that are currently unfilled; the geographical areas within the remit of those positions; the length of time that each of these positions have remained unfilled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20159/11]

There are currently 130.77 whole-time equivalent Public Health Nurses/Registered General Nurses (including management positions) in County Galway. There were 11 retirements in 2010 and nine to date in 2011. There are currently three Senior Area Medical Officers and 4.5 Area Medical Officers in Galway. There have been two retirements in the past two years — one in 2010 and the other in April 2011. In addition, an AMO commenced a career break on 31 October 2010.

Where staff numbers in both nursing and medical grades have reduced owing to retirements or resignations, it is a matter for management to ensure that the available resources are deployed in such a manner as to ensure the continued provision of services, according to clinical priority and within the terms of the Employment Control Framework for the health services. The HSE indicates that it assigns staffing resources across the care networks to ensure that all patient care groups receive essential clinical care. Where necessary, staff provide services over a wider geographical area than heretofore. The challenge for the health services is to find innovative ways of managing employment which include different skill mixes and new ways of working in order to protect and improve service delivery within greatly reduced budgets and this process is enabled by the provisions of the Public Service Agreement.

Mental Health Services

Brian Walsh

Question:

191 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Health if he will consider the introduction of a formal protocol to facilitate the referral of patients with a history of mental health needs directly to a psychiatry unit instead of first requiring such patients to be assessed at an emergency department, which has been described by the Health Service Executive as the long-standing practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20160/11]

90% of all mental health needs are addressed in Primary Care with 10% being referred to specialist secondary care services. These services operate predominately in a community context with approximately 10% of the community caseload presenting requiring in-patient care admission. Over 20,000 admissions to mental health in-patient care occur each year and in each case the decision to admit is determined by a senior clinician following a detailed clinical assessment.

For individuals using community based mental health services, the first point of contact should be the Community Mental Health Team where they can be seen at a day hospital, community mental health centre, clinic or increasingly within the service users' own home. Where in-patient admission is indicated, a patient can be referred directly to their local approved centre for admission. If there is any concern relating to the person's physical health status, they may be encouraged to attend at the Emergency Department.

For out of hours emergency / crisis presentations a service user must access the Emergency Department where they can receive a psychiatric and medical assessment and offered in-patient admission where indicated. It should be noted that in-patient admission may not be the most appropriate course of action and direct access to acute psychiatric units would pose both operational and clinical risks. The protocol for accepting direct referrals is kept under review by local Executive Clinical Directors.

National Lottery Funding

Michael Creed

Question:

192 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health if he has received a request for national lottery funding from an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork; if he will meet with this organisation to discuss its project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20176/11]

My Department has received an application for funding from the 2011 National Lottery allocation from the organisation in question. This is one of a large number currently being assessed by my Department. The Deputy will be informed of the outcome of the application as soon as a decision has been made

Hospital Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

193 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if he will consider reclassifying Letterkenny General Hospital from a general to a regional hospital; the additional funding that the hospital would attract as a result of such reclassification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20186/11]

Letterkenny General Hospital is categorised as a Category 2 Hospital for the purpose of public hospital charges. Private, semi private and day case charges for hospitals in this category were increased this year by between 29% and 42%. The issue of reimbursement of hospitals for private patient treatment was examined in the ‘Value for Money and Policy Review of the Economic Cost and Charges Associated with Private and Semi-Private Treatment Services in Public Hospitals', published in December 2010. This Report recommended a review of the system of hospital categorisation, on which private patient charges are based. The existing categories reflect differences in teaching status and complexity as measured by the casemix system.

As measured by the casemix system, Letterkenny General Hospital has a relatively low level of case complexity, and therefore resource usage, compared to other hospitals. This would suggest that its current classification for charging purposes is appropriate. However, I will keep the matter under review in the context of categorising all hospitals for charging purposes.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Jack Wall

Question:

194 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health when funding will be allocated under the nursing homes support scheme for an approved person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20193/11]

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

Health Service Staff

Brendan Griffin

Question:

195 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will qualify for sponsorship for participation in the Health Service Executive student public health nurse recruitment scheme graduate-postgraduate diploma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20205/11]

As the recruitment of student public health nurses is a service matter, this query has been referred to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy.

Sean Fleming

Question:

196 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health the way a person (details supplied) will be approved for sponsorship through the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20213/11]

As the awarding of Nursing Education Sponsorship Programmes for Public Health Service Employees is a matter for the HSE, this query has been referred to it for direct reply to the Deputy.

National Lottery Funding

Jack Wall

Question:

197 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application in respect of an association (details supplied) in County Kildare; if consideration will be given to ensure that the efforts of the association will be met in addressing the transport problems that it encounters in view of the specialist aspect of such transport; if funding will be provided through proposed course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20217/11]

My Department has received an application for funding from the 2011 National Lottery allocation from the organisation in question. This is one of a large number currently being assessed by my Department. The Deputy will be informed of the outcome of the application as soon as a decision has been made.

Health Services

Billy Timmins

Question:

198 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding home help support in west Wicklow (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20226/11]

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

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

199 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health if he will respond to a case (details supplied) in County Meath; the way this issue will be resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20230/11]

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.

Simon Harris

Question:

200 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Health if he will investigate concerns expressed regarding the reductions in the speech therapy services at a health centre (details supplied) in County Wicklow due to the commencement of maternity leave in September; and if he will consider supporting a locum for that position in view of the fact that the centre already has a significant waiting list [20233/11]

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

Medical Cards

Catherine Byrne

Question:

201 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the frequency with which a person over 70 years is required to renew a medical card; if he recognises the delays involved, the worry and confusion that this causes for many elderly persons; the way he proposes to resolve this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20257/11]

I have asked the Health Service Executive for a report on the issue raised by the Deputy. I will revert to the Deputy on the matter as soon as possible.

Accident and Emergency Services

Catherine Byrne

Question:

202 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to rules prohibiting family members or close friends from accompanying relatives into accident and emergency departments; his views whether this poses a major difficulty for elderly persons; the way he proposes to resolve this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20258/11]

There is no national approach to the issue to the issue of rules allowing or prohibiting family members or close friends to accompany patients into accident and emergency departments. Decisions in this regard are taken at hospital level and will depend on certain circumstances with the main aim of ensuring the safety of patients and their families.

In certain circumstances, where for example there may be an outbreak of infectious disease or an overcrowded Emergency Department, a hospital may decide to restrict access but again such decisions are taken on a case by case basis and in the best interest of the patient. In general, most Emergency Departments have procedures in place to ensure that vulnerable patients have a family member or companion with them. In the event of a major trauma or event, hospitals will seek to accommodate as many of a patient's relatives as possible.

National Drugs Strategy

Catherine Byrne

Question:

203 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the way drugs policy is being directed within his Department; if there is a dedicated unit; the number of staff that are in this unit; their current priorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20259/11]

Following the transfer of functions relating to the National Drugs Strategy to the Department of Health, a Drugs Policy Unit and a Drugs Programme Unit were established in the Department. The number of staff involved is 13.4 whole-time equivalents. In addition, there are 4 staff assigned to the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, who are also based in the Department.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

204 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details for each of the local and regional drugs task forces to include chairpersons and the number of Health Service Executive employees and their job titles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20260/11]

Each Local and Regional Drugs Task Force has a chairperson, who works on a voluntary basis, and a co-ordinator who is a HSE employee. In four Task Forces, the co-ordinator position is being filled on an acting up basis by the Task Force development worker, who is not a HSE employee. In the case of two Local Drugs Task Forces, the HSE is providing administrative support on a part-time basis. Details of the chairpersons and HSE employees are provided in the following table.

Drugs Task Force

Chairperson

HSE Employees

Ballyfermot LDTF

Sr Liz Smyth

Co-ordinator

Ballymun LDTF

Cllr. Andrew Montague

Co-ordinator

Blanchardstown LDTF

Mr Tony Geoghegan

Co-ordinator

Bray LDTF

Dr John McManus

Co-ordinator, Part time Administrator

Canal Communities LDTF

Ms Anna Quigley

Co-ordinator

Clondalkin LDTF

Mr Larry O’Neill

None

Cork LDTF

Cllr. James Corr

Co-ordinator

Dublin 12 LDTF

Mr Paul Flanagan (Acting)

Co-ordinator

Dublin North East LDTF

Mr Gerry McMahon

Co-ordinator

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown LDTF

Ms Aileen O’Brien

Part time Administrator

Finglas Cabra LDTF

Mr Joey Furlong

Co-ordinator

North Inner City LDTF

Professor Joe Barry

Co-ordinator

South Inner City LDTF

Cllr. Dermot Lacey

Co-ordinator

Tallaght LDTF

Ms Anna Lee

None

East Coast RDTF

Ms Emma Freeman

Co-ordinator

Midland RDTF

Mr Michael Dalton

Co-ordinator

Mid Western RDTF

Mr Mick Lacey

Co-ordinator

North Dublin City & Co. RDTF

Mr Jim McVeigh

None

North Eastern RDTF

Mr Jim Mullery

Co-ordinator

North West RDTF

Mr Loman Conway

Co-ordinator

Southern RDTF

Mr Peadar King

Co-ordinator

South East RDTF

Mr Declan Jones

Co-ordinator

South West RDTF

Mr Niall Bradley

Co-ordinator

Western RDTF

Mr Martin Lee

Co-ordinator

Catherine Byrne

Question:

205 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016, interim; the position regarding the proposed national substance misuse strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20261/11]

My responsibilities as Minister for State for Primary Care include overseeing the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016. It aims to tackle problem drug use in Ireland through the five pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research, building on the progress which has been achieved to date. I will chair a meeting of the Oversight Forum on Drugs this week. Its main functions are to examine the progress being made under the National Drugs Strategy and to address any operational difficulties and blockages that arise.

A Steering Group, chaired by my Department, is working on the development of proposals on a National Substance Misuse Strategy. It is envisaged that their work will be concluded by the Autumn. Their recommendations will then be considered at ministerial level and subsequently submitted to Government.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

206 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the number of medical detox beds available for rehabilitating drug addicts; the location of these beds; the waiting time to access one of these beds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20262/11]

Currently there are up to 23 medical detox beds available for rehabilitating drug users. Ten beds are located in St Michael's Ward, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, with a waiting time of 4 to 5 weeks. Nine to thirteen beds, depending on circumstances, are available in Cuan Dara, Cherry Orchard Hospital, Dublin, with a waiting time of 2 months.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

207 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the number of beds available for drug detox in community based residential detox units; the location of these beds; the number of persons currently on a waiting list for admission to this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20263/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is being collated by the HSE. I will arrange to have it forwarded to the Deputy in the next few days.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

208 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the number of needle exchange services that are currently operating here; the number of patients each service treated in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20264/11]

The HSE operates both fixed site needle exchange services and outreach services through mobile units and home visits in its four regions. Needle exchange services are also provided by a number of voluntary sector organisations. However, national data on needle exchange is not currently collated.

The HSE has established a Working Group on Needle Exchange to facilitate the management of such services. This Working Group has prioritised the provision of needle exchange services in areas outside Dublin where services are not currently available. In line with this, the HSE and the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) have agreed on proposals, supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, to roll out needle exchange services through Community Pharmacies. The training of participating pharmacists has been completed and the HSE has recruited a National Liaison Pharmacist who has recently taken up that post. It is envisaged that needle exchange services will begin in an initial group of pharmacies in the Autumn.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

209 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the number of persons that are on the methadone treatment programme here; the cost of this programme in 2010; if there is a programme in place to assist patients to come off methadone after a certain length of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20265/11]

The number of persons that were on methadone treatment at the end of May 2011 was 9,157. The full year cost in 2010 for community Pharmacist and GP involvement under the methadone programme was over €17.5m as set out in the table.

Year

Pharmacists Ingredient Cost

Pharmacists Fees

Pharmacy Total

GP Fees

Overall Total

2010

€3,601,835.81

€7,722,729.42

€11,324,565.23

€6,203,617.54

€17,528,182.77

I have asked the HSE for details of other costs that are met within its overall budget for addiction services. The provision of methadone, to those assessed as suitable for such treatment, is an internationally recognised approach as a medium to longer term response that aims to achieve stabilisation and independent functioning for clients. I am aware of the desirability of moving people on from methadone use, where appropriate and possible, and I intend that increased focus will be put on the rehabilitation of problem drug users.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

210 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the services that are in place for adolescents under 18 years who are suffering from drug and alcohol addiction; the number of dedicated detox beds available for those under 18 years of age; the number of rehabilitation beds that are available to under 18 year olds around the country; the locations of same; the after care services that are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20266/11]

The majority of clients with opiate addiction do not require access to a residential setting but rather require access to a methadone detoxification programme in a community setting. This in the majority of cases facilitates a return to a stable lifestyle. There are no waiting lists for under 18s for a methadone programme as clients in this age cohort are seen as a priority for entry into treatment services.

The number of adolescent residential detoxification beds is 4, located in the Aislinn Adolescent Addiction Service, Ballyragget, Co. Kilkenny. It is important to put detoxification in context. It is not a stand alone treatment but rather an important component of a comprehensive bio-psychosocial treatment plan for an addicted teenager. This is in line with the Report of the Working Group on Treatment of Under 18s presenting to Treatment Services with Serious Drug Problems, 2005.

There are 18 adolescent residential rehabilitation beds, 12 in Aislinn, Ballyragget and a further 6 in Matt Talbot Adolescent Services, Cara Lodge, Enniskeane, Co Cork. The Aislinn facility primarily provides a residential service dealing exclusively with addiction issues, while Cara Lodge in the main provides community based services and has access to long stay accommodation to meet the needs of some clients.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

211 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of persons on the waiting list for an MRI scan, PET scan and the CT scan at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; the average waiting time for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20267/11]

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

Ambulance Service

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

212 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health the number of rapid response units that are deployed nationwide; the location at which they are deployed; the number of such units that will be added in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20274/11]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

213 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health the number of advanced paramedics that are employed nationwide; the regions at which the advanced paramedics are employed; the number of new advanced paramedics that will be employed in the next 12 months; the number of advanced paramedics that are currently in training; the cost of training an advanced paramedic; if the requested information will be made available in tabular form on a regional basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20275/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has undergone significant change in order to ensure quality, safety and value for money. In line with other clinical areas, this process is ongoing as clinical needs and standards develop. 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. Supported by my Department and by HIQA, the NAS is working to improve its services. This includes a reduction to two ambulance control centres nationally, with appropriate technology, a clinical lead for pre-hospital care, development and implementation of new performance indicators for pre-hospital care and development of standard national criteria in relation to non-emergency patient transport.

A relatively recent development to the NAS is the use of rapid response vehicles (RRVs). RRVs can be used to reach a scene more quickly than a standard ambulance. This allows the advanced paramedic to apply his or her training to determine the type of treatment and response required. There are four RRVs staffed by advanced paramedics on a 24 hour basis. They serve the Bantry, Nenagh, Ennis, Monaghan and Roscommon areas. There are a number of RRV resources in other parts of the country and these are deployed as required.

The HSE National Service Plan 2011 provides for a 24 hour RRV in the HSE Dublin Mid Leinster area. It is envisaged that the RRV will be in place by the end of the year. In addition to the RRVs, there are 3 Motorcycle Response Units (MRUs) serving the Dublin area, 7 days a week. In relation to the Deputy's question on advanced paramedics I have been advised by the NAS that the cost of training an AP is €127,000. The information the Deputy seeks regarding the number and deployment of APs is detailed in the following spreadsheet.

Advanced Paramedics

Course 10

Course 11

Course 12

Course 13

Course 14

Region

Qualified AP s at 2009

Finished Feb 10

Finished July 10

Finished Feb 11

To finish W/C 4th July 2011

Total APs July 2011

Commenced April 2011

Remainder on Panels

North East

17

3

0

1

2

23

0

12

North West

9

1

4

2

2

18

3

6

Midwest

20

3

1

0

0

24

0

5

West

16

0

0

2

0

18

3

0

East

29

0

3

2

2

36

0

5

Midland

12

4

1

5

1

23

0

2

South

13

4

3

3

6

29

1

8

South East

12

1

5

2

1

21

3

1

NATS

8

1

0

0

0

9

0

0

Total

136

17

17

17

14

201

10

39

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

214 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Health the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20391/11]

Responsibility for monitoring EU policy developments is co-located in the Unit of my Department responsible for EU and International Affairs. Additional responsibilities have also been assigned to this Unit from time to time. Staffing in the relevant Unit is as follows:

Grade

WTE

Principal Officer

1.0

Assistant Principal

2.8

Health Attaché (AP)

1.0

Higher Executive Officer

2.0

Staff Officer

1.0

The Health Attaché is seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and based in Brussels.

Taxi Regulations

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

215 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider calls for representation on the taxi review group of independent and self-employed taxi drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20114/11]

In my announcements of the 8th and 24th June respectively I have clarified the terms of reference and the membership of the Taxi Regulation Review Group, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. The review will enable the necessary further reforms of the sector to allow consumers to have confidence in the taxi system while also ensuring that legitimate and competent operators and drivers can be rewarded fairly by operating under a regulatory framework that is adequately enforced. It will address a wide range of issues relating to the taxi sector including the current regulatory policy and practices, licensing systems, enforcement and future dialogue with the taxi sector.

I would just point out that there is a self-employed, full-time taxi driver on the Steering Group. In my view, the wide ranging membership of the Review Steering Group will allow an appropriate contribution from stakeholders, including dispatch operators, drivers, consumers as well as the regulatory and enforcement agencies. I should add that the consultation on the review extends to all interested parties and stakeholders through an invitation for written submissions to be made before the end of July.

Tourism Industry

Robert Troy

Question:

216 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will review current criteria in order to enable private tourist facilities to advertise on the brown signs on national primary routes in the interest of enhancing tourism. [20144/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects, including signage, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Cycle Facilities

Martin Heydon

Question:

217 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider the establishment of a national trust to facilitate the development of a system of cycle paths here as set out in a proposal (details supplied); the likelihood of such a project occurring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20245/11]

Cycle path development is occurring through a number of different mechanisms. The development of the Great Western Greenway has been driven jointly by Mayo County Council and the local community. Local landowners gave permissive access to their lands, which made the route possible, and a local management committee has been established to foster community engagement around the on-going development, maintenance and promotion of the route. The fact that this Greenway has recently been awarded a European Destination of Excellence Award illustrates how successful such development mechanisms can be.

I am also aware that development of a Great Southern Trail has been driven by local volunteers, and that cycle routes in Mullingar have been delivered through co-operation between Westmeath County Council and Waterways Ireland. Such differing approaches to development will ensure that progress can be made through whichever mechanism best fits the circumstances of the proposed route, and will allow particular local issues that may arise to be addressed.

Aviation Security

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

218 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress being made in the review conducted following the incident involving the breaching of the security barriers at Cork Airport on 22 May 2011; the current status of the review and when the report, findings and recommendations of the review will be published. [20247/11]

The perimeter fencing at all State airports is the same type as is used in a majority of airports across the EU. It complies fully with EU security regulations laid down in the National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP) which itself is based on the highest international standards set down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Notwithstanding this my Department is in contact with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) in relation to the incident. Reports on this issue are sensitive and accordingly the contents will be held as confidential and not published. However, my Department will continue to seek to ensure that any lessons learnt from the experience in Cork will be applied where appropriate to ensure adequate perimeter security at Irish airports.

Tourism Industry

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

219 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to promote cruises and marine coastal tourism here; the budget allocated for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20268/11]

The matter raised is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Furthermore, my department is currently developing a new ports policy. While the public consultation document that was published in 2010 by my Department did not highlight this area of ports policy, given the merging of Transport and Tourism into the current department it would be appropriate to give detailed consideration to this matter in the context of the development of this policy document. In that regard I would welcome any view that the Deputy may wish to offer.

With regard to the individual plans of ports in this area, I am aware that the Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire Port draft master plans include provision for further development in this area. I understand Galway expect to lodge a planning application for development of facilities to accommodate cruise liners. However, for more details on these matters I have referred the Deputy's question to the state-owned port companies for further reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Departmental Staff

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

220 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of staff in his Department specifically assigned to monitoring EU policy developments; if these staff are based here or in Brussels; and, if his Department does not have staff specifically assigned to monitor EU policy developments, when last, if ever, were such staff specifically assigned to such a role. [20393/11]

Many staff within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport deal with EU policy development matters as part of their normal routine functions, but do not work exclusively on EU policy development. However, the Department does have a Permanent Representation Office in Brussels staffed by 3 officers dealing with EU policy matters on a full-time basis and supported by one officer providing administrative support on a shared basis with two other Government Departments.