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 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Urban Renewal Schemes

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

12 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the percentage of the resources allocated to the Ballymun regeneration programme, Dublin, that has been spent on the salaries of the top management and on consultants; if the same percentage will prevail in the Limerick regeneration programme; his views on the high fees charged and the excessive salaries paid to the directors and management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23965/11]

To date, and on the basis of an Exchequer investment of some €695 million, the Ballymun Regeneration Project has provided for 2,955 new housing units, new parks, roads and community facilities, as well as various social and economic interventions. Oversight of the regeneration by Ballymun Regeneration Limited, now in its completion phase, is the responsibility of a management team of five, led by a Managing Director at Assistant City Manager level. All members of the team are paid in accordance with local government pay scales with a cost to date of €5.9 million or 0.85% of the total project cost.

As with all projects of this nature and complexity, outside consultants have been required for various planning, design and research activities. As part of the original budget approval for the regeneration, my Department capped this cost at 10% of the total project cost. To date, services to the value of €55.7 million, or 8% of the project cost, have been provided.

It is my Department's intention to reduce this figure further including by better utilising resources within the local government system. This is also the case with the Limerick Regeneration Programme, the delivery of which is due to become the responsibility of an integrated local authority for Limerick City and County.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

13 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the status of the St. Teresa’s Gardens, Dublin, application for regeneration funding. [24112/11]

The Government remains fully committed to the regeneration of the most-disadvantaged areas of our cities and towns, including St. Teresa's Gardens. In 2008, with support from my Department, Dublin City Council established a multidisciplinary Special Housing Taskforce to examine all options with regard to the future regeneration of the six former PPP projects and in particular to examine the fast-tracking of the relocation of households to facilitate future regeneration. This process has been ongoing since then and has seen a significant reduction in the number of occupied units at St. Teresa's Gardens from 346 to 185. To support this work, my Department has provided funding of €4.85 million to date with further funding available from within the City Council's regeneration allocation.

The City Council is now required to prepare a masterplan that gives consideration to social and economic regeneration, as well as physical improvements. I understand that as part of this process, the Council is looking to the consolidation of the existing site, engagement with the voluntary housing sector, and the potential for refurbishment as well as rebuilding. In the shorter term, the City Council is undertaking a survey of the housing stock to ascertain current conditions for households still living there, and will engage with my Department on ways of addressing any deficiencies once the results of the survey are known.

Local Authoring Staff

Brian Stanley

Question:

14 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reduce the number of local authority managers and the number of directors of services as part of his cost-cutting initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24093/11]

The Local Government Efficiency Review Group recommended, inter alia, that the number of county and city managers be reduced from 34 to 24 and that the number of Directors be reduced from 240 to 190. Under the terms of the moratorium on public sector employment all recruitment in local authorities requires sanction from my Department.

I have established an independent Implementation Group, chaired by Mr. Pat McLoughlin — who also chaired the Local Government Efficiency Review Group — to drive the delivery of relevant recommendations of the Review Groups Report.

The position of county/city manager is a statutory one and any initiatives to reduce the number of managers requires parallel consideration of local government structures at county and city level.

In this regard, the Government has announced its intention to establish single local authorities in Limerick and Tipperary to replace the Limerick County and City Councils and North and South Tipperary County Councils. I have established an Implementation Group for Limerick and a similar group will shortly be established for Tipperary. In line with the Government decision I will also be establishing a Committee to examine local government in Waterford.

The number of Directors currently stands at 231 and it is anticipated that this number will reduce further in the period to February 2012. My Department is working closely with local authorities and the Efficiency Review Implementation Group to identify the optimum number of Directors for each local authority for the future.

The Efficiency Review Group recommended that further, more detailed, reviews be carried out in respect of Dublin City (DCC) and Cork City Councils. The DCC Review has been completed with a review of Cork City Council now to be considered. The DCC Review identified that up to 28.2 senior managers will leave in the next number of years while it would propose to seek to fill only two thirds of those positions. This would result in a net reduction of 10 senior manager positions in DCC.

Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 6.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

16 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his findings as regards using the Derelict Sites Act 1990 for ghost estates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24102/11]

We have established and Minister Penrose is chairing the National Co-ordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments to oversee implementation of the Report of the Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments, Resolving Ireland's Unfinished Housing Developments, together with the Government's response to the recommendations, Resolving Unfinished Housing Developments. Both documents were published on 9 June 2011 and are available on my Department's website.

The Committee is meeting on a regular basis with the aim of publishing a report on progress achieved within the next 12 months. In the meantime, work is ongoing on implementation of the Report of the Advisory Group including on a focused review of the relevant provisions of existing legislation such as the Derelict Sites Act 1990. The Committee is also preparing to publish, in the coming weeks, a Stakeholders Code of Practice between the representative bodies dealing with unfinished housing developments and a Guide for Residents Living in unfinished housing estates.

At the national level, I am encouraged by the strong consensus and commitment among the key stakeholders who are participating on the Committee and, at the local level, I understand that planning authorities are already making progress in securing the co-operation of developers, financial institutions and/or bondholders in seeking to resolve urgent public safety works and in preparing site resolution plans for these housing developments.

Social and Affordable Housing

Joan Collins

Question:

17 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way the new social housing policy and its focus on providing social housing through leasing and arrangements with private landlords rather than through the direct provision of new local authority housing makes any financial sense; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24240/11]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

46 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to invest in long-term development of the public housing stock. [24114/11]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

47 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will explain the financial logic, in terms of making best use of public funds, behind his new social housing policy and its focus on providing social housing through leasing and other arrangements with private landlords and bodies rather than through the direct provision of new local authority housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24235/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 46 and 47 together.

The new framework for housing policy, launched earlier in June 2011, responds to current and emerging conditions in the housing sector, taking account of the dramatic cycle of rapid growth and sudden collapse in the residential property market. The centrepiece of the approach is to chart a way forward for housing policy in Ireland by placing greater emphasis on:

choice;

equity across housing tenures; and

delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested.

In terms of the delivery of social housing, the policy framework confirms the Government's focus on meeting the most acute needs — the housing support needs of those unable to provide for their accommodation from their own resources.

Financial consideration for the coming years rule out a return to very large capital funded construction programmes by local authorities. Nevertheless, we are committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to social housing support needs through a variety of mechanisms including through increased provision of social housing.

It is not possible to purchase or build anything like the same number of units as can be provided through more flexible revenue based programmes such as RAS and leasing, in conjunction with programmes that deliver permanent new social housing units, such as the Capital Assistance Scheme and direct lending to approved housing bodies.

This does not mean eliminating traditional modes of delivery but tailoring those supports in light of the market conditions and the financial parameters within which we are working. Flexibility will be key to maximising delivery into the future. In addition, the expanded range of schemes aimed at addressing social housing need allows for more efficient and effective use of available public resources and maximises the levels of social housing that can be achieved, while taking advantage of the greater availability of private stock for rental.

In addition to flexible funding models such as RAS and leasing, the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease, and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. There is also obvious potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government's objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). The first scheme of this nature, with property held by NAMA being purchased by an approved housing body through loan finance from the Housing Finance Agency, was launched last July.

Regarding investment in social housing stock, my Department is committed to supporting local authorities in maintaining and improving the quality of the national social housing stock through a range of measures including large-scale urban regeneration programmes, improving the standard and energy efficiency of dwellings, pre-letting repairs and improvements, and refurbishment works to vacant properties in order to return these to productive use as quickly as possible.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

18 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the provision of adequate treatment, storage and transmission facilities in respect of domestic drinking water supply; the degree to which plans currently exist to adequately meet such requirements in the future; if water is likely to be sourced from ground water or otherwise; the extent to which conclusive evidence or research exists to enable strategic decisions to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24148/11]

The overall strategy of investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives for public domestic water supplies is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme. The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 is available in the Oireachtas Library.

The Programme provides for the commencement of contracts with a value of over €800m in relation to water supply infrastructure. This includes contracts to address deficiencies in the quality of supply, to improve the overall capacity of the system and an accelerated programme of mains rehabilitation. The Programme also provides for the advancement of a further range of schemes through planning, for progression to construction in future investment cycles.

The Programme is based on an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services undertaken by each water services authority which were subsequently appraised by my Department. In preparing their assessments, water services authorities were required to take into consideration key environmental and economic criteria in prioritising contracts and schemes to be progressed in their areas. The development of the Programme was strongly influenced by reports by the Environmental Protection Agency on drinking water quality, an assessment by Forfás of the requirements of enterprise in Gateways and Hubs, as well as River Basin Management Plans. In addition, a detailed project appraisal is undertaken during the planning phase of each scheme, which determines issues such as the appropriate source of water, projected future demand and the most cost effective solution to meeting needs. There is, therefore, a strong evidence base, from technical assessments, environmental monitoring and policy studies to underpin the strategic direction of water services capital investment.

Proposed Legislation

Martin Ferris

Question:

19 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will publish the full list of powers and responsibilities that he proposes to give to a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24096/11]

The Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a new State-owned national water authority to take over responsibility for managing and supervising investment in water services infrastructure and to manage the domestic water metering programme. The Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the EU/IMF commits Ireland to undertaking an independent assessment of the establishment of such an authority.

Work on the independent assessment is underway. The assessment will examine the optimal organisational structures for Irish Water, including its proposed powers and responsibilities, and will consider in detail the legal, financial and organisational structures together with an implementation timetable. It is intended that the outcome of the assessment will be considered by Government together with proposals for the establishment of Irish Water before the end of 2011.

Local Authority Housing

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

20 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will address the growing concerns among thousands of council housing applicants, many of whom have been on housing lists for seven, eight and nine years, that his new social housing policy, focused on leasing arrangements with private landlords and other bodies, will mean that those applicants will never now have a home of their own with proper security of tenure, and growing concerns about the likely decline in housing and maintenance standards that such a policy will entail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24236/11]

Joan Collins

Question:

49 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will allay concerns among thousands of council housing applicants across the country that his new social housing policy, which envisages replacing directly provided council housing with various leasing arrangements with private landlords, amounts to a hand-out to landlords, developers and banks at the expense of the housing needs of lower income families and their legitimate expectation for security of tenure and decent quality housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24239/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 49 together.

Leasing is a form of social housing support that, along with the Rental Accommodation Scheme and more traditional forms of support is provided by local authorities to meet a person's housing needs. The recent statement on the Government's housing policy, published by Minister Penrose on 16 June, referred to the provision of housing support based on choice, fairness, equity across tenures and on delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested. Leasing is one element of this approach.

In the context of rising housing need, the priority must be to maximise delivery of social housing to cater for the greatest level of need. It is not possible to purchase or build anything like the same number of units through traditional methods as can be provided through leasing. In addition, leasing broadens the range of housing options for tenants and is a flexible response to housing need at different stages in the lifecycle of the household.

Regarding the security of tenure available through leasing, it should be noted that under leasing, including RAS, the local authority takes over responsibility for the provision of accommodation for the household concerned. There is no time limit on this and therefore long term access to supported housing is protected.

Finally, the move to avail of leasing should not be viewed in isolation. The Incremental Purchase Scheme provides the opportunity for a household in a leased property to transfer to and purchase a dwelling provided for that purpose and to avail of the relevant subsidies and discounts.

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

21 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the current practice of removing persons from council waiting lists if they are on the rental accommodation scheme on the basis that they are adequately housed; and if he supports this practice. [24110/11]

The Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009 gives legislative recognition to rental accommodation availability agreements as a form of social housing support. Consequently, since 1 April 2011, RAS tenants are now considered to be in receipt of social housing support and should not generally remain on the housing waiting lists for new applicants for social housing.

In recognition that RAS tenants may have had reasonable expectations about retaining access to traditional local authority rented accommodation, guidance issued by my Department recommended that there should be a special transfer pathway for RAS tenants to other forms of social housing support. It is my understanding that the members of many authorities have now included a provision of this type in their Allocation Schemes and that such tenants are included on transfer waiting lists. My Department is preparing further guidance in this regard.

RAS tenants obtain significant benefits through being in receipt of social housing support compared to remaining on Rent Supplement. In the first instance, it allows such tenants to take up full-time employment following their move to RAS. Secondly, it makes the housing needs of the tenants the responsibility of the housing authority, with the added security that implies. Finally, it ensures that tenants do not have to apply for social housing and be assessed under the new Housing Needs Assessment criteria.

Water Quality

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

22 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to any breaches of international limits for trihalomethanes in public water supplies here currently being analysed by the Environmental Protection Agency; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that these are carcinogenic chemicals; his plans to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24103/11]

Under the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations 2007, drinking water must comply with a number of microbiological and chemical parameters. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for thesupervision of drinking water supplies in Ireland. In February 2011 the EPA published The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland — a Report for the Years 2008-2009. The report indicates that 15.6% of all samples covering 156 public and group supplies failed to comply with the parametric value for trihalomethanes. Trihalomethanes are formed in drinking-water primarily as a result of chlorination of organic matter present naturally in raw water supplies.

Trihalomethanes, particularly chloroform as it is the dominant compound, are classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". The EPA recently stated, in response to a media report on this issue, that the health risks from disinfection by-products, including trihalomethanes, are much less than the risk from consuming water that has not been disinfected.

As part of its supervisory role under the Regulations, the EPA maintains a list of public water schemes where remedial action is required to address operational or infrastructure deficits. Schemes failing to meet the parametric value for trihalomethanes are placed on this remedial action list (RAL). My Department provides capital funding to local authorities for works required to address schemes on the RAL. Since 2008, €28m has been provided from the Rural Water Programme for this purpose.

Local Authority Housing

Sandra McLellan

Question:

23 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the situation in which many persons who bought their homes from a local authority under the shared ownership scheme are now unable to sell and move on due to the fact that the council share has remained at an artificially high price which would force any seller to take a loss; and his plans to support these persons in moving on to more suitable housing. [24115/11]

A person occupying a house under the shared ownership scheme can sell their house at any time provided they have bought out the local authority's share and have acquired full ownership of the dwelling. Full ownership may be achieved either by purchasing, from time to time, additional shares of the authority's equity or a single outright purchase of its remaining equity. The cost of purchasing an additional share or the redemption value of the outstanding share, for transactions commenced from 1 January 2003, is based on its initial cost adjusted annually to compensate for differences between the rent paid on the local authority's share and the interest calculated by reference to the prevailing interest rates. The scheme is structured so that, on redemption, the price of the outstanding share is not determined on the basis of a percentage of current market value, but is, rather, a function primarily of its initial capital cost. While this may impact on those living in shared ownership properties who wish to purchase in the current market, it is also the case that shared ownership purchasers were in the position of having their share of the property rise in value when the market was rising. Many homeowners, regardless of their original source of funding, face similar challenges. The Government's housing policy statement, published on 16 June, announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes, including the shared ownership scheme, in the context of a full review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. It also made clear that diminished resources for social housing provision must be concentrated on those without the means to provide themselves with suitable accomodation.

Retail Sector Developments

Timmy Dooley

Question:

24 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has completed his study on the economic impact of eliminating the cap on the size of retail premises; and if he has taken any decision on this matter. [21072/11]

In response to the requirement in the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland for an economic analysis of the potential impact on competition and consumer prices of eliminating or relaxing the floorspace cap on retail premises, my Department and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation commissioned Forfás to undertake an evidence-based and focused study to analyse the potential economic impacts of eliminating the cap on the size of retail premises.

The Forfás report was completed and submitted to the two Departments in early Summer. Following detailed consideration of the analysis and findings, my Department wrote to the European Commission Services in July, outlining its policy views and proposed response to the Forfas Economic Study. My Department is continuing to liaise with the Commission Services with a view to agreeing a detailed time-bound action plan on the matter, and further engagement is expected over the coming weeks.

As the Forfás study is the subject of ongoing deliberation and consultation with the Commission Services, it would not be appropriate to detail its contents at this point. However, I intend to publish the report simultaneously with the publication, in the coming weeks, of a consultation draft of revised Retail Planning Guidelines which is currently under preparation in my Department.

Local Government Reform

Seán Crowe

Question:

25 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will introduce a local government reform package; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24094/11]

Michael Moynihan

Question:

32 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is committed to publishing the White Paper on local government; when he expects this to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24086/11]

Brian Stanley

Question:

40 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the measures he plans to use to modernise local government that are underway in parallel with the efficiency local government review group’s recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24092/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 32 and 40 together.

The Programme for Government, sets out a number of key objectives in relation to local government including reorganisation of structures to allow for greater decision making at local level; alignment of community and enterprise functions with the local government system; implementation of the shared services agenda in order to deliver efficiencies; and an examination of funding arrangements. In addition, the recommendations contained in the Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group provide important input to consideration of options for expenditure reduction, revenue raising, efficiency and other policy developments.

A range of work relevant to this agenda is under way or in planning and significant progress has been made.

In relation to structural and other reform, the Government announced on 28 June 2011 that the main recommendations of the Limerick Local Government Committee, involving the creation of a single local authority to replace Limerick County and City Councils, would be implemented. A group to drive this process has been appointed and their work to oversee planning, preparatory work and initial implementation of the reorganisation process is underway.

More recently, additional measures aimed at strengthening local government have been announced, including the establishment of a unified county council in Tipperary to replace North and South Tipperary County Councils and the intention to initiate a review to consider whether the creation of a unified authority in Waterford would be desirable. Implementation arrangements will be established shortly for Tipperary and I will also be announcing details of the Local Government Committee to examine local government in Waterford.

I intend to bring recommendations to Government for more comprehensive policy decisions on local government structures at regional, city and county and sub-county level. I am also considering wider proposals to renew and develop the local government system in line with the Government's programme and building on relevant research and analysis already undertaken in this area.

In relation to the efficiency report, I have established an independent Implementation Group to drive forward relevant recommendations in areas such as shared services, procurement, value for money and audit. I have asked the Group to build on the extensive efficiencies that have been achieved by local authorities in the past two years and to focus on key recommendations that will remove costs and yield earliest financial savings for the benefit of the sector and the economy. The Group will report to me at regular intervals, with its first report due shortly. Also, a review of staffing levels in Dublin City Council has recently been completed and has identified a number of options for staffing reductions in the Council over the period to the end of 2014. Specific measures to modernise local government are underway in parallel with the Efficiency Review Group's recommendations. These include implementation of the programme for Public Service Review and the Public Service Agreement (PSA) in local authorities in areas such as shared services, HR, ICT and procurement. Reports on progress and savings under the Local Government Sectoral Action Plan of the PSA were made to the Implementation Body in May 2011. The Programme for Government also reflects the need, in the context of the State's overall financial position, to put the funding of locally delivered services on a sound financial footing, improve accountability and better align the cost of providing services with the demand for such services. In this regard, I have announced the introduction of a household charge in 2012 in line with the requirements of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland.

Options for the greater alignment of community and enterprise functions with the local government system, in accordance with the Programme for Government, are also under consideration in my Department.

Local Authority Housing

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

26 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons are being removed from the housing list of local authorities on the basis that they do not live in overcrowded conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24111/11]

Under the new system of social housing assessment that came into force on 1 April 2011, overcrowding continues to be one of the criteria for determining a household's need for social housing support. I am not aware of any particular issue relating to housing authorities removing households from their housing lists on the grounds that their living conditions have now been determined not to be overcrowded. If the Deputy wishes to furnish details of any particular practice to my office, I will of course examine it for compliance with regulations.

Enterprise Support Services

Áine Collins

Question:

27 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to set up a one stop shop to support local enterprise at local government level. [23966/11]

Áine Collins

Question:

30 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the plans local government has to support local enterprise. [23967/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 30 together.

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

Business Support Units (or similar arrangements) have been put in place in all county and city councils. These Units provide a dedicated one-stop-shop approach for businesses in areas such as planning and water services. They also refer business to appropriate enterprise support and development bodies. In addition, the local government led County/City Development Boards are engaged in economic development and the promotion of enterprise in their areas.

I am also acutely aware of the pressures on small and medium sized businesses at the present time. My Department, this year and in recent years, has requested local authorities to exercise restraint in setting commercial rates to support competitiveness in the economy and to protect the interests of communities. Local authorities have responded positively to these requests. Across the 88 local authorities, annual rates on valuation declined by an average of 0.64% from 2010 to 2011. The Programme for Government provides for an expanded role for local authorities in local enterprise and community development. This in turn will assist in maximising the impact of investment to produce jobs at local level. The assignment of the community brief to my Department is important in this regard. Against this background my Department will be working closely with local government and local development interests to achieve the alignment of both sectors under democratic leadership to the benefit of the local communities which they serve.

Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 6.

Building Regulations

Gerry Adams

Question:

29 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to put in place measures to mediate a just resolution between private rental tenants and owners who are facing massive financial hardship and upheaval with companies that used substandard filling material containing pyrite in the building of their homes and properties as has been done to ensure resolution in the case of public buildings. [24106/11]

Clare Daly

Question:

101 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the scope and powers of the three person committee to address the pyrite issue with reference to the likely timescale; the way it will deal with HomeBond on its unilateral withdrawal of offers to householders whose homes have heave inducing pyrite. [24440/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 101 together.

In response to the difficult and distressing problems faced by homeowners and tenants affected by pyrite I am setting up a panel to prepare a report, which I would intend to place in the public domain, on the way forward in relation to pyrite contamination in private housing stock. My Department will provide technical and administrative support to the panel in carrying out its work and is in close contact with relevant local authorities in regard to pyrite contamination in some social housing developments.

I anticipate that the panel will engage with relevant stakeholders, including HomeBond, during the course of its work.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 27.

Proposed Legislation

Seán Crowe

Question:

31 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to end motor tax gapping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24095/11]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

35 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will publish the motor tax Bill. [24118/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 35 together.

I am concerned at the high level of off-the-road declarations being made and I am aware that current procedures governing the making of such declarations may be open to potential abuse. The General Scheme of a Motor Tax Bill, which will include provisions in relation to off-the-road declarations, is at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department and will be brought forward as soon as possible.

More generally, the Motor Tax Bill will consolidate and modernise motor tax law generally and will reform the administration of the motor tax system to ensure consistency, resource efficiency and best customer practice in service delivery.

Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 25.

Local Authority Housing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

33 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the use of choice based lettings by local authorities in the provision of housing in situations in which a unit has been turned down a number of times. [24109/11]

The Social Housing Allocation Regulations give each housing authority the option of including choice-based letting as a means of allocating dwellings in its allocation scheme under section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. The Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency has advised housing authorities on my behalf that choice-based letting can be a useful approach to letting properties which were previously difficult to let. Under the Regulations, it is a matter for individual authorities whether to use choice-based letting and to determine which classes of dwelling it will designate for allocation in this way.

Planning Issues

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

34 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for designating the eastern docklands of Dublin city as a strategic development zone under the management of Dublin City Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23968/11]

Under the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) is required to prepare a Master Plan for the area to guide its social, economic and physical regeneration. The Act also provides that the Authority's Master Plan identify those parts of the Dublin Docklands Area where planning schemes would be appropriate.

Section 25 of the Act provides for the preparation by the Authority, and the approval by the Minister, of planning schemes for parts of the Dublin Docklands Area. In preparing a Planning Scheme, the Authority is obliged to have regard to its Master Plan, consult with Dublin City Council and other relevant statutory bodies, have regard to the Dublin City Development Plan, arrange for submissions by interested parties, and consider those submissions.

In addition to two planning schemes previously made by the Custom House Docks Development Authority for the Custom House Docks Area (i.e. the IFSC area), in 1987 and 1994, two schemes have already been made by the DDDA — for the Grand Canal Docks area (2000) and the North Lotts area (2002). In June 2007, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government made an Order under section 25(1) of the Act, specifying the area of the Poolbeg Peninsula for the purposes of making a planning scheme. It is a matter for the Authority to prepare the planning scheme and to submit it to the Minister for approval. Such a planning scheme has not yet been submitted for my approval.

Under Part IX of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), the Government may by Order, on foot of a proposal from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, designate a site or sites as a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) to facilitate development which is considered, in the Government's opinion, to be of economic or social importance to the State. Before proposing the designation of a site or sites to the Government, the Minister must consult with any relevant development agency or planning authority on the proposed designation.

I have received no submission or request in my Department from Dublin City Council or other development agency for the designation of lands in the eastern Dublin Docklands area as a strategic development zone under Section 166 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 31.

Social and Affordable Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

36 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the lack of adequate provision for affordable housing for first-time home seekers over the past ten years with particular reference to the large numbers currently awaiting consideration on local authority housing lists for several years despite the housing boom; if he will examine the means whereby the current housing stock in the public and private sector is examined with a view to meeting the needs of housing applicants thereby eliminating the necessity to make ongoing annual provisions by way of rent subsidies in lieu of housing thereby obtaining a better result for housing applicants and the tax payer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24147/11]

On 16 June 2011 I launched the Government's new housing policy statement which will serve as a framework for a series of legislative and policy initiatives in the short to medium term. Based on a number of fundamental principles and goals that will form the foundation of a substantial reform programme, the new framework for housing policy responds to current and emerging conditions in the housing sector, taking account of the dramatic cycle of rapid growth and sudden collapse in the residential property market. The centrepiece of the approach is to chart a way forward for housing policy in Ireland by placing greater emphasis on choice;· equity across housing tenures; and delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested.

The policy statement also announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes, including shared ownership, in the context of a full review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Affordable housing schemes were introduced to bridge the affordability gap that emerged during the boom years, preventing middle income households from realising their ownership aspirations. However, affordable housing did nothing to address the underlying problem — which is that the market was becoming overheated with an unsustainable gap being created between prices and incomes. Affordable housing was therefore a symptom of a market failure and not a solution to it.

In addition, affordability has eased to such an extent that there is little or no demand for affordable housing. Indeed, in recent years the challenge has been to deploy existing affordable stock productively rather than deliver new affordable housing. The possibility of localised affordability challenges in the future, particularly in areas where supply is short and demand is likely to bounce back relatively quickly is not ruled out. Such affordable housing schemes that may be necessary in the future will have a broader tenure focus than in the past.

The Government is committed to supporting access to home ownership for lower income households and a range of paths to home ownership will remain in place in that regard. These include the incremental purchase scheme, the availability of loan finance from local authorities for house purchase, including open market purchase, and the tenant purchase scheme.

Proposed Legislation

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

37 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that noise nuisance is a significant source of anti-social behaviour; the date in which he will introduce the noise nuisance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24117/11]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

51 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the problems being caused by persons leafleting in housing estates during night-time hours; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that these noises are causing distress to older and vulnerable persons living alone; and his plans to address this matter. [24104/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 51 together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to address noise pollution through the introduction of fixed payment notices (also known as on-the- spot fines) and provision for mediation between neighbours. The development of new noise legislation by my Department will be considered in the context of this commitment: however, it is not possible at this time to indicate when the legislation will be published.

Currently, a person experiencing noise nuisance may contact their local authority, which may initiate proceedings on grounds of noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. This Act also provides for any person, or group of persons, to seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A public information leaflet A Guide to the Noise Regulations, outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance, is available on my Department's website www.environ.ie.

Tackling anti-social behaviour falls principally under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality. I am informed by that Department that the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for civil proceedings to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 7.
Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 25.

Social Welfare Benefits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

41 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for local authorities to take responsibility for the payment of rent supplement. [24116/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 144 of 13 July 2011 which sets out the position in this matter. Proposals continue to be progressed through the work of the interdepartmental steering group and working groups.

Housing Management Companies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

42 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce measures to ensure fair treatment of private rental tenants and homeowners in estates controlled by third party property management companies. [24113/11]

My Department has no function in relation to the operation of property management companies. The Multi Unit Developments Act 2011 which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, regulates the management and operation of such companies.

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 sets out more generally the obligations of landlords and tenants in the broader private rented residential sector. The Act provides the main legislative framework for the sector and, in particular, for the operation of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), the independent statutory body charged with the administration of the Act and the enforcement of those obligations.

My Department conducted a review of the Act in 2009 with a specific emphasis on whether it best supports the PRTB's key functions and on whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector. The outcomes of the review were announced by my predecessor as Minister of State and, in July 2011, the Government approved the Heads of a Bill to deliver on the review's recommendations. My Department with the office of the Attorney General, is advancing the preparation of the Bill.

Local Authority Housing

Michael Colreavy

Question:

43 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he plans to introduce new guidelines for local authorities on social housing applications that address the current anomalies regarding applications for housing on medical grounds. [24098/11]

My Department is not aware of any anomalies regarding applications for social housing on medical grounds. However, my Department is aware that the wording on the new social housing application form, which mentions ‘consultants reports', may give rise to difficulties in some cases. In June 2011, my Department issued advice to local authorities that a consultant's report is not essential in all cases where applicants have a medical condition or disability which impacts on their housing needs. However, an appropriate written report from a qualified medical or paramedical professional must always be submitted. This is required both to identify and certify the medical condition or disability involved and also to ensure that suitable accommodation is provided for the household concerned. It is my intention, as soon as possible, to make a minor amendment to the prescribed application form consistent with the advice given on this issue. In the meantime, the advice issued to authorities should alleviate any difficulties that might arise.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 6.

Proposed Legislation

Martin Ferris

Question:

45 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he will publish the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24097/11]

On 8 June 2011, I published the General Scheme of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011. Provision is made for the restriction of corporate donations, a reduction in the amounts that can be received as political donations and a reduction in the thresholds for declaring political donations. Political parties will also now be required to submit their annual accounts to the Standards in Public Office Commission for publication. The new legislation includes a provision that political parties will face a cut of half their State political funding if they do not have at least 30% women and 30% men candidates at the next general election. This will then rise to 40% after 7 years. In line with the Government's commitment to reform the way legislation is debated and implemented, I have published the General Scheme and invited public input on its contents. The Bill is currently being drafted and is to be published during the current Dáil term.

Questions Nos. 46 and 47 answered with Question No. 17.

Expenditure Reviews

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

48 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to abolish or reform the Dublin Docklands Development Authority; when he intends to undertake action on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23969/11]

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority was established both to secure the social and economic regeneration of the Dublin Docklands area on a sustainable basis and to secure improvements in its physical environment.

Since its establishment in 1997, the Authority has overseen the urban regeneration of the Docklands area into a vibrant city quarter, realising considerable achievements in delivery on its statutory mandate, such as attracting private and public investment, increasing numbers employed in the area, delivering quality commercial space, facilitating thousands of new residential units and ensuring considerable social and community improvements.

In the context of the ongoing Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, the position of all State agencies under my Department's remit, including the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, is being examined as part of the Government's commitment to securing the savings and efficiencies necessary to restore balance to the public finances. I expect this matter to be advances over the coming months.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 20.

Planning Issues

Catherine Murphy

Question:

50 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of unauthorised development complaints made to local authorities in 2010; his views on the way the system is functioning in some or all local authorities; the changes that he proposes; if he will give details of these changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23971/11]

My Department gathers aggregate data on enforcement activity from planning authorities, including data on the number of warning letters issued under Section 152 of the Planning Act and the number of enforcement notices issued under sections 154 and 155 of the Planning Act together with the number of prosecutions initiated on foot of these enforcement notices. The most recently available data are published in the 2009 Annual Planning Statistics, available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. It is the responsibility of planning authorities to provide for proper enforcement of planning control and to take all appropriate steps to ensure that development takes place in compliance with national and EU law.

Planning authorities have substantial enforcement powers under the Planning and Development Act 2000. A planning authority may issue an enforcement notice, non-compliance with which is an offence, in connection with unauthorised development (which includes failure to comply with planning conditions), requiring such steps as the authority considers necessary to be taken within a specified period. If an enforcement notice is not complied with, the planning authority may itself take the specified steps and recover the expense incurred in doing so. A planning authority may also seek a court order requiring any particular action to be done or not to be done.

The Planning Acts also place clear statutory obligations on planning authorities in relation to unauthorised development. A planning authority must issue a warning letter in relation to written complaints regarding unauthorised development, or other unauthorised development it becomes aware of (except in the case of trivial or minor development). The planning authority must then carry out an investigation and where it establishes, following such an investigation, that unauthorised development has been or is being carried out and the person who has carried out or is carrying out the development has not proceeded to remedy the position, the planning authority must issue an enforcement notice or make an application for a court order unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so.

I am maintaining ongoing oversight of planning enforcement and will review performance as necessary to ensure a robust statutory and policy framework for proper planning and sustainable development.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 37.

International Terrorism

John Deasy

Question:

52 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has identified the Irish passport holders who were victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States; and if he will make the names available to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24289/11]

I can confirm to the Deputy that consular assistance was provided, if sought, to the Irish citizens or their families that were the victims of the 9/11 terrorists attacks in the United States. However, as I am sure that he will appreciate, it would not be appropriate for my Department to disclose or publicise any personal information in relation to those citizens without their or their families express permission.

National Asset Management Agency

David Stanton

Question:

53 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the number of properties under the control of National Asset Management Agency in the east Cork area, in particular in the towns of Midleton, Youghal, Carrrigtwohill and Cobh; if he can provide a breakdown of same by address; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24304/11]

Properties under the control of receivers or other insolvency professionals appointed by NAMA are listed on its website at http://www.nama.ie/PropertiesEnforced.php. The site includes properties located in East Cork, including Midleton, Youghal, Carrigtwohill and Cobh and, in each instance, information about the firm dealing with the insolvency and its contact details are provided. Potential purchasers are encouraged to contact the receivers to obtain additional information on specific properties and to submit expressions of their interest to purchase. In the case of property under the control of debtors, NAMA is precluded, under Section 202 of the NAMA Act 2009, from disclosing confidential information. Confidential information is specifically defined to include information relating to debtors. Furthermore, Section 99 of the Act provides that, on acquisition of a loan, NAMA takes over the obligations of the participating institution under the loan, one of which is the contractual duty of confidentiality which the debtor enjoyed while still a customer of the participating institution. Information about individual debtors or guarantors is also protected against disclosure by the Data Protection Acts with which NAMA must comply as a data controller.

However, in cases where NAMA receives enquiries from potential purchasers about specific properties under the control of debtors, it can facilitate contact with a view to enabling sales transactions to take place.

Exchequer Savings

Terence Flanagan

Question:

54 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding future budget cuts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24305/11]

Budget 2012 will then be presented to the Dáil in early December, as is the usual practise. The Budget will set out revenue and expenditure measures to deliver the required adjustment.

Personal Debt

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

55 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to help the growing number of persons in mortgage arrears and negative equity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24318/11]

I would like to inform the Deputy that there are measures in place to assist mortgage holders who are in genuine difficulties with regard to the payment of their mortgages. The Deputy will be aware of the work of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt. This Group published its final report in November 2010. All of the Group's recommendations are listed in Chapter 2 of the Report which can be accessed at www.finance.gov.ie.

One of the recommendations of the Group was that lenders should offer a Deferred Interest Scheme (DIS) to borrowers. Under this Scheme, subject to certain criteria being satisfied, borrowers are allowed to pay at least 66% of their mortgage interest but less than 100%. Payment of the balance may be deferred for up to 5 years. Lenders representing the majority of the market have already implemented (or indicated their willingness to implement) the Group's proposals for a DIS or a variation of it. While the Scheme is voluntary for all lenders, those who have signed up in support of the Scheme will be monitored by the Central Bank to ensure compliance.

Since the publication of the Group's Report, the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) has been revised by the Central Bank to reflect many of the Group's recommendations, including key recommendations relating to the introduction by all lenders regulated by the Central Bank of a standardised Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The most significant changes in the revised CCMA include:

penalty interest charges may not be imposed on borrowers in arrears who co-operate with the MARP,

harassment of borrowers through unsolicited communication is outlawed,

borrowers in financial difficulties, but not in arrears, are allowed to come under the MARP, when determining the 12 month period the lender must wait before applying to the courts to commence legal action, he or she must exclude any time period during which the borrower is complying with the terms of an alternative repayment arrangement, making an appeal to the internal appeals board or making a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman.

The revised CCMA came into effect on 1 January 2011 and can be accessed at www.centralbank.ie. Lenders are required to comply with the CCMA as a matter of law. With effect from 30 June 2011, lenders must have in place the requisite systems and trained staff necessary to support the implementation of the MARP.

A working group has been established under the Economic Management Council to consider the state of implementation of the main recommendations of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt. This Group has also been asked to consider and develop further necessary actions to alleviate the increasing mortgage over indebtedness problem. I expect that the Group will have its work completed shortly.

Financial assistance is available to eligible claimants under the Department of Social Protection's Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme.

People in debt or in danger of getting into debt can also avail of the services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service. This is a national, free, confidential, and independent service.

National Asset Management Agency

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

56 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent the disposal of distressed properties controlled by National Asset Management Agency have been acquired by first time buyers or investors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24370/11]

NAMA approves the sale of assets by debtors or by receivers acting on its behalf. Given that the bulk of sale approvals to date, by value, have been commercial properties and that a large proportion of these have been located in the UK, the purchasers are likely to have been commercial investors. In the case of sales approvals for residential houses or apartments, NAMA informs me that it does not maintain information on the category of purchaser involved. The agency believes it likely that the majority of purchasers are owner-occupiers but whether they are first-time buyers or otherwise is unknown.

Under the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, NAMA has a commercial mandate that requires the agency to secure the best price from its asset sales. However, it is also fully aware of its social objectives and, as regards housing, it has been endeavouring to identify the scope for dovetailing its activities with State policy. I understand that NAMA is in active discussion with the Minister for Housing and with his officials on this issue.

Special Educational Needs

Robert Dowds

Question:

57 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to consider having school text books available as PDFs in order to better facilitate the learning environment of children with disabilities, particularly blind children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24263/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides funding (€1.28m in 2011) to the National Braille Production Centre (NBPC), a national service which provides blind/visually impaired pupils at first and second level with textbooks in alternative formats including braille and audio format. It is an essential service to children who are blind or visually impaired and without it many such children would not be able to access mainstream education or be able to undertake the Junior and Senior Cycle examinations. I understand that the process of translating a book into braille can be a time consuming process. In my recent discussions with the educational publishers, I raised the issue of co-operation with the NBPC in this regard and stressed the importance of providing the relevant PDF files in a timely manner so that no blind or visually impaired children experience undue delays in having access to their coursebooks.

Departmental Expenditure

Dan Neville

Question:

58 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has taken back allocations for extracurricular activities in schools as outlined in circular 43/2009; if the funding is available; if it will be allocated to schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24297/11]

The substitution cover arrangements introduced in January 2009 have been allocated for the 2011/12 school year up until the end of December 2011. These arrangements provide for an allocation of hours to individual schools to enable substitution cover for uncertified sick leave for teachers in post-primary schools and for official school business in post-primary schools. Revised allocations were forwarded to schools at the end of August. Details of the position for the rest of the school year will be notified to schools by my Department at a later date.

School Curriculum

David Stanton

Question:

59 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress being made with the expansion of enterprise education programmes at second level to all second level students in particular the junior cycle; the feedback received by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment from its consultation process on its short course in enterprise education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24303/11]

There is widespread agreement in business, political and education and training sectors that the key to Ireland's recovery rests heavily on the capacity of our education system and wider society to work effectively together to support creativity, innovation and enterprise. At a European Level, the EU Commission has identified enterprise as one of 8 key competences which all students should have by the end of second level education. At junior cycle level, an enterprise culture is promoted by ensuring an appropriate range of competences through a broadly based programme encouraging investigative approaches and offering science, ICT, languages, technology and a range of academic and practical subjects.

In senior cycle students taking the Transition Year option, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and the Leaving Certificate Applied are provided with specific opportunities to acquire enterprise skills. These programmes place a strong focus on active learning, community-based approaches, personal development and teamwork. Students also engage in work experience.

Enterprise is part of the Business syllabus in second level schools. Over 23,000 students sat business studies in 2011 at Junior Certificate. At Leaving Certificate level over 18,000 students sat business examinations. Some 16386 students sat the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme in 2011, where the link modules — Preparation for the World of Work and Enterprise Education form an explicit part of the curriculum. This is examinable as part of the Leaving Certificate and counts for CAO points for entry to higher education. A further 3,191 students following the Leaving Certificate Applied programme, which also has a strong practical and entrepreneurial emphasis.

The Transition Year programme offers a flexible menu of options to schools within an overall framework set out by the Department of Education and Skills. It is now followed by 30,000 students in over 560 schools. Within Transition Year, 5,620 students follow the Mini-company programme and a further 4,322 follow some other form of enterprise education.

Last year 15,400 students participated in the Student Enterprise Awards competitions run by the County/City Enterprise Boards. Through partnership with industry and the enterprise boards, additional resources have also been provided to schools such as the Business Game, and the Spirit of Enterprise Resource. Last year saw the start of a new award scheme — the Sean Lemass Award for Student Enterprise, which was presented to the top 3 winners from both the CEB Student Enterprise Competition and the Transition Year Mini-company Get up and Go Competition. This was the start of an annual process which is designed to raise the profile of enterprise in schools, and hopefully to build up, supported by increased publicity, to as important and memorable an event in the school calendar as the Young Scientist and Technology exhibition is today.

I am expecting advice from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on the review of Junior Cycle. Key goals are to promote active learning, reduce rote content and embed key skills, and develop creativity and innovation, supported by assessment reform. The junior cycle proposals, currently being finalised, will give schools greater flexibility in designing the programmes on offer in their schools. A particular feature of the reforms is that they will encourage schools to make greater connections with local and regional enterprises, beyond the more general participation in Busines Studies. The new approaches to teaching, learning and assessment are designed to encourage a spirit of innovation and creativity in all students. In senior cycle, a draft short course on enterprise is the focus of a consultation process currently being organised by the NCCA. It is accessible to the general public through the NCCA website, and is open until October 28th next. All second level schools have been contacted about the consultation. A series of meetings with other key stakeholders in enterprise education is underway. Their feedback on the course, and the feedback received through the website will inform the finalisation of the course. Decisions about how best to support its introduction in schools can be made at that point.

School Staffing

John McGuinness

Question:

60 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make immediate contact with the school authorities (details supplied) in Dublin 22 and deal effectively with their concerns regarding teacher shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24312/11]

Class size data for all primary schools is compiled by my Department on an annual basis and is available on the Department's website. The most recently published data relates to the 2010/11 school year. The staffing schedule is the mechanism used for allocating mainstream teaching posts to all schools. It currently operates on the basis of a general average of 1 classroom teacher for every 28 pupils. Schools have autonomy on how these posts are deployed to individual classes. School authorities are advised in the staffing schedule to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment etc.) In particular, they should ensure, as far as possible, that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and the differential between the largest and the smallest classes is kept to a minimum. With over 20,000 individual classes spread across all schools throughout the country there will always be differences in individual class sizes.

School Transport

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

61 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not been provided with door to door school transport to attend a school in view of the fact that the person has a disability and lives approximately 70 km from said school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24315/11]

The purpose of the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs arising from a diagnosed disability is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of these children.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department, is responsible for the planning and timetabling of school transport routes. Bus Éireann endeavours, within available resources, to ensure that each eligible child has a reasonable level of school transport service.

A Special Transport Grant has been sanctioned by my Department towards the cost of private transport arrangements from the child's home to a pick-up point along the route of an existing transport service.

This arrangement may be reviewed should local circumstances change.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

62 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a remote area grant will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24317/11]

To be eligible for a grant under the terms of the remote area grant scheme, an applicant must satisfy a number of criteria, one of which is that he or she should be resident more than 3.2 km from a pick up point on a transport service to a school where suitable free second level education is available.

As the applicant to whom the Deputy refers does not satisfy this criterion, she is not eligible for a remote area grant.

Higher Education Grants

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

63 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any provision will be made for students who are already in third level education and who are in receipt of non-adjacent higher education grants which have been reduced in budget 2011 but who may have to drop out of college due to inability to pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24369/11]

I regret that the economic circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position to reverse any of the changes to the student grant measures announced in Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government. These changes included the removal of the automatic entitlement of mature students to the non-adjacent rate of grant and an increase in the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant.

From this September, students who reside 45 kilometres or more from their higher education institution will continue to be eligible for the higher, non-adjacent rate of grant. Those on particularly low incomes will also continue to receive a "top-up" in the special rate of grant. In addition, third level students in difficult financial circumstances will have access to the Student Assistance Fund. I understand the concerns of students with regard to the changes to the student grant schemes for the 2011/12 academic year and I will take account of these in considering any future changes as part of the budgetary process for 2012 and beyond, having regard to the position of the public finances.

School Curriculum

Denis Naughten

Question:

64 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date on the implementation of project maths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24375/11]

Project Maths is a major programme of reform in mathematics in second level schools, which is designed to encourage better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce its practical relevance to everyday life, and to ensure better continuity between primary and second level, and junior and senior cycle. It began in 24 project schools in September 2008 and was introduced in all schools in September 2010.

Project Maths provides for a professional development model under which change will be implemented in various areas of maths on a phased basis. The curriculum will be phased in over a number of years covering the following five strands of mathematics:

Phase 1: Strand 1 — statistics and probability; Strand 2 — geometry and trigonometry;

Phase 2: Strand 3 — number; Strand 4 — algebra;

Phase 3: functions.

Strands 1 and 2 began in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012 at Leaving Certificate and 2013 at Junior Certificate. Strands 3 and 4 will begin in 2011, and strand 5 will start in 2012.

A comprehensive programme of professional development is being provided for teachers. Support will be provided on a rolling basis as each strand of the curriculum is implemented, and will continue until at least 2013.

Project Maths, which was introduced into 24 selected schools in September 2008, was examined for the first time in 2010. The initiative encompasses a new model of curriculum development in which the various strands of the syllabus will be changed on a phased basis. Changes in assessment are aligned with changes in the syllabus and aim to underpin and support classroom practice.

In 2011 as part of the phased implementation of this curricular reform the State Examinations Commission (SEC) provided examinations at Higher, Ordinary and Foundation Level in Project Maths for 1,984 candidates — 318 at Higher Level, 1,437 at Ordinary Level and 231 at Foundation Level. Candidates for the 2011 Leaving Certificate examination in the 24 initial schools for project Maths have experienced phases 1 and 2 of this project, involving four of the five syllabus strands.

318 candidates for Project Maths took the examination at Higher Level. This represents 16% of the total candidature for Project Maths. When compared to the results of students in all other schools, this group has effectively the same proportion of A-grades, a substantially higher proportion at A/B/C, and a much lower proportion at E/F/NG

1,437 candidates for Project Maths took the examination at Ordinary Level. This represents 72.4% of the total candidature for Project Maths. When compared to the results of students in all other schools, this group has a slightly higher proportion of A-grades, a notably higher proportion at A/B/C, and a significantly lower proportion at E/F/NG.

231 candidates for Project Maths took the examination at Foundation Level. This represents 11.6% of the total candidature for Project Maths. When compared to the results of students in all other schools, this group has a slightly higher proportion of A-grades, a higher proportion at A/B/C, and approximately the same proportion at E/F/NG.

In 2011, candidates in the 24 Project Schools sat some Project Maths elements at Junior Certificate level. In Project Schools a significantly higher proportion of candidates presented at Higher Level (52%) as opposed to the proportion in the cohort as a whole (45.6%).

A/B/C levels in Project Maths are at 83.5% as opposed to 79.7% in Mathematics. At Ordinary Level E/F/NG rates are at 4.5% in Project Maths as opposed to 7% in Mathematics generally. The percentages scoring A at Higher Level is lower in Project Maths (13%) as opposed to Mathematics generally (17.4%). These trends mirror the patterns seen at Leaving Certificate Level.

Denis Naughten

Question:

65 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the report of the expert group on future skills needs regarding the level of achievement in maths among Irish students; if he will implement the recommendations of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24376/11]

The Report of the Expert Group called for the introduction of bonus points for Higher Level Mathematics in the Leaving Certificate. I am pleased to say that all third level institutions have collectively decided to operate a bonus points scheme for Higher Level Mathematics for a four year trial period from 2012 to 2015 with a review in 2014. A bonus of 25 points will be allocated to students who achieve a grade D3 or above in LC Higher Level mathematics.

As recommended in that report, Project Maths began in all second level schools in September 2010, building on the experiences of 24 Project Schools which started the programme in 2008. This is being supported by a national programme of professional development for teachers which began in 2009, and will continue to at least 2013.

A Project Maths Implementation Support Group, as an industry/education partnership, reported in 2010 on how stakeholders from business, second level and higher education can work together to achieve the objectives of Project Maths. The recommendations of this report are being progressed.

The Expert Group report also recommended additional professional development for teachers of mathematics. There has been significant investment in this to date. A national programme of professional development is under way for all Maths teachers. This began in 2008 for the 24 Project Maths schools, in 2009 for the mainstream schools and will continue to at least 2013. As part of this, intensive post graduate courses will be developed aimed at teachers who do not hold a major qualification in Maths.

My Department has produced The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020, "Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life" which is designed to promote a significant improvement in mathematical skills across primary and second level schools and will progress a number of the recommendations of the expert group including in relation to parental involvement, benchmarking and transition between primary and post-primary levels.

Special Educational Needs

David Stanton

Question:

66 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the appeals or review options open to parents who are unhappy with a special education needs organiser’s allocation for their child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24384/11]

David Stanton

Question:

67 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the appeals or review options open to schools who are unhappy with a special education needs organiser for their school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24385/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 67 together.

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 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools in order to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. In relation to the allocation of SNA support, this now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

Where additional teaching or care support is allocated by SENOs, in order to support children with special needs, these resources are allocated to schools. It is a matter for schools to utilise those resources to best support the children designated for receipt of such support. Parents should therefore raise any issues that they have regarding resource allocation or utilisation with their school Principal in the first instance. If a parent or school has concerns about the performance of a SENO they should raise this matter directly with the NCSE.

In relation to review procedures for schools, the NCSE issued a Circular to all schools in February of this year which provided guidance to schools with regard to the Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme is to provide for an annual allocation of SNA support to eligible schools.

The NCSE Guidelines to schools stated that "a mechanism will be developed through which schools may seek to have the position in relation to the level of SNA resource revisited. However, given that there is now a finite cap on the level of such supports, the current model of appeal is not appropriate for use in the context of SNA allocation. Therefore the new mechanism for use by schools and parents will be developed after the operation of the above resource allocation process itself has been examined".

This is intended to take place later this year when the 2011/2012 allocations process has been completed. The NCSE will advise schools early in the new school year of any 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.

David Stanton

Question:

68 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentay Question Nos 637, 638 and 639 of 2 Febrary 2010, his plans to implement the remaining sections of EPSEN Act 2004 necessary to allow for the Special Education Appeals Board to begin hearing appeals from parents dissatisfied with special education needs organiser allocation decisions; if the National Council for Special Education has established, across all schools, a structured appeals process of SENO decisions which was piloted in 2010; if the NCSE has established an independent appeal advisory committee; if so, the membership of same. [24386/11]

The Deputy will be aware that a number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) 2004 have already been commenced, principally those establishing the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and those promoting an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs. The Deputy is also aware that the previous Government deferred the full implementation of EPSEN in the light of the very difficult economic situation and the associated significant costs.

I wish to clarify for the Deputy that this Government is committed — during the tenure of this Government — to the publication of a plan for the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 (EPSEN) to prioritise access for children with special needs to an individual education plan.

It is my intention to prepare a plan to implement EPSEN in line with the programme for Government, subject to the restrictions of the current fiscal position. All parts of the EPSEN legislation, which have not been commenced to date, including the section relating to the establishment of the Special Education Appeals Board, will be considered during this process.

The NCSE issued a Circular to all schools in February of this year which provided guidance to schools with regard to the Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocation process for the 2011/2012 school year. A key feature of the amended scheme is to provide for an annual allocation of SNA support to eligible schools.

The NCSE Guidelines to schools stated that "a mechanism will be developed through which schools may seek to have the position in relation to the level of SNA resource revisited. However, given that there is now a finite cap on the level of such supports, the current model of appeal is not appropriate for use in the context of SNA allocation. Therefore the new mechanism for use by schools and parents will be developed after the operation of the above resource allocation process itself has been examined".

This is intended to take place later this year when the 2011/2012 allocations process has been completed. The NCSE will advise schools early in the new school year of any 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.

Departmental Schemes

Terence Flanagan

Question:

69 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the continuation of the preschool year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24301/11]

The administration of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The ECCE provides a universal entitlement to a free pre-school year for children aged between three years three months and four years six months on 1 September each year. Funding of the ECCE is a matter for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and her Department to consider in the first instance, in the context of preparing their estimates for 2012 and future years and in the context of the Government's currently ongoing Comprehensive Review of Expenditure.

Job Creation

John McGuinness

Question:

70 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will discuss with the management of the Industrial Development Agency the need to establish an effective local presence in the Tallaght region, Dublin 24 in view of the fact that this highly populated area has suffered from a serious increase in unemployment; if he will stress to the IDA the importance of this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24311/11]

The location of IDA's regional offices around the country is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. I am informed by IDA that its offices around the country operate on a regional rather than a local basis. Tallaght is part of IDA Ireland's East Region and the regional office is located in Wilton Place, Dublin where Tallaght and its environs are actively marketed as a location for Foreign Direct Investment.

South Dublin, including Tallaght, benefits from being part of the largest city in the country and in turn the most successful region in the State. South Dublin has a critical mass of population, skills pool, educational infrastructure, international access connections, and existing business activity across all sectors and is being actively marketed for overseas investment. Dublin in 2010 had 4,821 IDA companies employing 52,830 people.

Tallaght and South County Dublin are well equipped to compete with other areas for potential Foreign Direct Investment, with superb infrastructure facilities at City West and Grange Castle and a Third Level Institute of Technology at Tallaght. Both of these business parks are easily accessible to the population of Tallaght.

Based on the above IDA Ireland has no plans to open an office in Tallaght.

Social Welfare Benefits

John O'Mahony

Question:

71 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on an application for back to school allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24259/11]

The person concerned has been awarded a back to school clothing and footwear allowance and a payment issued to her nominated account on 12 September 2011.

Michael Creed

Question:

72 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has had rent allowance reduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24380/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the rent supplement payable to the person concerned has been reduced due to the change in his financial circumstances following his commencement on a community employment scheme. The revised rent supplement of €14.72 per month is his full entitlement based on his personal circumstances.

The HSE has further advised that an overpayment has occurred in this case and that the HSE has written to the person concerned in regard to acknowledging this overpayment.

Question No. 73 withdrawn.

Social Insurance

Paul Connaughton

Question:

74 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will examine in its entirety the treatment of former self-employed people under the social welfare system, the lack of recognition of social welfare contributions made by them and their inability to access credits when a spouse is working; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this is a problem being experienced by thousands of families all across the country and is the cause of hardship; if this merits an in-depth investigation by herself and her officials; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24252/11]

The social insurance system in Ireland is based on compulsory paid PRSI contributions on which entitlement to a range of contingency-based payments is established. Workers are insured under the Social Welfare Acts as either employed or self-employed contributors. Employees and their employers generally pay contributions at PRSI Class A, whereas self-employed workers generally pay Class S contributions. The class and number of contributions paid by a worker will determine the range of benefits and pensions towards which contributors can build up entitlement. The class at which a contributor paid his or her last PRSI contribution determines entitlement to credited contributions.

Self-employed individuals pay Class S contributions at a rate of 4% and are potentially eligible for a narrower range of benefits than employees who, together with their employers, are potentially liable for a total contribution of 14.75% under PRSI Class A.

Class S contributors are entitled to the following payments:

Widow's/Widower's (Contributory) Pension;

Orphan's (Contributory) Allowance;

Old Age (Contributory) Pension;

Maternity Benefit;

Adoptive Benefit; and

Bereavement Grant.

PRSI credited contributions are an integral part of the social insurance system and are for the most part linked with having an underlying entitlement to a social welfare payment while being temporarily detached from the labour force or having an entitlement to statutory leave. The primary purpose of PRSI credits is to secure social welfare benefits and pensions of insured workers by covering gaps in insurance where workers are not in a position to pay PRSI, such as during periods of unemployment, illness or caring. The rules applying to credited contributions in general stipulate that the award of credits is limited to employed contributors, as opposed to self-employed contributors — reflecting differences between the nature of employment and self-employment.

Rather than receiving credits that are not linked with a benefit, self-employed people who are no longer compulsorily insured are eligible to pay voluntary contributions. This enables contributors to maintain their contribution pension entitlements in respect of the period for which they are not liable for paid contributions.

Any changes to the current system of awarding credits could have considerable cost implications in terms of creating entitlements to benefits in the future, necessitating a significant increase in the rate of Class S contribution to fund it as well as requiring considerable changes to existing administration and control procedures.

Social Welfare Benefits

John O'Mahony

Question:

75 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a back to school allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24258/11]

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 was fully automated with no application form required from customers. Those customers who did not receive an automated payment are required to complete an application form that is available on the Department's website.

Processing has begun on the manual applications already received and it is currently taking approximately 8 weeks from date of receipt to process applications. In all cases a letter will issue to applicants informing them of the decision and, where payment has been awarded, when and where they can collect the payment. In the case of refusal of the allowance the procedures for review of the decision will be outlined to customers.

I can confirm that an application form from the person concerned was received on 21st July. The Department will be in touch with the person concerned shortly regarding her entitlements.

Social Welfare Code

John Lyons

Question:

76 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the rules governing the back to education allowance, principally the use of progression as a fundamental condition of this allowance, in view of the fact that many unemployed people, who find themselves marginalised from the labour market due to declining employment opportunities within their selected industries, are seeking more flexible education and training opportunities to upskill or reskill in fields outside their previous skill sets; and the reason there is a necessity to seek higher qualifications, when retraining and reskilling, even if at lower qualification levels, is what is required. [24271/11]

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

A person wishing to pursue BTEA will have to satisfy a number of conditions such as being a certain age, in receipt of a prescribed social welfare payment for a specified time period, pursuing a full time course of study leading to a recognised qualification in a recognised college and progressing in the level of education held by the client with reference to the national framework of qualifications among others.

Progression has always been a fundamental condition of BTEA. State support for education purposes is grounded on a student progressing from one qualification level to a higher one. This is necessary to ensure displacement does not occur, in that courses could be offered to students who are not progressing at the cost of students progressing from a lower education level. It should be noted that, in the 2010/2011 academic year,of the 25,032 participants supported through BTEA, 43% pursued second level courses. Furthermore, the scheme was never intended to be an alternative form of funding for people entering or re-entering the third level education system.

However, if a person wishes to pursue a part time education course they may be able to do so while still obtaining their jobseeker's payment. They must apply at their local social welfare office and verify that participation on the course does not reduce their availability for work. In the case of jobseeker's benefit, participation on a course does not grant any extension to the normal period for which jobseeker's benefit is paid.

On 10 May, as part of the Government's Jobs Initiative, 20,900 new and additional places were announced in training, education and work experience programmes. As part of this initiative, a new fund, entitled Springboard, which is being managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, provides education and training opportunities to support unemployed people. The primary objective of Springboard is to help unemployed people to remain as close as possible to the labour market by accessing part-time flexible higher education and training opportunities to upskill or re-skill in areas where sustainable employment opportunities may arise as the economy recovers. The target group for this programme of over 200 courses includes unemployed people with a previous history of employment who already hold a higher level qualification at NFQ Levels 6 to 9, who may also require additional upskilling or re-skilling, in order to re-enter employment. By way of the part-time education option, unemployed people on jobseeker's' payments will be facilitated in retaining their payment, subject to continuing entitlement, within the broader back to education framework.

FÁS, as the national training authority, anticipates the needs of, and responds to, a constantly changing labour market. It strives to do this through the provision of tailored training programmes that suit various needs and access to many training programmes is not determined by a person's welfare status. Through a regional network of 66 offices and 20 training centres, FÁS operates these training programmes including some in co-operation with community, voluntary and statutory organisations. Further information is available locally at these FÁS offices.

The BTEA, in conjunction with other employment support schemes, will be monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure that it continues to meet its objectives.

Social Welfare Appeals

John Deasy

Question:

77 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in issuing files from the carer’s allowance section to the appeals office; if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) who requested an appeal on 12 April 2011 and whose file did not reach the appeals office until 1 September 2011; if she will ensure that information is passed between sections in her Department within a reasonable amount of time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24290/11]

The person concerned was refused 150% carer's allowance on 15 February 2011 on the grounds that the care recipients are not in need of full time care and attention. This decision was appealed in April 2011 and her file and papers were forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination on 31 August 2011. The delay in processing and forwarding the papers for appeal is regretted.

Carer's allowance commenced a major service delivery modernisation project at the beginning of 2011 involving the development of IT functionality and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. In order to ensure the success of this project, significant staff resources within carer's allowance section have been allocated to the IT development project and will continue to be required in the short-term. This has had a negative but temporary impact on claim processing times.

However, I am pleased to say that the modernisation project is on target and the first tranche of new carer's allowance claims are being processed under the new system since the beginning of this month. Every effort is being made to ensure that claims are processed as quickly as possible and backlogs reduced having regard to workload and priorities.

Questions Nos. 78 to 81, inclusive, withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

82 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection her views regarding the payment of rent allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24323/11]

People in full-time education are normally excluded from receipt of rent supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. However, people participating in approved courses under the back-to-education allowance scheme receive a standard weekly rate of payment equivalent to the maximum rate of their previous social welfare payment and may retain any secondary benefits, such as rent supplements, which had been in payment prior to the commencement of their education course. The benefit to those participating in the back-to-education allowance scheme is that their status as a full-time student does not preclude them from receiving rent supplement.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned is in receipt of a rent supplement of €246 per month. The HSE has further advised that it has written to the person concerned advising her that she must be in receipt of a back to education allowance in order to retain her rent supplement entitlement.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

83 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a claim for supplementary welfare allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24327/11]

Currently Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) is administered by the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of the Department. The Executive has advised that the person concerned is currently in receipt of the maximum level of SWA allowable based on an assessment of his particular circumstances. The assessment has taken account of his family composition, all household income, and an assessment of capital (as per Section 35 of Social Welfare & Pensions Act 2007) on the additional property which the person concerned has possession of.

The HSE further advised that the person concerned appealed the decision to the HSE Appeals Office in relation to the reduced rate of payment of SWA. The appeals office upheld the decision of the Community Welfare Service. The person concerned has been advised of his right to appeal the decision to the Chief Appeals Office, however to date an appeal has not been submitted.

Question No. 84 withdrawn.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the way it was concluded that a person (details supplied) in County Kildare was deemed not to qualify on medical grounds for invalidity pension; if this issue will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24345/11]

On 30 August 2011 an application for invalidity pension was received from the person concerned. Invalidity pension is payable to persons who satisfy the contribution conditions and are regarded as permanently incapable of work. A contribution condition for invalidity pension requires that the claimant must have at least 260 contributions paid at class A, E, or H rate since entry into insurable employment.

According to my department's records, the person concerned has not paid sufficient contributions and is therefore not entitled to invalidity pension from 30 August 2011. He was notified of this decision and the reason for it on 7 September 2011. As the person concerned did not satisfy the contribution condition for invalidity pension, eligibility on medical grounds was not determined. The person in question is currently in receipt of a disability allowance from my department, at a reduced rate which takes account of his means. Disability allowance is a means-tested payment for people who are habitually resident in the state and are expected to be incapable of work for at least 1 year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in payment of child benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24348/11]

The person concerned has submitted two claims for child benefit. The first was received on 31/1/07 in respect of three children. The second was received on 14/8/09 in respect of a fourth child. Two of the children reside with the applicant, while the other two children continue to reside with their mother in Portugal.

In order to determine entitlement, it is first necessary to ascertain whether Family Benefits are being paid by Portugal. Correspondence issued to the Portuguese Authorities on 21 February 2011 querying entitlement to family benefits in Portugal under EU Regulations. While a reply has been received, the information contained therein requires further clarification. Correspondence to this effect was issued to the Portuguese Authorities on 18 May 2011 and a reminder issued on 12 September 2011. Separate correspondence also issued on March 3rd 2011 to the mother of the two children who are resident in Portugal. No reply has been received and a reminder will now issue.

A decision on entitlement to child benefit cannot be finalised until the information requested is received from the Portuguese authorities and from the mother of the children who are resident in Portugal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare continues to qualify for their back-to-education allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24350/11]

The person concerned has been approved for the back to education allowance for the 2011-12 academic year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the full rate of rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24351/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has been awarded rent supplement of €487.33 per month. The HSE has further advised that the rent payable in this case is in excess of the prescribed rent limit appropriate to his family circumstances. The HSE has informed the person concerned that he must secure alternative accommodation within the prescribed limit for his family circumstances by the end of September 2011.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

89 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare was not allowed to sign on for jobseeker’s allowance.; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24352/11]

The person concerned submitted an application for jobseeker's allowance with effect from 12 September 2011. Her application will be processed when she furnishes the documentation requested.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent support in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; the maximum rent support for families of this scale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24353/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the persons concerned made an application for rent supplement on 6th September 2011. The HSE requested further information from the persons concerned in order to process their application. The HSE will make a decision on the application when the requested information has been provided.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

91 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of rent allowance payable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24354/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned has been awarded rent supplement of €487.33 per month which is his full entitlement based on his personal circumstances.

Tom Fleming

Question:

92 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to ensure that the major delays that occurred in 2011 in the payment of the back to school allowance will not happen in the future and that an adequate number of staff be put in place with processing of applications. [24387/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June to the end of September each year. The administrative arrangements for the 2011 Scheme are different from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance entitlements will be fully automated with no application form required from customers. This change to the administrative arrangements saw some 127,000 households receive their payment automatically in June of this year.

Customers who did not receive an automated payment are required to complete application forms which are being processed from one centralised unit within the Department of Social Protection. Manual applications have been accepted since the start of July and up to last Friday (9th September) 81,000 applications have been received. Claims continue to arrive at over 700 per day, however, this is down from a high of 3,000 per day received in the first two weeks of July, and 2,000 per day in the second two weeks of July, and 1,500 at the end of July/ beginning of August.

Of the 81,000 claims received almost 45,000 have been processed. 33,000 have been paid, 5,000 refused, 5,500 returned because there was insufficient information and there were 1,300 duplicate claims The Department is working to clear the claims as quickly as possible. 38 staff were originally provided to process these claims, an additional 14 staff were assigned in mid-August bringing the staff complement to 52. This number has now been increased to 60 staff with overtime also being worked.

The timescale for determining applications for BSCFA claims is dependant, among other things, on the availability of the required information, such as details of the applicant's income, bank statements, etc. In addition, some aspects of the applications are inevitably time consuming and delays can occur where further investigations or third party evidence is required. Delays can also arise if the applicant is slow to respond to requests for additional information.

It is proposed that when the 2011 scheme has been concluded a full review of the experience will be undertaken. Lessons learned will be documented for the future operation of the scheme.

Question No. 93 withdrawn.

Denis Naughten

Question:

94 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for back to school clothing and footwear allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24390/11]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA) scheme operates from the beginning of June until the end of September each year.

The administrative arrangements for the 2011 BSCFA scheme differ from those that applied in previous years. For this year, the majority of BSCFA entitlements were fully automated with no application form required from customers, 127,000 households in respect of over 250,000 children received their payment automatically in June.

Those customers who did not receive an automated payment are required to complete and return an application form to the Department. The timescale for determining applications for Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance claims is dependent on a number of factors including: the number of applications received, when the application is lodged, the availability of the required information such as details of the applicant's income, bank statements and other relevant information regarding an individual's application.

In addition, some aspects of the applications are inevitably time consuming and delays can occur where further investigations or third party evidence is required. Delays can also arise if the applicant is slow to respond to requests for additional information. Staff are working as quickly as possible on clearing the large volume of manual application claims received. Based on the current volume of applications it could take up to 8 weeks from date of receipt to process claims. Departmental records show that an application form was received from the person concerned on 3rd August 2011 and it is expected he will be notified of the outcome of his claim shortly.

Question No. 95 withdrawn.

Departmental Staff

Martin Ferris

Question:

96 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the details of the severance package provided to past Secretaries General in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24296/11]

I assume that the Deputy's Question relates to those relevant Secretaries General that have most recently retired.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department was established on 2 June 2011 and brings together functions from the former Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

I am advised that the severance package paid to the outgoing Secretary General of the former Department of Tourism, Culture and Sports on his retirement in May 2011 was as follows:

Retirement Lump Sum: €332,896

Annual Pension: €100,889

Severance Pay: €110,964

While the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs was renamed the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on 1st June 2011, legacy issues relating to the former Department were assigned to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Accordingly, for completeness, I am including in this reply details of the severance package paid to the outgoing Secretary General of the then Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs on his retirement in December 2009 as follows:

Retirement Lump Sum: €332,893

Annual Pension: €110,964

Severance Pay: €110,964

Turbary Rights

Denis Naughten

Question:

97 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will furnish a response to correspondence (details supplied) in respect of bog compensation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24313/11]

Under the terms of the bog purchase scheme, my Department provides payment to applicants who apply to sell land or turbary rights in raised bogs that have been statutorily proposed for designation as a Special Areas of Conservation or Natural Heritage Area. This scheme was originally launched in March 1999 and provided standard rates per acre for the purchase of designated raised bog.

In July 2004, an agreement was concluded with the Farming Pillar under "Sustaining Progress", which allowed for an increase in the rates of payment per acre under the scheme. It was also agreed that an ex-gratia top-up payment would be made to people who were previously compensated under the scheme.

In the case of the first person referred to by the Deputy, the land in question was sold to the then Department as part of the scheme in 1999. The individual applied for the ex-gratia retrospective payment in September 2004 and this was paid in August 2005. I am advised that this individual has been fully compensated under the terms of the scheme.

In the case of the second person referred to, the land in question was sold voluntarily to the then Department in 1996 before the introduction of the cessation of turf cutting scheme. As this land was not purchased under the scheme, I am advised that the individual has no entitlement to any further payments.

Inland Waterways

Brendan Smith

Question:

98 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the proposal to restore the Ulster Canal; when this project will proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24373/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) Plenary Meeting in July 2007 agreed to proceed with the restoration of the section of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne. The then Government agreed to cover the full capital costs of the project, which were estimated at that time to be of the order of €35m. However, Government Accounting procedures do not provide, in that sense, for the ‘ring-fencing' of funds for projects of this nature. I am advised that it was always the intention that the Ulster Canal project would be funded from the Waterways Ireland annual allocations, as agreed through the annual estimates processes in this jurisdiction, as well as the deliberations of NSMC in relation to annual budgets. I am advised that it was also a key consideration throughout the process that the Ulster Canal project would be supported by a significant level of projected income from the commercialisation of certain Waterways Ireland assets — a scenario that was affected negatively by the economic downturn.

While I intend to explore all possible options that may assist in the advancement of this project, it must also be recognised that the Government is engaged at present in a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, under which all spending is being examined rigorously. Notwithstanding that, I have asked my Department to keep in regular contact with Waterways Ireland with a view to advancing the project to the extent possible, within the current constraints.

In this regard, Waterways Ireland has informed me that the preliminary design for the project has been completed and that an application for planning will be lodged with the relevant authorities before the end of September. I trust the Deputy will agree that this is a significant milestone for the project.

EU Directives

Joe McHugh

Question:

99 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a definition of wetlands regarding the land and improvement legislation; if he will describe the environmental impact assessment and the planning process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24381/11]

The provisions of Council Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effect of certain public and private projects on the environment (the EIA Directive, as amended in 1997 and 2003) were transposed into Irish legislation by the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) and the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended). Schedule 5 of the 2001 Regulations specifies relevant development for the purposes of Part X of the Act, which deals with EIA.

In accordance with the Directive, certain thresholds were set below which development need not necessarily be subject to environmental impact assessment. However, where a planning application for sub-threshold development is submitted to a planning authority, under the 2000 Act that authority may, where it considers that the development would be likely to have significant effects on the environment, require the submission of an environmental impact statement (EIS). Similarly, in the case of an appeal relating to a planning application for sub-threshold development, An Bord Pleanála may, where it considers that the development would be likely to have significant effects on the environment, require the submission of an EIS.

In Case C-66/06, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that Ireland's system of screening projects to assess the requirement to carry out EIA for certain categories of agriculture development was over-reliant on size thresholds and did not take sufficient account of other relevant criteria such as the cumulative effects of development and the location of those developments. In June 2011, the Commission referred this case back to the Court to seek the imposition of both lump sum and daily fines for failure to act on the findings of the judgment and extensive consultations and action have been taken to minimise the risk of exposure to fines and to expedite resolution of the case.

In response to the Court's finding, my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have been working together, in consultation with the Commission, to fully address the Court findings and ensure that Ireland is fully compliant with the Directive. It has been agreed that it is more efficient and appropriate to transfer responsibility for most of the activities covered by the judgment, such as the re-structuring of fields and removal of hedgerows and boundaries, the use of uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agriculture and normal field drainage works to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as part of its wider management responsibilities for overseeing agricultural activities and integrating environmental considerations into relevant schemes. The only element of the judgment being retained within the planning system is on-farm development activity that impacts on the drainage or reclamation of wetlands, which are regarded as highly environmentally sensitive areas.

Following approval by the Oireachtas of the draft Regulations, I signed the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2011, on 8 September 2011, which introduce a number of amendments to address the ECJ findings in this case.

A definition of "wetlands" has been inserted into Article 5 of the Regulations as meaning:

"natural or artificial areas where biogeochemical functions depend notably on constant or periodic shallow inundation, or saturation, by standing or flowing fresh, brackish or saline water."

Guidance on this definition and a fuller description of the areas included in the definition will be given in a guidance document to accompany these new regulations. This guidance will issue for consideration in draft form in the coming days.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has also signed, on 8 September, new European Communities (Agricultural Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 which provide for a new system of screening for environmental impact above certain thresholds for different types of agricultural activity, and the requirement for the Minister's consent to be sought and mandatory EIA to be carried out on such projects at a higher threshold level.

Waste Management

Brian Stanley

Question:

100 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to ensure that changes to the waste management regulations here do not result in increased costs to householders. [24275/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

102 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a national bin waver system to help families struggling under financial pressure in view of the fact that many local authorities have privatised refuse collection services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24261/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 102 together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which 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. This system is known as franchise bidding.

The franchise bidding system of regulation is widely used elsewhere in Europe and other parts of the developed world because it is associated with lower costs for the householder and improved environmental outcomes. Given that the principal costs of collecting household waste relate to investment in fleet and equipment, fuel and labour costs, it is clear that a system which involves multiple trucks from different companies all servicing different houses on the same streets is neither economically nor environmentally efficient. As the costs arising from economic inefficiency are ultimately borne by the householder, in the form of higher waste collection charges, it is important that we address this issue as a matter of priority.

A public consultation on the issues involved, designed to inform the policy development process, has recently concluded. The responses received are currently being examined and I intend to bring policy proposals to Government before the end of the year. The issues of pricing and waivers for low income households will be among the issues for consideration in this context.

Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 29.
Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 100.

Severe Weather Events

Robert Dowds

Question:

103 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the full list of the measures being taken by him to prepare for the potential for extreme cold weather this winter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24267/11]

My Department acted as Lead Government Department in co-ordinating the response of 27 Government Departments and Agencies to the Severe Weather Events of 2009 and 2010. In keeping with recognised international good practice, my Department has completed a review of the response to draw conclusions as to what worked well and, importantly, make recommendations from the lessons learned in order to improve Ireland's preparedness for and resilience to future severe weather events. A recognised and accredited methodology was used for collecting and collating information from the Departments and Agencies in respect of the response to the severe weather events.

The Report on the Review of the Response to Exceptional Severe Weather Events of 2009-2010 sets out the sequence of events as they occurred, draws various conclusions and makes recommendations to improve preparedness for, and increase resilience to, future severe weather events. The Report, including appendices which set out the 52 conclusions and 62 recommendations, is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning has endorsed the Report.

Government Departments and agencies are in the process of implementing the recommendations for their sectors, with a particular focus on those which must be met before next winter. Progress is being reported to the Government Task Force. I am confident that their implementation, coupled with the valuable experience gleaned at national and local levels from the previous severe weather events, will enhance our preparedness for any severe weather events which may occur this winter.

Social and Affordable Housing

Jack Wall

Question:

104 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason he adds 4.5% each year to the cost of shared ownership loans given that neither his Department nor the local authority have an input into the maintenance or otherwise of the house that was purchased and the loan was agreed in the first instance; the further reason for the increase each year that is creating problems for home owners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24321/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which he has sought or received information from the various local authorities relating to shared ownership mortgage holders who are in distress, with particular reference to clarification as to how the repayments on some such mortgages are higher than ordinary mortgages notwithstanding the fact that only partial equity is involved; if he has received communication from the local authorities with a view to some resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24356/11]

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

Under the shared ownership scheme houses are acquired by a local authority and leased to shared owners, who purchases at least 40% of the value of the house and rents the remaining equity from the local authority. The local authority finances the transaction by borrowing from the Housing Finance Agency. The shared owner must purchase full ownership within 30 years. For transactions commenced on or after 1 January 2003, the annual rent is calculated at 4.3% of the value of the local authority equity and the rent is increased by a fixed 4.5% on 1 July each year. The rent is used to repay the cost of the local authority equity to the Housing Finance Agency and, depending on the level of mortgage interest rates obtaining, may also increase or decrease the capital outstanding on the local authority share at the end of each year. These arrangements represent a significant improvement on the previous terms of the scheme for the shared owner.

The rental formula applied under the scheme is not comparable to rents in the private rented sector, which are determined by the operation of the market. Therefore, movements in private sector rent levels would have no relevant bearing on the calculation of the rental element under shared ownership. Local authority mortgage holders — including those who purchased under shared ownership — also benefit from extremely keenly priced interest rates which generally run at around 0.5% lower than the best rates available in the market. Further support is available through rent subsidy. This is available to households purchasing under the Shared Ownership Scheme who have a gross household income of up to €28,000 per annum in the preceding tax year. The level of subsidy ranges between €2,550 for incomes up to €13,000 and €1,050 for incomes up to €28,000.

The Government's housing policy statement, published on 16 June, announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes, including the shared ownership scheme, in the context of a full review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the steps that will be taken to utilise excess housing stock to meet the requirements of those on local authority housing waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24357/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has any information as to whether recent distressed property sales by the National Asset Management Agency have shown that any substantial proportion of such sales have gone to address the housing needs of first-time buyers as opposed to investors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24358/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has studied the possibility of facilitating first-time house buyers or those on local authority housing waiting lists in the context of any property disposals by the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24359/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 to 108, inclusive, together.

On 16 June 2011 I launched the Government's new housing policy statement which will serve as a framework for a sequence of legislative and policy initiatives in the short to medium term. Based on a number of fundamental principles and goals that will form the foundation of a substantial reform programme, the new framework for housing policy responds to current and emerging conditions in the housing sector, taking account of the dramatic cycle of rapid growth and sudden collapse in the residential property market.

The centrepiece of the approach is to chart a way forward for housing policy in Ireland by placing greater emphasis on:

choice;

equity across housing tenures; and

delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested.

In terms of home ownership, the policy statement recognises and welcomes the fact that home ownership will continue to be the aspiration of the majority of households. However, the Government is also conscious that there are other households who either do not want or may not ever be in a position to own their home.

We need to provide choice for such households. This choice will be on the basis of household circumstances and need and will not entice people through fiscal or other stimuli to favour one tenure over another. I have no plans, therefore, to introduce a scheme that would incentivise house purchase. However, I am committed to exploring all options for bringing unsold suitable residential stock into productive use for social housing purposes, including stock held by the National Asset Management Agency, through the social housing leasing initiative.

My Department does not have information in relation to any recent sales of residential units by NAMA.

Local Authority Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of local authority staff who have indicated a preference to take early retirement or redundancy by early 2012; the extent to which this is likely to affect the operation of the local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24360/11]

Early retirement is obviously a matter for each individual employee and employer to decide. It is not possible to give definitive or estimated figures at this time having regard to the period to early 2012. Reductions in staff are being managed by local authorities having regard to a range of factors including the exit dates of the staff concerned, the need to reduce public service numbers overall and the requirement to maintain key services.

There has obviously been an impact on local authorities due to the reduction in staff by circa 6,500 or 18% since 2008. However, the impact in terms of front line services has been minimised through re-structuring and the re-allocation of work combined with the approval of sanctions for exceptions to the staffing moratorium by my Department. Furthermore, some local authority business areas have declined due to the economic downturn allowing administrative staff to be assigned to other duties. My Department maintains detailed engagement with local authorities on the operation of the employment control framework and having regard to achieving optimum staffing for the delivery of key services within budgetary constraints.

Local Authority Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of applicants on housing waiting lists in each local authority on a county-by-county basis; the degree to which this issue will be addressed in the short, medium or long term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24361/11]

Detailed data are being finalised and I expect to be in a position to release the statutory Housing Needs Assessment figures for 2011 shortly. The total number of households on the local authority waiting lists nationally, the "net need", amounts to just under 100,000 households.

The Government's new housing policy statement, launched in June 2011, will serve as the framework for a sequence of legislative and policy initiatives in the short to medium term providing a range of housing supports to those in need. Based on a number of fundamental principles and goals that will form the foundation of a substantial reform programme, the new framework for housing policy responds to current and emerging conditions in the housing sector, taking account of the dramatic cycle of rapid growth and sudden collapse in the residential property market. The centrepiece of the approach is to chart a way forward for housing policy in Ireland by placing greater emphasis on:

choice;

equity across housing tenures; and

delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested.

In terms of the delivery of social housing, the policy statement clearly identifies that the main focus in terms of supports provided by Government will be on meeting the most acute needs — the housing support needs of those unable to provide for their accommodation from own resources.

The financial parameters in which we will be operating for the coming years rule out a return to very large capital funded construction programmes by local authorities. Nevertheless, we are committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to social housing support needs through a variety of mechanisms, including through increased provision of social housing. Delivery of social housing will be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as RAS and leasing, but the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease, the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. There is also obvious potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government's objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing, to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which funding is available through the local loans fund or otherwise to meet the housing requirements of first-time house buyers or those on local authority housing waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24362/11]

No funding restrictions have been placed on local authorities for the purposes of providing loan finance for house purchase or home improvement. Allocations totalling over €51m issued to local authorities for House Purchase and House Improvement lending in April 2011, an increase of almost €20m (or 61%) on the 2010 allocation of almost €31m. These allocations represent borrowings ceilings rather than financial provisions.

Water Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which plans have been evaluated or advanced for the provision of enhanced domestic water supply for the greater Dublin area with particular reference to the sourcing and storage of any such supplies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24363/11]

The Greater Dublin Water Supply Area consists of Dublin City, Fingal, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin, significant areas in East and West Wicklow (including Bray), mid and north Kildare and south-eastern areas of Meath. The major source for the Dublin region water supply is the Liffey (Ballymore Eustace and Leixlip), with other sources being the Vartry (Roundwood) and Dodder (Bohernabreena).

A number of schemes under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme have been approved to increase the water supply to the area. These include a major leak reduction programme, a large-scale mains rehabilitation programme, a further expansion at the Ballymore Eustace treatment plant and associated works, new treatment plant for water abstracted from the Barrow and an expansion of the Leixlip works. However, there is limited potential to abstract additional water from existing sources and it is necessary to consider new options for potential long-term sources to service growth in demand in the Greater Dublin Area. Therefore, my Department provided funding to Dublin City Council to fund a Dublin Water (Long Term Sources) Development Study. This 2006 Study concluded that there were only two feasible approaches which could technically meet the capacity requirements in the medium and long term — abstraction from the Shannon and desalination.

Consultants working for Dublin City Council have completed the Preliminary Report (addressing the Shannon Source and desalination options), which outlines the options examined for source development, the type of treatment to be provided and how the water should be delivered/distributed, and makes recommendations on the preferred option. This report, which has been adopted by the City Council, recommends the abstraction of raw water from Lough Derg (River Shannon) and pumping the abstracted water through a new pipeline to a proposed storage reservoir covering approximately 1,400 acres (567 hectares) at the Garryhinch cut-away bog (near Portarlington, Co. Laois), forming part of a proposed midlands water based eco-park. The water will be treated to drinking water standards at this location and the treated water transported in a series of pipelines to the Dublin Region Water Supply Area with provision for local supplies.

The Report and an Environmental Statement (prepared in accordance with the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations, 2004) is available for public information from 1 September 2011 to 1 November 2011 at a number of local authority offices. The next step for this project will include the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement as part of the application for approval to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act and the development of a procurement strategy. My Department continues to provide funding for this planning phase.

Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 6.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if local authority sewerage treatment plants, currently the source of groundwater pollution, are likely to be regulated in the same way as septic tanks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24365/11]

The Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations 2007-2010 provide for the operation of an authorisation regime by the EPA for local authority wastewater discharges. The Regulations require discharges from agglomerations with population equivalents greater than 500 to be licensed and set out procedures for applying for a licence, the review of a licence and the making of submissions. The Regulations also provide that a local authority will not be authorised to permit a discharge from a wastewater works serving a population equivalent below 500, without certification by the EPA.

International Agreements

Robert Dowds

Question:

115 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when Ireland will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24262/11]

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

One of the key requirements in this regard is the enactment of mental capacity legislation. The Government's Legislation Programme as announced yesterday, 14 September 2011, indicates that the Mental Capacity Bill is expected to be published in early 2012. 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 passage of this Bill will add substantially to the overall progress on implementation of the requirements towards ratification of the Convention.

Citizenship Applications

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

116 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; when this application will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24299/11]

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 624 of 14 September 2011, which states:

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in May 2011.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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.

Proposed Legislation

David Stanton

Question:

117 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress being made in the development of the personal insolvency Bill to bring in changes to current bankruptcy legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24302/11]

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government and the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, a Personal Insolvency Bill is in the course of being developed in my Department with a view to being published in early 2012 or earlier if possible. It will provide for a comprehensive new framework for settlement and enforcement of debt and for personal insolvency. It is planned to furnish a copy of the Heads of the Bill when complete to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for its consideration and comment.

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 contains some interim measures in relation to reform of the law on bankruptcy. The period for application to the court for discharge of bankruptcy is reduced from 12 years to 5 years, albeit subject to the same conditions as at present. An adjudication of bankruptcy will be automatically discharged after 12 years. I am arranging to bring those measures into operation by Order in the very near future.

Garda Operations

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

118 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on Garda operation Balloon; the number of vehicles seized for non-insurance or no driving licence; the number of drivers prosecuted for no tax, no NCT certificate and so on; if this operation is still active; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24308/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Balloon commenced in 2005 and is ongoing. It is an initiative aimed at tackling difficulties being experienced particularly in the Clondalkin Garda District with young male drivers. Garda intelligence had indicated that groups of youths were gathering, particularly in industrial estates in the locality, especially at weekends.

The operation is carried out in conjunction with traffic personnel from the Garda Divisional Headquarters and Dublin Metropolitan Region Traffic Corps. There are no additional costs directly attributable to the operation as it is conducted as part of general policing duties.

I am further informed that to date in 2011, the period for which figures are readily available, the operation has resulted in seven vehicles being detained under the provisions of section 41, Road Traffic Act, 1994, as amended. Thirty-three summonses have been issued for various offences contrary to the Road Traffic Acts, including one in respect of not being taxed, five in respect of having no insurance, five for failure to produce an insurance certificate, four for having no driving licence, five for failure to produce a driving licence, two for not displaying a valid NCT disc, two for failure to produce an NCT certificate, four for having no ‘L' plates, four for being an unaccompanied provisional driver and one for not wearing a seat belt.

Child Protection

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

119 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to establish a Garda child protection unit in the R and J districts of the Dublin region; if so, the number of gardaí by rank in each unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24309/11]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the Sexual Crime Management Unit forms part of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The Unit is not District-based but rather has a national remit. Its functions include evaluating and monitoring the investigation of child sexual abuse and other offences. To perform these functions it has contact with the investigating Garda and local senior Garda management. The objective is to ensure, by reference to best practice, that investigations are pursued promptly and properly. The Unit is the central point of contact for Divisional and District Senior Investigating Officers tasked with investigating this type of offence. The unit also monitors the implementation of the revised Children First Guidelines — Children First : National Guidance for the protection and welfare of Children, 2011.

Garda Operations

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

120 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on Garda operation Bóthar; the number of persons arrested and charged under this operation; the number of gardaí involved; the cost of the operation to date; the number of successful convictions secured to date; if this operation is still ongoing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24310/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Bóthar commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in January 2010 and is ongoing. It is an initiative aimed at targeting offences under road traffic and road transport legislation and the gathering of intelligence through effective roads policing.

To date, almost 18,000 incidents have been recorded relating to a wide range of roads policing incidents, activities and intelligence. There are no additional costs directly attributable to the operation as it is conducted as part of general policing duties. The numbers of Gardaí involved vary but mainly comprise of Traffic Corps personnel within the DMR.

I am further informed that it is not possible to provide information in relation to the number of persons arrested, charged and convicted under this operation without a disproportionate use of resources.

Citizenship Applications

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

121 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24325/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in December, 2010. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process. I should remind the Deputy that queries in relation to the status of individual Immigration cases may be made direct to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. The service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek this information through the more administratively expensive Parliamentary Questions process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he expects a decision to issue in the matter of citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24331/11]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in February, 2011. On examination of the application submitted it was returned to the person concerned on 17th February, 2011 for further attention. In order to be fair to all applicants, only valid applications can be considered.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the nature of any conviction or prosecution or penalty arising therefrom in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which might affect their citizenship status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24332/11]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that, having checked their records, they have no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy.

In the context of an application for a certificate of naturalisation, I make a decision in my absolute discretion based on the entirety of the information presented, which includes a report from An Garda Síochána. As each application is assessed on its individual circumstances, it is not appropriate for me to comment generally on the matters raised by the Deputy.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24333/11]

The person concerned claimed asylum in the State on 30th June, 2008 and had his claim examined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner following which it was recommended that he should be recognised as a refugee.

Based on this recommendation and in accordance with the provisions of section 17 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), the person concerned was issued with a formal declaration of refugee status by letter dated 19th October, 2009. This communication advised him of the rights and entitlements accompanying refugee status in the State. He continues to hold the status of refugee in the State.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; if their case falls within the context of the Zambrano case in view of the fact that they have family commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24334/11]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 478 of Tuesday, 5th July, 2011 — set out beneath. The position is unchanged since then.

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 4th December, 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection and, following the consideration of this application, it was determined that the person concerned was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 27th June, 2011.

The case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will now be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision. In advance of a final decision being made, the case of the person concerned will be examined to determine what, if any, impact the recent European Court of Justice Judgment in the Zambrano case may have on his case.

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the determination of citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24335/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person concerned in March 2008 and my predecessor decided in his absolute discretion to refuse the application. The person concerned was informed of that decision in a letter issued to her in November, 2010.

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

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24336/11]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 12 June, 2006, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. He was subsequently notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24337/11]

Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 16 March, 2011, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of her and her two children. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of Deportation Orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why Deportation Orders should not be made against her and her two children. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency and citizenship status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; the full extent of any outstanding requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24338/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that there appears to be no application currently on hand in the Department from the person referred to by the Deputy. Records show that the person concerned attended the Immigration Office on 23 May, 2011 and was granted a Stamp 4 permission for a period of one year which will expire on 23 May, 2012.

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.

Deportation Orders

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the residency status, current or expected, in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24339/11]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 8 September, 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the determination of citizenship and naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24340/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in February, 2010.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding to the determination of residency and citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24341/11]

The person concerned has had his temporary permission to remain in the State renewed for a further three year period, to 24 September, 2013. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 2 November, 2010.

An application for a Certificate of Naturalisation was received from the person concerned in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in July, 2010. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person concerned did not, at that time, meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 15 July, 2010.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree of progress to date in the determination of citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24342/11]

A valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in September, 2006 and my predecessor decided in his absolute discretion to refuse the application. The person concerned was informed of that decision in a letter issued to him in December, 2009, and re-issued in April, 2010. It is open to the person concerned to make a new application at any time.

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

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree of progress to date in the determination of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24343/11]

I refer the Deputy to the reply (copy below) to Parliamentary Question Number 527 of 12th January, 2011. The position remains as stated.

The person referred to by the Deputy was granted Long Term Residency on the 8 March 2010 for 5 years as a dependant. This permission does not allow the person concerned to work without a work permit.

If it is the case that the person in question wishes to work in the State, a prospective employer must first obtain a work permit for her from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if stamp 4 status will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24344/11]

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that no application for Long Term Residency from the person referred to by the Deputy has been received. If the person concerned has been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/working visa conditions, she may apply to the Long Term Residency Unit of INIS for a five year residency extension.

As the spouse of the person has already been granted Long Term Residency, the person mentioned may wish to apply for Long Term Residency as a dependant. This permission does not allow the person concerned to work without a work permit.

I would 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.

Proposed Legislation

Joe McHugh

Question:

136 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views that one national vetting bureau should incorporate all statutory agencies that guarantee the protection of children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24396/11]

The Deputy will be aware that the Government has published the scheme of a National Vetting Bureau Bill. The draft scheme proposes that all vetting in regard to employment positions which involve substantial unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults will be conducted by a single agency — The National Vetting Bureau. It also proposes that all organisations engaging persons to work with children or vulnerable adults must register with the National Vetting Bureau. The Government has agreed that the drafting of the Bill will be given priority and I have invited the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to submit comments and views in regard to the proposed Bill.

Grant Payments

Michael Creed

Question:

137 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a decision is expected on an appeal for single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24255/11]

My Department wrote to the applicant's advisor on 02 September 2011, seeking additional information in relation to the appeal. A response to this query was received on 14 September 2011. The details within in the response are currently being examined. The result of this examination will determine what the next stage of the appeal process will be.

Dara Calleary

Question:

138 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason REP scheme payments have not been awarded in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Mayo. [24256/11]

The first person named commenced REPS 4 in 2009 and has received full payment for the first year of their contract. 75% of their second year payment issued on 14th April 2011 for the amount of €4,927.50. Following a cross-check between the SFP application and REPS agri-environmental plan a discrepancy was discovered in relation to the area claimed for payment resulting in the imposition of a penalty and a delay in processing the 25% payment. The second person named also commenced REPS 4 in 2009 and has received full payment for the first year of their contract. 75% of their second year payment issued on 27th June 2011 for the amount of €2029.35. Following an on-farm inspection in 2011 an over-claim was discovered in relation to the area claimed for payment resulting in the imposition of a penalty and a delay in processing the 25% payment.

My Department is currently making arrangements to process outstanding 25% payments to farmers due in respect of 2010 and it is anticipated that they will commence in October.

Harbours and Piers

Ciara Conway

Question:

139 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if funding will be made available to repair a pier (details supplied) in County Waterford; the way this funding might be accessed; the avenues that are available to have repairs carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24260/11]

The pier at Cheekpoint is the property of Waterford County Council and responsibility for its repair and upkeep rests with the Local Authority in the first instance. Earlier this year my Department invited Local Authorities to submit applications in respect of priority harbour development projects for inclusion in the 2011 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. Detailed application forms in respect of a number of proposed projects, including Cheekpoint Pier, were issued to Waterford County Council for completion. However, no completed application forms were received from Waterford County Council by the specified closing date on 10 June 2011.

All funding available under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme 2011 has now been allocated, but any applications for funding in future years will be given consideration subject to available Exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

EU Directives

Robert Dowds

Question:

140 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if Ireland is on course to abolish conventional battery farming of hens as directed by the European Commission through directive 1999/74/EC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24268/11]

An EU ban on conventional battery cages is due to enter into force with effect from 1 January 2012, in line with Directive 1999/74/EC on minimum standards for laying hens. My Department is working with laying hen producers and the poultry industry to ensure that the 1 January deadline is adhered to and that the phasing out of conventional systems to other systems will be as smooth as possible. A Poultry Welfare Scheme to assist producers in complying with the requirements of the Directive is currently in operation. The scheme provides a total of €16 million to producers to assist in the conversion to enriched cages, free range or barn systems.

Special Areas of Conservation

Dara Calleary

Question:

141 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason non-special areas of conservation farmers will get paid for two months more than SAC farmers (details supplied). [24298/11]

The person named was approved into the AEOS Scheme with a start date of 1 November 2010.

Under EU Regulations comprehensive checks had to be carried out before approval into the scheme was granted and as these checks were finalised approval letters were issued to applicants. All applications were processed as quickly as possible and due to the complex nature of the checks relating to applications involving SAC areas, these applications were approved with effect from 1 November 2010. The person named has a contract period of 5 years and two months.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

142 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payments under the REP scheme, including 2010 balance payments, will be awarded to farmers; the reason for the delay with same; if interest will be awarded due to this delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24316/11]

REPS 4 is a measure under the Rural Development Programme, 2007-13, and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before payments can issue.

These administrative checks have been completed and of the 30,300 farmers due a payment in respect of 2010, approximately 750 applicants are currently awaiting their initial 75% payment for the year. This is due to queries which have arisen during these administrative checks. Outstanding queries are being rectified on an ongoing basis, including through correspondence with applicants, and payments issue as soon as the queries are resolved. My Department is also currently making arrangements to process the outstanding 25% payment to farmers in instances where penalties have been imposed. I now expect that these outstanding payments will commence in October to approximately 2,000 farmers with penalties.

Arrangements are also well advanced to issue payments in respect of 2011 and I expect that these payments will commence in November.

Grant Payments

Paul Connaughton

Question:

143 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a forestry premium has not been awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24330/11]

The application for the person named has been approved and payment will be made to him in the coming week.

Milk Quota

Jim Daly

Question:

144 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding an application for milk quota in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24382/11]

Allocations of milk quota from the National Reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal examines and makes recommendations on applications for additional quota from individual producers. The named person submitted an application to the Tribunal seeking an allocation of additional quota under the Hardship category. This application was examined on 1 September 2011 and an allocation of 3,000 litres of additional milk quota was made from the National Reserve. The named person and his Co-op have been notified in this regard.

General Medical Services Scheme

Jack Wall

Question:

145 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if a medical card holder who has a blood test carried out by a general practitioner is covered under the medical card; if so, the reason some general practitioners are charging a fee for this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24257/11]

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

The HSE has written to GPs pointing out their obligations under their contract in this regard. I would invite patients to follow up with the HSE if they believe they are being wrongly charged. Formal complaints will be dealt with through the HSE's Consumer Affairs Service.

Hospital Staff

Robert Dowds

Question:

146 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health the current patient-consultant ratio at Tallaght Hospital, St. James’s Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Connolly Hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24264/11]

Robert Dowds

Question:

147 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health his plans to make the patient-consultant ratio more equitable among Tallaght Hospital, St. James’s Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Connolly Hospital to ensure equality of care in South County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24265/11]

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

As these are service matters, they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

148 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the number of blue light transfers to the Dublin hospitals from the Galway, Mayo and Roscommon region in the past available 12-month period; the breakdown of the emergency conditions and time of day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24269/11]

Denis Naughten

Question:

149 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the number of number of blue light intra-hospital transfers in the western region in the past available 12-month period; the breakdown of the emergency conditions and time of day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24270/11]

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

As these are service matters, they have been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Denis Naughten

Question:

150 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the transport service being provided to cancer patients treated at University Hospital Galway; the cost of this service; if it is available to all patients; if there is a client contribution; the number of patients availing of this service in each catchment area and the number of patients who are not availing of this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24295/11]

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

Hospital Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

151 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of consultant cardiologists at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; the number of persons on the waiting list to see a consultant; the average waiting time to see a consultant; the steps being taken to reduce the waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24306/11]

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

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

152 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of consultant urologists at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; the number of persons on the waiting list to see the consultant; the average waiting time to see the consultant; and the steps being taken to reduce the waiting times [24307/11]

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

Health Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

153 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the location of each angioplast laboratory for the treatment of myocardial infarction; the timeline for treatment to be most effective; the steps which are being taken to improve access to such facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24326/11]

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24366/11]

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

Health Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the progress of a person (details supplied) in County Laois.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24367/11]

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the determination of eligibility for a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24368/11]

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

Hospital Services

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

157 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that the appropriate procedures and practices were followed in respect of the care that was administered to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24391/11]

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

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

158 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the number of patients transferred from a hospital (details supplied) in County Limerick during the month of January 2011 for the purposes of rehabilitation. [24392/11]

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

National Emergency Plan

Robert Dowds

Question:

159 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures being taken by him to prepare for the potential for extreme cold weather this winter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24266/11]

The overall State response to severe weather events is led by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. The Review of the Severe Weather Event of 2010 published by that Department sets out a series of recommended measures, including a number for this Department and our agencies. These are all in the process of being actioned.

My Department co-ordinates with our agencies our operational and communications response to severe weather. As part of the overall review, my Department and our agencies have put in place the necessary actions to improve on our existing resilience to such events in the future. These actions include increased investment in snow clearing equipment by the Dublin Airport Authority to reduce the time it takes to clear the runways/aprons, special equipment to reduce snow impact on railway points, salt procurement and amendments to priority routes on our roads network to facilitate further public transport access. Our www.transport.ie website will be used as a communications portal in the event of a future event as part of our contribution towards effective customer service.

In relation to our roads network, the National Roads Authority (NRA) are procuring a supply of de-icing salt for the start of the winter season. The NRA will have available a total of 140,000 tonnes (including 40,000 tonnes reserve stock) for use on the national roads network. Additionally 60,000 tonnes of de-icing salt will be available for use on the regional and local roads.

It should be noted that I have in the past few weeks increased the Winter Maintenance Grant from €10 million to €11.25 million to assist local authorities with winter maintenance and to keep important roads clear. The extra €1.25 million was possible through savings in the Department. The funding will help to cover the cost of purchasing, transporting, storing and spreading salt, and other works associated with extreme weather conditions.

In the next few weeks, I will head up a special preparatory meeting involving the key transport agencies to be held in the National Emergency Co-ordination Centre.

Tax Code

Jim Daly

Question:

160 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason a delay of 12 days is occurring at the Applus centre in Cork to process VRT payment thereby placing substantial amounts of car sales at risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24371/11]

Issues concerning the payment of Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) are not a matter for my Department and are more appropriate to the Revenue Commissioners.

Sports Capital Programme

Brendan Smith

Question:

161 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he proposes to introduce a new sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24372/11]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, funding is allocated towards the provision of sports facilities at national, regional and local level. It is the primary vehicle for promoting the development of sports and recreational facilities in Ireland. The Programme has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland with improved facilities in virtually every village, town and city. The facilities funded range from new equipment for the smallest clubs, to regional multi-sport centres and national centres of sporting excellence. No decision has yet been made about the timing of further rounds of the Programme

Cycle Facilities

Joe McHugh

Question:

162 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the strategy for designing off-road cycle tracks; the bodies and functionaries that determine the locations of such tracks, and to list all proposed tracks with each relevant status; if he will indicate the body or functionary whose responsibility it is to ensure that the routes chosen are fully implemented; if he will provide an update on the national off-road cycling strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24378/11]

In accordance with the Programme for Government, I am investing in the National Cycle Policy which calls for a wide programme of action including publicity, education, development of a national cycle network; investment in cycling infrastructure and demonstration projects, including off-road cycle tracks in rural locations; legislative change; improved enforcement of traffic laws and support for sports cycling.

In terms of the development of a national cycle network, the National Roads Authority completed a scoping study for a network in 2010. This study is available from www.smartertravel.ie and identifies potential route corridors, although not actual routes, between urban areas with a population of 10,000 or more that could constitute a national cycle network. Following completion of the study, the Department tasked the National Roads Authority to conduct a feasibility study of the route from Dublin to Galway and onto Clifden.

Side by side with the work of the National Roads Authority, it is a matter for local authorities to identify, design and deliver, as individual demonstration projects, off-road cycling trails in rural locations that can form part of the network. My Department provided significant financial support for the completion of the Great Western Greenway in Mayo and the Carrigaline to Crosshaven route in Cork and has committed finance to the Fenit to Tralee route in Kerry and elements of the Great Southern Trail in Limerick. My Department is aware of work carried out on a possible route in the Boyne Valley. It is the case that the success of the Great Western Greenway has generated a desire among other local authorities to deliver such projects.

I am keen, though bearing in mind current financial constraints and the forthcoming findings of the comprehensive expenditure review, to support off-road cycling projects as part of a wide programme of action on cycling matters.