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].
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Questions Nos. 1 to 16, inclusive, answered orally.

Sports Capital Programme

Denis Naughten

Question:

17 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to establish a new sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26435/11]

Martin Ferris

Question:

22 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the sports capital programme will reopen; if he will provide information on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26498/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 22 together.

Under the Sports Capital Programme, funding is allocated to sporting and to voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

€33 million has been provided in the Department's vote in the 2011 Estimates to meet payments in respect of projects which have been allocated funding under the Sports Capital Programme.

Over 1,000 payments were made last year to projects which were being developed across the country. Such projects allow clubs to increase the opportunities for people to engage in sports at all levels. Since 1998, the Department has allocated over €743m in almost 7,500 separate allocations. This funding has transformed the level of sports facilities throughout the country.

In allocating this funding, special targeting and prioritisation has been given to projects in RAPID, CLAR and Local Drug Taskforce areas. In the most recent round of the SCP in 2008, these projects were permitted to have a lower level of minimum own funding available (20% for projects in CLÁR areas and 10% for RAPID and Local Drug Task Force areas in comparison with the normal 30%) towards their project, and they also received extra marks during the assessment process. Through these measures, the SCP has invested over €150 million in projects either in designated disadvantaged areas or serving these areas. No decision has been made in regard to the timing of a new round of the programme.

Public Transport

Derek Keating

Question:

18 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the method used to monitor and audit public transport Dublin city bus usage; if such method takes into consideration the number of disabled users with permits and the number of retired free travel permits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26431/11]

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA). I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Tourism Promotion

Sandra McLellan

Question:

19 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the work of the high level co-ordinating group which is identifying opportunities that might arise from the proximity of the London Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26494/11]

I am chairing a high-level coordinating group which is identifying opportunities for Ireland that may arise across the sports, tourism, cultural and enterprise sectors from the proximity of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The group comprises representatives from the Irish Sports Council, the Olympic Council of Ireland, Paralympics Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the Arts Council, Culture Ireland, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The most recent meeting of the group took place last Tuesday, 27th September.

The biggest potential benefits around the London Games have been identified in the enterprise and tourism sectors and these are being actively pursued. Enterprise Ireland is pursuing opportunities for Irish business and the tourism agencies are working closely with a range of partners at home and overseas to maximise the tourism opportunities. The cultural agencies are also developing proposals for a cultural programme around the Games.

The potential to attract international athletes to train in Ireland in the lead up to London 2012 is another issue that the coordinating group is looking at. A number of international teams have chosen the National Aquatic Centre as a training base which is a reflection of the calibre of the facility. My Department is working on attracting other teams to train here. A difficulty that arises in attracting teams is that the UK is offering financial incentives to international teams to train in the UK in the lead up to the Games.

The London 2012 Coordinating Group will continue to meet in the coming year to maximise opportunities across each of the sectors.

Cycle Facilities

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

20 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to develop a cycle path in the Boyne Valley between Trim and Drogheda; the way he plans to promote such initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26507/11]

Meath County Council carried out a feasibility study for a cycle route along the Boyne Valley linking Trim to Drogheda, which was completed in early 2010. The study estimated the cost of such a scheme to be at least €13 million, excluding potential land acquisition costs. Given current financial constraints it would not be possible to provide such a level of funding.

In terms of promotion of such initiatives, the National Roads Authority completed a scoping study for a national cycle network in 2010, and following this my Department tasked the National Road Authority to conduct a feasibility study of a cycle way from Dublin to Galway, and on to Clifden. In addition to this, Local Authorities have been progressing projects, most notably in Mayo with the Great Western Greenway. More recently, as part of the jobs initiative, my Department has allocated funding to the relevant Local Authorities for the development of a short off road route in Dungarvan and for an extension to the existing Royal Canal cycle route in Mullingar. I am keen, bearing in mind the current financial constraints and the outcome of the forthcoming comprehensive expenditure review, to continue to support such projects as part of promoting cycling in Ireland.

Policy on Volunteering

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

21 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way he intends to increase volunteerism in sport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26505/11]

Volunteers play a vital role in Irish sport and research has shown that sport accounts for the majority of all volunteering in Ireland. As well as generating social value, there is an economic value of volunteering in sport, and estimates of this have ranged from over €300 million to almost €600 million annually.

The commitment and hard work of volunteers is a key part of the development of sports organisations and clubs throughout the country. Volunteerism translates into well-ordered clubs and sporting organisations that provide the environment for the nurturing of sporting talent, particularly amongst our young people. It is imperative then that we make the best efforts to support and protect these volunteers and encourage new volunteers. This is particularly relevant in this European Year of Volunteering.

The Irish Sports Council provides funding and support to the National Governing Bodies of sport, many of which are volunteer based. The national network of Local Sports Partnerships, which are also funded through the Sports Council, provide sports clubs with information on best practice and governance and operate in conjunction with clubs and volunteers to promote and develop sport in communities throughout the country.

The National Awards to Volunteers in Irish Sport were introduced in 2007 to celebrate the contribution of the 400,000 plus volunteers involved in Irish sport. Earlier this year, I was pleased to honour eleven individuals for their voluntary commitment to sports clubs and organisations throughout the country. The Awards programme aims to provide encouragement to existing volunteers and reach out to encourage new volunteers for the future.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 17.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

23 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he and-or his Department has examined the costs affecting the transport and tourism sectors with particular reference to identifying and isolating those costs currently having the greatest negative impact on the sectors; if he will indicate the degree to which initiatives can be taken to address such issues notwithstanding the current economic situation with having particular regard to the need to identify and address all factors affecting these industries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26619/11]

My Department has no direct control of transport costs in general but keeps under review costs arising from the services provided through our agencies.

Cost competitiveness is a key consideration for Ireland as an open export-oriented economy and transport is one of the many factors influencing that competitiveness.

The Government's plans to improve competitiveness are set out in the Programme for Government and place a heavy emphasis on the delivery of effective transport services. I have also outlined my transport and tourism priorities to 2016 on my Department's website. In addition, the Government's Jobs Initiative includes a number of measures intended to stimulate tourism by increasing the competitiveness of access transport and our tourism product.

In the tourism sector, the Government has also introduced measures such as the VAT cut, reduced employers PRSI, and the visa waiver scheme, to support competitiveness as well as key investments to upgrade our tourism products and attractions. Furthermore, Fáilte Ireland is currently carrying out research into state imposed costs and regulatory burden in the industry, which will help inform my Department's future policy output.

More generally, my colleague Minister for Small Business John Perry has established the Small Business Advisory Group which provides for a dialogue between the Minister for Small Business and representatives of the small business sector on issues of concern to that sector on how to promote the economic development and job potential of the sector having regard to the current restraints imposed on the national finances and to recommend action points and follow up. Given the predominance of SMEs in the Tourism sector, this group's work will be of particular importance to that sector.

Sports Funding

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

24 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of sports inclusion disability officer positions filled and vacant at this time; his plans to increase participation in sports and physical activity by persons with a disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26502/11]

Sports inclusion disability officer positions are the responsibility of the Irish Sports Council, and I have referred the question to them for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

25 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the efforts he has made to improve the Garda vetting process as rolled out by the Irish Sports Council to ensure that the process is not only comprehensive, efficient and effective but also prompt; if he will commit to work with the relevant agencies and Departments to reduce the turnaround time of applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26500/11]

The Garda vetting process as rolled out by the Irish Sports Council, is the responsibility of that Council, and I have referred the question to them for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.

Departmental Bodies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

26 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether CIE is a strategically important State asset; and if so, his plans to retain it in State control. [26572/11]

CIÉ and its three operating subsidiary companies are important State assets. However, it must be recognised that they are unique semi-state companies, in that they are in receipt of significant amount of exchequer funding from the National Transport Authority in order to carry out their Public Service Obligations. Even after this subsidy, they still recorded a loss of €53.6 million in 2010. Furthermore, there is a significant pension deficit within the Group.

In this regard, I would concur with the Report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities, that stated that "having regard to the unavoidable losses inherent in maintaining a nationwide railway and uneconomic urban and rural bus services, disposal or part-disposal of the main CIÉ companies is not a realistic short-term option." As such, I have no plans at present to privatise CIÉ or its operating subsidiaries: Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann.

Corporate Social Responsibility

David Stanton

Question:

27 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he or agencies under his auspices practice and support the concept of corporate social responsibility; if so, if he will provide examples of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26509/11]

I fully support the concept of corporate social responsibility across the broad spectrum of corporate activities in Ireland especially in the case of the public sector.

Social responsibility is a fundamental principle on which my Department's decisions and actions are based. The key objectives which I have set out on my Department's website sets out clearly the specific social as well as economically driven policies that I will pursue in the lifetime of this Government.

The annual reports and websites of the agencies under the aegis of my Department demonstrate their support for such concepts. I have forwarded the Deputy's question each of the agencies in order for them to provide the Deputy with further details. If the Deputy does not receive a reply from the agencies within ten working days, please advise my Private Office.

Value for Money Reviews

Martin Ferris

Question:

28 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he will publish the findings of the pilot scheme and the value for money report carried out on the rural transport programme. [26571/11]

As agreed in the Programme for Government, we are currently exploring efficiencies that can be made by bringing together aspects of HSE transport, school transport, the Rural Transport Programme and other transport services. A study of a pilot scheme on the integration of transport services has been carried out and I intend to publish the study report shortly. In addition, a Value for Money and Policy Review of the Rural Transport Programme has been completed. I have received a copy of this report, which I also intend to publish shortly, following consideration by Government. The findings of both the value for money review and of the pilot scheme are being considered in the context of developing plans for the future delivery of rural transport.

Penalty Points System

Denis Naughten

Question:

29 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to apply penalty points to all drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26434/11]

Part 5 of the Road Traffic Act, 2010 amends existing provisions relating to the endorsement of penalty points and disqualifications of national driving licence holders by making these provisions applicable to non — national driving licence holders also. This includes the association and accumulation of points leading to disqualification. The relevant sections will be commenced in consultation with the key stakeholders in due course.

Road Safety

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

30 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on new EU regulations being proposed regarding the use of motorbikes. [26574/11]

Proposed new Regulations regarding motorcycle standards are under discussion in the EU at present. I am informed that the proposed Regulations relate only to vehicle standards, not to the vehicle's use or the driver, and specify the standards to be applied to new motorcycles. It presents a legal framework for the type approval and market surveillance of mopeds, motorcycles and quads, which will replace the existing Framework Directive 2002/24/EC.

Contrary to suggestions that have been made, the proposed Regulations do not in fact include provisions for mandatory wearing of high visibility clothing by motor cyclists, banning older motorcycles from urban areas or changes to driver licensing. The proposed Regulations are designed to improve the safety of those riders who belong to a vulnerable road user group and who account for the highest fatality and injury rates among all road users. The Regulations also are anticipated to result in reduced vehicle emissions for these types of vehicles, which currently are not reducing in line with other road vehicles such as cars, buses and goods vehicles.

The Road Safety Authority has recently published information on the proposals on their website and is inviting feedback before the end of October.

State Bodies

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

31 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total expenditure in 2010 on consultants fees by the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that travel expenses are being paid to a board member for eight meetings per annum which cover travelling from the United Arab Emirates; in view of the fact that Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is losing in the region of €10,000 per week, the savings if any that he thinks could be made by changing the status of the company from semi State to fully publicly owned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26617/11]

The Deputy has asked a number of separate questions, which I will address in order. Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company's publically available annual accounts for 2010 detail that the company spent €230,000 on consultancy fees last year. As the Deputy is aware, the company is currently undergoing a major public consultation and masterplanning process in relation to the future development of the harbour.

The accounts also disclose the fees and expenses paid to each individual director and confirm that the company fully complies with Department of Finance Travel and Subsistence regulations. As part of its oversight of the corporate governance of the port companies, my Department has sought explanations in the small number of cases where the expenses of Directors exceed the norm. In the case of Dún Laoghaire, the company have informed my Department that this arises because one of the directors resides outside of Dublin and receives travel expenses for attending meetings. However, I understand the matter the Deputy highlights has been resolved.

My Department also monitors closely the financial performance of the port companies and has recently received the accounts for the first half of the year from all the port companies, including Dún Laoghaire. The details of such accounts would be considered commercially sensitive, but I can inform the Deputy that the company remained profitable during the period. The State ports are currently structured into nine competing port companies. A review of ports policy is currently under way and I intend to publish a revised policy document as soon as possible. The current structure of port companies will be one of the issues addressed.

In terms of cost savings, Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company has already cut its costs substantially. I do not see that changing the status of the company will result in further savings per se. However, I am open to considering the merits and demerits of the transfer of the Port Company to Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council as part of the forthcoming Ports Policy review, though I have no specific plans to pursue this option.

Sporting Organisations

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

32 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has had discussions with the various sporting organisations with a view to addressing any issues arising from the current economic situation; the degree to which debt has affected the industry; the extent to which he anticipates sporting and recreational facilities to remain readily available, accessible and affordable and to provide an important service in the current climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26620/11]

I am acutely aware that sporting organisations, like many other organisations, are facing very difficult financial challenges in the present economic climate. I have of course met with sporting organisations and have visited clubs and I fully understand the difficulties that they face. I wish to express my deep admiration and appreciation for the continuing efforts of all those in the sports sector who continue to do marvellous work in providing sporting opportunities to their communities, despite these financial challenges.

However, my Department does not have any current funding available to it to assist organisations who have accumulated large debts or who are finding it difficult to maintain their existing level of activities. I would point out that the Sports Capital Programme has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland with improved facilities in virtually every village, town and city around the country. The facilities funded range from new equipment for the smallest clubs, to regional multi-sport centres and national centres of sporting excellence.

Almost 7,500 SCP allocations have been made since 1998 bringing the total allocation in that time to over €743 million. These grants continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring the provision of modern, high quality facilities around Ireland that attract more people to participate in sporting activities. SCP grantees must give a written guarantee that facilities will be maintained in sporting use for at least 15 years. In the case of large grants this guarantee is in the form of a charge on the property where the facility is located. This guarantee is 5 years in the case of sports equipment.

Sports Funding

Brian Stanley

Question:

33 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps he is taking to secure adequate levels of funding for sport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26504/11]

The level of funding for sport will be considered as part of the 2012 Budget process, which is currently underway.

Departmental Appointments

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

34 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to appoint members to the board of National Sports Campus Development Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26499/11]

There is currently one vacancy on the board of the National Sports Campus Development Authority. A further seven members whose terms of office have expired are continuing to hold office under section 9(8) of the National Sports Campus Development Authority Act, 2006. The appointment of members to the board of the Authority is currently under consideration in my Department.

With regard to the appointment of a new board when the term of the current board expires in the near future, I am considering this matter in the context of the funds that will be available for the development of the Sport Campus over the coming years. I believe that is important to have a clear plan for the future of the project before appointing a new board to drive it forward. If the Deputy has individuals in mind who she believes could make a strong contribution to the board of this, or any other state company under my Department's remit, I would be grateful if she could forward their details to my private office.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 15.

Tourism Promotion

Gerry Adams

Question:

36 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the meetings he has had or plans to have with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment from the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26503/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, tourism was specifically identified in the Good Friday Agreement as one of the key areas for North/South cooperation, and consequently it is one of the sectors on which the North/South Ministerial Council meets in Sectoral format. The Council meets in this format in order to make decisions on common policies and approaches in the area of tourism. It also takes decisions on policies and actions to be implemented by Tourism Ireland Limited, a publicly owned limited company established to promote the island of Ireland overseas as a tourist destination. Arrangements are being made for the next North/South Ministerial Council meetings in Tourism Sectoral format which is expected to take place in Armagh before year's end. Amongst the likely discussion items are a review of this year's visitor numbers to the island of Ireland, Tourism Ireland's Business Plan for 2012 and, major tourism opportunities North and South in 2012 and 2013.

In addition to North South Ministerial Council meetings, I and my Government colleagues intend to strengthen North/South relations by engaging with our counterparts in the Northern Ireland Executive more widely. In that context, I hope to meet Minister Foster for an informal discussion on matters of common interest on October 5th, when she plans to visit Dublin for the launch of Northern Ireland 2012.

In addition to such formal or informal meetings with Ministers or officials from the Executive, I attend a range of tourism events and functions which, given that tourism is an area of North/South cooperation, are also attended by officials from the Northern Department. Finally, my own officials continue to meet on a regular basis with their counterparts from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland to discuss areas of ongoing cooperation in tourism.

Public Transport

Dessie Ellis

Question:

37 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he will be releasing the findings on the viability of metro north, BXD, the DART extension and DART underground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26570/11]

The Business Cases in respect of Metro North, Luas Line BXD and the Dart Underground are available on the National Transport Authority's website- nationaltransport.ie. A preliminary Business Case for the Dart link to the Airport has been submitted by Irish Rail and this is now being independently assessed by the National Transport Authority.

The inclusion of one or more of the large public transport projects in the Dublin area in the new capital programme for 2012-2016 will depend on the outcome of the capital review currently underway. The availability of funding, both from the Exchequer and private sources will be a key consideration as will the contribution to economic recovery and transport objectives including the potential to add value to existing services. The outcome of the review should be available in the next few weeks.

Departmental Expenditure

Seán Crowe

Question:

38 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount the State is paying private companies each month to make up shortfall in traffic numbers. [26567/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993-2007, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

In particular, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007). The contracts for the privately-operated toll schemes are commercial agreements between the NRA and the Public Private Partnership (PPP) concessionaires concerned. Noting this position, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

Air Services

Seán Crowe

Question:

39 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress made in developing new routes and additional capacity in airports here; the estimated impact this will have on tourist numbers visiting Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26495/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the market for air services in the EU is fully liberalised so it is a matter for carriers to decide what routes to serve; there is no scope for Government intervention in the market except through public service obligation routes and strict conditions are laid down in EU law for the application of PSOs.

The Deputy will also be aware of recent initiatives by the Government aimed at increasing inbound tourism. In the Jobs initiative in May I announced the proposed suspension of the €3 travel tax as part of a three-pronged strategy aimed at increasing inbound tourism. This strategy involved not only the proposed suspension of the travel tax but also the introduction of a new growth incentive scheme by the Dublin Airport Authority and more targeted and co-operative marketing of new routes from key source tourism markets by Tourism Ireland, the DAA and airlines to encourage more tourists to fly into Ireland.

Following extensive engagement with the two main Irish airlines over a period of months, the response of the airlines to these initiatives in terms of plans to restore routes and capacity was insufficient to merit the Government suspending the tax at this time but we have agreed to review the issue in the Spring. In the meantime, I have the agreement of the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform that a significant proportion of the revenue generated from the retention of the tax will be made available for a targeted co-operative marketing effort. Tourism Ireland is finalising plans in this regard at present in conjunction with the airlines, airports, ferry companies, tour operators and others.

Some important new routes have been announced in recent weeks which is a credit to the airport authorities involved and also to the efforts of Tourism Ireland. These include Emirates plans for a daily service from Dubai to Dublin from next January. This new link through Emirates' hub in Dubai will provide greater ease of access to Ireland from Australia as well as the emerging tourism markets in the Middle East and Asia. These long-haul markets are particularly important for Irish tourism as tourists from these destinations tend to stay longer and spend more. In addition, Lufthansa's planned new route from Knock to Dusseldorf will be a particular boost for tourism to the Western region as Germany has been identified by Tourism Ireland as a market with considerable scope for further growth in the years ahead.

Public Transport

Derek Keating

Question:

40 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of public money from the Exchequer that is granted to Dublin Bus; his plans to privatise Dublin Bus; if he has any influence over the services that are provided and if he will consider establishing a Dublin Bus consumer commission which would be consulted before any decision is made to change a bus route, to reduce a service on a bus route or to limit a service during certain times on a given bus route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26430/11]

Dublin Bus will receive €72.4 million in Exchequer funding in 2011 for the provision of public service obligation services. The services provided form part of the public service contract between Dublin Bus and the National Transport Authority and there is no Ministerial involvement in this. There are no plans to privatise the Company.

Dublin Bus has consulted with residents, local representatives and other stakeholders in relation to their Network Direct programme before making decisions on alterations to routes. All proposed changes to services require the approval of the National Transport Authority who have a mandate to oversee the provision of a well functioning, attractive, integrated and safe public transport system for all users. I do not therefore intend to establish a Dublin Bus consumer commission.

David Stanton

Question:

41 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the policy incentives in place or which he intends to put in place to encourage greater take up of public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26508/11]

The last decade has seen substantial levels of capital investment in transport infrastructure to improve our public transport network throughout the country. It will clearly not be possible to maintain this level of investment in the period ahead, given the difficult budgetary and economic challenges we now face. That is not to say however that progress cannot be made in encouraging people to make the switch from the private car to public transport. Despite the reduced sums available for capital and current expenditure, the Government will continue to prioritise the role of public transport. More targeted but less expenditure intensive measures can make a real difference.

The introduction of real time passenger information project (RTPI) and the development of a National Integrated Journey Planner will improve the experience of users of bus public transport. In addition to these measures, the Integrated Ticketing project will soon be delivered making it easier for commuters to switch easily between bus, rail and Luas on one ticket.

Work on quality bus corridors and green routes throughout the country will continue as a priority in the period ahead in order to allow the bus to compete strongly on journey times. An order was made last week extending the remit of the Railway Procurement Agency to the development of Bus Rapid Transit systems. We will also continue to invest in the improvement of rail stations and bus stops to make commuting a more pleasant experience. The above are value for money measures that support the use of the overall public transport system and enhance the accessibility, convenience and attractiveness of public transport.

Road Network

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

42 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of revenue the State is raising on average a month from road tolls. [26568/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993-2007, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Furthermore, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007). Noting this position, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 15.

Consular Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

44 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on a matter in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [26747/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department has no record of any approach in regard to the case mentioned by him. Our Embassy in London is happy to assist, however, and will continue in its direct contact with the relevant authorities in the Isle of Man on receipt of additional information on this case, supplied by either the Deputy or the person referred to in the question. I can assure the Deputy that my Department's Consular Assistance Section will correspond directly with him as soon as response is received from the authorities in the Isle of Man.

Passport Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

45 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the entitlement to an Irish passport in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26792/11]

A passport application for the person in question was submitted on 25 August, 2011. In accordance with the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008, this Department must be satisfied that an applicant is an Irish citizen before issuing her with a passport. As the applicant was born in the State in July, 2011 her entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by Section 6A of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended (the Act). The Act provides that a person, who is born in the State on or after 1 January, 2005 and does not have a parent who is either an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction, may claim citizenship by birth in the State (and thereby establish eligibility for a passport) only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for three of the four years preceding the birth of the child. It also provides that residence in Ireland in relation to permissions to stay in the State for studying is not reckonable for the purposes of the Act.

This Department assesses such applications in line with guidelines provided by the Department of Justice and Equality, which is responsible for matters of citizenship and immigration. In accordance with these guidelines, the proofs of lawful residence, which are accepted and considered in connection with passport applications, are immigration stamps in passports or the registration cards/books which are given to persons registering with the Garda National Immigration Bureau. These are official documents, which can be objectively verified and are relied on by the Department in the processing of passport applications.

In line with the requirements of the Act, the lawful residence in the State of the applicant's mother in the four year period preceding her daughter's date of birth was examined. The submitted evidence of immigration stamps in her passport shows that she has been resident in the State since March 2009. On this basis the total amount of residence does not meet with the statutory requirement of three years. Moreover, all of the mother's residence, which has been authorised by immigration authorities, is for study purposes and is, therefore, not reckonable for the purposes of the Act.

In light of the fact that the applicant's mother does not have the required reckonable residence for the purposes of the Act, her child's entitlement to Irish citizenship has not been demonstrated. The Department cannot issue a passport to her. The applicant's mother was advised of this by the Department in a letter dated 12 September, 2011. In this letter, the Department requested evidence of her lawful residence in the State prior to 2009 which might be reckonable for the purposes of the Act or if she had evidence of her own entitlement to Irish citizenship. No reply has been received from her in this matter.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

46 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of persons who hold multiple or more than one State agency board position; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27205/11]

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has no State agencies under its aegis.

EU-IMF Support Programme

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

47 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 138 of 20 September 2011, if this drawdown requires a resolution passed through both Houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26672/11]

As stated in the reply referenced, the first drawdown under the bilateral loan agreement with the UK is expected to take place shortly. This drawdown will be undertaken by the National Treasury Management Agency. The request for drawdown of the loan is made to the UK authorities on behalf of Ireland by the Minister for Finance. Under the UK loan agreement, the parties to the agreement acknowledge that the NTMA is authorised pursuant to the National Treasury Management Agency Act 1990 (as amended) to borrow funds on behalf of the Borrower. The parties further acknowledge and agree that all functions of the Borrower under this Agreement in respect of requesting and drawing down funds or the management of any exposures of the Borrower in respect of the Facility will be performed by the NTMA. This draw down does not therefore require the resolution proposed.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

48 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the tax implications for lump sum payments for public servants in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26683/11]

I understand that the Deputy is interested in the ‘grace period' and its effects. The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 provided for a period within which pensions are unaffected by the pay cuts introduced in that Act. This ‘grace period' was due to expire by the end of 2010. However, it was extended to 29 February 2012 to avoid too large a number of public service retirements in 2011 and to spread the extra pension lump sum costs over a more manageable period in both 2011 and 2012. Also, in July this year a 3 month minimum notice period for retirement was introduced for the public service. The purpose of this minimum notice period is to protect services by giving management information about the number of staff retiring in a particular area and to assist in planning how best to maintain services.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that if the individual in question retires on or before 29 February 2012 her retirement lump sum will be based on her salary prior to the salary reductions introduced by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 with effect from 1 January 2010. If she retires on or after 1 March 2012, her retirement lump sum will be based on her salary, as reduced by the 2009 Act measures.

I am also informed that the taxation of retirement lump sums from Revenue approved pension arrangements is based on the legislative arrangements in force when the lump sum is paid. The following arrangements currently apply:

Lump sum amounts up to €200,000 are paid free of tax. They are also paid free of USC.

The portion of a lump sum between €200,001 and €575,000 is taxed on a ring-fenced basis at 20%. (This means that no tax credits or other tax reliefs can be set against this portion of the lump sum.) No USC is chargeable.

Any amount of a lump sum in excess of €575,000 is taxed at the individual's marginal rate of tax (credits and other tax reliefs are available). In this instance, USC is chargeable on the excess.

The threshold figures detailed above are lifetime limits with lump sums paid on or after 7 December 2005 aggregating with any later lump sums in counting towards those thresholds. As with all taxation measures, these arrangements are subject to any review that might occur as part of the annual Budget and Finance Bill process.

Mortgage Arrears

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

49 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if in excess of 57,000 families are now in arrears with their mortgage repayments; if not, if he will provide a figure for same; his plans for families who find themselves in dire circumstances at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26718/11]

Figures compiled by the Central Bank show that, at the end of June 2011, there were 55,763 private residential mortgages in arrears for more than 90 days. Of the 55,763 mortgage accounts in arrears, because of remortgages, top-ups etc., the actual number of households in arrears is somewhat lower with the Central Bank estimating the household number to be of the order of 45,000. There are a number of measures in place to assist home owners who are experiencing difficulty with mortgage repayments.

The Deputy will be aware of the Report of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt. 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 cooperate 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, the lender 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 complete its work in the very near future.

Tax Compliance

Michael McGrath

Question:

50 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if Revenue is satisfied with the level of income tax compliance with regard to a particular income stream (details supplied). [26735/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that arrangements are in place to identify recipients of State and occupational pensions. On-going collaboration between Revenue and the Department of Social Protection is aimed at identifying recipients of all types of State pensions.

Providers of occupational pensions, which are registered with Revenue as employers, make annual returns that allows Revenue identify recipients of occupational pensions. Those in receipt of foreign-based pensions must declare this income on an annual return to Revenue.

Revenue is active in ensuring that all pension types are properly identified and declared, and that any liability occurring as a result of the receipt of any pension is pursued.

Tax Collection

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

51 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the largest total aggregate amount paid in tax by a corporation in 2010 under all tax headings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26760/11]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by Revenue that for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality and the potential that this information will identify the corporation concerned, it is not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Central Bank Expenditure

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

52 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent annually by the Central Bank on entertainment from 2007 to 2010 and the amount spent to date in 2011, including the amount spent in its private boardroom, and in that breakdown if he will provide the amount of that annual spend that was used to purchase alcohol in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26774/11]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

53 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent annually by the Central Bank on taxis from 2007 to 2010 and the amount spent to date in 2011 in tabular form; if any of that spend is included in its entertainment budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26776/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 53 together.

I am not responsible for expenditure by the Central Bank. However, the Central Bank has advised me in the following terms:

The Central Bank does not have a specific entertainment budget. Based on available records the following estimated costs reflect expenses not directly related to business operations. These estimated costs include a range of staff events such as subsidised staff retirement functions (some 60) and special events.

Year

2007

20,000

2008

155,000

2009

35,000

2010

65,000

2011

45,000

In respect of the taxi-related costs incurred by the Central Bank, it is important to note that the period 2007-2011 saw a corresponding increase in the level of prudential on-site and review meetings with regulated entities, a significant increase in the number of staff and additional Central Bank accommodation in terms of new buildings, specifically at Spencer Dock and Harcourt Street. The following table sets out those costs.

Year

2007

20,000

2008

30,000

2009

40,000

2010

50,000

2011

45,000

Tax Reliefs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

54 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the full extent to which income tax relief is available in households when more than one student in the household is attending a third level institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26791/11]

Section 473A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides, subject to certain conditions, tax relief at the standard rate of income tax (20%) as regards qualifying fees paid by an individual in respect of a third level education course including a postgraduate course. Qualifying fees means tuition fees in respect of an approved course at an approved college and includes what is referred to as the "student contribution". For the tax year 2011 and subsequent tax years, the maximum annual relief for tuition fees (including the student contribution of €2,000) is €7,000 per course.

The tax relief is confined to tuition fees only. Tuition fees that are, or will be, met directly or indirectly by grants, scholarships, employer contribution or other means are to be deducted in arriving at the net fees qualifying for tax relief.

An individual can claim tax relief on fees paid by him/her in respect of an approved third level course pursued by him or her and on fees paid by him or her in respect of an approved course pursued by other individuals (e.g. a son or daughter).

A claim for relief may be in respect of a number of students — the maximum amount allowable (i.e. €7,000) applies per course rather than per claim. However:

the first €2,000 of all fees claimed by an individual does not attract tax relief where any one of the students to whom the claim refers is a full time student;

the first €1,000 of all fees claimed by an individual does not attract tax relief where all of the students to whom the claim refers are part-time students.

The disregard of €2,000 or €1,000, as the case may be, applies to each claim, the subject of which may be one or more students. The general effect of this approach is that all claimants will get full tax relief on an amount equal to the student contribution of €2,000 for the second and subsequent students in their claim.

The examples below are premised on a claimant who is within the tax net paying the third level fees. Different scenarios may arise where the student pays the fees or where a parent is not in the tax net and thus could not benefit from tax relief.

Example 1.

Claimant with one student in undergraduate third level education

Student

Student Contribution

Less Disregard

Tax Relief @ 20%

Full time in public college

€2,000

€2,000

Nil

Example 2.

Claimant with three students in undergraduate third level education

Student

Student Contribution

Less Disregard

Tax Relief @ 20%

Student 1 — Full time in public college

€2,000

€2,000

Nil

Student 2 — Full time in public college

€2,000

Nil

€2,000 @ 20% = €400

Student 3 — Full time in public college

€2,000

Nil

€2,000 @ 20% = €400

Example 3.

Claimant with one student in part-time third level education

Student

Student Fees

Less Disregard

Tax Relief

Part time in public college

€4,000 (including student contribution)

€1,000

€3,000 @ 20% = €600

Example 4.

Claimant with two students in third level education

Student

Student Fees (including Student Contribution)

Less Disregard

Tax Relief @ 20%

Student 1- Full time in public college

€2,000

€2,000

Nil

Student 2- Part-time in public college

€4,000

Nil

€4,000 @ 20% = €800

Banking Sector Regulation

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

55 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to arrangements made by a bank to outsource some of its operations (details supplied); the steps he has taken to ensure that any such decisions are done in the public interest, with particular reference to the need to address the unemployment situation here that has been exacerbated by the economic and banking situation, as well as the need to encourage indigenous enterprise and start ups in the software industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26827/11]

I accept that it is not in the interest of Ireland Inc. to have these jobs outsourced. However, the Government operates at arms length from the institution referred to in the Deputy's question and does not consider it appropriate to direct a bank in how it should reduce its costs.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

56 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to protect the public interest, in the banking sector, much of which is owned by the State, or which the State has a large stake in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26824/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that the protection of the public interest is of primary concern of this Government and steps taken in relation to banking policy have the ultimate aim of protecting that interest. In particular I refer to the areas of the bank guarantee, recapitalization, mortgage assistance, bank remuneration and board membership. The Exchequer, and as such the taxpayer, has benefited from the Bank guarantees. The Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008 (CIFS) provided that each covered institution pay a charge to the Exchequer for its guarantee. The sum of €760,467,567 was paid into the Exchequer in October 2010 in respect of all fees and interest accumulated under the CIFS, which terminated on 29 September 2010. Similarly, those institutions covered under the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme (ELG) also pay a charge for the ELG. To date, over €1,541,973,128 has been collected under the ELG as a consequence of the support provided by the State and taxpayer. In addition to paying fees for the Guarantee, covered institutions must pay legal and other costs, charges, expenses (including VAT) from time to time incurred by the Minister in any way in connection with the giving of the Guarantee. To date almost €4 million has been collected. Bank of Ireland paid €214.5 million to the NPRF in February 2011 in respect of a dividend on the State's remaining preference shares.

The Deputy will be aware that the Prudential Capital Assessment Review (PCAR), which was carried out by the Central Bank and reported in March 2011, identified an additional capital requirement of €24 billion. The Government has ensured that this recapitalization burden has not fallen exclusively on the Irish taxpayer. For example, since the PCAR announcement, burden sharing with bondholders has realized an additional c. €5 billion. In addition, private investors agreed to an investment of up to €1.123 billion in Bank of Ireland's Tier 1 capital ensuring the State's commitment was significantly reduced thus reducing the burden on the Irish public.

The recapitalisations of the banks have ensured that the State has significant equity in the banks. As outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report for 2010, the market value of the investments in the banks at 31 December 2010 was €7.6 billion.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to help homeowners who are facing difficulty with their mortgage repayments and the Government will examine a number of proposals in relation to this commitment. In this context, the Economic Management Council asked that further work be carried out to address the situation of over indebted mortgage holders with a view to identifying a range of responses appropriate to individual circumstances. To facilitate this commitment, a Mortgage Group has carried out this work and its report will go to Government shortly.

The issue of remuneration of those working in the banking industry has been in the spotlight for some time. In that context, the NTMA requested a review of remuneration policies and practices by each of the covered institutions. In that regard, the institutions were asked to consider measures that could be taken to realign staff expectations with regard to remuneration and benefits in the current economic environment and financial circumstances of the banks. The review exercise is ongoing.

The covered institutions are also engaging in cost cutting plans. These are plans arising out of the restructuring and recapitalization programme announce in March. The effects of these plans including the consolidation of the banks around two pillar banks made up of the merger of AIB and EBS, alongside Bank of Ireland will be to enable costs saving through shared services and economies of scale. They are also expected to bring about cost reductions which will improve operating margins and permit the banks to better absorb funding costs which should include increases in the ECB interest rates.

As part of their capital raising requirements, the pillar banks have both agreed to meet an SME lending target of €3 billion each in the 12 month period for 2011, €3.5 billion each for 2012, and €4 billion each for 2013. The banks produce an annual SME lending plan for each of these 12 month period to demonstrate the manner in which they intend to meet the targets.

A fundamental element of Government Strategy has been to restore a functioning banking system and the Government has made particular commitments to recapitalising the banks and restructuring the banking sector as part of its Programme for Government. This radical restructuring of the banking system is designed to put our banking system on a firm footing which is essential to Ireland's economic recovery and in doing so will protect the public interest.

Copyright Law

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

57 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance if a company (details supplied) required permission for the use of the national symbol of the harp on its coins; if required, if this permission was sought and the decision that was given to the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26843/11]

The copyright of the designs on Irish coins, including the national face of euro coins issued by Ireland, vests in the Minister for Finance under the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000. Accordingly, any person wishing to use these designs requires the permission of the Minister for Finance. Permission was not sought by the company referred to by the Deputy. This matter is being pursued.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

58 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who hold multiple State agency board positions; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27204/11]

In response to the Deputy's question each Department hold details in respect of board memberships in relation to boards that come under their aegis. Details of those appointed and their remuneration arrangements are held by the individual Departments. With regard to my own Department the following tables contain details of board members and their remuneration.

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

Board/Body Name

Name of current board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

Mr David Byrne (Chairman)Mr Hugh CooneyMr Kevin CardiffMr Brendan McDonagh*Mr Tytti NorasMr Shane O’NeillMr Donald C. Roth* This is not the B McDonagh the Chief Executive Officer of the National Asset Management Agency

Chair- €50,000. Agreed to make a gift of 10% of 2009 remuneration to the Minister for Finance under s483 of the Taxes Consolidation Act.€25,000 Ordinary Members. Agreed to make a gift of 10% of remuneration to the Minister for Finance under s483 of the Taxes Consolidation Act from 1 January 2009.Mr Kevin Cardiff Secretary General Department of Finance receives no fees.

National Development Finance Agency (NDFA)

Board/Body

Name of current board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

National Development Finance Agency (NDFA)

Mr John Corrigan (Chairman)Mr Brian Murphy (Chief Executive)Mr Fred BarryMr Liam BerneyMs Ann FitzgeraldMr Stewart HarringtonMr Anthony JonesMr Peter McManamon

Chairman and Chief Executive receive no feeOther Members receive a fee of €12,600 p.a.**This Takes into account a 10% reduction in fees agreed by the Board at the request of the Minister for Finance in 2009

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

Board/Body

Name of current board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

Mr. Paul Carty — ChairmanMr. John A. Canning Jr.Dr. Brian HilleryMs. Brid HoranMr. Maurice KeaneMr. Donald C. RothMr John Corrigan (ex- officio)

€51,424 (Chair)€34,283 (Ordinary members)This takes into account a 10% reduction in annual remuneration from 30th September 2009Mr Corrigan does not receive a fee

National Asset Management Agency

Board/Body

Name of current board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

National Asset Management Agency

Mr Frank Daly (Chairman)Ms Eilish FinanMr Michael ConnollyMr Peter StewartMr Brian McEneryMr Willie SoffeMr John Corrigan*Mr Brendan McDonagh** ex-officio members of the Board.

National Asset Management Agency Board (9 members): The Chairman receives a fee of €150,000, six members receive fees of €60,000 each per annum while one member (also Chairman of the Credit Committee) receives a fee of €75,000 per annum. Each member of the NAMA Board also chairs or is a member of various NAMA Board committees. Their fees associated with these committees are included in the above.*The Chief Executive of the NTMA and the Chief Executive Officer of NAMA, who are ex officio members of the Board, do not receive any fees in respect of their membership.

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

Board/Body

Name of current board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

Dr. Noel Whelan (Chairman)Ms. Deirdre HanlonMs. Niamh Moran, SolicitorMr. Tony DelanyBrigadier General Christopher Moore (retired)Mr Chris Fitzgerald Vacancy

Chairperson €13,713.20 p.a.Ordinary Member €9,142.12 p.a.Ms Deirdre Hanlon and Mr Brendan Phelan receive no remuneration as they are serving Civil Servants

Central Bank Commission

Board/Body

Name of current board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

Central Bank Commission

Ex-officio members Professor Patrick Honohan, Governor of the Central BankMr. Matthew Elderfield, Deputy Governor (Financial Regulation)Mr. Stefan Gerlach, Deputy Governor (Central Banking)Mr. Kevin Cardiff, Secretary General, Department of FinanceOther members Professor John FitzgeraldProfessor Blanaid ClarkeMr. Max WatsonMr. Des GeraghtyMr. Michael SodenDr. Alan Ahearne

Ex-officio members receive no fee.Other members receive a fee of €14,963 per annum.

Anglo Irish Bank

Anglo Irish Bank has provided the following information in respect of its board of directors.

Directors name

Role

Fee for Role per annum€

Comments

Mr Alan Dukes

Non-Executive Chairman

250,000*

* The Chairman has voluntarily agreed to accept a lower annual fee of €150,000

Mr Maurice Keane

Non-Executive Director Chair, Risk and Compliance Committee

73.600 25,760

Mr Gary Kennedy

Non-Executive Director Chair, Audit Committee

73,600 25,760

Mr Noel Cawley

Non-Executive Director Chair, Remuneration Committee

73,600 12,800

Mr Aidan Eames

Non-Executive Director Chair, Nomination & Governance Committee

73,600 12,800

Mr Mike Aynsley

Executive Director and Member of Risk & Compliance / Nominations and Governance Committees

No Separate Fee

Chief Executive remuneration details are disclosed in the annual accounts. No change in 2011

Schools Building Projects

Jim Daly

Question:

59 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects to be advertising in the European Journal for tenders in respect of works at a college (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26664/11]

A major project for the school to which the Deputy refers was included in the Ministerial announcement on 24 January 2011.

The Brief for this project is currently being finalised. The next step would be to undergo a procurement process to appoint a Design Team to the project. This would be done through the Government procurement portal www.etenders.gov.ie.

The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including this project, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

Schools Refurbishment

Brendan Griffin

Question:

60 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if grant aid is available for primary schools to improve their insulation levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26665/11]

My Department introduced a €20 million scheme in 2009 to improve roof and cavity wall insulation levels in school buildings across the country. The devolved energy efficiency scheme, which was implemented with the help of Sustainable Energy Ireland, allowed schools to apply for funding on a once-off basis to upgrade the fabric insulation in attics and the external cavity walls of their buildings. My Department provided 100% grant-aid for these projects.

The purpose of the scheme was to improve the energy efficiency of our older schools. These measures were introduced to make buildings more comfortable, cut energy costs and contribute to the Government's national targets of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

As this scheme is no longer in operation, it is open to school authorities to apply for insulation improvement works under future Summer Works Schemes.

School Staffing

Patrick Deering

Question:

61 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rights or entitlements a recently dismissed resource teacher (details supplied) has, who has been employed by him for 22 years with the last 11 full-time in the same school and who is only nine months away from being fully qualified. [26667/11]

The appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority subject to agreed procedures and must take account of all appropriate legislation. The Board of Management of the school is responsible for recruitment, selection, appointment, discipline and dismissal of staff. It is the policy of my Department that only registered and qualified personnel should be employed by schools as set out in Circular 31/2011. This policy does not, however, overrule existing employment rights.

In response to representations made by the Deputy in May, my Department advised that the person concerned should contact her Board of Management about the possibility of entitlement to a Contract of Indefinite Duration. Her entitlements would depend upon her service and the content of any contracts which she may have had with the school. Where the Board have refused a Contract of Indefinite Duration then it is open to the individual to appeal this decision under the terms of Circular 47/2006.

Departmental Bodies

Brendan Smith

Question:

62 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of times the implementation group for the new further education and training authority SOLAS has met since the group was established; when it intends to meet next; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26688/11]

In July the Government announced the establishment of SOLAS as one of the key elements in the future development of the Further Education and Training sector. The SOLAS Implementation Group has been established to implement the announced changes in the sector. I am chairing the Group and its membership includes the Department of Education and Skills, FÁS and the Irish Vocational Education Association.

The Group is preparing an Action Plan and will report to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Jobs in the Autumn. The Action Plan will be the subject of consultation with stakeholders before finalisation. The group has met twice and progress has been made in discussions on the key elements of the Action Plan including the Organisational Mission, Structure, Staffing, Funding and Legislation for the new authority. The next meeting of the group is scheduled to take place next month.

School Enrolments

Brendan Smith

Question:

63 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students attending all fee paying second level schools each year for the past three years. [26689/11]

The number of pupils attending fee paying second level schools, and aided by my Department, for the past three years is as follows:

08/09 = 26,504;09/10 = 26,277;10/11 = 26,219.

Vocational Education Committees

John O'Mahony

Question:

64 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made on the location of a headquarters for Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Vocational Education Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26707/11]

I am at present finalising my consideration of where the headquarters will be located and I expect to in a position to communicate my decision for all of the mergers in the near future.

Outdoor Education Centres

Noel Harrington

Question:

65 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that the agreed Labour Court settlement (details supplied) of February 2009, directing his Department to introduce a pay scale to the directors of the 12 vocational education committee outdoor centres, will be implemented as quickly as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26715/11]

My Department gives support and funding to a number of VECs to operate Outdoor Education Centres. There are 12 centres in all. The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) lodged a claim with my Department for a substantial pay increase on behalf of the Directors of each of these Centres.

Following protracted negotiations, my Department consented to an ad hoc referral of the claim to the Labour Court. The Labour Court subsequently issued a non-binding recommendation on 9 February 2009 in respect of this claim.

I regret to inform you that, notwithstanding that the recommendation was made prior to the passage of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, this Labour Court recommendation cannot be implemented in the context of Section 5(1) of that Act. That subsection provides that where a reduction in pay was made on 1 January 2010 to a public servant's pay rate in accordance with Section 2 of the Act, the resulting pay rate may not be increased. Section 5(1) states that: "Where a relevant provision [i.e. that sets the pay rate] is taken to have been amended by section 2- (a) a public servant whose remuneration falls to be determined in accordance with the relevant provision is not entitled to receive remuneration of an amount greater than the amount so determined, and (b) no person or body responsible for paying the remuneration of such a public servant is entitled to pay remuneration to the public servant of an amount greater than the amount so determined."

It should be noted that the position taken in relation to this particular Labour Court recommendation is in line with government pay policy generally. You will appreciate that public service bodies are obliged to comply with the terms of that legislation, and indeed would be potentially liable to financial penalties, should they purport to act in contravention of its provisions.

In this context, I should also point out that, in accordance with the requirements under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, the Minister for Finance, Mr. Michael Noonan TD, completed a review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the legislation, having regard to the overall economic conditions in the State and national competitiveness in June 2011. The report concluded that there is a need to continue to apply the reductions provided for under the legislation. The report is available on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's website.

On 20 July 2011, an agreed statement was issued on the part of the Government and the Public Service Committee of the ICTU following the first review under the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement. That statement noted that as committed to in the Agreement, adjudication findings that were outstanding at the time of the Agreement will be reviewed by the parties. The parties also noted, however, that the review, which is ongoing, will have to have regard to the terms of the Agreement, the moratorium on recruitment and promotion and the terms of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009.

Accordingly, my Department is not currently in a position to implement the Labour Court recommendation of 9 February 2009 in respect of the Directors of the VEC Outdoor Education Centres.

School Staffing

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

66 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired teachers who are holding down jobs on a casual and substitute basis; his plans to address same; the number of qualified teachers on the live register; the number of teachers who qualified from college in the past two years; the number of qualified teachers who have gained employment on a full-time or temporary basis in the two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26726/11]

At the end of the 2010/2011 school year there were 328 retired teachers employed on a temporary or substitute basis in Primary, Secondary and Community/Comprehensive schools. This does not include schools under the auspices of Vocational Education Committees. Figures are not yet available for the number of retired teachers employed in schools in the 2011/2012 school year.

Details of the number of unqualified teachers on the live register are not available in my Department.

An estimated 7,376 primary and post primary teachers graduated in the last two years. Teachers are employed by the managerial authorities of schools and details of the number of qualified teachers who gained employment on a full time or temporary basis in the past two years is not available.

Circular 31/2011 issued in May of this year and requires schools to implement the regulations and procedures regarding the employment of qualified registered teachers in approved teaching posts funded by monies provided by the Oireachtas. The Circular sets out to ensure, as far as possible, that people appointed to teach are registered teachers with qualifications appropriate to the sector and suitable to the post for which they are employed and that unemployed teachers are offered employment in preference to those who have retired.

In-service Training

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

67 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the professional development for teachers support service intends to have an Irish version of the website; the reason there remains an English only version of the website; and the way he intends to raise the standard of Irish taught in schools if the primary website for teachers in-service remains available in English only. [26738/11]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

70 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that he is complying with the Official Languages Act 2003 in view of the fact that the professional development for teacher support website remains only in English; if he is satisfied that all personnel who provide the support service have the ability to deliver services through Irish; if he is satisfied that PDST supplies all materials and resources in Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26741/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 70 together.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) is in the process of developing its website. The current website is a holding page and is available in English only. Work is underway on reviewing the extensive bank of resources developed by the former support services with regard to their ongoing relevance. The materials selected for the new website will then be translated.

The PDST provides bilingual versions of its documentation, materials and resources. Where the PDST engages in face to face support with teachers and schools, documentation including presentations and handouts are provided through the language medium of the school.

The PDST has a number of personnel with the necessary Irish language skills to support Gaelscoileanna. Whilst the level of resources available has fallen in recent times in accordance with overall budgetary constraints, the PDST has recently recruited additional personnel, a number of whom have the capacity to provide a service through Irish

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

68 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that on the professional development for teacher support service there are post-primary tutors giving in-service to primary teachers and, vice versa, primary teachers providing in-service to post-primary teachers; the measures he will take to address this situation; and his views that such practices are conductive to delivering a high standard of in-service of teachers. [26739/11]

A national cross-sectoral Professional Development Support Service for Teachers was established in September 2010 to support the sharing and development of expertise, best pedagogical practice, skills and competencies across the primary and post-primary sectors.

A cross-sectoral approach to continuing professional development (CPD) aims to streamline, coordinate and prevent a duplication of available resources in the system and seeks to ensure cohesion and coherence across all sectors. This supports the achievement of appropriate teaching and learning standards and the development of a reflective, enquiry-oriented, life-long learning approach to the teaching profession.

The Department is committed to the facilitation of a sustained national effort to promote a smooth and seamless transition at each point of change in the education system including the transition between primary and post-primary schools.

In addition, a cross-sectoral approach to CPD aims to build long-term capacity across each geographical region and harness existing reserves of experience and expertise at regional level.

A range of cross-sectoral continuing professional development models are provided and are complimented by differentiated sectoral models of CPD linked to the identified specific needs of primary and/or post-primary teachers.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

69 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the feedback forms which are completed by the attendees on the professional development for teachers support in-service course are read and analysed by either the staff on PDTS or by his Department officials; and the changes that have been made as a result of the analysis of feedback forms. [26740/11]

The aim of the continuing professional development (CPD) provided by all support services is to enhance and maintain the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. In designing its continuing professional development (CPD) programmes, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), which is staffed by expert practitioners, consults as appropriate with other experts in the area of educational provision such as the Inspectorate of my Department, and external bodies such as the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

The Department's primary means of gathering evidence about quality and evaluating the effectiveness of teaching and learning is the inspection process in schools. The reports of my Department's inspectorate inform CPD planning on an ongoing basis. In addition, feedback from participants at in-service events is collected and analysed and this serves as evidence of quality as well as in informing the development of future provision.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 67.

Schools Building Projects

Finian McGrath

Question:

71 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will meet with a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [26751/11]

I would like to inform the Deputy that I have asked officials in my Department to examine possible improvements to ensure that the procurement process for school building projects is as efficient as possible. A number of strategies to streamline procurement processes have already been implemented and others will be implemented over the coming months. Officials from my Department are also engaging in consultation with the relevant professional bodies in relation to procurement of design team consultants. Any suggestions that the person referred to wishes to forward to my Department will be considered.

Labour Market Activation Fund

Joe Carey

Question:

72 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the future of the labour market activation fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26758/11]

Joe Carey

Question:

73 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria required for persons wishing to provide training under the labour market activation fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26759/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 73 together.

The Labour Market Activation Fund, 2010 provided €32m for 55 projects in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors offering 12,000 education and training places for the unemployed during the period 1 June 2010 to 30th June 2011. Training on all funded programmes is now completed and no budgetary provision was made for a further iteration of this fund in 2011.

My Department is currently undertaking an evaluation of all aspects of the 2010 Fund and the impacts of all funded projects will be fully assessed and results made available to Government, with a view to informing the consideration of any future iterations of this funding model.

Safety in School Laboratories

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

74 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has an inventory of chemicals, both in standard use and in long-term storage, in secondary schools here; his views on the fact that many schools may contain long-term stocks of chemicals such as Brady’s reagent, dinitrophenylhydrazine, and picric acid which can deteriorate and become explosive with age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26777/11]

My Department does not hold an inventory of the chemicals held in stock by individual schools, and the management of such stock is a matter for the school authorities.

A once off disposal of chemicals was funded by the Department in 2000/01 on the basis that schools would assume responsibility on an ongoing basis thereafter for the safe stock and disposal of chemicals. My Department has published Safety in School Science and Safety in the School Laboratory —Disposal of Chemicals as guidelines for schools on the treatment of substances used in the curriculum. National programmes of professional development for teachers on this issue are provided by the Professional Development Support Service for Teachers together with Material Safety Data Sheets on the treatment of chemicals used for the curriculum.

The Material Safety Data Sheets cover the chemicals required in schools. The substances to which the Deputy refers are not required for the curriculum in schools. However, the Department is currently finalising a tender for the disposal of a range of substances, identified in Circular 0014/2011, which have recently been discontinued in schools. The Department is prepared to add the disposal of the substances mentioned above to this tender, should schools still hold stocks of the substances concerned. Schools will be contacted about the detail of the arrangements when the tender process has been completed and the contractors selected.

Higher Education Grants

Thomas Pringle

Question:

75 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills if higher education grants are available for students who wish to study in European universities outside the common travel area; if any supports are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26781/11]

Students pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of at least two years duration in publicly-funded institutions in other EU Member States may be eligible for a maintenance grant under the Student Grant Scheme.

To qualify for such a grant a student must also satisfy the terms and condition of the scheme relating to residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

The student grant scheme is administered on behalf of my Department by local grant awarding authorities — local authorities and VECs — and students should apply to the grant awarding authority in the area where they live to have their eligibility for a grant assessed. In addition, Section 473A, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, as amended by Section 11 of the Finance Act 2011, provides for tax relief, at the standard rate of tax, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including certain approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in E.U. Member States and in non-EU countries.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

76 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which higher education grants remain available in households with more than one student in third level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26818/11]

There is no limit on the number of students in a household that may qualify for a student grant provided that all applicants satisfy the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme.

Under the scheme, the qualifying reckonable income limits for households with more than one student attending further or higher education may be incrementally increased to take account of this situation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

77 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare qualifies for higher education grant or other support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26819/11]

The student grant scheme is administered on behalf of my Department by local grant awarding authorities — local authorities and VECs. The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form, including those relating to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student would qualify for a grant.

The student in question is advised to apply to the grant awarding authority in the area where he lives to have his eligibility for a grant assessed.

Special Educational Needs

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

78 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the special needs assistance provision for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26830/11]

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 to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. This now includes a requirement for the NCSE to have regard to an overall cap on the number of SNA posts.

The NCSE has now advised all mainstream schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school.

The NCSE has recently published statistical information in relation to the allocation of Special Needs Assistant posts and resource teaching hours to Primary Special and Post Primary Schools. The information is provided on a county by county and school by school basis on its website at www.ncse.ie. The school referred to by the Deputy has an allocation of 7 SNA posts and 49.5 Resource Teaching Hours.

It is considered that, with equitable and careful management and distribution of these resources, there should be sufficient posts to provide access to SNA support for all children who require such care support to attend school, in accordance with Departmental criteria.

I wish to clarify that the recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are matters for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

The NCSE will advise schools early in the new school year of a 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.

Road Safety

Jack Wall

Question:

79 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has any responsibility for the provision of certain facilities (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26831/11]

In general, individual school authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care, including traffic management measures. The issue of road safety measures outside the vested site areas of schools, such as road signage, traffic calming measures etc., is a matter, however, for the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools and should ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children.

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers applied for a Summer Works Scheme grant in 2011 for improved car parking facilities. Due however to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to fund all applications and the school's application was unsuccessful in this instance. It is, however, open to the school to apply for funding under future Summer Works Schemes.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Michael Creed

Question:

80 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will commit to maintaining the pupil-teacher ratio in respect of primary school classes for the 2012-13 school term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26822/11]

At this point I do not propose to give any specific commitment on the allocation of teachers to schools for the 2012/13 school year.

The number of teaching posts that we can afford to fund in schools is a matter that I will have to consider with my colleagues in Cabinet in the context of the next budget and meeting our obligations under the EU/IMF Programme. The Government will endeavour to protect front-line education services as best as possible. However, this must be done within the context of bringing our overall public expenditure into line with what we can afford as a country. All areas of Government will have to manage on a reduced level of resources. The challenge will be to ensure that the resources that can be provided are used to maximum effect to achieve the best possible outcome for pupils.

Special Educational Needs

Jack Wall

Question:

81 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for the provision of educational assistance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26860/11]

My Department provides for a scheme of grants towards the purchase of equipment for the use of students in primary and second level schools who have been diagnosed as having serious physical and/or communicative disabilities which make ordinary communication through speech and/or writing impossible for them. The purpose of the grant-aid is to provide such students with equipment of direct educational benefit to them. Examples of such equipment include computers, word processors, tape recorders, software, etc.

The scheme is driven by applications from schools on behalf of individual students, as and when specific needs present. Following the establishment of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), all applications for assistive technology are submitted by school management to the Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) with assigned responsibility for the school. The SENO examines applications and makes a recommendation to my Department.

As my Department has not yet received a recommendation in respect of the pupil referred to by the Deputy, an official in my Department made contact with the school. The school advised that it has not received any application from the parents concerned. The Principal is to discuss the matter with the parents, and on receipt of such application, will forward it to the SENO for consideration.

Public Service Staff

Brendan Griffin

Question:

82 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to prevent a mass exodus of front line civil servants in the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26681/11]

The Government plans to bring about a reduction of between 18,000 and 21,000 in overall public service numbers by 2014, relative to the end-2010 position, with a further 4,000 reduction in 2015, subject to there being no compulsory redundancies and to the protection of front line services.

As outlined in the Government Programme, in order to protect front-line services, this reduction will require a fundamental change to the way in which the Government and the Public Service operates, including the rationalisation of core processes across the public service, a reduction in the number of State bodies and the elimination of non-priority programmes and outsourcing of non-core functions, where appropriate.

Roads Funding

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

83 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding expenditure on roads (details supplied) in this year’s budget. [26724/11]

The Government is currently finalising expenditure allocations as part of its Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. No decisions have been taken at this stage, but clearly there is a need to seek further savings in public expenditure. The purpose of the Review of Expenditure is to target those savings at waste and inefficiencies and maintain affordable levels of investment in public infrastructure and services.

Education Funding

Terence Flanagan

Question:

84 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding cuts to education and the budget (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26734/11]

The position regarding the funding allocation for Education for 2012 will be determined by Government in the context of the overall public sector Estimates and Budgetary process. A key element of this process will be the results of the Comprehensive Reviews of Expenditure (CRE) undertaken by all Government Departments.

Public Procurement

Thomas Pringle

Question:

85 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the requirements for contractors who are not based in this jurisdiction to be allowed to tender for work here, specifically in relation to PRSI, registering with the Revenue Commissioners and construction industry pensions. [26778/11]

Under the EU Public Procurement Directives, public contracts above certain threshold levels must be open to businesses from across the EU Member States. In the case of public works contracts (including construction-type contracts) the relevant threshold is €4.845 million. In the case of contracts below the threshold levels, the Treaty principles of openness, competition, transparency etc. apply where there is the potential for cross-border interest.

Under our national rules, any non-resident contractor being awarded a public contract must provide a Tax Clearance Certificate issued by Revenue confirming that the firm's tax affairs are in order and that it has complied with its tax obligations in this jurisdiction. Additional information in relation to tax requirements for non-resident contractors can be obtained at www.revenue.ie.

As regards construction industry pension arrangements, the standard public works contract imposes a legal requirement that the contractor comply with the Pension Registered Employment Agreement, except in cases where pension contributions for a posted worker are already being paid in another EU Member State.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

86 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons who hold multiple State agency board positions; their total remuneration; and the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [26687/11]

In response to the Deputy's question, each Department hold details in respect of board memberships in relation to boards that come under their aegis. Details of those appointed and their remuneration arrangements are held by the individual Departments. With regard to my own Department, the following tables contain details of board members and their remuneration.

An Post National Lottery Company

Name of body

Current members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

An Post National Lottery Company

Mr Donal Connell (Chairperson)*Mr Dermot Griffin*Mr Micheál Ó MuircheartaighMs Caroline MurphyMr James HylandMs Barbara PattonMr Oliver Wilkinson

No remuneration is paid to Donal Connell or James Hyland as they are on the board of An Post€12,600 per annum for remaining directors

Board of the Public Appointments Service

Name of body

Current members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

Board of the Public Appointments Service

Mr. Eddie Sullivan (Chairperson)Mr. Bryan Andrews (ex-officio member)Mr. Des Dowling,Dr. Deirdre O’Keeffe,Ms Patricia Coleman,Mr. Seán McGrath,Ms Judith Eve,Mr. Eddie Molloy,Mr. Dan Murphy

Chairperson — €11,970 per annumThree of the board members receive €7,695 per annum(the remaining board members are public servants)

Public Procurements

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

87 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if, in view of certain aspects of the 2010 report from the Comptroller and Auditor General, he is reviewing efficient and transparent public procurement procedures in all State arts and cultural bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26733/11]

My Department is responsible for the development of policy, legislation and guidance in relation to public procurement. Ensuring the application of these policies and rules in individual Departments and public bodies is the direct responsibility of the Accounting Officer and Accountable Person concerned.

My Department and the National Procurement Service are working with public bodies to improve procurement practices across the public sector by standardising tender documents and by offering guidance and assistance to ensure that procurement procedures are efficient and transparent. In this regard, the findings and comments of the Comptroller and Auditor General about public procurement matters is a key guide to the approach they take to this work.

Public Sector Reform

Sean Fleming

Question:

88 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the engagement he has had to date with other Departments on public sector reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26848/11]

Sean Fleming

Question:

89 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the submissions or presentations he has received on public sector reform; when he expects to report to Cabinet on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26849/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 89 together.

The Programme for Government envisages a renewed focus on Public Service Reform. Notwithstanding developments to date, the cost of delivering public services must be reduced further, with fewer staff and tighter budgets, and the Public Service must become better integrated and more customer-focused, as well as being leaner and more efficient.

The role of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is to drive, enable and support change across the Public Service and a wide range of reform initiatives are currently underway across the Public Service. A detailed action-based Implementation Plan on Public Service Reform is also currently being developed by my Department. This Plan focuses on the commitments to public service reform in the Programme for Government and priority areas from the Transforming Public Services Programme.

It is intended that this Plan will outline the priority actions and timelines for reform in a broad range of areas including leadership, performance, redeployment, eGovernment, shared services, procurement, legislative change, etc., as well as setting out how implementation should be driven and monitored. I intend to report back to Government shortly on a range of these issues.

As part of this process, my officials have been meeting with Departments and Offices to discuss progress made to date both centrally and within individual organisations as well as how best to deliver reform on a coordinated and integrated basis going forward. Meetings were held with all Government Departments and major Offices during the month of August and early September.

As part of the call for submissions from the public under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE), a number of submissions that relate to Public Service Reform issues have been received. Additionally a number of submissions were received from various reform and change management organisations, some of whom have made tailored presentations to relevant officials. All relevant contributions are being carefully considered in the context of ongoing work to develop an Implementation Plan on Public Service Reform.

Employment Rights

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to outline the action that remains open to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose former employers have failed to honour settlements reached at the Labour Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26805/11]

I have been advised by the Labour Court that it has no record of any case involving the person in question. I have been advised, however, of an Employment Appeals Tribunal case in which the person was the complainant. I understand that a hearing was scheduled to take place on the 17th August 2010 but that it was withdrawn on the day. EAT procedures provide that only a claimant or their representative is allowed withdraw a case. No determination would therefore have been made and the EAT would not have had any involvement in the making of any agreement or settlement.

In cases of non-compliance with decisions of the Labour Court and the EAT, a legally binding enforcement order can be sought from the Circuit Court. However, as it appears that no Labour Court or EAT decision occurred in this case, this would not be an option open to the person in question in this instance.

Health and Safety Regulations

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

91 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to introduce legislation to make it illegal for manufacturers to put loop cords in window blinds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26845/11]

The latest European standard EN13120, which has been adopted by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), specifies strict obligations on manufacturers of looped mechanism window blinds. These obligations include the provision of a warning notice in a conspicuous position of the risks inherent from cords, chains, tape and similar items. In addition, the standard requires manufacturers to provide within the product package a device for keeping cords, chains, tape or similar items out of reach of children, or to provide an appropriate safety device (with instructions for its proper installation and use) or to include in the product design a mechanism that shall achieve the same result. Where the design requires a looped operating mechanism, the manufacturer shall provide the means to limit the risk, either by incorporating this into the product design, or by supplying an appropriate safety device with the product.

Work commenced in 2010 to revise the European standard EN 13120 in order to strengthen requirements in relation to risks of strangulation by young children and Ireland has taken an active role in the working group responsible for this revision. Publication of the revised European standard is expected in 2012. In addition, and given the specific national concerns in this area, the NSAI proposes that a national standard, more comprehensive than the European standard, will be published late in 2011 on providing guidance for manufacturers and installers as well as consumers on safe window blind products.

This standard will include other important guidance such as information on installation, including safety aspects, as well as training requirements for installers, manufacturers and sales representatives. To this end a committee has been established by the NSAI comprised of representatives of the manufacturing and installation sectors as well as the National Consumer Agency. A draft standard was made available on August 10th last for public consultation. In light of the coroner's report referred to by the Deputy a decision was taken by the NSAI to extend the public consultation until September 30th. The intention is for a revised national Standard to be published before the end of the year.

In light of the above I have no plans to introduce legislation at this time to make it illegal for manufacturers to include looped cords in window blinds. If a ban was proposed, Ireland would have to obtain the approval of the European Commission and other Member States. I have arranged for the concerns of the Deputy, and of others raised in the House, to be passed on to the NSAI for consideration as part of its consultation.

Job Losses

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

92 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the mid-west task force was established, following the job losses suffered in Limerick due to the closure of manufacturing by Dell computers in January 2009, charged with analysing the impact of the resulting significant job losses for the region, with making recommendations to address the resulting economic challenge, and with recommending to Government a development plan for the mid-west region; the final report was presented to Government in March 2011; when he intends to publish the final report; the reasons for the delay; and when will its actions be implemented. [26684/11]

The Mid West Task Force was established in early 2009 by my predecessor Ms Mary Coughlan, TD, in her capacity as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Task Force produced an Interim Report in mid 2009 which set out a range of recommendations, to be addressed by a number of Ministers/Departments/Agencies, on measures to address the economic and social consequences of the job losses in the region. Ministers addressed these recommendations, particularly in the context of their Estimates for 2010. A number of updates were provided on progress in implementing the recommendations, culminating in a report setting out the full list of recommendations and the measures taken to implement them which was co-ordinated by my Department and sent to all Deputies in mid 2010.

I received the Final Report of the Task Force before the Summer break this year, and discussed it with the Task Force Chairman Mr Denis Brosnan in June. Its recommendations relate mainly to the programmes and structures of the industrial development and other agencies in the region. These programmes and structures are, as is the case with all Government programmes, currently the subject of an Expenditure Review which will be completed in the run-up to Budget 2012. I intend to publish the Final Report of the Task Force and the Government's response to it in that timescale.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

93 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the recent announcement of job losses at a company (details supplied) in Dublin 24; the steps he will take to protect jobs at this company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26851/11]

I understand that the company concerned proposes to make approximately 175 of its employees redundant as a result of the loss of a major contract. I am extremely disappointed to hear of the proposed job losses, and I am very conscious of the effect that this outcome would have, not just on the workers and their families, but also on the local community as a whole.

While not a client company of IDA, EI or the County and City Enterprise Boards, in the event that these proposed job losses become a reality, I wish to assure those concerned, and the community, that the relevant State agencies will be available to provide all necessary support. The priority of course, when there are job losses will be to find alternative employment or re-training for those involved at the earliest opportunity.

Job creation is central to our economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate job creation. The Jobs Initiative announced in May focuses our limited resources on measures that offer the greatest potential for expansion and employment creation in the domestic economy.

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

IDA Ireland, though its network of overseas offices, continues to market Tallaght and South County Dublin for potential foreign direct investment opportunities across a range of sectors. The area is well equipped to compete with other areas with superb infrastructure facilities at City West and Grange Castle and a Third Level Institute of Technology at Tallaght. According to the latest figures available, there are 4,821 IDA-assisted companies across Dublin employing almost 53,000 people. As recently as 20 September, Pfizer announced the creation 400 construction jobs as part of its investment in its biotechnology manufacturing facility in Grange Castle.

In terms of indigenous enterprise, Tallaght and South Dublin are also well served thanks to the efforts of Enterprise Ireland and South Dublin County and City Enterprise Board. Enterprise Ireland has 367 client companies in Dublin South County employing almost 11,500 people full time and a further 1,141 people on contract or part time work. So far this year, Enterprise Ireland has provided almost €4m in financial support to its clients in Tallaght and South County Dublin.

During 2011, South Dublin CEB has continued to be actively involved in the economic development of Tallaght and South Dublin through the provision of both financial and non-financial support, such as advice, mentoring and training programmes, as well as direct financial assistance. In 2010, South Dublin CEB issued grants of almost €479,000 to 31 projects. At present, there are 1,155 jobs existing in companies supported by South Dublin CEB. All the activities of South Dublin CEB are directed towards stimulating indigenous enterprise creation in the area.

Industrial Development

Tom Fleming

Question:

94 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding future business for a site. [26872/11]

Aetna will not cease operations in Castleisland until December this year and the facility will be in use up to this time. It is IDA's understanding that the Company has not expressly decided to give the facility to a statutory body or local authority and that it is still evaluating options but is most likely to seek to sell the site.

Since the announcement by Aetna of their decision to close their site at Castleisland, IDA Ireland has worked closely with the company to develop a prospectus setting out the skills and capabilities of the workforce and a profile of the facility at Castleisland. Using the prospectus IDA is marketing the site to potential prospects throughout IDA's global overseas network and all of IDA's operations divisions. While there has been some initial expressions of interest, engagement is still on-going to attract interest from genuine parties for alternative employment opportunities for the Castleisland site.

IDA Ireland's Strategy for County Kerry is:

To work with Local Authorities and relevant infrastructure and service providers to influence the delivery of appropriate infrastructure to the region;

To attract new Investment;

To progress the development of a knowledge economy so that the region can compete both nationally and internationally for foreign direct investment;

To work with the existing IDA client base and to help them to further develop their presence;

And to provide modern property solutions with supporting infrastructure Shannon Development carries out the property function in North Kerry while IDA Ireland have responsibility for property in South Kerry.

IDA Ireland promotes Kerry as part of an integrated region with access to the county population base of 139,616 as well as the expanded population of both the Mid West and South West Regions with a combined population of 935,039. Based on the strengths of the region IDA is particularly targeting the ICT (including software), International Financial Services and Globally Traded Business sectors. To support this strategy, IDA Ireland is working closely with educational institutions in the region, in developing the skill sets necessary to attract high value added employment to the county. IDA is also working with FAS to provide guidance in developing the skill sets needed by those in the workforce who are interested in upskilling.

IDA continues to market all available land and buildings in the County including its 12 acre Business & Technology Park at Tiernaboul, Killarney, Co. Kerry. In Tralee, IDA is also marketing the Kerry Technology Park, which is owned and managed by Shannon Development in partnership with the Institute of Technology Tralee. In addition to attracting new foreign direct investment, IDA continues to work closely with its existing clients in Kerry to encourage them to expand their operations in the County.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

95 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of persons who hold multiple or more than one State agency board position; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27206/11]

The response to the question relates solely to the membership of the Boards of State Agencies that come under the aegis of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Name

Board Memberships

Remuneration

Ann Fitzgerald

National Consumer Agency

Nil

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

Nil

Total

2

Nil

Name

Board Memberships

Remuneration

Joe O’Toole

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority

€7,985

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

€11,970

Total

2

€19,955

Name

Board Memberships

Remuneration

Frank Ryan

Enterprise Ireland

€11,970

Forfás

Nil

Total

2

€11,970

Name

Board Memberships

Remuneration

John Fitzgerald

Shannon Free Airport Development Co Ltd.

€11,970

Intertrade Ireland

€10,350

Total

2

€22,320

Name

Board Memberships

Remuneration

Martin Shanagher

IDA Ireland

Nil

Science Foundation Ireland

Nil

Total

2

Nil

Name

Board Memberships

Remuneration

Barry O’Leary

IDA Ireland

€11,600

Forfás

Nil

Total

2

€11,600

School Meals Programme

Dessie Ellis

Question:

96 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11, which is a DEIS 1 school, is receiving the same allocation of funds for lunches for the school year 2011-12 as it did for the school year 2010-11 when it has increased in total student numbers by 47 from that period which should have meant a rise of at least €51.80 per day. [26666/11]

The School Meals Programme operated by the Department of Social Protection gives funding towards the provision of food services for disadvantaged children through two schemes. The first is the statutory Urban School Meals Scheme, operated by local authorities and part-financed by this Department. The second is the School Meals Local Projects Schemes through which funding is provided directly to participating schools and local and voluntary community groups who run their own school meals projects. As the budget allocation for the School Meals Programme has not increased in recent years, it is not possible at this time to increase the level of funding provided to individual schools. The application for increased funding under the School Meals Local Projects Scheme made by this school is being retained on file by the Department and may be considered for additional funding at a future date, should such additional funding for the scheme become available.

Social Welfare Benefits

Michael Creed

Question:

97 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will receive a decision on a rent allowance appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26701/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the appeal by the person concerned is currently awaiting attention. The person concerned will be advised of the outcome in due course.

Pat Breen

Question:

98 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a back-to-school allowance application will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26662/11]

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. Full details relating to the scheme and the application process are available on the Department's website at www.welfare.ie. Departmental records show that no application form was received from the person concerned.

Jack Wall

Question:

99 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26671/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 27th July 2011. The application has been forwarded to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for a medical opinion and a decision will issue when the opinion is received.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

100 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26678/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received for the person concerned on 23rd September 2010. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 24th November 2010 refusing DCA. The person concerned subsequently lodged an appeal against the decision. She was informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 20th June 2011 that the appeal had been disallowed. The decision/appeal process for this application is now complete. All the available information was provided to the appeals officer before the appeal was considered.

Unemployment Levels

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

101 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures she is taking, in conjunction with other Departments, to address youth unemployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26077/11]

The Department of Social Protection operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. In the 2010/2011 academic year there were 25,032 participants on the back to education allowance scheme. This represented a 20% increase on the 2009/10 academic year where the number of participants was 20,808, and 114% on the 2008/09 academic year where the number of participants was 11,646. 85% of participants originated from jobseeker's payments and 28% of these were aged under 25 years. There are also 11,721 participants in the back to work schemes, 3.2% of whom are aged under 25.

In December 2010 the Government agreed the extension of the employer job (PRSI) incentive scheme to end 2011 in the context of the budget and national recovery plan. Up to 16th September 2011, applications were received from 1,615 employers in respect of 2,976 employees. 1,216 employers have been awarded exemptions in respect of 1,963 employees. Of those awarded, 12% are aged under 25. There is also a network of Facilitators at a local level in my Department. Facilitators work with social welfare recipients to identify appropriate training or development programmes for them.

A new community work placement initiative, Tús, was launched in December 2010. The aims of Tús are to provide short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. Tús will be delivered at local level by each of the Local Development Companies and by Údarás na Gaeltachta, and access to the Tús is specifically available for those under 25.

In addition, a fully integrated nationwide range of services and supports is available to employers and jobseekers through FÁS Employment Services, responsibility for which has been transferred to this Department. The National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) process is a key element in addressing the progression needs of those on the live register. It provides a stimulus to job search and affords an opportunity to explore and access, under professional guidance, a full range of employment and training services. Development of the NEAP is central to ongoing development in the labour market policy area and will be progressed within the framework of a new National Employment and Entitlements Service which, as provided for in the Programme for Government, is being established by the Department. The new service will integrate employment and benefit payment services, currently delivered by FÁS and the Department, respectively, within the Department and will be based on a case management approach with the objective of providing a more customised and personal service to customers.

These developments are complimented by measures announced recently by the Government under the Jobs Initiative and include initiatives such as JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme, which will provide 5,000 internship opportunities of 6 or 9 months in organisations in the private, public or community and voluntary sectors. Participants will retain their social welfare entitlement s and will also receive a ‘top-up' of €50 per week. In addition, from July 2, the rate of employers PRSI on jobs paying up to €356 per week has been halved to 4.25%, up to end 2013.

All of the measures outlined above will support people who are unemployed in acquiring the education and skills and work experience that will assist them in returning to employment while measures such as the PRSI reduction will encourage employers to new employment.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 22 September 2011 in respect of an application for jobseekers allowance, if due consideration was given to the total outgoings of the household of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26679/11]

The person concerned was disallowed jobseeker's allowance as his means were in excess of the statutory limit based on spousal earnings. The scheduled rate for a person of his circumstances is €402.20. His weekly means have been assessed at €498 based on his wife's assessable earnings. Household outgoings are not taken into account when assessing means for this income support. If the person concerned is not satisfied with the decision of the deciding officer it is open to him to appeal the decision to the social welfare appeals office in writing, citing his grounds for appeal.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

103 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection the measures being implemented to improve processing times for benefits. [26690/11]

My Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. To this end, operational processes and procedures and the organisation of work are continually reviewed throughout the Department. Such reviews are supported by modern technology, the potential of which is continuously harnessed.

In addition, the staffing needs of my Department are kept under constant review to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources. In excess of 900 staff have been assigned to my Department since May 2008 to fill critical vacancies and additional posts that were approved to deal with the significant increase in claims for the various schemes.

Processing times vary across schemes because of both the volume of applications and the differing qualification criteria. For example, means assessments are required for all of the social assistance schemes; medical examinations are required for some of the illness-related schemes and, in the case of certain payments, customers must also satisfy the habitual residence conditions. In the case of the insurance-based schemes, it may be necessary to ascertain details of foreign insurance records.

One of the main impacts on current service delivery has been the increase in the Live Register. In this context, my Department has introduced a range of process improvement initiatives regarding claims for jobseeker's allowance and jobseeker's benefit. One of the most significant initiatives, aimed at reducing queuing and waiting times, involves customers attending their local office by appointment at which time the claim is taken and decided. This provides for the appropriate appointment to be scheduled for the customer thus enabling certain claims to be dealt with in a single visit to the office.

Such process improvements have resulted in a significant reduction in the number and proportion of all claims awaiting a decision. For example, there were 35,533 jobseeker claims awaiting a decision on 24th September 2011 equating to 7% of the total claim-load. This compares favourably to 25th September 2010 when 44,279 claims or 9% of claim-load were awaiting decision and 65,245 claims or 14% of claim-load in September 2009.

In addition, the Department's eGovernment strategy aims to support and develop customer contact channels that maximise customer service and minimise cost of delivery. Recent years have seen significant investment in the provision of improved information and online services, resulting in increased customer awareness of their entitlements and more efficient claim processing procedures.

The Department's website www.welfare.ie, redesigned in 2008, provides comprehensive information on all the Department’s schemes and services as well as a range of online services. These include online claiming for State Pension Contributory, Household Benefits, Child Benefit, Jobseeker’s payments and Widow(er)’s and Surviving Civil Partner’s Contributory Pension. It is planned to extend the online claiming service in 2011/2012 to include Carer’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, State Pension (Non-Contributory) and Redundancy Payments and Insolvency Payments.

The planned integration of the Community Welfare Service from the Health Service Executive, along with employment and other services from FÁS into my Department in the coming months provides further opportunity to enhance the service available to customers. This is an important first step in the establishment of the new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES), a key commitment in the Programme for Government, which was approved by the Government in July. This new service will provide services using a ‘one stop shop' model of delivery where customers can avail of all employment and benefit support services through any one of a number of service channels, public office, call centre or internet. The plan for its development and implementation has now been published.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

104 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [26704/11]

An application for carer's allowance from the person concerned was received on 22 July 2011. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Pension Provisions

Peter Mathews

Question:

105 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection if social welfare assistance will be made available for a retired person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26709/11]

State pension (transition) (SPT) is currently paid to people aged 65 who have a minimum yearly average of 24 social insurance contributions and who have retired from work. Currently it ceases at age 66 when the claimant transfers to State pension (contributory) (SPC).

As a result of legislation introduced this year, State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This will begin in 2014 with the abolition of SPT and the standardisation of State pension age at 66. State pension age will be increased to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. It is worth noting that, until the early 1970s, the qualifying age for State pension (contributory) was 70 years of age. By gradually increasing the qualifying age for State pension, people will be further encouraged to remain in employment beyond 65 years of age.

The Quarterly National Household Survey Q4 2010 showed that the numbers currently at work drop dramatically at 65 years of age. While 77.2 per cent of people aged 45-54 years are in employment, this drops to 64.3 per cent for 55-64 year-olds and to just 8.7 per cent for people aged 65 years or older. It is clear, therefore, that the challenges facing the Irish pension system are significant. Increases in life expectancy mean that more people are living to pension age and living longer in retirement. While this is to be welcomed, this has obvious and significant implications in relation to the future costs of State pension provision. The fundamental principle that people need to participate in the workforce for longer needs to be emphasised and they need to contribute more towards their pensions if they are to achieve the income they expect or would like to have in retirement. People who have retired before State pension age may be entitled to apply for another social welfare payment, as is the current position.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

106 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding proposals to provide an on-line service which would allow persons to view their contribution records on screen which would enable them to establish their entitlement to a contributory based pension, taking into account the combination of their contribution record at that point and their own projected work pattern prior to reaching pension age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26710/11]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

108 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to re-establish the pension forecast service previously offered to persons by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26736/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 108 together.

My Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers and to utilising the potential of modern technology and available delivery channels in meeting this objective. To this end, a new application has been developed and launched early this year which allows for the automatic issue of contribution statements where the person's record is in order and does not require investigation. Production of a statement of contributions involves an examination of both the computerised PRSI records from 1979 and, in some cases, the earlier paper-based records from 1953 to 1979. In normal circumstances, where the record is fully in order, statements are issued within two weeks. However, processing of requests can take longer where further information or clarification of work periods, etc. is required. It is envisaged that this new application will be further developed to provide an on-line facility to enable an individual check their contribution record and to calculate likely pension entitlement. It is not possible, at this point, to provide a timescale for the development of this on-line facility as it will involve complex engineering and requires a high degree of security to cater for data privacy concerns. In the meantime, it should be noted that a statement of contributions can be requested on-line via the Department's PRSI Section at www.welfare.ie.

For administrative reasons, a decision was taken in May 2007 to stop providing the traditional forecast service and to replace this with the provision of a copy of the individual's contribution history along with a booklet entitled ‘Working it Out'. The contribution history record, along with the guide, provides the customer with the information required to decide when to retire and how best to optimise their State Pension entitlement. The change has also enabled the State Pension Section to concentrate on the primary task of processing pension claims and in implementing improvements to the service provided to people on reaching pension age.

State Pension claims are now processed in a timely manner, with in excess of 90% of these claims awarded before the customer reaches pension age. The Department has also developed a claim initiation service whereby customers who are known to have an entitlement to State Pension are pro-actively invited to apply.

There are no plans to re-establish a pensions forecasting service as the focus remains on processing pension claims in a timely manner and available resources are prioritised for this purpose. However, the Department will continue to provide the current service (a copy of the person's record along with the information booklet) to enable customers to work out their entitlements and the network of Local Offices and Citizens Information Offices will continue to serve as points of contact to assist people in this regard.

Health Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

107 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding access to dental treatment (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26720/11]

The dental benefit scheme is paid from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF). Although the SIF had operated a surplus since 1996, this position began to change in 2009 and expenditure since then has had to be partially funded by the Exchequer. As part of a range of cost-saving measures to ease the pressure on the SIF, the range of treatments available under the dental benefit scheme was reduced in Budget 2010.

The free examination remains available to qualifying customers to encourage them to continue attending for regular check-ups and to assist in the early detection of dental-related health issues. Any future consideration of making changes to the scheme will have to reflect the economic realities of available funding and competing priorities.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 106.

Social Welfare Benefits

David Stanton

Question:

109 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection when a supplementary welfare allowance rent supplement payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26749/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the Community Welfare Officer has an appointment to meet the person concerned on Wednesday 28th September in order to complete the assessment for rent supplement. A decision will issue to the person concerned on Friday 30th September.

Social Welfare Offices

Denis Naughten

Question:

110 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to provide alternative accommodation (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26750/11]

The Office of Public Works has responsibility for the acquisition and maintenance of office accommodation for the Department of Social Protection.

There are currently two Community Welfare Officers administering services from an office in Abbey Street. My Department is working closely with the Office of Public Works to acquire more suitable accommodation for staff in Roscommon Town, including the two Community Welfare Officers.

Social Welfare Benefits

David Stanton

Question:

111 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a back to school clothing and footwear allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26772/11]

The person concerned was refused BSCFA in August 2011 as the family income is in excess of the allowable limit for their family circumstances. The family have been notified of the decision in writing. The family can request a review by contacting the BSCFA review section in Letterkenny. Details on how to request a review is provided with the refusal letter issued to the applicant. The information is also available on the Department's website.

Thomas Pringle

Question:

112 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons who have designated Mountcharles, Pettigo, Ballintra and Laghey in County Donegal post offices for the collection of their benefits, pension, child benefit, unemployment and so on. [26779/11]

An Post is the principal agency through which payments are delivered to social welfare customers. The Department currently issues 1,051 payments on a weekly basis and a further 293 monthly payments through Mountcharles, Pettigo, Ballintra & Laghey post offices. A breakdown of the number of payments per post office is listed below. Precise information on the number of customers who have designated these post offices is not readily available as customers may be entitled to collect more than one payment.

Donegal Post Office

Weekly Payments

Monthly Payments

Mountcharles

357

118

Pettigo

211

46

Ballintra

301

83

Laghey

182

46

Total

1051

293

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when the full rate of jobseeker’s allowance and back to education allowance will be restored in the case a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26804/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 17th May 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 15th June 2011 and the appeal will be assigned an Appeals Officer who, in due course, will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

I have been advised by the Social Welfare Local Office in Ballyfermot that the person concerned has not submitted an application for a Back to Education Allowance. If he wishes to do so, he should call to his local office as soon as possible and complete an application form. He should also supply relevant details of his chosen course of study.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when rent supplement payment will issue in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26806/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) advised that it has received a claim for rent supplement from the person concerned. A decision in relation to entitlement will be made when the supporting documentation requested has been received.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason one parent family allowance has not been paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26807/11]

The one-parent family payment claim of the person concerned was suspended as she failed to attend an interview with an inspector on 21 April 2011. Following an interview with an inspector on 31 August 2011, she was requested to submit documentation in support of her claim. A review of her claim will be carried out when all of the outstanding documentation is received.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the degree to which a medical condition has improved to warrant discontinuation of invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26808/11]

The person concerned was awarded an invalidity pension from 24th January 2008. On 16th October 2009 she was called for and attended a medical examination and was assessed in-person by a medical assessor. It was decided that she no longer satisfied the medical criteria for invalidity pension. Accordingly, her invalidity pension payment was terminated from the 5th November 2009.

She appealed this decision and was referred for a second in-person medical examination which she attended on 17th February 2010. The opinion of the second medical assessor also was that the person concerned did not satisfy the medical criteria. Following this medical examination and having considered all the evidence, the appeals officer disallowed the appeal for the person concerned. She was notified of this decision and the reason for it in writing on the 26th October 2010. The decision of an appeals officer is final and conclusive in the absence of fresh facts or evidence.

Further medical evidence received in relation to the person concerned, having been viewed by the medical assessor, did not alter the original opinion. It was considered that this evidence did not contain any new facts or evidence and accordingly there were no grounds to review the appeals officer's decision.

If there has been a change in circumstances and the person concerned feels she would now satisfy the eligibility criteria for invalidity pension she may reapply.

Social Welfare Benefits

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

117 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a recent delay in social welfare payments experienced by claimants at a location (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26833/11]

My Department is committed to providing a high quality service to our customers and to ensuring that all payments are made available on their due date. The Department offers a range of payment options to customers including payment at a local post office or to a bank or building society account or certain credit unions that have been authorised by the banking and credit union regulators.

While the Department accounts for a large volume of retail customers in individual post offices, An Post also provides agency services, including front line banking services and payment of utility bills etc., for other companies. The Department has been advised by An Post that, due to a heavy volume of business and demand for cheque encashment, Lucan Post Office experienced a greater than expected demand for cash late on Friday evening, 2nd September, and as a result was unable to deal with all of its customers pending delivery of a further remittance from An Post.

An Post made extra cash available at Lucan on Saturday 3rd September and again on Monday 5th September to deal with the higher than usual level of financial transactions. An Post has advised that some 20 social welfare customers who could not be dealt with on the Friday or Saturday were dealt with on the following Monday.

My Department is engaging with An Post to ensure that all our customers will be paid on their due date and there is no repeat of this situation. While apologising to customers who were inconvenienced by what happened, An Post has offered this Department assurances that measures have been put in place to ensure that this will not happen again.

Social Welfare Appeals

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

118 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason she refused an application for a clothing allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26832/11]

The HSE has advised that the application for assistance from the person concerned was refused as his income was in excess of the allowable limit appropriate to the scheme and the need was not established. The person concerned was advised in writing of his right to appeal the decision to the relevant appeals

Social Welfare Code

Seán Kenny

Question:

119 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision to refuse payment for an eye test for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13. [26821/11]

In order to qualify under the treatment benefit scheme, a person must have 39 reckonable PRSI contributions paid at class A, E, H or P, in the relevant tax year/s. The person concerned paid PRSI contributions at class D in the relevant tax years and as a result, he does not qualify for a free eye examination under the scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

120 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent supplement ceased in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the person is still entitled to rent supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26828/11]

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal will be heard in respect of an application for rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26835/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the appeal by the person concerned is currently awaiting attention. The HSE Appeals Office will contact the person concerned when a decision has been made on her appeal.

Social Welfare Code

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

122 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if in view of the fact she has relaxed rules regarding the qualifying period on the live register for eligibility for JobBridge for those applicants that have just completed a FÁS course, if she would, as has been done by the Minister for Education and Skills for Springboard, similarly relax the rules for all applicants including those that have recently graduated from college or have had casual summer employment or recently been made unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26869/11]

In order for an individual to be eligible to participate in JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme an individual must be:

Currently in receipt of a live claim (Jobseekers Allowance/Jobseekers Benefit/Signing for Credits) on the Live Register;

have been in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance or signing for Social Insurance Contribution Credits for a total of 78 days or more in the last 6 months.

Having reviewed the participant eligibility requirements for JobBridge, the Steering Group of the National Internship Scheme, have decided that time spent on Back to Education Allowance, VTOS, FÁS/Fáilte Ireland Training courses, Youthreach, FIT, Community Employment Schemes, TUS, the Rural Social Scheme, Back to Work Scheme, FÁS Job Initiative or Job Assist may count towards the 78 day qualifying period.

However, individuals must still have signed back on to the Live Register and be in receipt of JobSeekers Benefit/Allowance or Jobseeker credits immediately before commencing on JobBridge. The policy objective of the Scheme is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time. The optimum time for interventions of this nature is at three months and therefore the 3 month eligibility criteria for the scheme will remain in place.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

123 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons who hold multiple or more than one State agency board position; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27207/11]

The three statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Social Welfare Tribunal, the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department but it does not have a board. A list of those serving on these boards is available on the Department's website www.welfare.ie/EN/AboutUs/Pages/stateagencies.aspx. Nobody holds multiple membership on any of the above boards.

National Library

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

124 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has reviewed the 2010 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in respect of public procurement procedures at the National Library; if he is reviewing such procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26732/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Library of Ireland is a statutorily autonomous body established under the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997 and its Board is responsible for the management of the Library. I understand that the Library Board conducted a thorough review of the case referred to in the recently published Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General for 2010 and that undertakings have been given that new procedures have been put in place that will ensure against any recurrence of events of the nature described in the report. However, in the overall context of public procurement compliance in the National Library of Ireland and of the specific issues referred to by the Comptroller and Auditor General, my Department has requested a report from the National Library in relation to the matter, together with assurances regarding compliance with good public procurement practices.

National Gallery

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

125 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount spent on rent on leases taken by the National Gallery for storage of artworks; if he will provide a breakdown of the amount of each individual lease and if any of these leases are on property which is in the control of the National Assets Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26771/11]

I understand from the National Gallery of Ireland that it has no property on lease for the storage of artworks.

National Monuments

Simon Harris

Question:

126 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he owns a parcel of land in County Wicklow (details supplied) which has historical significance for the local community; if so, the steps he is taking to maintain the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26841/11]

I understand that Wicklow County Council is the registered owner of this monument, which is included in the Register of Historic Monuments and the Record of Monuments and Places under the National Monuments Acts. As owner, the Council is responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. If the Council, or indeed any other body acting with the Council's agreement, wish to undertake any works at the site, my Department's National Monuments Service will provide any guidance or advice required in relation to potential archaeological issues or statutory processes under the National Monuments Acts.

Seirbhísí Iompair

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

127 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidreachta agus Gaeltachta cén uair a bhí an cruinniú deiridh de Choiste Monatóireachta na Seirbhísí Iompair go hOileáin Árann ann; cén uair a bheidh an chéad chruinniú eile den choiste ann; cad iad ainmneacha na n-ionadaithe atá ar an gCoiste ó na trí oileán; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [26846/11]

Bhí cruinniú idir oifigigh mo Roinnse agus ionadaithe ó na hOileáin Árann maidir le seirbhísí iompair ar 19 Bealtaine 2011. Is iad bainisteoirí na gcomharchumann ar Oileáin Árann atá ar an gCoiste Monatóireachta. Bhí na bainisteoirí i láthair ag an gcruinniú seo seachas i gcás Inis Meáin. Mar is eol don Teachta, níl aon chomharchumann ag feidhmiú ar Inis Meáin i láthair na huaire. Níl dáta socraithe ag an bpointe seo don chéad cruinniú eile ach tá mo Roinnse i dteagmháil rialta leis na páirtithe leasmhara uile maidir le seirbhísí iompair do na hOileáin Árann.

Departmental Bodies

Anne Ferris

Question:

128 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if the interdepartmental committee to examine implementation of the recommendations contained in the report Creative Capital: Building Ireland’s Audiovisual Creative Economy has yet been established; the membership of the committee; when it is expected to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26864/11]

The inter-departmental committee to examine the implementation of the Creative Capital: Building Ireland’s Audiovisual Creative Economy report has been established. The membership of the committee comprises representatives from my Department (which will chair the committee), as well as the Departments of Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform, Education & Skills, Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, and relevant industry representatives. I received the final nomination late last week and the committee will now start work immediately.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

129 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of persons who hold multiple or more than one State agency board position; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27200/11]

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is only possible to provide details in respect of appointments to Board positions to State Agencies that are funded from my Department's Vote Group. In relation to the Deputy's specific query, one such case arises in relation to my Department. Ms. Éimear O'Connor is a member of the Board of the Arts Council for which she receives an annual fee of €5,985. She is also a member of the Board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art for which she receives no fee.

Broadcasting Services

Clare Daly

Question:

130 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will respect airways as public property and to ensure that ComReg engages in dialogue with PSME users against the background of the transfer of channel 69 to a newly allocated frequency range, and to implement a compensation programme for radio microphone users and a reduction in licensing rates for those such as amateur theatrical productions. [26839/11]

The licensing of radio microphones is a matter for the Commission for Communications Regulation (Comreg). I understand that channel 69 (854 - 862 MHz) is one of the channels available for radio microphone use in Ireland. At the International Telecommunication Union World Radio-communication Conference in 2007 it was agreed that channels 61 to 69 would be made available for mobile services. Subsequently the European Commission in its Recommendation 2009/848/EC recommended that analogue terrestrial TV services would be switched off in 2012, and that the above channels should be used for electronic communications services. This switchover will facilitate the roll out of high speed mobile broadband to communities across Europe. In complying with this Recommendation channel 69 will no longer be available for radio microphone use. As the Deputy may be aware, Ireland's national digital switchover strategy provides for a move to all digital TV services by the end of 2012, with the existing services in the 800 MHz band (including channel 61-69) due to be switched off at that stage.

I understand that radio microphone manufacturers and suppliers have been aware of the fact that channel 69 would no longer be available for wireless microphone use from the end of 2012. Regarding engagement with Programme Making & Special Events (PSME) users, ComReg conducted a public consultation on this matter in April 2010. The June 2009 decision of the UK Communications Regulator (Ofcom) to confirm Channel 38 (606 - 614 MHz) as a replacement for Channel 69 was raised during the consultation. In light of the Ofcom decision, and noting that Ireland is a small and open economy and the potential for economies of scale of equipment manufacture and roaming of services, ComReg considered that spectrum for radio microphones should be aligned with spectrum available for radio microphones in larger European markets. Following consideration of responses received to its consultation, ComReg's view is that it would be appropriate to use a replacement channel aligned with the UK's channel for wireless microphones and it therefore announced in September 2010 that it would make Channel 38 available on an exclusive basis for radio microphone use in Ireland.

I am advised that there will be no increase in the associated licence fees. The current cost of a licence for the possession and use of programme making and special events equipment, including radio microphones, for an event is a €12 administration fee and €12 per piece of equipment. This licence fee was established in 1986 and has remained unchanged since that time. As the Deputy will be aware ComReg is obliged to recover its administrative costs for the management of such licensing schemes. All appropriate steps for the orderly change in use of the relevant spectrum have been taken. A compensation programme, as suggested by the Deputy, would not be appropriate.

Local Authority Funding

Joan Collins

Question:

131 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Sligo County Council has had the highest overall deficit balance of all county and city councils, as outlined in their respective annual financial statements for the financial years ending 31 December 2008, 31 December 2009 and 31 December 2010, that Sligo County Council had a deficit of €2,815,649 for the year ending 31 December 2008, a deficit of €3,232,961 for the year ending 31 December 2009 and a deficit of €2,463,505 for the year ending 31 December 2010 and on the 31 December 2010 Sligo County Council had a total closing overall deficit balance of €9,981,616; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the council increased its overdraft facility from €5 million to €7.5 million in March 2011 and is now seeking approval from him to further increase its overdraft from €7.5 million to €11 million; if he intends to continue approving increased overdraft facilities for Sligo County Council; if he is satisfied that the council’s finances are being managed in a sustainable manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26694/11]

Joan Collins

Question:

134 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the personnel that participated in the meeting in Ballymote, County Sligo on 20 May 2011, at which he discussed the financial position and funding challenges facing Sligo County Council; if minutes or notes were taken at the meeting; if he or his Department have any record, report or documentation in respect of this meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26755/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 134 together.

It is a matter for each local authority, including Sligo County Council, to determine its own spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard both to locally identified needs and available resources. It is also a matter for individual local authorities to manage their own day-to-day finances in a prudent and sustainable manner. I met with the Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council and the Sligo County Manager on 20 May 2011. At this meeting the financial position and the funding challenges facing the Council were briefly discussed with a view to further exploration between my Department and the Council of appropriate arrangements to reduce the deficit over time. There was no specific documentation in respect of the meeting.

In 2011 local authorities have budgeted to spend some €7bn in total between current and capital programmes. The main sources of funding include current and capital income, grants and subsidies. In addition, limited debt finance, including overdraft, is available to local authorities as necessary to finance their expenditure. My Department is considering Sligo County Council's current request for an overdraft for capital and current expenditure purposes in consultation with Council officials. A decision on this request will be made as soon as possible. My Department considers individual overdraft requests from local authorities on a case by case basis.

Joan Collins

Question:

132 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Sligo Borough Council in its application for funding for the Cranmore regeneration project for 2011 sought funding in respect of improvement works to facilitate the pedestrianisation of O’Connell Street, Sligo; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the former Minister of State with responsibility for housing approved funding of €500,000 for said improvement works; if he has recently received correspondence form Sligo Borough Council indicating that the improvement works will not proceed in the current year and, rather than return the €500,000 to his Department if Sligo Borough Council may use the €500,000 for alternative remedial works on local authority and private housing in the Cranmore estate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26719/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No 343 of 20 September, 2011. My Department has not so far received any claim from Sligo Borough Council for recoupment of expenditure in respect of the planning and design phase of the proposed works at O'Connell Street. However, my Department approved a proposal by the Council in June 2011 to refurbish up to 53 local authority owned houses in the Cranmore estate at an estimated cost of €445,000. Expenditure this year on Cranmore housing and on any costs arising on the O'Connell Street project will be met from the €2m allocation for regeneration. So far, no proposal has been received from the Borough Council in relation to further improvement works to houses in the Cranmore estate. It will be a matter for Sligo Borough Council in the context of the regeneration masterplanning process to determine the nature and extent of future refurbishment works in the estate.

Cláir Fhorbartha

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

133 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil céard iad na socruithe atá déanta maidir le ceadú oifigiúil a phróiseáil agus íocaíochtaí a dhéanamh i dtaca le tograí a bhí faoi bhráid Mheitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta faoin gClár LEADER; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [26725/11]

Bhí conradh sínithe ag an Roinn seo le Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG) le haghaidh Chlár Forbartha Tuaithe (CFT) agus riarann MFG cláir eile ar son na Roinne seo agus Roinne eile. Tá ceisteanna casta dlíthiúla agus conarthar le réiteach agus tá mo Roinn ag obair ar réiteach fadtéarmacha agus gearrthéarmacha a fháil le haghaidh Chlár Forbarta Tuaithe (CFT) agus cláir eile sa Ghaeltacht. Is é an cuspóir atá agamsa ná, réiteach éifeachtúla a fháil agus é a chur i bhfeidhm gan mhoill.

Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 131.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Thomas Pringle

Question:

135 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the tender documents have been received for the Donegal Bay waste water management scheme group B waste water treatment plants; and if not, when he expects to receive same. [26782/11]

The proposed contract for Donegal (Group B) Wastewater Treatment Plants is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 as a contract to start during the life of the programme. Tender documents for this project have not been received by my Department as yet, but I understand that Donegal County Council expects to submit this documentation to my Department before the end of the year.

Planning Issues

Sean Conlan

Question:

136 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to overturn the local needs legislation to allow landowners in rural areas to sell land to buyers outside their immediate family circle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26784/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 181 of 22 September, 2011. I am satisfied that the "local needs" criteria set out in my Department's Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing (2005), and as further clarified in Circular Letter SP 5/08, remain valid.

Housing Aid for the Elderly

Tom Fleming

Question:

137 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will allocate additional funds to County Kerry for the housing aid for older people scheme, to allow for essential repairs and improvement works to be carried out to the homes of the elderly. [26786/11]

The suite of Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability is funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. It is a matter for each local authority to decide on the specific level of funding to be directed to each of the various grant measures, and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within their allocation.

Exchequer funding totalling €2,767,218 was allocated to Kerry County Council to meet expenditure arising under the schemes in 2011. So far, some €918,330 of this has been drawn down by the Council.

A request for additional funding of €500,000 has recently been received from Kerry County Council. As all of the funding available under the grant schemes has been fully committed at this stage, the Council's request will be considered in the context of any savings which may arise due to an under-spend by any local authority of their 2011 allocation.

Motor Taxation

Robert Troy

Question:

138 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will publish the documentation that is acceptable proof for taxing a vehicle for commercial use. [26838/11]

To be taxed as a commercial or goods vehicle, a vehicle must be constructed or adapted for that purpose and must be used solely in the course of trade or business. Under section 2 of the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act 1952, if a vehicle is used in a condition or manner that would attract motor tax at a higher rate, tax becomes payable at that rate, i.e. a goods vehicle used in a private capacity must be taxed at the private rate of motor tax.

Licensing authorities have an obligation under article 3 of the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 1992 to be satisfied that a vehicle is correctly taxed and the authority must have adequate documentation to support a claim for the goods rate of motor tax. Such documentation may include a certificate of commercial insurance or evidence of registration for VAT purposes or, at the discretion of the licensing authority concerned, any other appropriate document that would indicate that the applicant is in trade or business. An income tax registration number is now routinely sought as part of the RF111A Goods Only Declaration form. It is up to the individual concerned to provide whatever evidence is required by the licensing authority in order for it to be satisfied that the applicant is entitled to claim the reduced rate of tax.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

139 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when approval will be given to Galway County Council to proceed with the preparation of contract documents for the Oughterard sewerage scheme; if he has received the design review report requested from Galway County Council four months ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26842/11]

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

In April this year, my Department requested Galway County Council to submit a revised Design Review Report for the Oughterard Sewerage Scheme. Galway County Council has recently indicated that it expects to be in a position to submit the revised Design Review Report for the scheme to my Department very shortly. Once the report is submitted and approved by my Department, the Council can then proceed with the preparation of contract documents for the scheme.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

140 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons who hold multiple or more than one State agency board position; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27203/11]

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Asylum Support

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

141 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 369 of 20 September 2011, if he will outline the RIA’s policy in relation to recognition of guide dogs not provided by the Irish Guide Dogs Association. [26685/11]

I am informed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) that the arrangements for dealing with guide dogs set out in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 369 of 20 September 2011 apply equally whether the dog is provided by the Irish Guide Dogs Association or by some other relevant organisation.

Citizenship Applications

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

142 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [26699/11]

An 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 November, 2007.

The application is at an advanced stage of processing and will be finalised 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.

Garda Stations

John O'Mahony

Question:

143 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda stations in County Mayo; the number of gardaí assigned to each station; the opening hours of each Garda station in Mayo in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26708/11]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that as of the 31 August 2011, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 39 Garda Stations in the Mayo Division, and the Garda strength and opening hours for each station in the Mayo Division was as set out in the table below:

Station

Strength

Mon-Fri

Sat

Sun

Achill Sound

3

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Balla

2

11am — 1pm

11am — 1pm

Closed

Ballina

49

24hr

24hr

24hr

Ballindine

1

11am — 12md

11am — 12md

Closed

Ballinrobe

9

11am — 1pm,8pm — 9 pm

11am — 1pm,8pm — 9pm

12md- 1pm

Ballycastle

1

10am — 1 pm

10am — 1pm

Closed

Ballycroy

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

12md — 1pm

Ballyglass

1

11am — 1pm/7pm — 9pm

11am — 1pm/7pm — 9pm

Closed

Ballyhaunis

10

10am — 1pm8pm — 9pm

10am — 1pm,8pm — 9pm

Closed

Ballyvary

1

10am to 12md/7pm — 9pm

10am to 12md/7pm — 9pm

Closed

Bangor Erris

2

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

10am — 12md

Bellacorrick

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

12md — 1pm

Belmullet

22

24hr

24hr

24hr

*Blacksod

0

10am — 1pm

10am-1pm

Closed

Bonnicconlon

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Closed

Castlebar

76

24hr

24hr

24hr

Charlestown

5

10am — 12md

10am — 12md

10am 12md

Claremorris

38

24hr

24hr

24hr

Cong

1

11am — 12md

11am — 12md

Closed

Crossmolina

4

10am — 12md/7pm — 9pm

10am — 12md/7pm — 9pm

Closed

Foxford

3

10am — 12md

10am — 12md

10am 12md

Glenamoy

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

12md — 1pm

*Glenisland

0

11am — 1pm

11am -1pm

Closed

Hollymount

1

4pm — 5pm

4pm — 5pm

Closed

Keel

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Kilkelly

9

10am — 12md

10am — 12md

10am 12md

Killala

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Closed

*Kilmaine

0

2.30pm — 3.30pm

2.30pm — 3.30pm

Closed

Kiltimagh

1

10am — 12md

10am — 12md

10am 12md

Knock

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Closed

Lahardane

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Closed

Louisburgh

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Mulranny

1

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Newport

2

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

10am — 1pm

Partry

2

10am to 12md/7pm — 9pm

10am to 12md/7pm — 9pm

Closed

Shrule

1

4pm — 5pm

4pm — 5pm

Closed

Swinford

27

24hr

24hr

24hr

Tourmakeady

1

10am to 12md/7pm — 9pm

10am to 12md/7pm — 9pm

Closed

Westport

30

24hr

24hr

24hr

*There are no Gardaí permanently assigned to these stations. However, these stations are opened by Gardaí from within the Garda District.

Visa Applications

Michael Creed

Question:

144 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding a request for a visa in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26742/11]

When completing an on-line visa application the applicant is assigned a unique visa transaction number. This detail must be provided where a query on the status of a visa application arises. If the Deputy can provide the relevant detail I will ensure that officials in the Visa Office will make further enquiries and respond to the Deputy directly.

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

Sexual Offences

Simon Harris

Question:

145 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the legislation he will introduce to tackle sex trafficking here; his plans to criminalise the purchase of sex here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26783/11]

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 criminalised the trafficking of persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation. With regard to prostitution, the criminal law is aimed at protecting society from the more intrusive aspects of such activity from a public order perspective, while also seeking to protect prostitutes from exploitation. Under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, it is an offence to solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution. The offence can be committed by the prostitute, the client or a third party — a pimp, for example. It is also an offence to organise prostitution, coerce or compel a person to be a prostitute, knowingly live on the earnings of a prostitute, or keep or manage a brothel.

It is not an offence, in itself, to sell sex. In general, it is not an offence to purchase sex either. (The 2008 human trafficking legislation made it an offence to knowingly solicit or importune a trafficked person, in any place, for the purpose of prostitution.) Consequently, neither party to the transaction is currently criminalised. Any proposal to amend the law in terms of criminalising the purchase of sex would require very careful examination.

In 2010, the Swedish government completed an evaluation of its 1999 legislation criminalising the purchase of sexual services. Following its publication, the Dignity Project arranged a visit to Stockholm to learn more about the evaluation. The delegation included representation from my Department. The Dignity Project was a research project funded by the EU. An inter-agency and inter-jurisdictional initiative led by the Dublin Employment Pact and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, it examined services provided to victims of human trafficking with a view to replicating best practice models in partner countries. My Department's Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and the Garda National Immigration Bureau were partners with observer status.

I am examining a report prepared by my department following the visit to Stockholm and which was submitted to the Attorney General's Office. I am also examining the Attorney's advices concerning the legal and constitutional implications of introducing a ban on the purchase of sex.

Refugee Status

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which consideration has been given to the determination of entitlement to refugee status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26811/11]

The persons concerned are a husband and wife who lodged separate asylum applications in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Their asylum applications were refused following the consideration of their individual cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Arising from the refusal of their respective asylum applications, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), they were separately notified, she by letter dated 16th March, 2010 and he by letter dated 28th July, 2011, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of them. They were each 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 them. In addition, they were notified of their respective entitlements to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The persons concerned submitted individual applications for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of these applications has been completed, the persons concerned will be notified in writing of the outcomes. In the event that the applications for Subsidiary Protection are refused, the position in the State of the persons 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. Once decisions have been made, these decisions and the consequences of the decisions will be conveyed in writing to the persons 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.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or likely residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15. [26813/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was the subject of a family reunification application which was approved in July 2002. I am also informed by INIS that they will be writing in the coming days to the father of the person concerned regarding her residency status.

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:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or likely residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; if this case is affected by the Zambrano decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26814/11]

The person concerned is a failed asylum seeker. 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 27th August, 2007, 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. 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. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered in advance of a final decision being made. Additionally, at that juncture, the case of the person concerned will be examined to determine what, if any, impact the European Court of Justice Judgment in the Zambrano case may have on his case. 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:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which residency and citizenship status or entitlement in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth has been determined or is likely to be affected by the Zambrano decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26815/11]

The person concerned is an asylum applicant. His asylum claim is currently the subject of judicial review proceedings taken against the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. As these proceedings are ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the asylum element of the case at this time.

The person concerned has, separately, sought to have his case to remain in the State considered in line with the principles of the Zambrano Judgment. The documentation submitted by the person concerned is under examination at present. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned. Given that the person concerned has no current reckonable right of residency in the State, he would not be in a position to lodge an application for Irish citizenship at this time.

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:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the determination of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26816/11]

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 7th April, 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should not have a Deportation Order 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 consideration of this application, it was determined that he was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 30th May, 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. 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.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which full consideration of the background and circumstances have been examined in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26817/11]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 7th September, 2005. His application was refused following a full consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 17th August, 2010, 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 setting out the reasons why he should not have a Deportation Order 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. This application was considered and a decision was taken that the person concerned was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection. He was notified of this decision by letter dated 31st March, 2011. The case of the person concerned was then considered under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) before a Deportation Order was made in respect of him on 15th July 2011. This Order was served on the person concerned by registered letter dated 26th July, 2011. The person concerned remains the subject of a Deportation Order and, as such, he is legally obliged to comply with any reporting requirements placed on him by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. I am satisfied that the case of the person concerned has been given the fullest consideration at all stages of the asylum and immigration processes. As a result, I am satisfied that the decision taken to make a Deportation Order in his case was justified.

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

Ciara Conway

Question:

152 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26853/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the position in respect of the application referred to in the Deputy's Question remains as stated by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service in an email communication to the Deputy on 12 September, 2011. An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in November, 2007. My predecessor considered the application in January, 2011 and decided to defer making a final decision in this case until mid 2012. The person concerned was notified of this decision in January, 2011.

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.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

153 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Defence the number of persons who hold multiple or more than one State agency board position; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27202/11]

The bodies under the aegis of my Department are the Civil Defence Board, the Army Pensions Board and the Board of Coiste an Asgard. There is no remuneration attached to membership of these boards. Details of members of boards under the aegis of the Department of Defence who hold positions on other State boards is set out in tabular form.

Name

No. of Memberships Held

Board under aegis of Department of Defence

Other State Board

Mr. Tom Harrington

2

Army Pensions Board

Consumer Foods Board (An Bord Bia)

Mr. Noel Ryan

2

Coiste an Asgard

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Grant Payments

Finian McGrath

Question:

154 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the withdrawal of payments to persons (details supplied) in County Clare. [26686/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the persons named on 6 May 2011 under their joint herd number. The entire payment due under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was paid on 21 September 2011.

The 50% advance payments under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme are scheduled to commence issuing as and from 17 October 2011, with balancing payments scheduled to commence issuing as and from 1 December 2011.

All other payments or applications for payment that are the subject of the named persons' legal action with the Department are ‘ sub judice’ and, therefore, I am constrained from commenting in this regard.

Forestry Sector

Brendan Griffin

Question:

155 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the use of unenclosed ground for forestry purposes; the level of funding in respect of forestry in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26746/11]

The amount of unenclosed land in any application for financial approval under the afforestation schemes cannot exceed 20% of the total area. All applications submitted to my Department for approval to undertake afforestation are examined by reference to the silvicultural and environmental suitability of the site for forestry. This includes an assessment of issues such as soil type, soil fertility, exposure etc., along with an assessment of the potential impact of the project on water quality, landscapes and nature conservation. My Department cannot use Exchequer funds to support the establishment of new forests in areas that are silviculturally unsuitable for forestry or where forestry may negatively impact on the environment.

The level of funding for forestry in 2012 will be determined in the context of ongoing discussions on the framing of the 2012 Budget, publication of which takes place in early December.

Grant Payments

Joe Carey

Question:

156 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment under the disadvantaged area scheme will issue in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26752/11]

Payments under the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme began issuing on 22 September 2011 and I can confirm that the application of the person named has been fully processed and that payment has issued directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Joe Carey

Question:

157 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding an application for disadvantaged area scheme and single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26753/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 12 April 2011. The Terms and Conditions governing the Scheme require, inter alia, that applicants maintain a minimum stocking density on their holding of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare declared, for at least three consecutive months, during the calendar year of application. However, where the holding of an applicant is identified as not meeting this minimum requirement, the person in question is invited to submit evidence of satisfactory stocking i.e. Flock Register, Horse Passports or details of an environmental plan, which provides for a lower stocking level.

The person named was written to on 1 September 2011 and invited to submit appropriate evidence of the numbers of livestock maintained on his farm, as Department records currently do not show that the holding of the person named as having yet achieved the minimum stocking density. On receipt of a satisfactory response from the person named, the application will be further processed with a view to payment at an early date.

The 50% advance payments under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme are scheduled to commence issuing as and from 17 October 2011, with balancing payments scheduled to commence issuing as and from 1 December 2011.

EU Directives

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

158 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if all the provisions of the EU Hen Directive, Council Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999, which stipulated better welfare conditions for battery hens, have been implemented here; his views regarding the importation of eggs from other EU countries which have not implemented the directive fully; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26766/11]

An EU ban on conventional battery cages is due to enter into force with effect from 1 January 2012, in line with Council Directive 1999/74/EC on minimum standards for laying hens. Sanctions for non-compliance with the Council Directive are set out in national legislation, namely the European Communities (Welfare of Farm Animals) Regulation 2010 (Statutory Instrument No. 311 of 2010). 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 support this process was introduced which provides a total of €16 million to producers to assist in the conversion to enriched cages, free range or barn systems. My Department will continue to monitor the marketing of all eggs from 1st January 2012 to ensure that they comply with all the relevant legislation.

Food Safety

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

159 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the date on which he intends to introduce a statutory instrument to ban the sale of raw milk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26767/11]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

160 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason he and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland cannot introduce regulations to regulate the production and sale of raw milk similar to those that apply to raw milk cheese, a product that is allowed here and carries similar risks to those of raw milk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26768/11]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

161 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide figures for total food poisoning outbreaks for the past decade, 2000 to 2010, broken down on an annual basis in tabular form; the annual number of cases that were due to the consumption of raw milk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26769/11]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

162 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason no public consultation has taken place into the ban on raw milk derived from cattle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26770/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 to 162, inclusive, together.

The proposed ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is not new. Sale of raw cows milk was banned for many years (from 1997 till 2006) by my Department; and previously by most local authorities. The ban lapsed due to a change in EU legislation in 2006. In 2008 my Department undertook a public consultation regarding extending the ban to include both sheep and goats milk. Seventeen submissions were received. Neither my Department nor the Food Safety Authority of Ireland were convinced that the submissions received provided any justification to oppose the expert advice that the extended ban should be supported in legislation.

My Department's dairy science and veterinary experts and the independent scientific committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland have strongly advised that there are serious health risks associated with drinking raw milk. Disease risks include TB, Brucellosis, E. coli O157, Campylobacter and Salmonella. There have been incidents of these in Ireland and other countries in recent years. Resulting illnesses can be serious and on occasion fatal.

It is intended to bring forward a Statutory Instrument to implement the ban as soon as possible.

Regulation allowing sale of raw milk for direct human consumption, on a restricted basis, would be difficult and costly to implement and would still not eliminate the serious health risks.

It is important to note in this context that the ban will not apply to making cheese using raw milk. The cheese making process takes time and this provides an opportunity to withdraw product from sale in the event of a problem arising with the source milk. The cheese making process also prevents growth of pathogens and in some cases encourages slow decline in numbers of some pathogens.

A number of artisan food producers are pasteurising raw whole milk and are licensed by my Department in this regard. These artisans are very successfully marketing liquid whole milk, ice cream, different flavoured yoghurts and artisan farmhouse cheeses. I am advised by the FSAI that meaningful differences in nutritional value between pasteurised and unpasteurised milk have not been demonstrated and these artisans clearly show that pasteurised whole milk can be used in the manufacture of safe and quality dairy products.

The ban will not apply either to the consumption of raw milk which has not been placed on the market — e.g. a dairy farmer drinking milk from his/her own cows. Such a ban is not possible under the law and in any event would be unenforceable. However, it is recommended to avoid this practice for health reasons.

Provision of data in relation to food poisoning outbreaks is a matter for the Health Service Executive. I have been advised by the FSAI of a number of cases of serious illness associated with raw milk in Ireland in recent years. The FSAI recommends therefore that the sale of unpasteurised milk from all farm animals which is intended for direct human consumption should be prohibited; and advises that the most effective way to protect public health is to ensure that such milk is pasteurised.

The prevalence of TB in herds in Ireland also puts us in a different position to most other Member States in the EU where the disease has been eradicated. It is inappropriate that Ireland should adopt the same approach to the consumption of raw milk as countries that do not have the same difficulty with TB and therefore have no associated risk.

Ireland exports over €2bn worth of dairy products each year; and is the leading producer of infant formula with about 15% of the world market. Any food scare associated with raw Irish milk could have major implications for our dairy industry. The recent E. coli outbreak in Germany, resulting in 46 deaths, 782 cases of HUS (haemolytic uraemic syndrome, a serious kidney condition) and 3,128 known cases of VTEC, indicates the scale of possible risks associated with raw food.

In all the circumstances I am satisfied that a ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is justified.

Grant Payments

Heather Humphreys

Question:

163 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive their disadvantaged area payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26823/11]

Payments under the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme began issuing on 22 September 2011 and I can confirm that the application of the person named has been fully processed and that payment has issued directly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Heather Humphreys

Question:

164 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when persons (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive their disadvantaged area payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26826/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2011. A number of parcels listed on the application of the person named required re-digitisation. This process is now complete and the application is being processed, with a view to any payments due under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme issuing shortly, while the 50% advance payments under the Single Payment Scheme are scheduled to commence issuing as and from 17 October 2011.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

165 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of persons who hold multiple State agency board positions; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27199/11]

There are currently 12 State Bodies/Agencies that fall under the aegis of this Department.

The following table lists all persons who hold more than one State Board position in respect of the State Bodies/ Agencies under the aegis of this Department.

Board Members Names

Name of State Body/Agency

Remuneration

Dr Noel Cawley

Teagasc (Chair)

€20,520

Bord Bia

€11,970

€32,490

Lorcan O’Cinnéide

Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board (ALAB)

€5,985

Marine Institute

€7,695

€13,680

Adoption Services

Martin Ferris

Question:

166 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will advise this Deputy on the options available to a family in County Limerick who wish to adopt an orphan girl from Belarus who has been visiting them for a number of years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26829/11]

There is no provision in the Adoption Act, 2010, for the adoption of a person 18 years or over.

Children in Care

Michael McCarthy

Question:

167 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will confirm the number of Health Service Executive-run residential facilities for children in State care; the different types of facilities; the number of children currently based in each type of residential facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26868/11]

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

Michael McCarthy

Question:

168 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will confirm the number of times in 2010 and 2011 separately that officials in the Health Service Executive run residential facilities for children have contacted gardaí to report an individual child in their care missing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26870/11]

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

Foster Care

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

169 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children currently in foster care nationwide; the number of children that have been in foster care in the past 20 years; the procedures in place for recording foster care arrangements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26757/11]

The HSE compiles monthly performance reports which provide an overall analysis of key performance data from finance, HR, hospital and primary and community services, including statistics in relation to children in foster care. The most recent report in July 2011 states that there are 5,354 children in foster care nationwide. The figures for the number of children that have been in foster care from December 2006 are shown in the table.

At Year End

Children in Foster Care

Children in Foster Care with Relatives

Total

2006

3,206

1,496

4,702

2007

3,201

1,557

4,758

2008

3,227

1,539

4,766

2009

3,418

1,698

5,116

2010

3,447

1,674

5,121

To July, 2011

3,612

1,742

5,354

Service Plan performance indicators were first introduced in 2006 as a high level set of indicators to be reported on through the year by the HSE. Prior to 2006, information was collected by individual health boards and I have requested the HSE to provide information on foster care prior to 2006 directly to the Deputy.

Preschool Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

170 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if exceptions are made regarding the qualifying ages for the early childhood care and education scheme; her plans to amend the scheme to allow every child to avail of it for one year and to ensure that no child loses out on availing of it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26854/11]

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010 and provides a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school. Almost every pre-school service in the State is participating in the ECCE programme, ensuring that it is available to children in all areas, and 63,000 children, or 94% of the eligible age cohort, availed of the free pre-school year in 2010/2011. Figures for the academic year 2011/12 are currently being compiled.

Children qualify for the free pre-school year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant year. This means that children born between 2 February 2007 and 30 June 2008 qualify for the free pre-school year in September 2011. There is no provision under the programme to enrol children who are below the qualifying age; children born in July and August of 2008 will qualify for the programme in September 2012.

The objective of the programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. To achieve this, services participating in the pre-school year are expected to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort. For this reason, it is appropriate to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify. It is a matter for parents to decide if they wish their child to avail of the programme or if they wish to send their child to primary school.

A number of parents have requested that the lower age range for eligibility for the ECCE programme be reduced on the grounds that they wish to send their children to school when they are 4 years and 2 months of age or less. The matter was referred by some of these parents to the Office of the Ombudsman for Children. That Office found no reason to remove or amend the lower age range, accepting it as reasonable having regard to the various factors which apply. However I have asked officials in my department to examine options for the further development of the ECCE programme and the matter of age will be looked at as part of this.

Appointments to State Boards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

171 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of persons who hold multiple State agency board positions; their total remuneration; the number of board memberships said persons hold and their names in tabular form. [27201/11]

As the Deputy will appreciate, I can only supply the information requested with regard to membership of Boards that fall within the aegis of my Department. In that regard, I have confirmed that none of the people currently appointed to these Boards hold multiple board positions among these particular Boards. The Boards in question are:

The Adoption Authority of Ireland;

The Family Support Agency; and

The National Education & Welfare Board

My Department does not collate information regarding membership of Boards that fall outside the aegis of my Department.

Crime Prevention

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

172 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a significant street market has emerged for the sale of prescription drugs; his plans to make the sale of such drugs, without due authorisation, a criminal offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26765/11]

I am informed that An Garda Síochána is aware of the misuse of prescribed drugs, most frequently in circumstances where illegal substances subject to the Misuse of Drugs Acts have become scarce due to law enforcement measures. Medicinal products which have the potential to be misused are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation. There are additional controls on the prescribing, dispensing, supply and possession of prescription medicines which are controlled drugs. The legislation provides for prosecutions in circumstances where substances seized, including prescribed drugs, are controlled substances under the legislation.

Through the framework of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016, my Department is working in collaboration with the relevant statutory agencies to monitor the availability of controlled drugs, including prescription medicines, through illicit supply channels.

My Department and the HSE are actively engaged in the consideration of measures to improve practices regarding the use of benzodiazepines and other related medicines and are reviewing legislative measures on the control of these substances.

I can assure the Deputy that the enforcement of the law relating to the sale of drugs, including prescription drugs, continues to be a priority in the Government's commitment to tackling the issue of drug misuse.

Hospital Services

Terence Flanagan

Question:

173 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will deal with a matter (details supplied) regarding the liaison service between Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, and the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26663/11]

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

Mental Health Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that the overall mental health service staffing level is maintained and that funding for posts is preserved at the level of budget 2011 to allow recruitment of staff to reconfigure services towards a Vision for Change model; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26668/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding mental health reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26669/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

177 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will adequately resource the directorate for mental health services to ensure that it contains the necessary change, management capacity and skills to drive implementation of a Vision for Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26674/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that reduced welfare spending does not negatively impact on the mental health of the population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26675/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

179 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will invest in supports that effectively link persons with a mental health problem with work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26676/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health in the absence of a funding stream under the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government for tenancy sustainment support, if he will ensure that rehabilitation and recovery teams are adequately resourced to provide ongoing support to persons with a mental health problem to enable them to live independently in the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26677/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 175 and 177 to 180, inclusive, together.

This Government is committed to implementing A Vision for Change and reforming our model of health care delivery so that more and better quality care is delivered in the community which will facilitate access to housing, education and employment. A Vision for Change also recognised that all citizens should be treated equally and that access to housing and employment for individuals with mental health problems should be on the same basis as any other citizen.

It is further the Government's intention that over time access to modern mental health services in the community will be significantly improved. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to ring-fence €35 million annually from within the health budget to develop community mental health teams and services. In addition, as 90% of mental health needs are dealt with at primary care level, the Government is committed to developing closer links between mental health services and primary care. It is envisaged that the provision of improved community-based services will ensure that people with mental health problems receive the treatment and after-care support needed to facilitate recovery.

An Assistant National Director with specific responsibility for Mental Health was appointed by the HSE in 2009 to oversee the implementation of A Vision for Change. I have now asked the HSE to prepare an implementation plan, which will identify specific recommendations of A Vision for Change that can be progressed over the next three years, with timelines, detailed costs, structures and identifiable person(s) responsible for driving the change including delivery on the commitments in our Programme for Government. Issues related to staffing levels particularly in community mental health teams will be examined in this context.

Undoubtedly, the current economic situation is having an effect on people's mental health and well being. The impact of unemployment and the strain of financial difficulties on physical and mental health are well known. In this regard, following consultation with the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and Citizens Information Centres, the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention launched the ‘Tough Economic Times’ programme in 2009. 150,000 information leaflets highlighting the practical things we can do to protect our mental health were produced for the public as well as a guidance book for organisations which advises how to prepare staff to recognise and respond to mental health related problems. The HSE continues to deliver the mental health awareness campaigns — ’Your Mental Health’ and the ’Let some one know’ campaign which is aimed at young people.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

176 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure adequate capital funding in 2012 to continue the closure of psychiatric hospitals and transfer of service users to appropriate community based accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26673/11]

The Government's policy on mental health incorporates the recommendations of Vision for Change. This Government is committed to reducing the stigma of mental illness, ensuring early and appropriate intervention and vastly improving access to modern mental health services in the community. The Programme for Government states that unsuitable psychiatric institutions will be closed and patients including those with intellectual disabilities and older people in the care of the mental health services will be provided with more appropriate community based facilities. Children and adolescents will be provided with appropriate in-patient accommodation.

The Health Service Executive has achieved considerable progress in recent years in providing appropriate accommodation and its capital programme supports the Government's commitments as set out in the Programme for Government. The Executive's Capital Plan 2011-2015, which is published on its website set out its planned programme including mental health infrastructure. For example 10 x 6 bed bungalows have been provided for people with intellectual disabilities who were previously resident at St Ita's Portrane. New in-patient accommodation for children and adolescent services has been provided — 20 beds each at Bessboro in Cork and St Anne's Galway. At St Vincent's Fairview, six child & adolescent beds have been provided, a further six beds are under construction and it is planned to deliver a further eight. Hostel accommodation is being provided at Clondalkin, Ballyfermot, Islandbridge, Crumlin, and St John's Enniscorthy. Long term residential accommodation is under construction at Wexford, Mullingar and the accommodation provided at Ballinasloe is operational. Acute mental health departments on acute hospital campuses are at different stages of delivery — Beaumont at construction; OLOL Drogheda at design stage; Letterkenny opened in recent days.

The Programme for Government provided for a Comprehensive Spending Review which is now well under way. This exercise includes a review of the planned health care capital programme. The outcomes of this review will determine the health care capital allocations for 2012 and future years.

Questions Nos. 177 to 180, inclusive, answered with Question No. 174.

Health Service Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

181 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a full breakdown of all expenses claimed by Health Service Executive executives since 1 January 2008 in tabular form; the person who claimed the expenses; the expenses that were claimed for broken down by headings mileage, hotels, food, drink, entertainment and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26691/11]

I have referred this matter to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

182 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of the number of persons within the Health Service Executive who have company credit cards; the amount spent on those cards since 1 January 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26692/11]

I have referred this matter to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

183 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of persons within the Health Service Executive who have company cars; the cost of providing such cars per year since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26693/11]

I have been informed by the HSE that no personnel within the Executive are provided with a company car. The roles of certain paramedic staff in the National Ambulance Service may require that, when on call, they have specially-equipped vehicles available to them at their homes to facilitate rapid response.

Grant Payments

Billy Timmins

Question:

184 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26697/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that Mobility Allowance is administered by the Health Service Executive. If an application is refused, the Health Service Executive issues formal notification informing the applicant of his/her right of appeal and indicating the relevant health office to where the appeal should be sent. Therefore I have arranged for that part of the Deputy's question to be referred to the Health Service Executive, for direct reply to the Deputy.

While application for a Primary Medical Certificate is administered by the Health Service Executive, the appeal process is administered by the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, an independent board.

Health Service Staff

Terence Flanagan

Question:

185 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the maternity leave of public health nurses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26700/11]

The Employment Control Framework does not preclude the replacement of staff on maternity leave. Such replacements are a matter for local management to consider given the need (or otherwise) to replace staff and the financial cost of doing so.

Hospital Accommodation

Jim Daly

Question:

186 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 246 of 22 September, when he will complete his review of the proposed bed closures at Mount Carmel Hospital, Clonakilty, County Cork. [26703/11]

The Deputy will appreciate that all developments have to be addressed in the light of the current economic and budgetary pressures and any decisions taken by the Executive must have regard to this and the current moratorium on the recruitment of nursing and non-nursing staff.

Following his appointment as Minister for Health my colleague Dr Reilly T.D. instructed the HSE to advise him of situations where it was planning to withdraw residential care for older people. In this regard the HSE notified the Minister of the proposal to reduce the number of long stay beds at Mount Carmel, Clonakilty, County Cork. Each HSE area, including the Local Health Office in Cork has been asked to make a rigorous examination of how existing funding might be re-allocated to ensure maximum safe service provision and the HSE proposal is being considered in this context.

As the Deputy is aware the Department is currently reviewing the provision of public residential care in the light of the need to meet national standards and regulations, local demographic pressures and public and private provision. The review will serve for a platform for discussion and will inform the development of an overall strategy on how the HSE should continue to provide this service in future in view of current budgetary and other pressures. The review must also be seen in the light of the wider health reform programme to which the Government is committed, and the position of social care services in a future health service. The position in relation to individual units, including Clonakilty, will be contemplated within this review. There is no separate review of Clonakilty proposed at this time.

Health Services

Terence Flanagan

Question:

187 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health his plans to provide additional funding for home care packages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26706/11]

Government policy is to support older people to live at home and in their communities for as long as possible and, where this is not an option for whatever reason, to support access to high quality long term residential care. It is intended that the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive, and all other relevant agencies, whether in the statutory or non-statutory sectors will develop and implement the policies and services set out in our Programme for Government, Government for National Recovery, 2011-2016. This includes a commitment, in the context of overall reforms, resource availability, and other influencing factors such as changing demographics, to enhance investment in community based and residential care services for older people, including Home Care Packages.

Joan Collins

Question:

188 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health if he will consider the request for funding in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [26716/11]

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

Ambulance Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

189 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding Caherciveen ambulance service, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26754/11]

The HSE has confirmed that ambulance services are not being downgraded in Cork and Kerry. In fact, the opposite is true, as stations move to on-duty status and away from on-call. This means that highly trained paramedic crews will be on site in their stations to respond to calls, rather than having to go to the station when called out. It also means that resources can be deployed dynamically, based on need and demand patterns, rather than simply by location, producing more flexibility and responsiveness. This will produce better response times for the people in Cork and Kerry and a better service.

Caherciveen will, under the new system, move to full 24 hour on-duty cover. Paramedics will be present at all times, with an on-duty ambulance during the day and an on-duty rapid response vehicle at night. The dynamic delivery model means that an on-duty emergency ambulance will be available from within the region as required.

The HSE and Unions are committed to the elimination of on-call working, which has already been reduced from 44 hours to 16 hours per week. The reduction of on call hours will continue on a phased basis, as part of the improvement of services and response times in the region. An evaluation of the service will take place after each phase in completed to identify any issues arising.

Current evidence suggests patient outcomes can be improved by better treatment and stabilisation at the scene, followed by ongoing treatment and transport to the most appropriate centre, even if that means longer transport times. On-duty service will enable a modern emergency response service, involving paramedics, advanced paramedics, community first responders and GP out of hour services, working together to respond to emergency situations. This approach is consistent with international best practice and will ensure compliance with HIQA response times and quality standards.

On-duty rostering is one of several service enhancements. Other developments include improved arrangements for control and dispatch, practitioner deployment and inter-hospital transfers. All of these will allow the National Ambulance Service to provide a better, safer, more comprehensive and more efficient emergency ambulance service to the people of Cork and Kerry.

Drug Treatment Clinics

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

190 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health the number of patients being treated for drug addiction and related issues including methadone maintenance in the following Dublin city centre clinics, City Clinic, Amiens Street, Trinity Court, Pearse Street, Merchants Quay, Castle Street, Cork, Soilse, North Frederick Street; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26761/11]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

191 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health of those treated for drug addiction and related issues including methadone maintenance in the following Dublin city centre clinics, City Clinic, Amiens Street, Trinity Court, Pearse Street, Merchants Quay, Castle Street, Cork, Soilse, North Frederick Street, if he will provide a breakdown of the number of persons who have given addresses that are in the Dublin 1 and 2 areas and the number that have given addresses that are outside Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26762/11]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

192 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health his plans to transfer persons treated in Dublin city centre clinics, City Clinic, Amiens Street, Trinity Court, Pearse Street, Merchants Quay, Castle Street, Cork, Soilse, North Frederick Street, for drug addiction and related issues, who are not resident in the Dublin 1 and 2 areas to more locally based services; the number he intends to transfer before 31 December 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26763/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 to 192, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated by the HSE. I will arrange to have it forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available to me.

Health Services

John McGuinness

Question:

193 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if a full medical card will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he will expedite the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26790/11]

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

Hospital Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if and when an appointment for 19 February 2013 can be brought forward in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26809/11]

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 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. [26810/11]

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

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

196 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26850/11]

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

Health Services

Arthur Spring

Question:

197 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Health the amount of funding being allocated by the Health Service Executive to transport cancer patients in County Kerry to the centre of excellence in Cork; and the amount each organisation involved in transporting the patients receives. [26852/11]

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

Medical Cards

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

198 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26855/11]

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

Hospital Staff

Ciara Conway

Question:

199 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health if the Health Service Executive has received back 20% of moneys owed by hospital consultants who failed to keep to a commitment to limit the numbers of private patients treated in order to prioritise public patients; the amount paid back by the 15 September deadline; when the balance can be expected to be paid in full; the measures being taken to retrieve the full amounts; the penalties that will be incurred by those who do not repay the moneys owed; the steps that he will take to avoid a similar situation in future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26857/11]

The 2008 consultants' contract includes measures to strengthen the management, monitoring and control of activity in hospitals with a view to ensuring that the level of consultant private practice within public hospitals does not exceed the permitted ratio — 20% for new consultants, and up to 30% for those who had such a level previously. The HSE in conjunction with the ESRI has introduced a range of new measurement systems in order to meet the requirements of the contract.

Since January 2009 each consultant is issued with a monthly public/private mix measurement report. This documents the consultant's activity in relation to inpatient, day case, outpatient and diagnostic activity over the previous three months. The contract provides that the employer may require the consultant to remit monies in respect of any private practice excess to a research and study fund.

At this stage, the HSE's focus is on consultants who have been identified as engaging in as much as 50% private activity despite the passing of both a 9 month period allowed for resolution of the issue in the contract and substantial additional periods of time for remittance of private fees. In January the HSE wrote to these consultants informing them that if they did not remit the required amount they would be required to cease private practice in respect of any segment of practice where they are in excess of the ratio specified in their contracts. It also advised them that as employer it would reserve the right to invoke the Disciplinary Procedure specified at Appendix II of the Contract.

To date the hospital managers have written to 70 Consultants who are 40% or higher in breach of their public private limits under the Consultant Contract 2008. These Consultants were requested to provide 20% of the money owing as an initial step. Failure to comply with the request to remit funds arising from breach of the public/private ratios would result in an instruction to cease charging private patients. This follows the completion of the 9-month period provided to each consultant for them to resolve the issue and to query any data issues. In many cases, the Consultant has had nearly 18 months to resolve the issue. Non-compliant consultants had until the 15th September to rectify breaches under their contract. A small number of consultants who failed to rectify the breach have been informed that they may no longer conduct private practice in public hospitals.

Hospital Services

Jack Wall

Question:

200 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health his views on a submission (details supplied) regarding the lack of facilities for children under 16 years of age who suffer from arthritis; his plans and those of the Health Service Executive to immediately address the problems outlined especially in regard to the specialist consultant post; his plans to bring the services up to World Health Organisation standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26859/11]

I am pleased to confirm that the Health Service Executive has identified Paediatric Rheumatology as a priority service for children's health services and has approved the recruitment of a new Paediatric Rheumatology Consultant for Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin. The recruitment process for this post is currently ongoing.

The Paediatric Consultant post already in place in Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, will shortly fall vacant due to maternity leave. A locum position was recently advertised but unfortunately there were no applicants for the post. The hospital is currently in discussion with the Children's University Hospital, Temple Street, to identify the level of support they can provide to ensure continued service delivery. I can assure the Deputy that the HSE will continue its efforts to ensure that this important service can be maintained.

Health Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

201 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if he will consider creating a programme in which referrals from the Health Service Executive to acupuncture professionals could be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26865/11]

Programmes such as that proposed by the Deputy are a matter in the first instance for the Health Service Executive itself. At present there is no statutory register of approved acupuncturists in Ireland; nor are acupuncturists employed in the publicly funded health sector. While complementary therapists, including acupuncturists, are not subject to professional statutory regulation, they are subject to a range of legislation and regulation, similar to other practitioners including consumer legislation, competition, contract and criminal law. The Department makes available an information leaflet on complementary therapy to assist consumers in making an informed health choice — a copy is available at http:// www.dohc.ie/publications/pdf/complementary_therapists_leaflet.pdf?direct=1

In line with a recommendation of the National Working Group on the Regulation of Complementary Therapists which reported in 2005, the Department of Health supports greater voluntary self regulation of complementary therapy, including acupuncture, which would enable a sector to speak with one voice. The Department has already undertaken initiatives to support voluntary regulation e.g. the production of guidance for professional associations such as examples of codes of ethics and good practice, including grievance and disciplinary procedures.

HETAC (the Higher Education and Training Awards Council) and my Department recently commissioned a joint research project on the nature of academic validation of five specific complementary therapies including acupuncture in various jurisdictions and the criteria for identifying complementary therapies which warrant the academic validation of programmes by HETAC. I look forward to considering the findings of this research in due course.

Taxi Regulations

Robert Troy

Question:

202 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to receive the report of the taxi review group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26789/11]

The review of taxi regulation which I am chairing, is examing all aspects of taxi regulation and will make specific recommendations on matters such as licensing, enforcement, vehicle standards, supply issues in rural and urban areas and future dialogue with the taxi sector. The review will enable the necessary further reforms of the sector to allow consumers to have confidence in the taxi system while also ensuring that legitimate and competent operators and drivers can be rewarded by operating fairly under a regulatory framework that is adequately enforced. I am satisfied that good progress is being made by the Review Steering Group in tackling its mandate and I would hope to report to Government on the recommendations of the review next month or very shortly after that.

Subject to necessary approval of the review recommendations by Government, I would then expect to make an early announcement of the outcome of the review.

Consultancy Contracts

Clare Daly

Question:

203 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total expenditure in 2010 on consultants fees by the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that travel expenses are being paid to a board member for eight meetings per annum which cover travelling from the United Arab Emirates; in view of the fact that Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company is losing in the region of €10,000 per week, the savings, if any, that could be made by changing the status of the company from semi-State to fully publicly owned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26722/11]

The Deputy has asked a number of separate questions, which I will address in order.

Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company's publically available annual accounts for 2010 detail that the company spent €230,000 on consultancy fees last year. As the Deputy is aware, the company is currently undergoing a major public consultation and master-planning process in relation to the future development of the harbour.

The accounts also disclose the fees and expenses paid to each individual director and confirm that the company fully complies with Department of Finance Travel and Subsistence regulations. As part of its oversight of the corporate governance of the port companies, my Department has sought explanations in the small number of cases where the expenses of Directors exceed the norm. In the case of Dún Laoghaire, the company have informed my Department that this arises because one of the directors resides outside of Dublin and receives travel expenses for attending meetings. However, I understand the matter the Deputy highlights has been resolved.

My Department also monitors closely the financial performance of the port companies and has recently received the accounts for the first half of the year from all the port companies, including Dún Laoghaire. The details of such accounts would be considered commercially sensitive, but I can inform the Deputy that the company remained profitable during the period.

The State ports are currently structured into nine competing port companies. A review of ports policy is currently underway and I intend to publish a revised policy document as soon as possible. The current structure of port companies will be one of the issues addressed.

In terms of cost savings, Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company has already cut its costs substantially. I do not see that changing the status of the company will result in further savings per se. However, I am open to considering the merits and demerits of the transfer of the Port Company to Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council as part of the forthcoming Ports Policy review, though I have no specific plans to pursue this option.

Question No. 204 answered with Question No. 16.

Driver Licensing

Noel Harrington

Question:

205 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to amend the legislation and or regulations regarding the requirements that those holding a driving licence from a country or a state in the USA which does not have an exchange driving licence agreement with Ireland or the EU must apply for a driving permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26727/11]

Irish law governing recognition of foreign driving licences operates within the framework of EU driver licensing law. The essential criteria for recognition of foreign licences are, therefore, the existence of testing and licensing regimes in other jurisdictions which meet with EU standards. On this basis, Ireland has arrangements for mutual recognition of driving licences with other EU Member States, as well as with a number of other countries. This is of great importance for safety on our roads, as we need to be sure that people licensed to drive on our roads have met specific standards.

In the case of the USA, where licensing is operated at State level and where not all States meet EU requirements, it is not possible to have an exchange relationship. However, the requirement of a six-month waiting period before taking a driving test in this jurisdiction is waived in the case of persons who hold a full licence in their own country. I remain open to the possibility of extending recognition to licences from other jurisdictions with whom we do not currently have an exchange relationship, provided that the necessary requirements are met.

Taxi Regulations

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

206 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to increase the number of taxi regulation enforcement officers form the current nine officials who are under the remit of the National Transport Authority in view of the thousands of taxi vehicles across the country; his views that the use of the multi-agency enforcement teams to monitor and invigilate taxi regulations should be significantly increased in view of the success of these teams on the nights that they have been out; if he will ask the NTA to increase the number of multi-agency teams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26728/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

207 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will direct the National Transport Authority to examine the operation of illegal taxi ranks in towns and cities across the country which prohibit many drivers who are working from legal ranks from picking up fares; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26729/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

208 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the National Transport Authority has reported to him on the percentage of taxi vehicles across the country which are complying with the new regulation on the display of a county sticker which came into force on 1 August 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26730/11]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

209 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the taxi regulator division within the National Transport Authority is still permitted to issue new regulations through statutory instruments even though a complete review of the taxi industry is currently taking place through the Taxi review group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26731/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 to 209, inclusive, together.

While the taxi regulation review is pressing ahead with its work under my chairmanship, the NTA retains its regulatory functions under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 including its statutory power to make regulations under section 34 of the Act. It is important that the NTA has such flexibility in the interests of being able to respond effectively to any enforcement challenges that arise in protecting the consumer.

The supply and operation of taxi ranks is a key issue that is being examined in the course of the review. The allocation of taxi rank spaces is a function of local authorities and It would be inappropriate to issue a direction to the NTA on this subject because of the role of local authorities and the difficult enforcement challenges being considered by the review steering group. However, it is an area that will have to be addressed by the review group.

Strengthening enforcement is a critical area for the taxi review and we are looking at how the NTA supported by the Gardaí be best deployed to target non-compliance in the sector.

In the case of compliance with the use of county stickers I have referred the Deputy's query to the NTA for a direct response on the level of compliance. If a reply is not received within 10 working days, please contact my private office.

Departmental Funding

Michael McGrath

Question:

210 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has received an application under the smarter travel initiative for essential works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if funding will be made available for the scheme. [26775/11]

Bus and rail fares are a matter for the operating companies in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA). I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects to be in a position to proceed with the various capital projects in the transport sector; if he expects funding to become available for these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26793/11]

Funding for transport capital projects for the period 2012-2016 will be determined in the context of the capital review currently underway. Once the level of funding available is known the transport investment programme will be finalised. A key priority will be to provide funds to protect existing investment and maintain safety standards. Following this priority will be given to projects and programmes which are affordable and provide value for money, contribute to economic recovery and transport objectives, including adding value to existing infrastructure and services.

Road Network

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which public private partnerships are likely to be used to fund projects in the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26794/11]

A comprehensive review of capital spending is now underway, the results of which will form the basis of the new National Development Plan(NDP). Priorities for funding in the transport sector for the period2012 -2016 and funding mechanisms will be outlined in the new NDP.

The use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a delivery mechanism for capital investment where appropriate will be kept under review. A number of road PPP projects have been successfully delivered in recent years. However the successful awarding of a major PPP contract involving private funding is challenging at any time but is particularly challenging in current circumstances where Ireland has been the subject of intervention by the IMF/EU. In view of the current circumstances the international debt funding market has been reluctant to lend funds to finance major projects in Ireland, the repayment of which is ultimately dependant on the state.

Public Transport

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which bus and rail fares here compare with those applicable in adjoining and or competing jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26795/11]

Bus and rail fares are a matter for the operating companies in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA). I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Road Network

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which efforts are made to provide low noise road surfaces in view of the emphasis on such in other jurisdictions and the high level of complaints from persons adjacent to roads or motorways with high noise levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26796/11]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. He should advise my private office if does not receive a reply within 10 working days.

The maintenance and improvement of regional and local roads is a matter for the relevant local authority under Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which the transport sector has been able to meet carbon reduction targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26797/11]

While there is no specific carbon reduction target for the transport sector, the sector has been contributing to reductions in these emissions. The most recent EPA figures for greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector are for 2009, and these figures show that they have fallen from a peak of 14.33 million tonnes in 2007 to 13.12 million tonnes in 2009, representing a decrease of just over 8%. A further decrease in emissions would be expected for 2010.

Whilst much of this reduction in emissions can be attributed to the contraction of the economy, savings are also being made due to implemented policies and measures such as mobility management schemes, and promoting modal shift to cycling. In particular the motor taxation and vehicle registration taxation rebalancing has resulted in a dramatic improvement in energy efficiency of new cars entering the fleet, leading to significant reductions in the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Economic Competitiveness

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which comparisons have been made between transport costs here and those prevailing in other jurisdictions; the degree if any to which such costs can be reduced thereby improving economic competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26798/11]

International comparative data on transport costs are not readily available from respected international statistical sources such as Eurostat and the International Transport Forum.

My Department has no direct control of transport costs in general but keeps under review costs arising from the services provided through our agencies.

Cost competitiveness is a key consideration for Ireland as an open export-oriented economy and transport is one of the many factors influencing that competitiveness. The Government's plans to improve competitiveness are set out in the Programme for Government and place a heavy emphasis on the delivery of effective transport services. I have also outlined my priorities to 2016 for the transport, tourism and sports sectors on my Department's website.

Question No. 217 answered with Question No. 6.

Sport and Recreational Development

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which it is expected that the sporting sector can positively assist economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26800/11]

The sports sector is a major contributor to the economy, a contribution which includes sports tourism, ticket sales, subscriptions and the cost of playing sport, together with the purchase of sports equipment and an economic value of time given by volunteers. Sport and sport-related activities support over 38,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

Participation in sport can also bring benefits in terms of health and well-being which can in turn produce an economic dividend through reducing costs to the health service. There is a very extensive financial dividend to be obtained through the success of major sporting events, particularly those with an international dimension. Through a variety of actions and investments Ireland is developing an enviable reputation as a destination to play and watch sports. Stadia such the Aviva, Croke Park, Semple Stadium and Thomond Park attract international and domestic tourists in large numbers throughout the year. The targeting of major international sporting events such as the Ryder and Solheim Cups in golf, the Volvo Ocean Race and the Irish Open golf tournament attracts tourists and also showcases the country in the best possible light. The "Assessment of Economic Impact of Sport in Ireland" report which was prepared for the Irish Sports Council last year states that Government investment plays an important role in supporting and driving the wider economic benefits of sport. This assessment demonstrates that there is a very significant return on Government investment and expenditure on sport in Ireland. For every €100 of Government expenditure, the Government receives approximately €149 back in the form of taxes and other income arising from sport-related economic activity.

Tourism Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he continues to have contact with the tourism sector with particular reference to the hotel industry and the need to address the issue of those costs now most negatively affecting the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26801/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the issues identified during discussions he has had with the stakeholders in the tourism sector with particular reference to costs affecting the industry; the extent to which it has been possible to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26802/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 and 220 together.

I remain in regular contact with major stakeholders in the tourism sector, including hotels, which keeps me advised of issues of concern to the industry. The Government's Jobs Initiative introduced a new lower VAT rate of 9% from July 1st for a range of tourism services and also significantly reduced the cost of employing people by halving employers' PRSI for those on modest wages, further enhancing the competitiveness of the sector.

I am aware that there are a range of other costs that are of concern to tourism businesses including labour costs.

As the Deputy is aware, the consultation period launched by my colleague, Richard Bruton T.D., Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on proposals for the reform of the State's employment rights and industrial relations structures and procedures ended on 16th September. I look forward to the implementation of the revised structures.

The new National Internship Scheme (NIS) also provides an opportunity for businesses in the tourism industry to take on interns at no additional salary cost in a range of areas that will enhance their business prospects while giving interns the opportunity to learn more skills which will make them more attractive to prospective employers.

Bóithre Réigiúnacha

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

221 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Iompair, Turasóireachta agus Spóirt cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le dearadh an Bóthar Nua R336 go Conamara ó dheireadh an Chuarbhóthair timpeall ar Ghaillimh, atá á phleanáil, go Scríb; cén uair a bheadh súil aige go mbeadh an bóthar seo tógtha; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [26847/11]

Tá feidhm reachtúil ar gach údarás bóthair bóithre réigiúnacha agus áitiúla a fheabhsú agus a chothabháil ina limistéar de réir fhorálacha alt 13 d'Acht na mBóithre, 1993. Is ábhar é don údarás áitiúil iomchuí oibreacha ar bhóithre den chineál seo, maoiniú a chur ar fáil as a cuid acmhainní féin agus forlíonta le deontais bhóthair an Stáit. Is ceist í don údarás áitiúil freisin rogha tosaigh agus ord tosaíochta na dtionscadal atá le maoiniú.

Tá iomlán de €439,676,000 curtha ar fáil do na húdaráis áitiúla faoin gClár Infheistíochta um Bóithre Réigiúnacha agus Áitiúla. Tá iomlán de €24,319,000 curtha ar fáil ón tsoláthar seo do Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe. Curtha san áireamh san méid iomlán seo tá leithdháileadh breise de €3,381,000, a chuireadh ar fáil i Mí Bealtaine do Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe mar chuid den Tionscnamh Post. Chomh maith leis sin tá maoiniú de €500,000 don R336 (Bóthar Rochtana Chonamara ó Bhearna go Ros a Mhíl).

Chuir an t-údarás áitiúil doiciméad i dtoll a chéile le hinnealtóirí comhairligh TSC agus leis an tSeirbhís Páirceanna Náisiúnta agus Fiadhúlra chun cás a dhéanamh maidir leis an R336 ó Bhearna go Scríb a thógáil agus é ag dul tré chuid den cSAC eadhon Coimpléasc Portaigh Chonamara. Bhí cruinniú le hoifigigh an Choimisiúin an AE ar an ábhar seo i Mí Bealtaine na bliana seo.

Tá an scéim fós ag céim an roghnú bealaigh agus dhá bhealach nua faoi iniúchadh ag an gcomhairle leis an bfhéidearthacht maidir le bóthar atá ann cheana féin a uasghrádú. Tá súil acu go mbeidh tuilleadh comhairliúcháin phoiblí maidir leis an mbealach a roghnófar níos déanaí san Fhómhar.

Tá athbhreithniú cuimsitheach ar chaitheachas caipitil ar siúl faoi láthair agus beidh na torthaí mar bhunús do Phlean Forbartha Náisiúnta Nua. Beidh réaltachtaí nua maoinithe chomh maith curtha san áireamh san athbhreithniú. Beidh tosaíocht mhór ar mhaoiniú a chinntiú maidir le infheistíocht a rinneadh go dtí seo a chosaint agus a choimead ar bun agus chun caighdeáin sábháilteachta a choimeád ar bun chomh maith. Ní dhéanfar aon chinneadh ar leithdháiltí maoinithe go dtí go mbeidh an t-athbhreithniú chaipitil criochnaithe agus go mbeidh eolas ar fáil faoi bhuiséad na Roinne.

Tourism Industry

Michael Colreavy

Question:

222 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to maximise the potential of food tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26496/11]

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

Sandra McLellan

Question:

223 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the potential of winter tourism here; his plans to see that potential maximised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26506/11]

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