Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 9.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Alan Farrell

Question:

13 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost benefit analysis behind the greater Dublin drainage and waste water plant scheme in Fingal, which will cost of €2 billion to the Exchequer; the impact that such a large treatment plant will have on Dublin north; the impact on the selected town of having to process the waste of the entire Dublin area compared with the impact of creating separate smaller treatment plants around the city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37430/11]

The Greater Dublin Strategic Drainage Study (GDSDS) published in 2005 represented a strategic analysis of the existing drainage systems in the Greater Dublin Area and made a number of recommendations to meet future needs having regard to whole-life costs and environmental performance. The €2 billion cost referred to in the question is the estimated cost, in whole life terms, for all of the waste water improvements in the Greater Dublin Area recommended in the report. This includes the expansion of a number of waste water treatment plants in the region, as well as the proposed new regional plant in North Dublin. It is not intended that the regional treatment plant would treat waste water from the entire Dublin area.

A firm estimate of cost of the North Dublin project will be available when the Preliminary Report for the scheme is completed and the locations of all three elements of the project — the treatment plant, outfall and orbital sewer — are confirmed, along with the technology that will be used at the waste water treatment works. However, my Department understands from Fingal County Council that the entire scheme is not expected to cost more than €500m. Fingal County Council, as contracting authority, will be required to demonstrate that the optimum solution is proposed, from both an environmental and economic perspective, and that it has been subjected to cost-effectiveness analysis.

The option of having a large number of smaller waste water treatment plants rather than one large regional plant was considered as part of the GDSDS. The issue was considered again in 2008 when a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) report on the matter was published. Both the GDSDS and the SEA reports confirm that a regional plant in North Dublin would have a lesser impact than a large number of smaller plants discharging to ground or surface waters across the Greater Dublin Area. I am, therefore, satisfied that through this process the issue of alternative options has been addressed.

Local Authority Housing

Michael Colreavy

Question:

14 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is necessary for those applying for local authority housing to supply leases for all rented addresses over the past five years. [37561/11]

The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, which came into force on 1 April 2011, include a standard prescribed application form to be completed by all households seeking social housing support. To ensure that a housing authority is in a position to consider a household's application properly and fairly, this form must be completed fully and all relevant supporting documentation supplied. Failure to provide full information could result in an inaccurate assessment of the household's application, including an unwarranted negative decision regarding qualification.

The form seeks details of applicants current accommodation, and, if in private rented accommodation, details of current rent, name of landlord or agent and other details. It also seeks details of applicants' previous accommodation over the last 5 years, including addresses, dates at the addresses and reasons for leaving.

Supporting documentation is required to verify all information given as part of the application, but the nature of the supporting documentation required is not specified in the Regulations, and there is no specific provision requiring copies of leases for the last 5 years. It is a matter left within the discretion of the housing authority, and the information required may vary depending on the circumstances of the applicant.

Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 6.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 10.

Waste Management

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

17 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there has been a rationalisation impact assessment of household waste collection; and if he intends to introduce a Bill to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service under the system of market structuring known as franchise bidding. [37557/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service.

A public consultation designed to inform policy development concluded in September 2011. A large number of responses were received from a broad spectrum of interests. As one might expect, a consensus is not apparent and on almost all of the relevant issues, a considerable breadth of opinion was expressed. Many responses cited concerns such as the potentially adverse impact of franchise bidding on waste collection firms and the loss of the benefits of ongoing, side-by-side competition. Other responses pointed to the possible significant savings for householders and the potential for improved environmental outcomes if franchise bidding were introduced.

All of the responses received, in addition to a summary document, are available on my Department's website.

The responses are being examined and I intend to conclude examination of the issue in the coming weeks. A Regulatory Impact Assessment, which will inform Government's deliberations, is also being prepared. I expect to be in a position to submit final proposals to Government very early in the New Year. The nature and extent of any legislative requirements will depend on the outcome of the policy development process.

Social and Affordable Housing

Gerry Adams

Question:

18 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the forthcoming Housing Bill. [37748/11]

The Government's housing policy statement launched by the Minister for Housing in June of this year foresaw a number of significant reforms and developments in the provision of social housing. A key element in this regard is the commitment to devise an alternative to the existing system of rent supplement operated by the Department of Social Protection. The intention is that those households with an identified social housing need will move to a new social housing scheme operated by the statutory housing authorities. In this context rent supplement could revert to its originally intended role as a short term income support.

Giving effect to this major reform will require legislation. It is my intention, following work now underway interdepartmentally to develop the new approach to housing provision for this group of households, that legislation be introduced during 2012 to give a statutory basis to the approach.

Such a Bill would also provide a mechanism to address other social housing issues.

Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 7.

Planning Issues

Pearse Doherty

Question:

20 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends amending the 2010 Planning and Development Act to rebalance power towards elected representatives and the public. [37564/11]

The planning code is kept under review in my Department to ensure that there continues to be adequate participation by public representatives in decision-making and policy formulation. Having regard to my immediate priorities on the legislation programme, I have no plans to introduce a further planning legislative amendment at this time. The matter can be further considered in 2012.

Homelessness Strategy

Seán Crowe

Question:

21 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made in ending long-term homelessness and in the introduction of a housing first approach to tackling the homeless crisis. [37560/11]

The Programme for Government commits to reviewing and updating the current homeless strategy, to adopting a ‘housing first/housing led' approach to homelessness and to ensuring more effective prevention strategies. Work now underway on updating the strategy will be concluded this year. There is no single solution to increasing the level of social housing supply for the homeless, and maximising delivery will require flexible and diverse approaches.

The initial emphasis will necessarily be on the Dublin region, where the numbers are most acute, by moving away from the current over reliance on emergency accommodation provision to a more permanent accommodation solution and to be achieved through a number of measures including: directly linking the provision of funding with specific targets and outcomes; making better use of the existing available accommodation units in the local authorities and in the voluntary sector; additional social housing provision through acquisitions and remedial works/upgrading of vacant local authority housing stock and a leasing programme; engagement with NAMA to pursue options for securing properties without significant state funding; targeted use of the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS); an enhanced role for the private rental sector; better co-ordination with the voluntary and cooperative housing sector; and the establishment of Homeless Action Teams across all regions.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 7.

Local Authority Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

23 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which local authorities can be encouraged to return to the concept of providing a reasonable number of local authority houses in each local authority area throughout the country, thereby reducing the extent of reliance on rent support, as a means of augmenting the local authority housing programme; if particular attention can be paid to the total number of persons currently on local authority housing waiting lists; the annual recurring cost of rent support and the obvious benefit to the Exchequer of reducing such a liability in the traditional manner by providing local authority houses for rent or purchase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37656/11]

Question:

123 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that social housing provides better savings for the State in the long term, as well as secure tenure for residents, than the rent supplement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37876/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if consideration might be given to increasing the local authority housing stock, with particular reference to the need to replace the current degree of reliance on social welfare-funded rent support; if any costings have been carried out as to the likely savings achievable in the event of increased capital spending on a housing programme resulting in multi-annual savings as opposed to an ever-increasing annual cost arising from rent support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37973/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 123 and 138 together.

With levels of capital funding for social housing reduced by some 66% since 2008, the financial parameters within which the State is operating and will be operating over the coming years rule out a return to a mainly capital-driven construction programme by local authorities. Accordingly, delivery of social housing will be primarily facilitated by more flexible funding models, with the Social Housing Leasing Initiative and the Rental Accommodation Scheme providing the primary sources of supply.

The estimated cost of providing rental assistance by the State, including the rent supplement scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection, is of the order of €630 million in 2011. Over 110,000 households rely on this assistance to help meet their accommodation costs. Using this money to provide for the construction or acquisition of local authority housing would leave the vast majority of these households without housing support.

In terms of concerns with reliance on rent supplement as a housing support, the new housing policy statement published in June 2011 signalled key reforms in housing policy, including the phased transfer of responsibility for meeting the housing needs of long term rent supplement recipients from the community welfare service to the housing authorities. A steering group has been established to oversee the development of the project and a number of working groups have been established to address the wide range of complex issues involved.

Local Government Reform

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

24 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made in the commitment to abolish the position of county manager. [37549/11]

David Stanton

Question:

42 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 15 of 20 October 2011, the further progress which has been made in bringing to Government more comprehensive policy proposals regarding structural reform of local government at regional, county and sub-county levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37762/11]

David Stanton

Question:

44 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 15 of 20 October 2011, if he has received the first report of the local government efficiency implementation group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37761/11]

Brian Stanley

Question:

122 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when Dáil Éireann may expect to see local government reform proposals including the devolving of control of transport, traffic, economic development, education, responses to crime and local health care needs to local communities. [37873/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 44, 42 and 122 together.

I am adopting a progressive approach to local government structural reform. Decisions have already been taken to merge the authorities in Limerick and Tipperary and a Local Government Committee has been established to consider whether Waterford City and County Councils should be unified. I intend to bring wider policy proposals to Government in the New Year which will build on these decisions, with particular attention being given to local government structures generally at regional, county and sub-county levels. Initial proposals will also be submitted, having regard to the Programme for Government, in relation to further aspects of the local government system including the potential for involvement of a revitalised local government system in a wider range of functions, and issues such as local authority powers, governance, community engagement and local political and executive leadership.

The future designation and role of county managers will be among the matters for consideration in the development of further policy proposals. Separately, but related to the reform programme in this area, the Government decided on 25 November 2011 that provisions in respect of new TLAC appointees would also apply to City and County Managers and I am undertaking a comprehensive examination of the legal and practical aspects of this matter.

In relation to the efficiency agenda, the work of the independent Local government efficiency implementation group is progressing. The group has met on five occasions to date and I expect to receive its first report shortly.

Building Regulations

Brian Stanley

Question:

25 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to meet with the former residents of Priory Hall, Dublin. [37750/11]

Dublin City Council is the designated authority with powers to enforce the statutory requirements arising under the Fire Safety Act, the Building Control Acts and the Planning and Development Acts, all of which are at issue in relation to Priory Hall. The council is also the designated housing authority under the Housing Acts.

My responsibility, as Minister, is to ensure that appropriate statutory requirements, technical standards and administrative provisions are put in place under the various relevant legislation. This responsibility has been fulfilled and is not in dispute. I have no role in relation to enforcement activity or in relation to the direct provision of housing services. Residents at Priory Hall and their representatives have previously been advised of this standing division of responsibilities.

Dublin City Council has made commendable efforts to provide for the needs of residents to date, and I urge the Council to continue to meet and communicate with the residents and to take all reasonable steps to support them at this difficult and vulnerable time.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Joe Higgins

Question:

26 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on the implications for carbon reduction management in the Programme for Government. [35836/11]

For the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland is committed to limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 13% above 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period. In accordance with the National Climate Change Strategy we will meet that target on foot of domestic mitigation action supplemented by the purchase of carbon allowances or credits under the flexible mechanisms provided for in the protocol.

Ireland's greenhouse gas mitigation target for 2020 requires a 20% reduction on 2005 levels in the sectors of the economy not covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS). This reduction must be achieved along a legally-binding trajectory, beginning in 2013 at the average emissions for 2008-2010, with annual targets up to 2020. This poses a very significant challenge and, even under the most optimistic scenario, a compliance gap will need to be bridged. This gap will be addressed through domestic policy development complemented, as necessary, by use of the flexibilities provided in Decision 406/2009/EC of 23 April 2009.

Irish installations participating in the EU-ETS will operate within an EU-wide cap which will deliver a 21% reduction on 2005 levels by 2020.

Proposed Legislation

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

27 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider amending the Building Control Act 2007 by removing Part 3; whether he agrees that the term “architect” should not be applied exclusively to university-qualified architects, and that since architecture is a creative art form the term “architect” should not be exclusive to any one group, just as the term “artist” should never be the exclusive preserve of any one group such as artists with an arts degree; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37429/11]

I have no plans to amend Part 3 of the Building Control Act 2007 along the lines suggested. There is no question of the term architect being applied exclusively to university qualified architects. Section 22 of the Act makes specific provision for a category of practically trained persons who had already been providing architectural services in Ireland commensurate with those understood as being provided by architects for the purpose of the Building Control Act 2007 for a period of ten years at the time the Act became law. This provision is transitional in nature and enables this category of persons to become registered once they have been assessed as eligible for registration by the Technical Assessment Board in accordance with the practical experience assessment procedure. The prescribed register admission examination route provided for at section 14(2)(f) will ensure there is an ongoing route to registration for those who obtain the required level of competence through practical experience rather than through formal academic study. The register of persons entitled to use the title of architect was introduced as a consumer protection measure and is designed to prevent persons who fail to demonstrate the required level of competence from passing themselves off as architects. As explained above registration is open to both academically qualified and practically trained candidates. However, there is no question of allowing any person to use the title of architect unless he or she is registered to do so.

Private Rented Accommodation

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

28 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to make the reporting of landlords renting substandard properties easier for members of the public. [37753/11]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

29 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce tougher measures to penalise landlords renting substandard properties; and the measures required to detect this. [37752/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 29 together.

Local authorities are responsible for enforcement of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations in relation to all rented properties. Regulations setting out minimum standards for private rented accommodation were first set out in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993. However, it became clear in recent years that the standards no longer reflected the requirements of the modern rental sector. In the partnership agreement, Towards 2016, the Government committed to updating and more effectively enforcing the minimum standards regulations for rented houses. In September 2006, my Department launched a programme, Action on Private Rented Accommodation Standards, arising from which new regulations prescribing minimum standards for rented accommodation — the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 — came into effect on 1 February 2009 with certain provisions being phased in for existing rental properties over four years to allow time for the carrying out of the significant remedial work that may be involved in achieving compliance.

A comprehensive new sanctions regime is also available to local authorities following the enactment of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. Fines for non-compliance with the Regulations have been significantly increased; the maximum fine has increased from €3,000 to €5,000 and the fine for each day of a continuing offence has increased from €250 to €400. In addition to the increased sanctions, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, amended the current definition of "a proper state of structural repair" as set out in the 1992 Act and Article 5 of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008. The new definition provides a comprehensive list of components against which a dwelling can be assessed to verify that it is structurally sound. The inclusion in this definition of a requirement to maintain gardens and common areas in good condition means that there is now an obligation on landlords to maintain the external appearance of rented accommodation. Members of the public can report cases of substandard rented properties to their relevant local authority. Contact details for each local authority and copies of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations can be found on my Department's website, www.environ.ie.

Shared Ownership Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

30 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, in the wake of the Keane report, any evaluation has been done of the shared ownership mortgage scheme operated through the local authorities; the extent to which the flaws in the scheme have emerged, with particular reference to the extent to which borrowers at a vulnerable end of the market are being forced to pay well in excess of a mortgage instalment while potentially owning only half of the property; the provision for the remaining equity to remain in the ownership of the owner; if he will ensure that the scheme is amended and that provision can be made for borrowers under the scheme to dispose of the property in a fair and equitable way and ensure that such borrowers are not forced to live indefinitely in overcrowded conditions which did not apply at the time of purchase and where relocation may be necessary for a variety of reasons including employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37655/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which he expects to be in a position to review the operation of the shared ownership mortgage schemes operated by the various local authorities; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties the scheme has created for a large number of borrowers who find themselves locked into a mortgage from which they cannot extricate themselves in the event of changed circumstances such as job relocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37979/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 144 together.

Any borrower, including a borrower purchasing under the shared ownership scheme, who is facing difficulties in meeting mortgage repayments, should engage proactively and constructively with the lender to seek to achieve an agreed solution. The services of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service are also available to such borrowers and support is available through the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme Provisions regarding lending by local authorities for the purposes of house purchase are set out in section 11 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992. If a loan stands in default, section 11(10) provides that a local authority may make such monetary arrangements with a borrower as they consider equitable to take account of the particular circumstances of the borrower.

In addition, my Department issued comprehensive guidance to local authorities on the treatment of mortgage arrears, including local authority mortgages for shared ownership transactions, in March 2010. That guidance was closely based on the Central Bank's first statutory Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears to ensure that cases of local authority mortgage arrears are handled in a manner that is sympathetic to the needs of the particular household, while also protecting the position of the local authority concerned. To reflect the content of the Central Bank's revised Code of Conduct, which replaced the previous code on 1 January 2011 and was informed by the deliberations of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt, my Department is preparing updated guidance to local authorities in consultation with the City and County Managers Association. Mortgage interest supplement under the Supplementary Welfare Scheme, administered by the Department of Social Protection, is payable, subject to the qualifying conditions of that scheme, in respect of mortgages under shared ownership transactions, in the same way as in the case of mortgages generally.

Under the Shared Ownership Scheme, the rent charged on the local authority's equity in a shared ownership transaction is to cover the funding costs to the Housing Finance Agency which are based on borrowings at the prevailing interest rates. Any difference between the rent and prevailing interest rate is reflected in the capital outstanding on the property i.e. if the rent charged in any period is greater than the prevailing mortgage interest due on the local authority's share, the purchase price of the outstanding equity will be reduced accordingly. Support is available to purchasers under the scheme through rent subsidy. This is available to households who have a gross household income of up to €28,000 per annum in the preceding tax year. The level of subsidy ranges between €2,550 for incomes up to €13,000 and €1,050 for incomes up to €28,000.

In terms of disposal of properties, purchasers have the right to buy out the local authority's share and acquire full ownership at any time. Alternatively, this may be done by purchasing, from time to time, additional shares of the authority's equity. For Shared Ownership transactions commenced from 1 January 2003, the cost of purchasing an additional share or the redemption value of the outstanding share is based on its initial cost adjusted annually to compensate for differences between the rent paid on the local authority's share and the interest calculated by reference to the prevailing variable interest rates. The rent payments under the Shared Ownership Scheme are intended largely to meet the cost of funding provided by the Housing Finance Agency to local authorities to finance the rented share in the equity of the house.

For transactions commenced before 1 January 2003, the cost of purchasing an additional share, or the redemption value of the outstanding share, is its initial cost updated in line with the most recently published Consumer Price Index to the time of purchase. Accordingly, the scheme is structured on the basis that, on redemption, the price of the outstanding share is not determined on the basis of a percentage of current market value, but is, rather, a function primarily of its initial capital cost. While this may seem unfair to those living in shared ownership properties in the current market, it is important to note that the purchasers were in the position of having their share of the property rise in value when the market was rising. The Government's housing policy statement, which was published on 16 June 2011, announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes, including the shared ownership scheme.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 7.

Environmental Policy

Michael Colreavy

Question:

32 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to move towards zero-carbon homes. [37562/11]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to further improve the energy efficiency of new buildings with a view to moving towards carbon neutral homes in the longer term.

In tandem with this commitment, Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings requires EU Member States, inter alia, to ensure that all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy by 31 December 2020 (or by 31 December 2018 in the case of new buildings owned and occupied by public authorities).

The Directive broadly defines a ‘nearly zero-energy building' as a building with a high energy performance where the very low amount of energy required should, to a very significant extent, be met by energy from renewable sources, including renewable energy produced on-site or nearby.

Against this background, Ireland has been making significant progress in terms of both improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions within the built environment. Taking the energy efficiency requirements established in 2005 as the benchmark, the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2007 set the requirements necessary to achieve a 40% improvement (over the 2005 standards) in the energy and carbon performance of new dwellings. These regulations came into effect on 1 July 2008 subject to certain transitional arrangements.

Furthermore, earlier this year, I published the Building Regulations (Part L Amendment) Regulations 2011 and the accompanying Technical Guidance Document L — Conservation of Fuel and Energy — Dwellings (2011). These regulations build on the substantial improvements already introduced under the 2007 regulations and will deliver a 60% aggregate improvement (relative to 2005 standards) in both the energy and carbon performance of new buildings when the regulations come into effect tomorrow, 1 December 2011.

Part L 2011 marks an important step on the road to carbon neutrality and puts Ireland at the forefront of EU Member States in terms of energy efficiency standards for new dwellings. All the signs indicate that Irish builders and manufacturers continue to innovate and adapt their approaches and products to meet new standards as they continue to evolve progressively over time. This is important in terms of continuing the development of the market for energy efficient buildings and products domestically while also increasing the considerable potential that exists for high energy efficiency products in export markets. The new regulations are important in maintaining the momentum that has already been created in this regard.

My Department is also working on the development of a strategy for achieving a nearly zero energy framework for dwellings in order to meet our obligations under Directive 2010/31/EU within the prescribed timeframe. It is anticipated that a nearly zero energy framework for dwellings will require further amendments to the building regulations over and above the new Part L 2011 requirements.

Building Regulations

Clare Daly

Question:

33 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that HomeBond is co-operating with the pyrite panel in revealing all the information in its possession relating to pyrite infill under ground floor slabs of houses insured by HomeBond against major structural damage; and if he has any proposals to deal with structural guarantees into the future. [37529/11]

The Pyrite Panel has been set up as an independent body and is carrying out its work on that basis. I understand that it is currently engaging in a consultation process with a broad range of key stakeholders. I have asked for a report to be submitted to me early in the New Year and on receipt of it, I will consider what, if any, action is necessary in relation to the structural guarantee process at that stage.

Local Authority Charges

Brendan Griffin

Question:

34 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to overhaul the system of commercial rate calculation for small and medium-sized enterprises; if he will consider abolishing commercial rates for small and medium sized enterprises and replacing rates with a levy on profits; if he will utilise domestic water and property-related charges to reduce the burden on small and medium-sized enterprises of funding local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37432/11]

Local authorities are under a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes in accordance with the details entered in the valuation lists prepared by the independent Commissioner of Valuation under the Valuation Act 2001. The levying and collection of rates are matters for each individual local authority. The Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV), which is applied to the valuation of each property, determined by the Valuation Office, to obtain the amount payable in rates, is decided by the elected members of each local authority in the annual budget and its determination is a reserved function.

The Commissioner of Valuation, who has sole responsibility for all valuation matters, is conducting a programme of revaluation of all commercial and industrial properties throughout the State on a county by county basis. The purpose of the revaluation process is to update commercial valuations which will assist in providing a more equitable distribution across those liable to pay rates.

The Commissioner, in consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, has been reviewing various options for streamlining the valuation process and speeding up the national revaluation programme. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform intends to bring proposals for a Valuation Bill to Government shortly.

A property-based tax has a distinct advantage over any tax based on profits or incomes as it is generally found difficult to evade. A system having regard to economic factors on an ongoing basis would create uncertainty by providing for continuous change to the valuation base. This would not provide a stable basis for funding the local government sector and would require significant additional resources to operate.

It is recognised that the existing revenue base of local authorities is narrow by international standards. This was a consideration in the introduction of the €200 charge on non-principal private residences in 2009. A further broadening of the revenue base for local government will be achieved as a result of the introduction of the household charge in 2012 as required under the EU/IMF programme of financial support for Ireland.

The EU/IMF programme also includes a commitment to introduce water charges for households. The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water and envisages that charges will apply to usage above a free allowance. My Department is currently preparing a strategy to implement these proposals. Further details will be announced following the Government's consideration of the proposals.

I recognise that these are difficult economic times for many businesses. I will continue to keep all matters relating to rates under regular consideration and I am determined that every avenue will be pursued to optimise efficiency, and contain and reduce costs in the local government sector.

Environmental Policy

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

35 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to establish Ireland as a leading player in the global carbon market. [37551/11]

The Programme for Government includes the objective that "Ireland will be developed as a centre of excellence in green finance and carbon management, through the creation of an enabling, co-ordinated and supportive environment."

In this regard, I refer to the comprehensive reply which An Taoiseach provided to Question No. 1 on Tuesday 22 November 2011 which, inter alia, refers to the potential for green financial services growth outlined in the new strategy for the international financial services industry in Ireland 2011-2016.

Proposed Legislation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

36 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when we can expect legislation that will allow local authorities take housing estates in charge; and if the legislation will make allowances for the financial implications for the relevant local authority. [37563/11]

Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 applies to estates which have been granted planning permission and include the construction of 2 or more houses (which as defined in the Act includes apartments) and the provision of new roads, open spaces, car parks, sewers, water mains or drains. In relation to estates which have been completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority in accordance with the permission, section 180 provides that the planning authority must, if requested to do so by the developer or by the majority of the qualified electors who are owners of the houses involved, initiate the procedures in section 11 of the Roads Act 1993 for declaring the road(s) to be public roads, for whose maintenance the local authority will then be responsible.

Section 11 of the Roads Act empowers a local authority to, by order, declare any road over which a public right of way exists to be a public road. Before making an order the local authority must be satisfied the road is of general public utility, consider the financial implications of taking the road in charge and consult with the public/consider any objections received. The consideration of the objections and the making of the order declaring the road to be a public road is a reserved function, so that the decision whether to take the road in charge is ultimately one for the discretion of the elected members.

In relation to estates which have not been completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority and enforcement proceedings have not been commenced within the relevant period, section 180 also provides that the planning authority must, if requested to do so by the majority of the owners, initiate the procedures in section 11 of the Roads Act. However, in this case the section provides that the provision in section 11 of the Roads Act requiring the authority to consider the financial implications of taking the road in charge is to be disregarded.

Section 180 also provides that where a planning authority, in complying with the Section, makes an order under section 11 of the Roads Act, it must also take in charge any open spaces, car parks, sewers, water mains, or drains within the attendant grounds of the development.

Section 180 was amended in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 to provide that a planning authority may take in charge an unfinished estate, at the request of the owners of the housing units, at any time after the expiration of the planning permission, in situations where enforcement actions have commenced or where the planning authority consider that enforcement action will not result in the satisfactory completion of the estate by the developer. Planning authorities have also been empowered to take in charge part of an estate or some, but not all, of the facilities in an estate.

Urban Renewal Schemes

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

37 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government how the regeneration in County Limerick can proceed successfully when both regeneration boards are to be merged into Limerick county councils. [37552/11]

The Government remains fully committed to the regeneration of disadvantaged areas of our cities and towns including the areas of Moyross, St Mary's Park, Southill and Ballinacurra/Weston in Limerick City. I intend to make sufficient funding available under the 2012 capital allocations to ensure that real progress is made in implementing regeneration projects in these areas.

The integration of the regeneration programme into the new unitary local authority to be established in Limerick was proposed by the Limerick Local Government Review Group following a broad and comprehensive engagement with stakeholders, including those directly involved with the regeneration process. The Group was specifically charged with considering how the existing structures could be improved and/or strengthened to the advantage of the wider Limerick area, having particular regard to the importance of the regeneration process.

Following this extensive review, there is a strong commitment at local level to making the process work. My Department is committed to working closely with the Regeneration Agencies and other stakeholders so that the progress made to date is sustained and built upon. I am satisfied that the amalgamation of the Agencies with the new unitary Council will benefit rather than hinder the regeneration effort.

Clearly, there are significant resource advantages to the proposed change as the regeneration project will have access to the full resources available within the reformed local government system in areas such as planning, transport and infrastructure, environmental services, community and enterprise etc.

It is also the case that under the Agencies' Establishment Orders their term of operation is due to end in June 2012. The new arrangements will facilitate continuity in the programme as it moves further into the critical implementation phase.

Housing Grants

Martin Ferris

Question:

38 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the measures he will be undertaking over the winter period to ensure that those living in substandard housing with poor insulation will be protected from the cold. [37749/11]

This year my Department is providing €203 million to support a number of measures aimed at improving the quality and standard of local authority social housing stock, ranging from large-scale regeneration and estate-wide improvement works to the retrofitting and refurbishment of individual vacant and occupied units. €31 million of this is being provided to local authorities to undertake necessary works aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers. This retrofitting measure has, since its introduction in 2009, already seen significant improvement to the energy efficiency of some 3,000 social housing units. It is a matter for local authorities to select the properties to be upgraded and to determine the nature and the scale of the works to be undertaken in each case.

My Department also provides Exchequer funding, amounting to €63.6 million in 2011, to support a suite of improvement works and adaptations to privately owned properties to meet the accommodation needs of older people and people with a disability. Under the terms of the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, grants are available to assist households to have necessary repairs or improvement works carried out in order to facilitate the continued independent occupancy of their homes. The detailed administration of these schemes, including the assessment, approval and the specific level of funding to be directed to each of the various grant measures from within the allocations notified to them by my Department, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, recently published the Affordable Energy Strategy aimed at meeting an important commitment in the Programme for Government. The Affordable Energy Strategy will be the framework for building upon the many measures already in place to protect households at risk from the effects of energy poverty, which include the thermal efficiency-based measures delivered through the Better Energy: Warmer Homes programme.

The overarching vision of the new strategy is to achieve a standard of living whereby households are able to afford all of their energy needs and where families live in a warm and comfortable home that enhances their quality of life and supports good health. Both the Better Energy: Warmer Homes and Better Energy: Homes schemes, which are aimed at improving the energy efficiency and comfort levels of homes, are administered by Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) and fall within the remit of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Local Authority Bodies

Dessie Ellis

Question:

39 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he expects to move agencies such as community employment and enterprise supports into local government. [37554/11]

My Department is engaging with local authorities in order to develop a new sectoral strategy to promote employment and support local enterprise by local government in a number of areas. This includes the identification and dissemination of best practice in relation to local enterprise and business support arrangements.

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

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

In parallel to this work, the Government has committed to reviewing the delivery of local and community development functions at local level by exploring options to improve the alignment of these functions with those of local government. For this reason, I have established a high level Steering Group to advise me on options for improved alignment between local and community development and local government. The Steering Group has been tasked with examining the scope for greater synergy between the sectors with a view to improving, and achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness in, the delivery of those services; this includes services that are focussed on enterprise and employment support.

I consider that local government, with its democratic mandate, can work in partnership with effective local development structures to deliver efficient, sustainable, joined-up and easy to access services. I anticipate that the Steering Group will present its final report to me by end January, 2012.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

40 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the responsibility of housing under his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37747/11]

As Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, I retain responsibility for housing matters.

Social and Affordable Housing

Seán Crowe

Question:

41 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government how he will meet the commitment to increase the stock of social housing with the diminishing budget outlined in the report on infrastructural and capital investment. [37559/11]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

45 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress he has made on his commitment to provide social housing bonds to housing associations supporting access to private sector funding. [37757/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 45 together.

With levels of capital funding for social housing reduced by some 66.23% since 2008, the financial parameters within which Ireland is operating, and will be operating over the coming years, rule out a return to very large capital-funded construction programmes by local authorities. Accordingly, delivery of social housing will be primarily facilitated by more flexible funding models, with the social housing leasing initiative and, in particular, the Rental Accommodation Scheme, playing their parts as long-term housing supports.

The Programme for Government listed some of the options we are exploring to facilitate the increased provision of social housing, including social housing bonds and the viability of utilising the value of existing social housing stock as a means of leveraging further funding for the provision of social housing. The Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease, and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition. Under the latter option, approved housing bodies will be able to build or acquire new social housing, remunerating their borrowings with funding provided by the Department under the leasing scheme. At the end of the loan period the approved housing body will own outright the units which will either continue to be made available for social housing purposes or may be sold to sitting tenants.

The first scheme of this nature, involving loan finance from the Housing Finance Agency being used by an approved housing body to purchase housing units from NAMA, was launched in July 2011. I expect this facility to be a critical source of new social housing provision in the years ahead. A range of other funding options remain under examination with a view to maximising the delivery of housing supports.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 24.
Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 10.
Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 24.
Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 41.

Urban Renewal Schemes

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

46 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to fund the Knocknaheeney regeneration project, Cork. [37746/11]

My Department is providing an allocation of €14 million to Cork City Council in 2011 for the delivery of two major regeneration projects at Knocknaheeny and the Glen. A major focus of the 2011 regeneration programme for the City Council has been to complete the review of the Knocknaheeny regeneration masterplan. This revised plan recently received support from both the City Council and the community, and it represents a significant step forward for the regeneration of the area.

The revised masterplan presents a much broader view, beyond a simple upgrading of the housing stock, to address the underlying issues of social exclusion and socio-economic disadvantage. This document, which encompasses the wider Hollyhill area, sets out an ambitious plan for the social, economic and physical regeneration of the area that will begin in earnest in 2012. This plan builds on the foundations of previous initiatives, including the redevelopment of Knocknaheeny Block D which delivered 78 refurbished dwellings, 42 new units and the well-known "drum" community centre.

I intend to make sufficient funding available under the 2012 allocations to enable real progress to be made in implementing the revised plan. My Department will liaise closely with Cork City Council in the context of determining the work programme for 2012 and the associated necessary capital allocations, within the wider National Regeneration Programme.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

47 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made in the development of a plan to resolve the issues surrounding ghost estates; and if he will carry out an audit of properties in the control of the National Asset Management Agency and a needs analysis of those on local authority housing lists. [37558/11]

My Department is chairing the National Co-ordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments to oversee implementation of the Report of the Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments, together with the Government's response to the recommendations. The Committee includes representatives from the Irish Banking Federation, local authorities, the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency, NAMA and the construction sector.

The Committee is meeting on a regular basis with the aim of publishing a report on progress achieved within the next 12 months. In the meantime, work is ongoing on implementation of the Report of the Advisory Group and real progress is already being made with regard to the public safety works required to improve the living conditions of existing residents on some unfinished estates.To date, my Department has made allocations totalling some €2.39 million to fifteen local authorities from the €5 million funding allocation made available to address immediate safety issues. The types of works that have been approved to date include the fencing off of unsecured and hazardous areas, capping of pipes, installation of street lighting, and other works to secure sites. My Department will be making further allocations as applications are received from local authorities and assessed.

Planning authorities are also making progress in securing the co-operation of developers, financial institutions, both domestic and foreign owned, and/or bond holders, thereby obviating the need to use Exchequer resources to fund such work.

In terms of making effective use of existing stock there is clear potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government's policy objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

My Department and I have been engaging very directly with NAMA to discuss options for bringing unsold suitable residential stock controlled by that Agency into productive use for social housing purposes. The first scheme of this nature, with property held by NAMA being purchased by an approved housing body through loan finance from the Housing Finance Agency, was launched in July 2011. Other proposals are currently being examined including leasing options as well as the sale of units.

State Properties

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

48 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the work that has taken place since March 2011 to complete a memorandum of understanding between the State agencies and semi-state companies under the aegis of his Department in relation to the use of State lands for rural recreation, including hiking and biking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37240/11]

My Department is responsible for the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy and the administration of the Walks Scheme, and works in co-operation with a number of State Agencies, Government Departments, Local Authorities and Local Development Companies to develop, and to support the development of, facilities for countryside recreation and activity tourism.

Outdoor recreation and activity tourism is an increasingly important area for state involvement and it delivers on a broad range of national objectives and programmes.

The State, through its State companies and agencies, owns a considerable area of land, including water resources, that have potential for either the expansion or development of recreation and activity tourism resources for use by citizens and visitors alike. For example, Coillte is the largest single landowner in the State with over 1.1 million acres, (approximately 7% of total land area of the State) which also provides an important recreation resource for over 18 million users each year. Coillte has, in recent years, had a renewed focus on developing and improving this resource with very positive outcomes.

To that end my Department has been engaged with the major State Agencies over the last year with a view to developing and agreeing a shared vision and approach to the development of outdoor recreation on State lands. Agencies such as Coillte, Bord Na Mona, Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, CIE and ESB have come together with others such as Fáilte Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council to advance this process. The last meeting of the combined group was held on 15 November and a further meeting is scheduled for 20 December. Progress is being made in agreeing a common approach and future priorities for the development of appropriate projects in suitable locations.

Notwithstanding the progress to date, a public lands recreation strategy can only be progressed if there is sufficient funding to resource the development of the recreation infrastructure and to maintain it over and beyond the period of the plan. Given current constraints it is essential that the process can bring efficiencies in the delivery of additional outdoor recreation capacity.

While economic difficulties present real challenges regarding funding, innovative thinking and a well coordinated and managed recreation initiative can not only deliver a valuable recreation resource for the future but support job creation and rural development also. It is clear that outdoor recreation delivers different benefits to different sectors of society and the economy — tourism, health, rural development, sport and environment. With that in mind and given the commitment of the organisations involved, I look forward to the outcome of the current deliberations and anticipate that the various agencies and organisations will be in a position to bring forward an agreed approach and conclude a memorandum of understanding early in 2012.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Catherine Murphy

Question:

49 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends to put in place a national register of non-compliant developers who have a history of enforcement proceedings taken against them or who have a history of leaving house estates unfinished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37831/11]

The developer of a residential estate is statutorily required to complete the development in accordance with the terms of the planning permission. A development which has not been completed in accordance with the planning permission is unauthorised development. Enforcement of planning control is a matter for the planning authority, which can take action where a development requiring planning permission has not obtained this permission, or where permission has not been complied with.

While my Department may be informed from time to time of particular cases relating to enforcement action or resolutions, it is primarily the responsibility of planning authorities to administer the development management process within their area, to provide for proper enforcement of planning control and to take all appropriate steps to ensure that development takes place in compliance with national and EU law.

The implementation of the law in individual cases is a matter for the planning authority and ultimately for the courts in any case coming before them. I have no plans to put in place a register along the lines proposed.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

50 Deputy John Lyons asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising eGovernment objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37945/11]

My Department currently operates six main websites for which details, numbers of unique visitors per month and projected costs are set out below for the year 2011. Earlier this year following completion of a procurement exercise, my Department embarked on a programme of work to rationalise and consolidate its websites with a focus on cost efficiencies, consistency with eGovernment objectives and enhancing services to customers. New websites developed under this programme will be launched during 2012. My Department is also leveraging the infrastructure hosting services available from one of the Government Hosting Centres as a further means of containing costs for website services.

In addition to the Department's sites, the Certificate of Irish Heritage programme website is managed by FEXCO under licence from the Department. All costs relating to the development and maintenance of the website are met by FEXCO, with the exception of the domain name registration.

The costs set out in the following table are for all Department sites and include support, maintenance, hosting and domain registration services as projected for 2011.

Website

Total Costs Projected for 2011

Average Number of Hits per Month

Department of Foreign Affairs family of websites including 68 Mission websites, www.dfa.ie

€60,000

17,702

Irish Aid family of websites, including Africa Day www.irishaid.ie

€37,140

12,452

Communicating Europe Initiative website www.eumatters.ie

€4,803

1,741

Global Irish Economic Forum www.globalirishforum.ie

€7,870

870

Dublin Cluster Munitions Conference website; part of new website consolidation programme

€528

Not currently available

Online Press accreditation and hosting services (launched end March 2011)

€33,076

1,475

Certificate of Irish Heritage site launched 19/09/2011 (Domain Registration Only)

€297

1,150

Tax Code

Jack Wall

Question:

51 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views regarding a submission (details supplied) regarding carbon tax; if he has had discussions with the stated parties; if so, the progress made regarding the issue; his plans to investigate the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37832/11]

All pre-budget submissions are examined and considered as part of the Budgetary process. The issue raised in the submission relates to potential Budgetary measures. It is the usual practice for the Minister for Finance not to speculate or comment in advance of the Budget what it will contain and I do not propose to deviate from that practice.

Tax Yield

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

52 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the total annual income tax take in 2010 from public service employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37905/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information sought by the Deputy is not directly available from the data maintained by them. However, on the basis of an estimation of the sectoral distribution of taxes collected annually, Revenue has tentatively estimated that the net income tax collected through the PAYE system from the public sector employees in 2010 was approximately €2.8 billion.

Tax Rebates

Jack Wall

Question:

53 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a rebate in respect of service charges paid for the past four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37796/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that PAYE Balancing Statements P21 for the years 2007 to 2010 issued to the person concerned on 17 November 2011 indicating that a rebate is not due.

EU-IMF Programme

Gerry Adams

Question:

54 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance his views on the leaking of Government documents given to the troika. [36998/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

55 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance his response to the fact that documents relating to budget 2012 were given to a German parliamentary committee before being put before Dáil Éireann. [36999/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 and 55 together.

As I said in my reply to parliamentary questions on this matter last week, I wish to make clear that I and my colleagues in Government are deeply concerned that draft confidential budget information became public before Government had finally made all of the necessary budgetary decisions. Furthermore, we are concerned at the manner in which this information was put into the public domain.

As the Deputy will be well aware, we are in a programme of financial support with the EU and the IMF. As part of this programme, we are obliged to share information with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF — the External Partners. Such information is shared on a confidential basis, with the understanding that its circulation is restricted. As such, certain draft technical information which is clearly signalled as being still subject to Government decisions is transmitted to the External Partners. This information flow is part of the necessary transmission of information which is required to facilitate discussions amongst senior officials at Eurogroup Working Group level.

As I understand it, and notwithstanding the strict confidentiality applied to the material supplied to the Troika, this information was sent by Commission staff to the German Finance Ministry. It was then forwarded by them to their Parliament. Neither Government nor the Irish officials were informed that this transmission of confidential budgetary documentation would take place. Further, that this occurred before the information was agreed by Government and then provided to the Oireachtas serves only to heighten our concerns.

Since becoming aware of the leak and the internal processes that the Commission have in place we have raised our serious concerns with the Commission, and also with the German authorities.

We must nevertheless recognise that we remain in a programme, and continue to rely on the support of the External Partners. In expressing our concern, we need also to continue working with our partners.

As the Deputy may be aware, the relevant documents have since been laid before the house — both in draft form on 22nd November, and upon signature by myself and Governor Honohan on 29th November.

Personal Debt

Seán Kenny

Question:

56 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the steps he proposes to take to appoint independent mortgage advisors, as referred to in the Keane report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37817/11]

As the Deputy is aware, progress is already underway in implementing a number of the recommendations of the Inter Department Mortgage Arrears Working Group report. These include the development, initially on a pilot basis, of two mortgage to rent schemes by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the advancement of personal insolvency law reforms by the Department of Justice and Equality and direct engagement by my Department with banks on the development and implementation of voluntary measures along the lines set out in the report. In addition, following the conclusion of the Dáil debate on the Inter-Department report, I intend to formally put forward proposals to the Government on next steps, including an implementation mechanism to be driven by my Department. One of the important issues to be finalised by Government in such a context is the issue of the provision of an independent mortgage advisory function and the most appropriate arrangements and structural elements associated with the delivery of such a service. This is an important matter and I intend to progress it as expeditiously as possible in consultation with my Government colleagues.

Banks Recapitalisation

Gerry Adams

Question:

57 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the total cost so far to the Exchequer and to Irish persons of the bank bailout. [37819/11]

The bank recapitalisation commitments made by the State to date are set out in the following table:

€bn

AIB/EBS

BoI

IL&P

IBRC (Anglo/INBS)

Total

Government preference Shares (2009) — NPRF

3.5

3.5*

7.0

Capital contributions (with Promissory Notes as consideration) /Special Investment Shares (2010) — Exchequer **

0.9

30.7

31.6

Ordinary Share Capital (2009) — Exchequer

4.0

4.0

Ordinary Share Capital (2010) — NPRF

3.7

3.7

Total pre-PCAR 2011 (A)

8.1

3.5

0

34.7

46.3

PCAR 2011:

AIB/EBS

BoI

IL&P

Anglo/INBS

Total

Capital from Exchequer***

3.9

2.7

6.5

NPRF Capital

8.8

1.2

10.0

Total PCAR (B)

12.7

1.2

2.7

16.5

Total Cost of Recap for State (A) + (B)

20.7

4.7

2.7

34.7

62.8

*€1.7bn of BoI's government preference shares were converted to equity in May/June 2010 (€1.8bn still left in existence). The government also received €0.5bn from the warrants relating to BoI's preference shares (excluded from table above).

**The IBRC amount is made up of a total capital contribution for Anglo / INBS of €30.6bn and a special investment share of €0.1bn (INBS). The Anglo / INBS capital contribution impacted in full on the GGB in 2010. The consideration for the Anglo / INBS capital contribution was €30.6bn of promissory notes. These Promissory Notes are an amount due from the State to IBRC. Each year, on 31 March, €3.06bn is paid by the Exchequer to Anglo / INBS as part of the scheduled repayments of the promissory notes. The first such repayment was made on 31 March 2010.

***The Exchequer cost of the 2011 BoI recap is shown net of share sale to private investors (Completed in October, 2011)

Please note that these figures only represent the capital committed to recapitalising these institutions and they do not take account of revenues received directly or indirectly from the banks. It should also be noted that the total cost of the recapitalisations would have been significantly higher were it not for the burden sharing achieved with holders of subordinated debt in each of the institutions.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

58 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if an educational facility (details supplied) in County Kerry will remain exempt from VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37825/11]

The facility referred to by the Deputy appears to be a pet farm and playground with fishing facilities and bungalows to let. For VAT purposes, these services do not constitute educational facilities. The fees charged for entry to open farms were until recently treated as VAT exempt "lettings of immovable goods". This VAT exempt treatment followed a 1970s Revenue Appeal Commissioner's decision, in a particular case, relating to a right granted to a person to enter a house and gardens. The exemption did not apply to other income including fees charged for the use of playgrounds or income from gift shop or coffee shop sales. Irish VAT legislation must be in accordance with the EU VAT Directive and must be interpreted in a manner consistent with decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Having regard to a number of decisions of the ECJ, and a recent challenge by the owner of an historic house to the existing exemption from VAT of such activities, the entry fees to open farms and to other similar facilities could no longer be treated as fees for VAT exempt lettings. Therefore, in order to be compliant with the EU VAT Directive it was necessary to bring such fees within the charge to VAT. A start date of 1 January 2012 was chosen to allow a lead in time to prepare for the 2012 season. Full details of the changes were set out in a VAT Information Leaflet issued in August 2011.

Admission fees to open farms will be liable to VAT at the standard rate of 21% from 1 January 2012. I would point out however that an exemption from VAT may still apply to open farms in certain circumstances. Open farms, like any other service business, may opt not to register for VAT if their entrance fee turnover is under the registration threshold of €37,500 per annum. Where this is the case VAT will not apply to admission fees.

The change in the VAT treatment of entrance fees to historic houses and open farms was not optional; it was required in order to be compliant with the EU VAT Directive as interpreted by the ECJ.

Revenue Commissioners

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

59 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number and location of Revenue Commissioners vehicle compounds; the capacity of each compound; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37839/11]

I understand the Deputy to be referring to compounds where vehicles that have been legally detained or seized by the Revenue Commissioners are kept pending the outcome of administrative or legal proceedings. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there are two permanent Revenue vehicle storage compounds, both located in the Dublin area. One of these compounds is located in the State Warehouse in Dublin Port and has a capacity to store approximately three hundred and fifty vehicles. The second compound is located in the Dublin South city area and has a capacity to store forty-five vehicles. In addition to these areas, regional Revenue offices maintain temporary local storage capacity for detained vehicles pending an administrative decision on a case-by-case basis on whether individual vehicles are released, or retained as a seizure and transferred to a permanent storage facility. There are a total of 14 of these temporary storage compounds with a capacity in excess of 300 vehicles. These compounds are located in various parts of the country. The Deputy will appreciate that for operational and security reasons I am not in a position to disclose the location of the storage compounds.

Budget Submissions

John Lyons

Question:

60 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider, in the course of his consideration of budgetary measures, the request by a group (details supplied) that all such measures be subject to an equality audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37866/11]

Where budgetary matters are concerned the Government's primary focus at present is on reducing the deficit further and returning sustainability to the public finances in the coming years. The focus of Government in this regard will be on taking decisions in a way that spreads the burden of the adjustment in as fair and equitable a manner as possible, while at the same time, seeking to minimise the negative impact on economic growth, which as we have seen is returning.

There are currently no plans to equality audit the measures in Budget 2012. However, I would point out that the Programme for Government does contain a commitment to require all public bodies to take due note of equality and human rights in carrying out their functions. I would also remind the Deputy that the State and its bodies take the provisions of equality legislation into account in the development and delivery of its policies and services.

Furthermore, the Cabinet handbook requires that Government memoranda indicate clearly, as appropriate, the impact of the proposal for, amongst other things, gender equality, persons experiencing or at risk of poverty or social exclusion and people with disabilities.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Niall Collins

Question:

61 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance if a publican (details supplied) can also operate as an off-licence; if not, the procedure to be followed to obtain such a licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37887/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an on-licence is defined in Section 1 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 as being a licence, whether granted on production or without production of a certificate of the Circuit Court or the District Court, for the sale of intoxicating Liquor for consumption either on or off the premises. The licensees (details supplied) are the holders of a Publicans Licence (7 day ordinary), which is an on-licence. This means that intoxicating liquor can be sold for consumption either on or off the premises and sales are authorised at one time to any one person of any liquor in the following quantities.

(a) in the case of spirits, wine or sweets, any quantity not exceeding two gallons, or not exceeding one dozen reputed quart bottles; and

(b) in the case of beer or cider, any quantity not exceeding four and a half gallons, or not exceeding two dozen reputed quart bottles.

The question does not give information on any intention of attaching an extension, or other change of the premises. Please note that this would need to addressed through the Courts if it is proposed to change the mapped area of the licensed premises.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

62 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising eGovernment objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37944/11]

The reply for my Department is included in the response from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under Question No. 84.

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

63 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a cut in excise duty in respect of an industry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38054/11]

As the Deputy may be aware this matter is the subject of a Pre-budget submission and as such will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget.

Higher Education Grants

Willie O'Dea

Question:

64 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills if students covered under the LMA 2 programme to diploma level (details supplied) at the University of Limerick might be considered for an extension under the programme to cover the costs of their education to degree level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37850/11]

The 30th June 2011 was set as the deadline for the completion of all programmes supported by the Labour Market Activation Fund 2010. Projects have been informed that no further funding is available to extend their programmes beyond that date.

Funding from the LMAF was made available to established education programme providers and not to individual participants. While the student in question is undertaking a four year course it was made clear by University of Limerick at the outset to all participants that funding from the LMAF would only be available for the first year of his programme.

Dara Calleary

Question:

65 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills when students (details supplied) in County Mayo may expect to receive their higher education grant payments from Mayo Vocational Education Committee. [37783/11]

The processing of student grants is carried out by local grant awarding authorities — VECs and local authorities. In the circumstances, it will be necessary for the students in question to contact County Mayo VEC to ascertain the position regarding their grant applications.

Employment Support Services

Brendan Griffin

Question:

66 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding internships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37800/11]

To be eligible to apply for JobBridge the applicant must be on the live register and have been in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance/Benefit or have been signing on for credits for at least 3 months. Incremental credit or pension credits will not be awarded to unemployed teachers who take up such internships as participation in the programme does not constitute employment and, as such, participants are not placed on the incremental salary scale.

In the event that a primary teacher who is conditionally registered with the Teaching council and who obtains a placement in an internship can meet the conditions associated with the operation of the primary probationary process as outlined in circular 47/2011, there will be nothing to preclude him or her from applying to be probated. Limerick Education Centre administers the probationary process on behalf of the Inspectorate and applications for the evaluation of professional competence aspect of the probationary process should be addressed to Limerick Education Centre.

The probationary process must be completed satisfactorily by teachers if they are to fulfil the conditions of their registration with the Teaching Council, the body with statutory responsibility for the registration of teachers in Ireland. The probationary period ends when the Teaching Council is satisfied that both the service requirement and the professional competence requirement are fully met.

The summer holiday period may not be included in the 6 or 9 month placement period; however, shorter periods of school closure may be incorporated as long as the conditions of the JobBridge scheme are complied with.

Departmental Scholarships

Terence Flanagan

Question:

67 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider setting up a musical scholarship scheme in memory of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37803/11]

I regret that the funding is not available to me in the current economic climate to set up the scholarship to which the Deputy refers.

Early Childhood Education

Gerry Adams

Question:

68 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are any funding resources available for the provision of ICT equipment or services for Montessori education; if he has considered providing a small level of funding for early-years education which would enhance the free pre-school scheme; his views on whether incorporating ICT into the early-years curriculum could integrate with the aims and goals of the pre-school scheme and benefit a child’s development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37816/11]

I take it that the Deputy means to encompass all pre-school provision when he refers to Montessori Education. Montessori Education is one pedagogical approach in use in the Early Years Sector. Other pedagogical philosophies and curricula include High/Scope, Steiner, Reggio Emilia, etc. All of these curricula can operate within Aistear, the Curriculum Framework for Early Education, published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in 2009. Aistear is based on the image of children as unique individuals; as active, capable and competent learners in their families and communities and is based on the understanding that children learn holistically, through relationships, through play and through using language. Children need to use the three dimensional, real world to learn and to develop their thinking and exploring skills. There are academics in the UK who consider that the premature introduction and overuse of technology is damaging young children whose brains are not yet fully formed.

For my Department, the emphasis is not on ICT but on supporting the sector to acquire the necessary skills to work with young children on their social, emotional and cognitive development and on oral language competency. I don't intend to put resources in place for the provision of ICT equipment or services for Montessori education. My Department will continue to fund targeted interventions for pre-school children which supplements the free pre-school scheme.

Adult Education

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

69 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has any plans to initiate a new national policy on adult education, including adult literacy, in view of the fact that the last such policy was published in 2000; if he could broaden the new national strategy for children and young persons to include adult literacy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37856/11]

The Programme for Government contains commitments in relation to the improvement of adult literacy levels in two key areas. As part of its Labour Market Policy, the Government will make literacy and basic workplace skills a national priority, with literacy training incorporated into a wider variety of further education and training programmes. The Government will also address the widespread and persistent problem of adult literacy through the integration of literacy in vocational training and through community education under its lifelong learning policy.

Since the White Paper on Adult Education ("Learning for Life") in 2000, adult literacy, has developed and expanded significantly — over 400,000 people have availed of adult literacy in that period and annual investment has gone from €10.6 million to €30 million. In July 2011, the Government announced the establishment of a new further education and training authority — SOLAS. SOLAS will have strategic responsibility for all further education and training, including adult literacy, and all further education and training will ultimately be delivered by the 16 Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs), which will replace the 33 Vocational Education Committees (VECs).

Developing the framework for SOLAS involves working towards the full integration of the separate further education and training sectors. The education and training programmes to be provided through SOLAS will be modernised over the whole sector to become more relevant, accessible, and more effective. On this basis, I believe that policy development for literacy is best dealt with as part of the work of establishing SOLAS.

In addition, Ireland is participating in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), organised by the OECD, which involves surveying adults (between the ages of 16-64) in their homes on a range of skills including literacy, and results will be available in October 2013. The data from PIAAC will form an important part of policy development in the area of adult literacy.

I should note that the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy does contain a number of recommendations in relation to adult literacy, specifically in relation to family literacy, and my Department is engaged in the implementation of those recommendations.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

70 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising eGovernment objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37942/11]

The annual cost of maintaining my Department's website in 2011 will be approximately €27,500. This figure includes the cost of an annual maintenance contract, a search engine licence and the Department's contribution to the Local Government Computer Services Board (LGCSB) for hosting the website. In the past year a total of 979,299 individual visitors made 1,620,304 visits to this site, a monthly average of 135,000 visits.

The Deputy may wish to note that my Department is currently completing a tendering process to develop a new high quality public website to replace the existing site.

In addition to the Department's public website my Department:

Maintains the European Social Funds website (www.esf.ie) as part of the Information and Publicity requirements of the ESF regulations. It is the main source of information (regulations, circulars, progress of the funds, etc.) for implementing bodies and beneficiaries of the fund in Ireland and to the general public. The annual cost of maintaining the site in 2010 was €3,300 — half of this cost is borne by the EU Commission via the ESF itself. There have been on average 840 visits to this website per month in the past year.

Maintains a separate legacy website relating to a specific ESF programme, the EQUAL Community Initiative (www.equal-ci.ie), at a nominal cost of €185 in 2010 to ensure that ongoing audit obligations/requirements can be fully met.

Pays annual nominal recurring fees totalling approximately €315 in order to retain two Early Years Education related websites on-line. The www.cecde.ie website relates to the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education which ceased operations in 2008, while the www.siolta.ie website relates to Síolta — The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education in Ireland. In the past year there were 100,889 visits to the www.siolta.ie site which translates to a monthly average of 8,400 visits.

Developed a new website www.energyeducation.ie (in partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) in order to expedite claims and streamline the application process for the Energy Efficiency Scheme announced in May 2009 (this scheme is now closed). The cost of maintaining this website in 2011 was €30 + VAT. In the past year there have been on average approximately 1,750 visits to this site per month.

The Deputy will note that, excluding the Department's public website, the level of recurring annual expenditure with regard to the websites mentioned above is not substantial.

School Placements

Mattie McGrath

Question:

71 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements he will put in place to ensure that a school placement will be arranged for a student (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has been out of school since September in view of the fact that there have been no placements available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37952/11]

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of a Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) school to the VEC in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld.

I understand the parents of the pupil in question lodged a Section 29 Appeal against the decision of the school to suspend him. I further understand that while the appeal was upheld and the pupil returned to school, he has recently been permanently excluded from the school. It is open to the parents to lodge a Section 29 Appeal against this decision.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil's area. The contact details for the NEWB in Co Tipperary is National Educational Welfare Board, Heritage Business Park, Bessboro Road, Mahon, Cork, phone number 021 4536314.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for the provision of a range of educational services at local and national level for students with special educational needs. In particular, its network of Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) co-ordinates special needs education provision at local level and arranges for the delivery of special educational services. The SENOs act as single points of contact for parents of students with special educational needs.

Another specific function of the SENO is to identify available educational placements for children with special educational needs. SENOs are a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children. I have arranged for the information provided by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Brendan Griffin

Question:

72 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the pupil-teacher ratio in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37955/11]

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.

Departmental Expenditure

Brendan Griffin

Question:

73 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter regarding savings in his Department (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37956/11]

The decisions arising from the comprehensive expenditure review conducted in my Department will be published as part of the Budget on December 5th 2011.

The Deputy will be aware that every line of expenditure has been examined by both my Department and the Government in an effort to see what savings can be made as part of this year's budgetary adjustment.

Any changes to Supervision and Substitution must be considered in the light of broader Government policy on public sector remuneration, particularly the Croke Park agreement, which seeks to maintain industrial peace and bring about much needed public sector reform at a time of grave economic crisis for our country.

If the Deputy has specific proposals regarding savings in the operation of the Supervision and Substitution scheme he should submit them to me and I will ensure they are considered.

National Adult Literacy Agency

Robert Dowds

Question:

74 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the financial supports available for the National Adult Literacy Strategy; and the medium-term plans for funding this organisation. [37993/11]

The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is a voluntary national body set up in 1980 that operates as a co-ordinating, campaigning and training body in the area of adult literacy.

NALA receives an annual grant from my Department, both in grant in aid for general running expenses and a supplementary grant for its literacy activities. In 2011, the Department provided almost €1.8 million to NALA for its literacy activities. NALA has also received funding from the National Training Fund for its distance learning project and in 2010/2011 under the Labour Market Activation Fund.

The 2012 Budget will be finalised shortly and the Department's grant to NALA depends on the overall level of funding provided for adult literacy as part of the Budget.

Adult Education

Robert Dowds

Question:

75 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the need to prioritise literacy education and, in particular, to work on the literacy of parents in order that they can better support their children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37994/11]

Adult literacy has been and continues to be a priority in adult education. The Programme for Government contains commitments in relation to the improvement of adult literacy levels in two key areas. As part of its Labour Market Policy, the Government will make literacy and basic workplace skills a national priority, with literacy training incorporated into a wider variety of further education and training programmes. The Government will also address the widespread and persistent problem of adult literacy through the integration of literacy in vocational training and through community education under its lifelong learning policy.

My Department provides funding of €30 million annually for adult literacy measures, benefitting around 55,000 participants annually. Since 2007, my Department has provided funding specifically for adult literacy, as part of DEIS, and in 2009 published guidelines for VECs on developing family literacy projects. The aim of the family literacy measure is to encourage parents to participate in their children's education and to encourage family members to learn together and from each other. Funding of €229,000 has been provided to 16 VECs for family literacy projects in 2011/12.

The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, launched in July this year, contains recommendations in relation to family literacy, and my Department is engaged in the implementation of those recommendations.

I will continue to support the development of family literacy as part of the range of options available within the Adult Literacy Programme.

Robert Dowds

Question:

76 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for adult literacy education within SOLAS when it is formed to replace FÁS. [37995/11]

The establishment of SOLAS, as the new further education and training authority, will provide a clear direction for the future of the further education and training sector.

The Implementation Group, of which I am Chairman, is busy working on an Action Plan that will allow us to implement the changes necessary to put SOLAS in place following the passing of the relevant legislation in 2012. SOLAS will build on the respective strengths that have been developed in the further education and training sectors and it will ensure the provision of high quality education and training programmes, including Adult Literacy, which are integrated, flexible, value for money and which respond to the needs of learners, jobseekers and business.

Higher Education Grants

Tom Hayes

Question:

77 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision on a higher education grant appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38046/11]

The student grant appeal to which the Deputy refers was received in my Department on 11/10/2011 and an outcome issued to the student on 17/10/2011.

Departmental Funding

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

78 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is possible for children from Belarus who come to Ireland to live with foster families to receive financial support towards their education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38062/11]

Existing education policy is that students up to 18 years of age may attend primary and second level schools, irrespective of their nationality or status.

Funding is provided by my Department in respect of pupils who are validly enrolled in primary and post-primary schools. Capitation funding provided to schools and funding provided for caretaking and secretarial services may be regarded as a common grant from which the Board of Management can allocate according to its own priorities.

Flood Relief

Michael McCarthy

Question:

79 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 31 May 2011, if a feasibility study on a flood relief scheme for Skibbereen, County Cork, has been completed yet; the progress of the surveys of the flood plain and the river channel; the next steps in the project; if he will provide a prospective timeframe for when he expects work on the flood relief scheme to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37997/11]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

80 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 31 May 2011, if an application by Cork County Council to the Office of Public Works under the minor flood works scheme for river cleaning in Skibbereen, County Cork, has been approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37998/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

The Feasibility Study on the flooding situation in Skibbereen, by the consultants appointed by Cork County Council with funding from the Office of Public Works, is currently ongoing. The OPW understands that surveys of the flood plain and channels have been completed, and the council expects to hold a second public consultation day in January 2012.

The OPW also understands that the council expects the study and a draft Flood Risk Management Plan to be completed by February 2012. As stated in my previous reply, the study will provide the basis on which further decisions will be made in relation to any possible flood relief measures for the town.

With regard to the application by Cork County Council for funding under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme to carry out river cleaning in Skibbereen, OPW approved funding of €10,000 to the council towards the cost of these works in June of this year.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

81 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if businesses affected by the flood relief works in Clonmel, County Tipperary, can be compensated or paid disturbance moneys in view of the fact that they have been moved out of their property for more than 12 months; when he expects the flood relief works in Clonmel to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37827/11]

It is expected that works on the Suir River (Clonmel) Drainage Scheme will be substantially complete by mid 2012.

In relation to compensation, I am advised that under the Arterial Drainage Acts, provision is made for property owners to submit a claim for compensation to the Office of Public Works (OPW), if they feel that they have suffered any loss arising from the scheme works. Claims are normally only considered on completion of all scheme works in the immediate area. Any such claim should be made in writing to the OPW, and should set out the total amount claimed and the various headings of claim. Claims will be considered on an individual basis under the relevant provisions of the Acts, under which damage and benefit to a holding are taken into account.

Public Sector Remuneration

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

82 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total annual cost in 2010 of public service increments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37903/11]

I refer to my reply to Question No. 99 of Thursday, 10 November 2011.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

83 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total annual cost in 2010 of public service pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37904/11]

The Gross Exchequer Pensions Bill in 2010 was €2.7 billion. A full breakdown of this expenditure by Vote is published in the 2011 Revised Estimates for Public Services including details on the associated number of pensioners.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

84 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37949/11]

IT is now provided on a shared service basis between the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform. The information requested is provided below for both Departments. Please note that for many of the smaller sites listed below monthly statistics are not routinely recorded.

Site

Annual cost

Average monthly hits

benchmarking.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

budget.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

131,324

cmo.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

constructionprocurement.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

cpmr.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

cseas.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

cspensions.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

cspvg.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

databank.per.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

31,518

decentralisation.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

disability.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

eustructuralfunds.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

finance.gov.ie

€5,800

388,358

foi.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

741,389

ictprocurement.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

implementationbody.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

orp.ie

€5,200

n/a

peerreview.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

per.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

206,742

personnelcode.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

ppp.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

psi.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

reviewbody.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

search.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

taxcommission.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

taxpolicy.gov.ie

€0 — hosted and maintained in-house

n/a

These sites are regularly reviewed to ensure that best value for money is being achieved, and to identify opportunities for further rationalisation.

Departmental Investigations

Gerry Adams

Question:

85 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has inquired into the complaints made by a person (details supplied) concerning his company and the Industrial Development Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37823/11]

These allegations were brought to the attention of my Department some time ago. Enterprise Ireland examined the issues at the time and was satisfied that there was no impropriety involved. Nonetheless in the light of the continuing concerns of the Deputy's correspondent my Department asked Enterprise Ireland to investigate the matter further in October 2010. The matter in question was also referred to my Department by the Public Accounts Committee in November, 2010. Following a tendering process, Enterprise Ireland engaged a firm of consultants (Deloitte) to investigate the allegations. Seven areas of complaint were investigated independently.

The Report found that the evidence put forward by the correspondent did not support the allegations.

The Board of Enterprise Ireland considered the matter at its meeting on 14th September, 2011. A copy of the Deloitte Report was forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee, by my Department, for its consideration.

While Mr Russell has reiterated his allegations and does not accept the findings of the independent report, he has not provided any new information. In the circumstances, my Department does not intend to take further action.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

86 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37947/11]

I have set out in tabular form below the websites which come directly under the remit of my Department, based on the most up to date data which is readily to hand. The rationale for, and the means of delivery of such websites is regularly reviewed. Part of the reform of the employment rights bodies, which I announced last July, will involve the development and publication of a single website to provide information and assistance to employers, employees and other interested parties to replace the websites currently operated by the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Equality Tribunal, Labour Court, Labour Relations Commission and National Employment Rights Authority.

My Department is also in the process of implementing a Website Content Management System within the Department. This will provide an infrastructure to allow for a more integrated approach to website management and hosting in the future. It is envisaged that, as websites are redeveloped, they would migrate to this new infrastructure.

Website

Cost of maintaining the website in 2010

Average number of unique visitors per month

www.basis.ie

€65,000

6,520

www.clrg.org

€301

820

www.cro.ie

€5,000

114,356

www.djei.ie

€7,304

35,904

www.labourcourt.ie

€28,000

Statistics not held beyond 11 days

www.patentsoffice.ie

€4,995

21,000

www.eatribunal.ie

€4,750

12,453

www.odce.ie

€4,788

7,120

www.pointofsinglecontact.ie*

€4,307

308

www.solvitireland.ie*

€4,307

126

www.employmentrights.ie

€16,329

24,298

www.core.ie

€22,891

15,738

*These websites are required under EU legislation and EU administration cooperation mechanisms.

Licensed Trade

Brendan Griffin

Question:

87 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will put in place a plan dedicated to rejuvenating the labour intensive pub trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37961/11]

Matters relating to licensed premises and the sale of alcohol, whether in pubs or off-licences, including supermarkets, are essentially the policy responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality and I have no direct function in this matter.

The pricing strategy of any business is a legitimate marketing tool and is the normal outcome of the competitive process. I have no direct function in relation to such practices which are a matter for the individual licensee. Other than having a statutory power, under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, to fix maximum prices during a state of emergency, I have no statutory power in relation to price control. Under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 the Minister for Justice and Equality has the power to make regulations relating to the sale, supply and consumption of intoxicating liquor.

Registry of Friendly Societies

Joan Collins

Question:

88 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 93 industrial and provident societies have failed consecutively for the past five years to submit annual returns to the Registry of Friendly Societies; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the non-filing of annual returns constitutes an offence under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts; the number of such societies the Registrar has cancelled in the past ten years for failure to file annual returns; the names of the societies, if any; the period of time they failed to submit annual returns before they were cancelled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37989/11]

I am aware of the issues raised by the Deputy as mentioned in previous replies on the matter, particularly the response dated 25 October. In addition, I made a statement on the issue in response to the Deputy yesterday.

A total of 285 societies have been cancelled in the past ten years for failure to file annual returns. Details of each were published in Iris Oifigiúil at the time. The figures and details regarding cancelled societies are also contained in the annual report of the Registrar of Friendly Societies each year.

It is open to the Deputy to make enquiries to the Registry of Friendly Societies regarding any individual named society.

Wage Setting Mechanisms

Tom Fleming

Question:

89 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he intends to introduce legislation to reinstate joint labour committees to underpin a new system of protection for workers in services sectors such as retail, hotels, cleaners and security. [37990/11]

On 26 July 2011 the Government agreed a package of radical reforms to the Joint Labour Committee and Registered Employment Agreement wage setting mechanisms. The reform proposals deal with recommendations made and issues raised in the Independent Report on the JLC/REA systems (Duffy/Walsh report) as well as the outcome of the July 2011 High Court ruling in the Grace Fried Chicken constitutional challenge.

The proposed measures will provide for the retention of the JLC and REA systems, subject to the reforms that are required to place them on a more secure legal and constitutional footing. They will also reinstate a robust system of protection for workers in these sectors in the aftermath of the High Court ruling.

Heads of a Bill to give effect to the reform proposals have been agreed by Government and drafting of that legislation is in preparation. It is my intention to have a Bill ready to introduce to the Oireachtas at the earliest possible opportunity this term.

Anti-Competitive Practices

John McGuinness

Question:

90 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has examined in detail the submission made to him by the Irish Small Business Alliance; if he has consulted the Competition Authority on the matters raised; if so, the action he intends to take; if the Competition Authority has received similar complaints and if so, the investigations that are ongoing or completed by that authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38006/11]

I am aware of a number of representations and submissions made by the Irish Small Business Alliance concerning allegations of anti-competitive practices. I am also aware that the Competition Authority, as the statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State, has received information concerning these allegations. Section 29 (3) of the Competition Act 2002 provides that the Authority is independent in the performance of its functions. Under section 30(1)(b) of that Act, the Competition Authority is responsible for investigating breaches of the Act. As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the Authority, I have no direct function in the matter. It is the Authority's policy not to comment on investigations.

Work Permits

Jack Wall

Question:

91 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the renewal of work permits in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38048/11]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits (Green Cards Permits, Work Permits, Spousal/Dependant Permits and Intra-company Transfer Permits). All applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Employment Permits Section of my Department has issued correspondence to the above named applicants on the 28th November in relation to their applications requesting further information. As soon as this information is made available, these applications can be progressed further.

State Properties

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

92 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if contact by the Departments of Justice and Equality or Defence has been made to him, or to the Industrial Development Authority or Enterprise Ireland, with regard to State lands at the former Magee Barracks, Kildare town, and the possible use of such lands for development purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38058/11]

My Department has not to date been contacted by the Department of Justice, Equality and Defence regarding the development of State lands at the former Magee Barracks in Kildare Town. I have been informed by IDA and Enterprise Ireland that neither Agency has been contacted by that Department in this matter.

Pension Provisions

Michael McCarthy

Question:

93 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection the most appropriate course of action for community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors following the decision by her not to proceed with a pension scheme for that cohort of employees despite Labour Court recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37773/11]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

95 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection her position on the provision of a pension scheme for community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors; if a new template is being drawn up by her in view of another Department’s decision to reject this group’s claim for a pension scheme on 19 October; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37774/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 95 together.

The Labour Court recommended in July 2008 that an agreed pension scheme should be introduced for community employment (CE) scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors, and that such a scheme should be adequately funded by FÁS. Notwithstanding the positions of the Department in rejecting that liability for these costs falls to be met from public funds, this matter has been the subject of discussions between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, my Department, and the unions representing CE supervisors. In the event that funding was required from FÁS, the implementation of the claim is not considered sustainable in light of the current and ongoing fiscal environment and the requirement to contain and reduce public expenditure. The costs of the introduction of any scheme are likely to be of the order of €3m per annum with retrospective costs of the order of at least €30m.

The Deputy should also note that FÁS is not the employer of CE supervisors and such employees are not public servants. Neither was FÁS a party to the Labour Court dispute on this matter. The responsibilities of the sponsoring organisations and the individuals concerned must also be recognised when considering pension provision arrangements.

Social Insurance

Ciara Conway

Question:

94 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will examine the block exemption for modified rate contributors in view of the fact that these workers pay PRSI on earnings derived from their civil or public service employment but do not pay PRSI on any other stream of income; if she will consider abolishing or changing this exemption in light of the fact that removing the exemption on unearned income of all workers and on other income streams of those employed in the civil and public service recruited prior to 6 April 1995 will yield a total of €74 million additional PRSI in a full year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38056/11]

Any proposals of this nature would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 93.

Social Welfare Offices

Willie O'Dea

Question:

96 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delays now occurring in the local social welfare office at Dominic Street, Limerick, where persons seeking means-tested payments are waiting anything from three to six months for decisions and where persons seeking review have to wait up to 12 months; her views on whether this situation is acceptable; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Limerick local office is badly understaffed; her plans to allocate further staff to alleviate the misery being endured by the most vulnerable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37809/11]

In common with other local offices the length of time it takes to process claims in Limerick varies depending on the complexity of the claim, the availability of the necessary documentation from the applicant or his/her employer and the need to carry out additional enquiries including the assessment of means and whether the claimant satisfies the Habitual Residence Condition.

Furthermore, processing times can vary depending on other factors such as staff vacancies, the duration of such vacancies and the turnover of staff which would impact on the overall level of experience in the office.

While it is correct to say staffing levels in Limerick local office are tight at present (with the growth in the Live Register) there has been a number of internal initiatives to maximise the use of staff resources within the office.

The average processing times for October give an indication of the average time claimants are waiting to be paid after submitting claims. These average times are 2.44 weeks for Jobseeker's Benefit while the average times for the means tested payments Jobseeker's Allowance and One-Parent Family Payment are 6.36 and 11.75 weeks respectively.

Redundancy Payments

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

97 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 126 of 23 November 2011 in respect of a redundancy payment for a person (details supplied), if she will have this case further investigated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37835/11]

My officials have written to the person concerned for further information on her redundancy claim. The claim will be processed on receipt of this additional material.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

98 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue in respect of an appeal for supplementary welfare allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37847/11]

The appeal by the person concerned against the decision to refuse an exceptional needs payment for heating oil is currently being considered and a written decision will issue to him shortly.

Redundancy Payments

Tom Hayes

Question:

99 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a redundancy claim will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37849/11]

My officials have written to the person concerned for further information on his redundancy claim. The claim will be processed on receipt of this additional material.

Social Welfare Appeals

Áine Collins

Question:

100 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37852/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 17 October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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.

Pension Provisions

Barry Cowen

Question:

101 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection the rates of payment of old age contributory and non-contributory pension for the years 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. [37854/11]

There are three categories of State pension:

State pension (transition) (SPT),

State pension (contributory) (SPC) and

State pension (non-contributory) (SPNC)

The rates of payment for the years 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 are as follows:

Year

State Pension (Contributory)/State Pension (Transition) €

State Pension (Non-Contributory) €

1997

99.06

85.73

1998

105.39

92.06

1999

113.01

99.67

2000

121.89

108.56

2001

134.59

121.26

2002

147.30

134.00

These schemes were formerly known as retirement pension, old age (contributory) pension and old age (non-contributory) pension respectively.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payment will issue in respect of an application for jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37858/11]

On receipt of an appeal from the person concerned against the decision to disallow his application for jobseeker's allowance a full review of the case was carried out, including a referral to an inspector. Following the review, the decision of the deciding officer was upheld and his appeal has now been referred to the social welfare appeals office for determination.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason domiciliary care allowance was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37860/11]

An application for Domiciliary Care Allowance was received on 12 September 2011. 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 22 November 2011 advising the customer of the decision.

Budget Submissions

John Lyons

Question:

104 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will consider in the course of his consideration of budgetary measures the request by a group (details supplied) that all such measures be subject to an equality audit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37867/11]

As part of the deliberative process for Budget 2012, my Department will analyse, in so far as possible, the impact of the Budget on poverty and on inequalities likely to lead to poverty prior to the finalisation of the Budget.

My Department undertook an analysis of the distributive and poverty impacts on families of the Budget 2011 tax and welfare package, in conjunction with the Department of Finance. I arranged for this to be published on the Department's website in March 2011. It is my intention that a similar analysis of Budget 2012 will be published early next year.

Social Welfare Benefits

John Browne

Question:

105 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the entitlement of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford to a redundancy payment. [37882/11]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 11 May 2011. However, I understand this person brought a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and that an appeals hearing was held on 18 November 2011. When the determination of this appeal is available, the person should forward this to the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department.

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

106 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Social Protection the monitoring that takes place between EEA countries to ensure that only one family benefit payment is claimed per child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37894/11]

In cases where Child Benefit is claimed in Ireland as a result of an entire family arriving from another EU or EEA member state, claims are processed under domestic regulations. Correspondence is issued to the other EU or EEA member state informing them that the claim has been awarded.

In cases where one parent is working or in receipt of a benefit in Ireland, and the family are living in another member state, claims are processed under EU Regulations. Correspondence is issued in the first instance to the other member state to establish if payment is being made by that state. Claims are not finalised until a reply is received, thus ensuring there is no duplicate payment.

Departmental Funding

Terence Flanagan

Question:

107 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide funding for a service (details supplied) on Dublin’s north side which provides excellent value for money for taxpayers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37900/11]

Funding is provided to the organisation in question under the Department's scheme of grants for the development and promotion of information and welfare rights. However, this is primarily a budget for once-off funding for the provision of social welfare information and funding available under this vote has been substantially reduced in recent years. As the organisation does not meet the criteria of the scheme, it has been advised to source alternative funding.

The Department has been engaging with the organisation to support this process. In 2011, funding of some €350,000 has been allocated to the organisation on the basis that it provides monthly updates on the progress the organisation is making to secure alternate funding sources for 2012. The organisation in question also received €8,200 in 2010 from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) for providing technical support to local MABS services. The Citizens Information Board, an agency of my Department, has the statutory responsibility for the provision of MABS and in 2011 approximately €18 million has been allocated to the service.

In the details supplied with this question, the Deputy also refers to another organisation. This organisation received funding of some €90,000 in 2011 from the Citizens Information Board for services provided to the local Citizens Information Services.

It is not possible to compare the costs of the different services on the basis of the number of queries handled as the funding and services provided are not directly comparable, e.g. one organisation provides a service on a voluntary basis while the MABS service, although also dependent on volunteers, also directly employs staff and provides a wide range of negotiation, documentation, website and other services on a regional basis.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

108 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide details of all websites under her remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; her views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Govermnent objectives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37950/11]

The Department currently maintains five websites: www.welfare.ie www.groireland.ie www.nationalpensionsframework.ie www.socialinclusion.ie www.communitywelfareservice.ie

The Department's main website, www.welfare.ie, contains information on the range of schemes and services provided, as well as policy publications and online services. This site was re-designed and re-developed in 2008 and is highly accessible, winning the Accessible eGovernment Award at the 2009 Irish eGovernment Awards. The content on www.welfare.ie is maintained and updated by Department staff. The website provides a platform for the delivery of a range of online services integrated with the Department’s systems and processes.

Responsibility for the General Register Office, and for its website www.groireland.ie, was transferred from the Department of Health and Children to this Department from 1 January 2008.

The Department also maintains the www.nationalpensionsframework.ie website. This site was originally launched as www.pensionsgreenpaper.ie in 2007 to coincide with the launch of the Pensions Green Paper and has been recently expanded and renamed to include information on the Government’s plans for the future of pensions in Ireland, the National Pensions Framework and its implementation.

Responsibility for the website www.socialinclusion.ie was transferred from the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to this Department from June 1, 2011, upon the transfer of the Social Inclusion Division to this Department.

Responsibility for the website www.communitywelfareservice.ie was transferred from the Health Service Executive to this Department from October 1, 2011, upon the transfer of the Community Welfare Service to this Department.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office operates independently of the Department and provides an independent appeals service. It maintains the website www.socialwelfareappeals.ie.

Agencies under the remit of the Department maintain another seven websites.

The Citizens Information Board maintains the following six websites: www.citizensinformation.ie www.citizensinformationboard.ie www.assistireland.ie www.losingyourjob.ie www.keepingyourhome.ie www.selfemployedsupports.ie (not yet launched)

The Pensions Board maintains the website http://www.pensionsboard.ie/www.pensionsboard.ie.

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman website www.pensionsombudsman.ie is supported and maintained by the Department’s staff.

A number of websites maintained by the Department will be rationalised in 2012; www.nationalpensionsframework.ie, www.socialinclusion.ie and www.communitywelfareservice.ie will be integrated with the Department’s main website www.welfare.ie.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will launch a new e-Government Strategy in early 2012; any further decisions regarding the rationalisation of websites will take account of this new Strategy.

The costs and the average monthly visits are provided in the following table:

Organisation

Website

2011 Cost (projected)

Average monthly visits

Department of Social Protection

www.welfare.ie

€60,000

215,380

Department of Social Protection

www.groireland.ie

€2,050

Not available

Department of Social Protection

www.nationalpensionsframework.ie

€816 (2010)

800

Department of Social Protection

www.socialinclusion.ie

€261

3,466

Department of Social Protection

www.communitywelfareservice.ie

€300

4,625

Social Welfare Appeals Office

www.socialwelfareappeals.ie

€200

Not available

Citizens Information Board

www.citizensinformation.ie

€16,549

466,155

Citizens Information Board

www.citizensinformationboard.ie

€264

16,418

Citizens Information Board

www.assistireland.ie

€27,196

28,619

Citizens Information Board

www.losingyourjob.ie

€16

6,204

Citizens Information Board

www.keepingyourhome.ie

€1,414

3,424

Citizens Information Board

www.selfemployedsupports.ie

€2,650

(not yet launched)

Pensions Board

www.pensionsboard.ie

€30,000

10,000

Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

www.pensionsombudsman.ie

€282

76,040

Departmental Schemes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

109 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be allowed to continue on a rural social scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37962/11]

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) has operated since May 2004 with the aim of providing income support for eligible persons in receipt of specified, long-term social welfare payments. The work undertaken by participants supports the provision of services of benefit to rural communities. The RSS currently funds the engagement of 2,600 participants and 130 supervisors. Supervisors are employed for 39 per week with participants required to work 19½ hours per week.

As part of my Department's control programme, all RSS participants were requested to complete and return a means declaration form in early 2011. This undertaking is necessary to ensure that all participants on the RSS continue to satisfy the eligibility criteria to remain on the scheme and also to ensure that all participants are in receipt of the correct rate of payment. The person concerned has complied with the requirement to return a means declaration and I understand that he has been offered a renewed contract from 1st June 2011. The outcome of the means assessment will not be known for a number of months and the person concerned will be informed in good time should any additional information be required and when a decision is made on the information provided.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

110 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the rural social scheme in County Kerry (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37969/11]

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) has operated since May 2004 with the aim of providing income support for farmers and fishermen/women in receipt of specified, long-term social welfare payments. The work undertaken by participants supports the provision of services of benefit to rural communities. The RSS currently funds the engagement of 2,600 participants and 130 supervisors. Supervisors are employed for 39 per week with participants required to work 19½ hours per week. Overall responsibility for the operation of the RSS rests with the Department of Social Protection with responsibility for its day-to-operation resting with 34 local development companies. Údarás na Gaeltachta is responsible for delivery of the RSS in Gaeltacht areas. An allocation of RSS participants, based on the distribution of Farm Assist beneficiaries, has been made to each of these bodies.

A total of 271 RSS places are allocated to County Kerry. Of these 138 are allocated to South Kerry Development Partnership, 89 to North and East Kerry LEADER Partnership and 44 to Údarás na Gaeltachta for the Gaeltacht areas of the county. Other than a recent vacancy in North and East Kerry LEADER Partnership which will be filled in the coming weeks, all places are currently filled.

Redundancy Payments

Willie Penrose

Question:

111 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who was made redundant in December 2008 is entitled to their statutory redundancy at this point, as it appears they overlooked making the application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38000/11]

The prescribed time for submitting a redundancy lump sum claim is 52 weeks. From the information provided in the question it would appear that the person concerned was made redundant in December 2008. In these circumstances the time-limit for making a redundancy payment has elapsed.

Social Welfare Appeals

Willie Penrose

Question:

112 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38001/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. If there is any new evidence or new facts pertinent to this case that was not brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer during the determination of this appeal, they may be submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for further consideration.

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.

Turbary Rights

Frank Feighan

Question:

113 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim who sold bogland to him under the national heritage area directive many years ago; when payment will issue; the progress made on this case to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37828/11]

In May 2010, the voluntary bog purchase scheme was closed to new applicants. Processing of applications on hand has been slower than anticipated due to capacity constraints in undertaking the conveyance work involved.

On the 15 April this year, the Government made a number of decisions in relation to turf cutting in Ireland, including the putting in place of a compensation package for those who are required to cease cutting, the establishment of a Peatlands Council and the drawing up of a national strategy on peatland conservation and management. In the context of the national strategy, the position regarding raised bog Natural Heritage Areas, which are protected under national legislation, and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive will be examined in advance of the 2014 cutting season.

The land referred to by the Deputy is located in a Natural Heritage Area designated in 2004, but the sale of the land in this has not yet been finalised. The 10-year derogation, which allows for the continuation of domestic turf cutting in this area, will not expire until 2014. The issue of purchase of land/rights in NHA bogs is being kept under review in light of the decision to review the approach to these areas more generally.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

114 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37938/11]

The information requested in respect of my Department is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Aquaculture Licences

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

115 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the criteria used for selecting applicants for the issuing of oyster licences in Clarenbridge, County Galway; the number of licences to be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37826/11]

In January of this year the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources issued an instruction to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) to avoid the intensification of the Oyster Fishery until such time as Appropriate Assessments have been carried out in accordance with the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations, SI no 477 of 2011. Under those regulations, such an assessment is required to be carried out prior to the development of any Special Area of Conservation.

Consequently and on foot of further instructions, IFI has ensured that the maximum number of licences for 2011 does not exceed the number issued in 2010 or the average number of oyster fishing licences issued for the last five years, whichever is the greater.

I am advised that in light of these instructions, IFI issued 17 licences for the Galway Fishery District — Clarenbridge area in 2011 as follows:

a) To fishermen who held licences in 2010 and each of the four previous years.

b) To fishermen who held a licence in 2010 and three of the previous four years.

c) To fishermen who held a licence in four of the last five years.

d) To fishermen who held a licence in 2010 and two of the previous four years.

e) To fishermen who held a licence in 2010 and one of the previous four years.

f) All other applicants on a first come first served basis up to a maximum of 17 in total.

Electricity Generation

Noel Harrington

Question:

116 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that electricity generated through the proposed new renewable energy feed-in tariff will not be exported over the interconnector to the UK at a price lower than the REFIT floor price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37805/11]

The Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) operates by guaranteeing minimum prices for electricity output from various categories of renewable technology over a 15 year period and is funded through the Public Service Obligation levy.

Under Directive 2009/28/EC (the Renewable Energy Directive), Ireland has been set a legally binding target for renewable energy as a share of consumption by 2020. That target is 16% overall which, as set out in the National Renewable Energy Action Plan, will be met from around 40% in the electricity sector, 12% in the heat sector and 10% in the transport sector.

Articles 6-11 of Directive 2009/28/EC provide for cooperation mechanisms under the Directive, whereby the renewable value of generation in one Member State may be accounted for in another Member State, providing there is a Government-to-Government agreement in place. Without such an agreement, the renewable value of generation produced is retained in the country of origin.

The reason for this approach at a European level was that it was decided that if Member States are to have the responsibility of binding renewable energy targets, they must have the ability to ensure that renewable value produced on their territory is not traded away without their control.

Once the East West Interconnector to the UK is in place, next year, wholesale electricity will be traded between the two markets. Under the Renewable Energy Directive, the renewable value of generation produced in Ireland and supported through REFIT will continue to count towards Ireland's renewable energy target. The renewable value of such generation will not be traded unless and until there is a specific Governmental agreement in place, backed up by any necessary underpinning legislation and addressing any relevant issues inherent in the operation of two different support schemes in the respective Member States.

Noel Harrington

Question:

117 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that REFIT-contracted generators will only receive the public service obligation-funded floor prices for actual metered electricity output — that is, they will not receive the floor price when they are curtailed due to oversupply of electricity to the grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37806/11]

The Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) operates by guaranteeing minimum prices for electricity output from various categories of renewable technology over a 15 year period and is funded from the Public Service Obligation levy.

Electricity that is eligible for REFIT payments is exported metered generation as set out in Statutory Instrument 532 of 2010 and defined in section 4.2 of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) Decision Paper 08/236, ‘Calculation of the R-factor in determining the Public Service Obligation Levy'. REFIT is only payable for exported metered generation.

There are no REFIT payments made in respect of curtailed generation.

Noel Harrington

Question:

118 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm whether AER VI-contracted renewable generators will be allowed to leave their 15-year PPA contracts only after the initial 7.5 years of the 35% front-loaded price increase period is complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37807/11]

The Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) was a series of 6 competitive tender schemes to support new renewable generation that were run from the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s. AER was subsequently replaced by the feed in tariff scheme known as REFIT.

At the time that State Aid clearance was being sought from the European Commission for REFIT 1 in 2007, DG Competition inserted a clause in the terms and conditions of the scheme that generators were free to leave the scheme either by agreement with their supply company or in the event of disagreement, by serving 12 months notice and join the open market. Any generator that voluntarily leaves a support scheme in respect of a particular project will not be eligible to re-enter the support scheme at any later date in respect of that project.

It was also concluded by my Department that the concerns expressed by the European Commission about a continuing intervention in the market to deliver a public policy for any period longer than the participating generator requires in REFIT should also be applied on a similar basis to the AER programme.

As a result, my Department informed ESB Customer Supply (as the sole contracting party to the AER contracts) that nothing in the AER rules should be interpreted to preclude an undertaking from exiting an AER Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) subject to adequate protection being provided to ESB Customer Supply and that ESB should terminate its AER PPAs with any AER Generator who requests such termination as soon as is reasonably practicable after the AER Generator notifies to ESB Customer Supply its intention to exit the AER programme; or, where ESB is the Intermediary of the relevant AER Generator under the Trading and Settlement Code, on the expiry of the minimum period prescribed under the Code in respect of revocation by the AER Generator of ESB's authority to act in that capacity; or within a period not exceeding 12 months from the receipt of notification from an AER generator of its decision to terminate an AER PPA, whichever event occurs first.

Accordingly, under these provisions, an AER VI contracted renewable generators are allowed to leave their 15 year PPA contracts at any time subject to notification periods not exceeding 12 months.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

119 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37940/11]

My Department maintains the 11 websites that are listed in the following table. The total cost of maintaining these websites including technical maintenance, ongoing development and hosting charges from January 2011 to date, is €197,235.

Site Name

Average number of hits per month

www.tellusborder.eu

275

www.mineralsireland.ie

1300

www.gsi.ie

13,700

www.gsishop.ie

350

www.goingdigital.gov.ie

4,000

www.explorationandmining.com

85

www.egovernance.ie

175

www.makeitsecure.ie

26,917

www.gsiseabed.ie

12,061

https://jetstream.gsi.ie/iwdds/index.html

323

www.dcenr.gov.ie

18,500

The cost of the websites cannot be easily broken out to individual costs as most are hosted on the same hardware and share features such as mapping services across all the websites. Apart from the main Departmental website, it is necessary in the interests of customer service, to have some dedicated websites related to specific areas of Departmental responsibility. My Department has rationalised the technologies underpinning these websites by the use of virtualisation and centralised databases.

Electricity Generation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

120 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline any problems with the current gate 3 process for wind farm development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37966/11]

The ‘Gate' process was established by the Commission for Energy Regulation following extensive public consultation. It is a group processing approach (GPA) towards the processing and issuance of grid connection offers to renewable generators whereby applications for connections are processed in batches rather than individually. Within these Gates, applications are further divided into geographic groups and sub-groups based on the optimal network required to connect them.

The group processing approach facilitates a more strategic approach to be taken to network building requirements and aims to put in place efficient connection solutions to cater for large number of applications to ensure optimum network development, minimising network costs and, where possible, avoidance of network bottlenecks. To date there have been 3 ‘Gates'. Under Gate 1 and Gate 2, 1755MW of connection offers were made and accepted. Under Gate 3, 3900MW of offers have been made to renewable generators. This amount of renewable generation is capable of delivering Ireland's 40% renewable electricity target.

A Gate 3 liaison group involving the Transmission System Operator (TSO), Distribution System Operator (DSO), regulator and industry representatives was established by the regulator and continues to meet on a regular basis to monitor rollout and delivery of the programme. At this stage, EirGrid has overseen and issued connection offers to all the renewable generations in Gate 3. This is a major milestone for the industry on the road towards meeting the renewable electricity target.

Other work streams that took place in EirGrid to facilitate the issuance of the Gate 3 offers included:

The Incremental Transfer Capability (ITC) programme. The results of this programme were issued in January 2010 by EirGrid and it assessed the Transmission Grid's capability to accommodate the incremental power transfers resulting from the connection of each Gate 3 project during the period 2010-2025 based on assumed standard timelines.

EirGrid's Generation Analysis team carried out constraints studies and prepared reports which assessed the potential levels of curtailment and transmission constraint that generators might expect to experience in the period from 2011 through 2022.

Throughout the offer process phase of Gate 3, EirGrid and ESB Networks facilitated well in excess of 100 meetings with transmission and distribution customers.

Arrangements for the next phases of Gate 3 including project delivery of accepted offers and offer modifications are being progressed at present.

I am advised by EirGrid that further constraint studies are in preparation for developers and that once these are issued, there will be a set period within which those in Gate 3 are required to accept or reject their Gate 3 grid connection offers and make their first stage payments. Once this development has taken place, there will be a clearer picture of the actual take-up rates for Gate 3. The main challenges the sector face are planning difficulties in some areas where the strategic areas of conservation (SACs) were extended and the need to strengthen the grid in those regions where the majority of new wind farms are located.

Telecommunications Services

Michael McCarthy

Question:

121 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, in respect of the plans for a Metropolitan Area Network in Skibbereen, County Cork, he will issue a progress report on the project; if a company (details supplied) has secured fibre connections for any business premises or other operators in the area; if so, the number of connections that have been made in premises since June; if he will provide a breakdown of the list of businesses that have secured a fibre connection through the MAN; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38002/11]

The Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) are a "middle mile" solution meaning that they provide the network connection between the local access delivered in towns by service providers and national backhaul networks, which carry the traffic from the MANs to the central points of international connectivity.

In the case of the Skibbereen MAN, e|net (the Management Service Entity for the MANs) has been exploring various backhaul options with operators in the area. In the event that a business premises in Skibbereen wants broadband services delivered over a fibre connection, e|net would set out the possible options and costs. However, e|net has advised that there has been insufficient market demand for fibre connections in Skibbereen to date. e|net remains available at all times to discuss the options for connection to the MAN with interested parties.

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 24.
Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 23.

Departmental Funding

Question:

124 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the names of the agencies, NGOs and so on that receive funding from his Department; the individual amount received in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37877/11]

Each year my Department makes a large volume of payments to a wide range of organisations and individuals. The information requested, in relation to an extensive number of payments over a five year period, is not readily available in my Department and its compilation would involve a disproportionate amount of time and work. If the Deputy wishes to put down a more specific question in the area of funding from my Department, or to communicate separately with me, I will endeavour to provide the information sought.

Local Authority Housing

Gerry Adams

Question:

125 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will begin accepting applications for the capital assistance scheme that approved housing bodies can avail of when developing housing; and the amount of funding that will be allocated to the programme. [37778/11]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 381 of 25 October 2011, which outlines the position in regard to the capital assistance scheme.

Departmental Schemes

Nicky McFadden

Question:

126 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when funding will be made available through the dormant accounts fund for Mullingar RAPID, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37787/11]

I can confirm that six capital projects have been prioritised by Pobal under the RAPID Additionality Measure for Mullingar to be funded from Dormant Accounts. The matter of progressing the projects in the new RAPID towns to contract stage will be kept under active review in the light of availability of funding in 2012.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Pearse Doherty

Question:

127 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to allocate capital funding for a sewerage scheme in Gaoth Dobhair, County Donegal; if he has received an application from Donegal County Council for funding; when he foresees this essential infrastructure going to construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37795/11]

The Gweedore Sewerage Scheme, which includes two contracts, a waste water treatment plant and the network, is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 among the list of contracts in the county to start in the period.

Donegal County Council submitted an updated Design Review Report to my Department in October 2011. My Department has sought additional information from the Council to aid the examination of this report and this is awaited.

Local Authority Finances

Joan Collins

Question:

128 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the outstanding debt at the end of 2010 of each local authority here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37812/11]

Audited local authority financial data for 2010 are not yet available. The audit of the 2010 local authority Annual Financial Statements is scheduled for completion by end March 2012.

The balance of loans payable for each rating authority at 31 December 2009, the latest year for which audited information is available, is set out in the following table.

Local Authority

Carlow

42,600,097

Cavan

23,819,719

Clare

123,317,596

Cork

550,598,407

Donegal

142,561,124

Fingal

507,157,630

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

192,241,327

Galway

125,275,130

Kerry

103,145,203

Kildare

168,976,579

Kilkenny

58,217,528

Laois

141,044,228

Leitrim

13,449,501

Limerick

73,759,912

Longford

49,581,469

Louth

36,684,343

Mayo

102,371,125

Meath

101,281,029

Monaghan

37,430,043

North Tipperary

56,433,040

Offaly

71,845,143

Roscommon

18,707,152

Sligo

66,267,156

South Dublin

272,974,510

South Tipperary

74,966,009

Waterford

52,568,617

Westmeath

107,757,259

Wexford

161,187,165

Wicklow

98,529,603

Cork City

201,074,634

Dublin City

1,356,414,574

Galway City

135,871,074

Limerick City

27,708,642

Waterford City

99,768,307

Clonmel

5,500,208

Drogheda

76,819,172

Kilkenny

941,471

Sligo

44,012,681

Wexford

5,236,512

Arklow

79,631

Athlone

4,364,082

Athy

2,366,811

Ballina

107,465

Ballinasloe

0

Birr

323,814

Bray

7,602,461

Buncrana

0

Bundoran

3,752,186

Carlow

0

Carrick on Suir

422,237

Carrickmacross

0

Cashel

0

Castlebar

4,881,724

Castleblayney

75,410

Cavan

0

Clonakilty

2,291,239

Clones

186,425

Cobh

0

Dundalk

55,107,448

Dungarvan

2,101,445

Ennis

9,653,811

Enniscorthy

4,978

Fermoy

2,322,332

Kells

64,509

Killarney

3,820,843

Kilrush

725,020

Kinsale

212,745

Letterkenny

7,077,589

Listowel

967,027

Longford

10,247,266

Macroom

0

Mallow

3,761,691

Midleton

0

Monaghan

1,422,313

Naas

19,831,095

Navan

3,249,281

Nenagh

886,584

New Ross

0

Skibbereen

2,434,445

Templemore

0

Thurles

0

Tipperary

115,689

Tralee

22,040,644

Trim

3,280,222

Tullamore

11,081,067

Westport

4,244,487

Wicklow

7,317,473

Youghal

1,822,643

Total

5,728,341,052

Urban Renewal Schemes

Joan Collins

Question:

129 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of local authority houses in the Cranmore estate, Sligo, that were vacant on 31 October 2011; the number that have been vacant for more than three months; if any of the regeneration funding provided by him in the current year has been used to refurbish vacant houses in the estate; when the vacant houses will be available for re-letting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37813/11]

Sligo Borough Council has advised that 22 houses in the Cranmore estate were vacant as of 31 October 2011, of which 21 had been unoccupied for more than three months. A programme of refurbishment works is currently in progress and will be funded from the 2011 regeneration allocation. It is expected that 12 of these units will be available for re-letting as soon as the works are complete. The remaining 10 houses have been identified for future demolition under the regeneration project.

Departmental Reviews

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

130 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the timeframe for completion of the review of retail planning guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37868/11]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

131 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the timeframe for consultation on the draft retail planning guidelines and the consultation methodology to be employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37869/11]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

135 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if changes arising from the review of the retail planning guidelines are to be made by amendment to existing legislation or through secondary legislation, or whether a new Bill will be required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37891/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130, 131 and 135 together.

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 1 on today's Order Paper which sets out the position in regard to the consultation methodology and timeframe of the draft Retail Planning Guidelines. The Guidelines, when finalised, will be published under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 (as amended) and will, accordingly, have statutory underpinning.

Building Regulations

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

132 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will ensure that all building materials and products are covered by the supplier’s product liability insurance cover; if he will further ensure that building professionals engaged in the design and certification of developments have the appropriate professional indemnity insurance cover; if this can be applied to all contractors and subcontractors alike; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37870/11]

The EU Construction Products Directive (89/106/EC) defines the regulatory position in relation to the trade of construction products and materials in the internal market. Anyone who supplies or markets a product for which a harmonised product standard applies (i.e. the vast majority of construction products and materials) has a responsibility independently to certify that the product meets the agreed standards. The Directive acknowledges the right of Member States to set their own statutory requirements in relation to such matters as health and safety and building regulations.

Part D of the Building Regulations deals with Materials and Workmanship. It stipulates that all works are to be carried out with proper materials and in a workmanlike manner. It defines proper materials as those materials which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used. This can be demonstrated by a product bearing CE Marking in accordance with the EU Construction Products Directive; complying with an appropriate harmonised standard; a European Technical approval or a national technical specification; or complying with an appropriate Irish Standard, an Irish Agrément Board Certificate, or an alternative national technical specification of another State which provides an equivalent level of safety and suitability.

As Minister I have a responsibility under the Building Control Act 1990 to specify technical standards and performance requirements for building which is fulfilled in the form of the publication of the Building Regulations and accompanying Technical Guidance Documents, which are subject to ongoing review by my Department. I have no regulatory function in relation to public liability insurance or professional indemnity insurance.

Architectural Qualifications

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

133 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government how he intends to make available the technical assessment to unregistered architects who cannot afford the full payment in advance of the assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37871/11]

The fee of €4,500 for technical assessment, approved in accordance with section 62 of the Building Control Act 2007, represents a significant reduction on the figure originally proposed.

My Department understands that the Royal College of the Architects of Ireland have negotiated a loan facility with Bank of Ireland to provide support to those undergoing Technical Assessment. Section 17(3) of the Act enables the registration body to waive or reduce a specified fee in cases of verified hardship.

Local Authority Charges

John Browne

Question:

134 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider reducing the penalty per month imposed on delayed non-principal private residence tax payments to local authorities, in view of the fact that it is causing severe hardship. [37884/11]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 provides the legislative basis for the €200 charge on non-principal private residences (NPPR), including the application of late payment fees. I have no plans at present to amend the quantum of the late payment fee for the charge.

The charge is levied on a fixed liability date in each calendar year and payment becomes due two months after that date. There is then a further month's grace period to pay the charge, giving a total of three months during which the charge may be paid before penalties for late payment commence. Section 9 of the Act places collection of the charge under the care and management of the relevant local authority.

Question No. 135 answered with Question No. 130.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

136 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37943/11]

A list of websites under my Department's remit is set out below. Information regarding the annual cost of maintaining each website and the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible. My Department keeps under review the necessity for maintaining separate websites and consolidates related websites where appropriate with a view to achieving cost savings without compromising the level of service provided.

Website

www.cdb.ie

www.comhshaol.ie

www.constituency-commission.ie

www.electoralareacommittees.ie

www.electronicvoting.ie

www.environ.ie

www.fireescapeplan.ie

www.firesafetyweek.ie

www.mem.ie

www.met.ie

www.nss.ie

www.refcom.ie

www.tidytowns.ie

www.fdireland.ie

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

137 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the proposed savings that have been made by him since his appointment; the value of these proposed savings and the amount of the savings that have been achieved to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37967/11]

The Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16: Medium Term Exchequer Framework, published by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 10 November 2011, sets out the scale and sectoral allocation of Exchequer capital funding over the coming years. The capital investment allocated to my Department in the framework is as follows:

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Total

€ million

€ million

€ million

€ million

€ million

€ million

861

726

575

574

574

3,310

This investment will allow progress to continue to be made across the capital programmes for which my Department is responsible, including housing, water services, rural development, fire, libraries and other services. The capital provision in my Department's Vote for 2011 is €1048m.

Information in relation to current expenditure savings will be made available next week in the context of Budget 2012 and associated announcements.

Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 23.

Community Development

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which he will engage with locally based community groups with a view to addressing and supporting areas of social and economic deprivation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37974/11]

The Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP), administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department, aims to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership and constructive engagement between Government/agencies and people in disadvantaged communities.

The Programme is underpinned by four high level goals:

1. To promote awareness, knowledge and uptake of a wide range of statutory, voluntary and community services;

2. To increase access to formal and informal educational, recreational and cultural development activities and resources;

3. To increase peoples' work readiness and employment prospects; and

4. To promote engagement with policy, practice and decision making processes on matters affecting local communities.

As part of the Programme's overall goals, the LCDP supports individuals into employment and self-employment through education, training, work experience, job placement, enterprise and the social economy in both urban and rural areas. Funding of €63.4m has been made available in 2011 for the Programme.

Two of the key Programme goals are focussed on education and training, particularly vocational training, and employment and self-employment supports. 80% of LCDP funding is allocated to these measures.

The Programme is implemented across the country through 51 Local Development Companies (LDCs), and prioritises the most disadvantaged communities, including RAPID areas, and individuals. These LDCs provide a range of employment services delivered to those who are identified as furthest from the labour market. Importantly, the services provided by LDCs are flexible, independent, locally based and non-bureaucratic. Knowledge and understanding of the local organisational landscape, and the development of networks and relationships, has led over the years to key successes in the provision of training, employment, self-employment and other supports.

My Department is also responsible for the delivery of Axes 3 & 4 of the Rural Development Programme Ireland, 2007-2013, with an allocation of €427m available over the lifetime of the Programme. The main objectives of these axes are to improve the quality of life in rural areas and to facilitate the diversification of the rural economy. This Programme is delivered on behalf of my Department by 35 Local Action Groups. In keeping with the "bottom-up" philosophy underpinning the LEADER approach, these groups are the principal decision makers in relation to the allocation of project funding in their areas. The Programme supports the provision of direct support for the generation and development of enterprise ideas and initiatives as well as support for initiatives which facilitate the development of sustainable rural communities.

My overall aim is to ensure that, notwithstanding the difficult budgetary position, disadvantaged communities will benefit from a more focused programme and better integrated actions. My primary concern in this most difficult economic climate is to make every effort to ensure the front-line services provided by or supported through my Department, especially those focused on the needs of the most disadvantaged communities, are protected and to minimise overheads and ancillary costs.

Local Authority Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total number of local authority houses currently under construction throughout the country; the extent to which this compares with other years; his intentions for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37975/11]

Information on the number of local authority houses currently under construction is not available in my Department. At any one time, it would be impossible to know how many dwellings are currently under construction, in preparation for construction or completed during a particular local authority project. Notwithstanding this, from figures compiled earlier this year, I expect that through housing authority construction and acquisitions programmes in 2011, some 900 new accommodation units will be provided to meet the social housing needs of households on housing authority waiting lists. The numbers of units provided through construction and acquisition by local authorities from 2006 to 2010 are given in the following table.

Output

2007

2008

2009

2010

New Build

4,712

4,724

3,172

2,126

Acquisitions

2,002

787

727

850

Total Output on main programme

6,914

5,511

3,899

2,976

The Government's housing policy statement, launched in June 2011, provides the framework for legislative and policy initiatives covering a range of housing supports to those in need. In terms of the delivery of social housing, the policy statement clearly identifies that the main focus in terms of supports provided by Government will be on meeting the most acute needs.

With levels of capital funding for social housing reduced by some 66% since 2008, the financial parameters within which the State is operating, and will be operating over the coming years, rule out a return to a mainly capital-driven construction programme by local authorities. Accordingly, delivery of social housing will be primarily facilitated by more flexible funding models, with the Social Housing Leasing Initiative and the Rental Accommodation Scheme providing the primary sources of supply.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which funding is likely to become available for group water schemes throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37976/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he expects to be in a position to offer funding to the various local authorities to meet the capital requirements in respect of group water schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37977/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which he expects to be in a position to assist Kildare County Council in their efforts to implement local group water schemes; the extent to which such proposals have been submitted for his proposals; the name and the location of the schemes in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37983/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141, 142 and 148 together.

My Department provides funding towards group water schemes by way of annual block grant allocations to local authorities under the Department's Rural Water Programme.

Responsibility for the administration of this programme has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The selection and approval of individual group scheme proposals for funding and advancement under the programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocation provided, is therefore a matter for the water services authorities.

The recently published Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16: Medium Term Exchequer Framework indicates that €40 million will be allocated to the Rural Water Programme in 2012. My Department will be writing to local authorities shortly asking them to submit proposals for funding under the Rural Water Programme in 2012. Decisions on the funding to be provided to local authorities, having regard to the proposals submitted, will be made as early as possible in the New Year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which he expects to upgrade the various water and sewerage upgrading proposals by the various local authorities throughout the country on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37978/11]

The overall strategy of investment in water services is to ensure that the timing and scale of investment facilitates economic and other development, achieves compliance with statutory requirements and promotes environmental sustainability objectives. The main vehicle for achieving these objectives is the multi-annual Water Services Investment Programme. The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 is available in the Oireachtas Library. This programme is complemented by funding for group water schemes and small public water and wastewater schemes under the Rural Water Programme.

The 2010-2012 programme was reviewed in the middle of this year, and this allowed my Department and Water Services Authorities jointly to take stock of progress, ensure that project milestones are being achieved and identify any actions required to increase programme momentum. As a result of this review 39 new contracts with an overall value of almost €87 million were being added to the Programme. These include a series of water conservation projects and contracts to ensure that water supplies and wastewater infrastructure comply with drinking water or wastewater discharge standards respectively. A copy of the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012: Review 2011 is also available in the Oireachtas library.

Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 30.

Water Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which plans are being prepared to provide for adequate storage and supply of domestic drinking water in the future in line with projected population increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37980/11]

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

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

The Programme is based on an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services undertaken by each water services authority which were subsequently appraised by my Department. In preparing their assessments, water services authorities were required to take into consideration key environmental and economic criteria in prioritising contracts and schemes to be progressed in their areas. The development of the Programme was strongly influenced by reports by the Environmental Protection Agency on drinking water quality, an assessment by Forfás of the requirements of enterprise in Gateways and Hubs, as well as River Basin Management Plans.

In addition, a detailed project appraisal is undertaken during the planning phase of each scheme, which determines issues such as the appropriate source of water, projected future demand and the most cost effective solution to meeting needs. There is, therefore, a strong evidence base, from technical assessments, environmental monitoring and policy studies to underpin the strategic direction of water services capital investment.

Local Authority Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent, if any, to which an examination has taken place into the possibility of utilising some of the excess housing stock now under the control of the National Asset Management Agency to address the housing needs of first-time buyers or local authority-listed housing applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37981/11]

There is clear potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government's policy objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

I have been engaging with my Department, very directly with NAMA to discuss options for bringing unsold suitable residential stock controlled by that Agency into productive use for social housing purposes. The first scheme of this nature, with property held by NAMA being purchased by an approved housing body through loan finance from the Housing Finance Agency, was launched in July 2011. Other proposals are currently being examined including leasing options as well as the purchase of units.

Local Authority Legal Costs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the annual legal costs, if known, under various headings incurred by the various local authorities over the past five years to date in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37982/11]

The information requested is not available in my Department. The procurement of legal services is a matter for the local authorities concerned.

Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 141.

Local Authority Funding

Joan Collins

Question:

149 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that when Sligo County Council sought and received sanction from him for a term loan of €15 million in 2010 it stated in its application that the purpose to which the loan was to be applied was to fund balances in its capital account that remained unfunded, including water investment projects awaiting special development levies, asset purchases completed in advance of Gateway funding and project balances, along with the revenue account deficit, and that the loan was not in fact applied to the revenue account deficit of €7.5 million and the revenue account deficit was carried forward into the following year; if he has concerns about his Department being misled by Sligo County Council and if he finds such behaviour acceptable; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that Sligo County Council had a total closing overall deficit balance of €9,981,616 on 31 December 2010; if he will provide the names and positions of the officials from his Department and Sligo County Council who met on 18 October 2011 to discuss the application of the €15 million loan and to further explore the financial position of the council; the proposals if any, his Department made at the meeting; the proposals if any, the Sligo county manager made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37988/11]

I refer to the replies to Question Nos. 366 of 19 July 2011, 342 of 20 September 2011, 131 and 134 of 29 September 2011, 325 of 18 October 2011, 261 of 2 November 2011, 395 of 15 November 2011 and 355 of 22 November 2011. Senior officials in the Local Government Division of my Department met with the Sligo County Manager on 18 October 2011. It was agreed that Sligo County Council would consider actions to address the financial position of the Council in its Budget for 2012.

Foreshore Licences

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

150 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the tender process will be completed and when external valuers will be appointed to deal with foreshore licence applications outside the designated fishery harbour centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38067/11]

The valuation of sites connected with foreshore applications is undertaken either by the Valuation Office or by private sector valuers appointed by my Department with the approval of the Department Public Expenditure and Reform. There is currently no active tender process underway within my Department for the provision of additional external valuation services for foreshore applications.

Departmental Funding

Nicky McFadden

Question:

151 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the arrangements being made for an organisation (details supplied) when funding ceases on 1 January 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37782/11]

It has been decided that funding from the Department to People with Disabilities in Ireland (PwDI) must cease at the end of 2011.

On the basis of a value for money review it has been clearly established that the vast majority of the money allocated to PwDI is being spent disproportionately. The largest proportion of PwDI's annual budget has been spent over the last number of years on the operation of its office headquarters and on administration rather than on the creation of programmes and services which would directly benefit people with disabilities. This was an untenable situation that could not be allowed to continue, as people with disabilities were not benefiting sufficiently from the allocation in real terms. However, there is no reason why the local PwDI networks around the country should not continue to be active as volunteer bodies and continue their work with people with disabilities.

It is my wish to ensure that people with disabilities directly benefit from any money allocated to this sector. With this in mind, I am currently overseeing the finalisation of a major Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services in the Department of Health to ensure that existing funding allocated for people with disabilities is spent to best effect. I am also interested to hear what people with disabilities have to say on issues affecting them. I have recently set up and will chair a new Implementation Group to develop and progress the National Disability Strategy. This new group holds its inaugural meeting today, 30 November. It includes representation from a number of disability stakeholder organisations and also a number of people with disabilities who will be able to bring their lived experience directly to bear on the very important work of this high level group. This will ensure the voice and perspective of people with disabilities will continue to be heard in a more focused and cost-effective way.

Visa Applications

Brendan Ryan

Question:

152 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the spouse of a person who is an Irish citizen (details supplied) was refused a visa; the length of time the appeal will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37790/11]

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Dublin on the 18 October 2011. It was refused by the Visa Officer on the 11 November 2011 for the following reasons: 1. There was insufficient documentation submitted in support of the application, specifically financial statements were not provided as per visa documentation guidelines; 2. The Visa Officer had concerns that the granting of the visa sought may result in a cost in respect of public funds and public resources; 3. The Applicant had not provided sufficient evidence of a relationship being in existence prior to the visa application/marriage.

The Deputy may wish to note that for immigration purposes it is not generally sufficient for a relationship to have developed over the internet or by telephone/sms, but rather should include a number of face to face meetings between the parties. The onus rests with the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer as regards the bona fides of the relationship.

As is the case with all refused visa applications, the refusal decision and the reasons for that decision were sent by way of letter to the applicant. In addition, and in common with all visa applications refused in Dublin, the refusal decision and the reasons for that decision were posted promptly on-line (in a format confidential to the applicant). It is open to the person concerned to submit an appeal within two months of the date of refusal, in this case before the 11 January 2012. No such appeal has been received in the Visa office to date from the applicant referred to by the Deputy in his question. Guidelines on the visa appeals process is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie).

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long waited.

Garda Strength

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

153 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of members, by rank, of An Garda Síochána who have retired from the force for the years 2009 to date in 2011; the number who are expected to retire before the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37836/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Gardaí, by rank, who retired in 2009, 2010 and to-date in 2011 and the number who have declared their intention to retire in the remainder of 2011 is as set out in the following table.

Rank

2009

2010

2011(to-date)

2011(29/11-31/12)

Commissioner

1

Deputy Commissioner

Assistant Commissioner

3

2

2

1

Chief Superintendent

14

3

4

4

Superintendent

26

14

12

12

Inspector

29

8

12

9

Sergeant

177

95

74

37

Garda

473

239

194

87

Total

722

362

298

150

Garda Operations

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

154 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on Garda Operation Shannon; the number of vehicles that have been recovered; the number of persons arrested and charged to date; the number of convictions secured to date; the cost of the operation to date; if this operation is still ongoing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37837/11]

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

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

155 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on Garda Operation Oak; the number of persons arrested and charged to date; the number of convictions secured to date; the cost of the operation to date; if this operation is still ongoing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37838/11]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Oak, which commenced in November 2005, was an operation targeting a person suspected of being involved in organised criminal activity and his associates. The subject of the investigation was considered at that time to be a senior figure in an organised crime gang and his suspected activities included armed robbery, the importation and distribution of drugs and firearms, theft of vehicles and tax evasion.

As a result of the Operation a total of forty persons, who were considered key members of the organised crime gang, were arrested. Thirty-one persons were charged with related offences including attempted robbery, possession of firearms and the importation and sale / supply of illegal drugs.

Twenty-two persons have been convicted, to date, with warrants issued by the Courts in respect of two persons who have left the jurisdiction. The persons charged and convicted before the Courts received sentences ranging from 3 years to 15 years.

The Operation also resulted in the seizure of substantial quantities of illegal drugs and firearms, together with cash and stolen vehicles recovered. Property linked to the target of this initiative and other criminal associates has also been seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau and is the subject of proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005.

Finally, I am advised by the Gardaí authorities that Operation Oak, which concluded in 2007, was a joint operation involving personnel from a number of National, District and Divisional Units of An Garda Síochána, with resources from all of these areas deployed to target the activities of this organised crime gang. To calculate the overall cost of the operation would necessitate a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, further to Parliamentary Question No. 173 of 13 October 2011, the decision that was issued in an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37861/11]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a positive decision issued to the person referred to by the Deputy on 13 September 2011.

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. This service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in respect of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37862/11]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that valid applications for certificates of naturalisation were received from the persons referred to by the Deputy in January, 2009.

The applications are currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicants meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision 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.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Deportation Orders

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for a deportation order issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37863/11]

In reply to the Deputy's question, following the refusal of this individual's application for a declaration as a refugee, he made an application for subsidiary protection. This was considered and refused.

His case was then examined under the provisions of Section 3 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 by or on behalf of the individual concerned were considered in full. Following consideration of those representations, a Deportation Order was made against the individual concerned. A copy of the decision, together with the detailed submissions made under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) were issued to the individual concerned and copied to his legal representative.

The Deportation Order required the individual to remove himself from the State by 28 October 2011 and remain thereafter outside the State. The individual in question has not yet removed himself from the State and must therefore present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau to facilitate his removal.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail 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 information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in respect of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37864/11]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in August, 2011. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in respect of an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37865/11]

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 30th September, 2005, 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.

The person concerned was subsequently notified of his entitlement to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the file is passed to me for decision. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

161 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, further to Parliamentary Question No. 384 of 22 November 2011, if a stamp 0 visa will be subject to revocation or non-renewal in the event the holder avails of public health care, including emergency care. [37899/11]

It would be a condition of the immigration permission granted to persons on Stamp 0 basis that they have private medical insurance to cover their period of residence in the State. The whole purpose of the new stamp is to facilitate the presence in the State of persons for a temporary and limited purpose and clearly the State should not be exposed to significant cost in return for doing this. Since a person will have private medical cover, the question of accessing public health care should not generally arise. If it does there is an obvious qualitative difference between a foreign visitor who is involved in an accident or incident and requires emergency medical care and a person deliberately breaching a condition of their immigration permission by seeking to have the Irish State foot the bill for non-emergency treatment. Each case would have to be considered on its merits and common sense would apply.

In any event the requirement to have private medical insurance is not new in the immigration system and is already applied to some other categories of migrant coming to Ireland for more than 90 days, for example students, where this condition is standard. The position in relation to any category of immigration permission is that where one of the conditions applicable to that permission is not complied with, that may result in the immigration permission not being renewed.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

162 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37948/11]

My Department provides support for 25 websites related to the work of the department and some bodies under its remit. Details of visits are not recorded for all sites but figures recorded in the past year indicate that there was an average of 26,726 unique visits per month to my Department's main site (www.justice.ie) and that there was an average of 54,015 unique visits per month to the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie). Hosting and related charges for these sites in the past 12 months came to €18,783.82. Other costs, such as staff time spent maintaining the site content which forms part of the day to day work of the Department, are not separately accounted for.

Websites are an essential communications tool for any modern organisation in providing essential customer services. As part of the Shared Service model, websites are developed and maintained based on reusable templates. This approach has led to a reduction in the cost and effort of setting up and supporting websites. The management of websites within agencies of my Department currently not availing of the IT Shared Service is an operational matter for the agencies concerned and is not a function for which I have responsibility.

Citizenship Applications

Tom Fleming

Question:

163 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the application for a certificate of naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [37996/11]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in October 2011. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The person concerned did not fulfil all of the statutory conditions, consequently, the Citizenship Division of my Department have deemed the application ineligible. The person concerned was informed of this decision in a letter issued on 18 October, 2011. Subsequent correspondence enclosing an amended section of the application form did not address the issue as the application form is a statutory declaration and any amendment requires a new Statutory declaration to be completed and sworn. I have asked the relevant officials in my Department's Citizenship Division to contact the person concerned in relation to this matter.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Domestic Violence

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

164 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the link between child abuse and domestic violence; if he will ensure that the best practice principle of protecting the child through the protection and support of the non-abusive parent is acknowledged and reflected in any new child protection structures and in any review of family law and domestic violence legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38051/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will progress the review and reform of domestic violence legislation as soon as possible so that it includes the extension of safety orders to dating-type relationships; if he will remove the length-of-cohabitation requirements for barring orders when the applicant has a sole or greater interest in the property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38052/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

166 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether there should be a better system, when domestic violence cases go to court, in which children involved in these cases should have the opportunity, in a proper way with professional persons, of giving evidence which would be vital in assisting a judge in making a determination as to how they should proceed in adjudicating on the case; his views on whether we are neglecting the health, safety and well being of our children by not ensuring that such a provision would be strictly enforced and adhered to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38053/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 to 166, inclusive, together.

There are already specific provisions in place in the Domestic Violence Act 1996 which provide protection to children. In particular, in an application for a safety order or a barring order the court may grant an order to an applicant where it is of the opinion that the safety or welfare, including both the physical and psychological welfare, of the applicant or a dependent person (a child of the applicant and the respondent or either of them) requires it. A health authority may also apply for a safety order or a barring order in relation to an "aggrieved person", including a child.

The Programme for Government commitment — to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation, in a way that provides protection to victims — will be progressed as soon as possible having regard to the need for consultations and the need to dispose of urgent legislative matters in my Department under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for the State.

I am considering making suitable measures available for applicants who are or have been in relationships but who may never have cohabited with the person causing the risk. While there are already measures available under section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, the criminal threshold of proof applies in those cases. Accordingly, I am considering whether persons in non-cohabiting relationships may be included in the category of people who may apply for a safety order.

In relation to the cohabitation requirements to obtain a barring order, it should be noted that there is a constitutional impediment to removing that requirement entirely where the respondent has any interest in a shared property. This is because the order may have the effect of restricting the property rights of the respondent. However, I will give full consideration to any measures which may enhance protections for an applicant while respecting the respondent's constitutional rights.

In advance of wider reform, I introduced reforms to domestic violence legislation by means of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011. That Act removed the minimum required period of cohabitation before one of a cohabiting couple may apply for a safety order (previously, the applicant was required to have resided with the respondent for at least six of the previous twelve months) and gave equal access to the protections of the Domestic Violence Act to opposite-sex and same-sex couples (the relevant provision previously referred only to couples "living together as husband and wife"). The 2011 Act also widened the scope of section 2 of the 1996 Act, which specifies who may apply for a safety order, to enable a person to obtain a safety order against a person with whom they have a child in common. This is the only exception to the general rule that the protections available under the Domestic Violence Acts are for the benefit of persons who have lived together in the same household.

The Children Act 1997 makes comprehensive provisions for the giving of evidence in civil proceedings by children, by means of television links and through intermediaries, and the admissibility of and weight to be given to such evidence. I can assure the Deputy that operation of the law in these areas is reviewed by my Department on an ongoing basis.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

167 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether the sale of alcohol to teenagers is being adequately monitored; and if there are enough deterrents in place. [32501/11]

There are robust legal provisions in place relating to the sale of intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years. Section 31 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as amended, contains provisions which prohibit a licensee from selling, or permitting any person from selling, intoxicating liquor to such persons. The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 also provides An Garda Síochána with significant additional powers to address the problem of alcohol sales to underage persons. Section 14 allows a Garda who believes with reasonable cause that such a person possesses a bottle or other container containing intoxicating liquor which is being, or is intended to be, consumed by him or her to seize and remove the container. It also makes provision for the test purchasing of alcohol products, and guidelines were issued by the then Minister for Justice and Law Reform in October, 2010 in respect of the procedures to be followed, following consultation with the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Health and Children. The primary objective of the scheme is to enable An Garda Síochána to target licensed premises which are suspected of engaging in illegal sales to young people. Up to 31 October, 2011, these provisions have been invoked in respect of 119 premises, and offences were detected in respect of 41 of these premises.

Section 8A of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 provides An Garda Síochána with certain powers in relation to persons that are in the possession of intoxicating substance in a place other than a place used as a private dwelling. Incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour arising from the abuse of alcohol reported to the Garda authorities are the subject of investigation and dealt with appropriately, including by juvenile or adult caution, fixed charge penalty notices or initiating criminal proceedings. Any persons found engaging in such behaviour will continue to be dealt with appropriately in accordance with the law.

Local Garda management keeps under review patrols and other operational strategies in place, in conjunction with other policing needs of the residents in the area, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. Current policing plans are designed to address issues of crime and public order offences. Community policing is a central feature and core value of policing policy, and current policing strategies are predicated on the prevention of crime, public order offences and anti-social behaviour. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of policing services.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

168 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37941/11]

There are five websites under my remit. The following table provides the information requested in relation to each of these websites.

Site Name

Average Hits Per Month

Annual Cost €

Department of Defence

defence.ie

11,3481

€5,712

Civil Defence

civildefence.ie

9,6221

€1,920

Office of Emergency Planning

emergencyplanning.ie

343

€7,536

Office of Emergency Planning

winterready.ie

Not Available2

Not Available2

Defence Forces

military.ie3

36,000

€60,000

1 These figures include non-human traffic from web crawlers, RSS feed hits etc.

2 www.winterready.ie was launched on the 9th November 2011. The number of hits for the first week was 22,675. Annual figures for maintenance and average number of hits will not be available until late 2012.

3 The Defence Forces’ website has recently been upgraded and has replaced the old version of www.military.ie and www.rdf.ie. The upgraded website includes the Military Service Pension collection which will be launched in early 2012.

The websites managed by the Department of Defence have been optimised by co-hosting www.defence.ie and www.civildefence.ie to reduce costs and likewise www.emergencyplanning.ie and www.winterready.ie are co-hosted. Further rationalisation of these website is not feasible as each of the websites serve different purposes and have different target audiences.

The Defence Forces' new website has been optimised to ensure reduced hosting costs and more efficient administration. The website won the 2011 Realex Web Awards category for "Best Government and Council Website".

Army Barracks

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

169 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence the contacts, if any, he has had with IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland in respect of the possible use of land at Magee Barracks, Kildare town, for development purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38057/11]

Officials from Enterprise Ireland and the IDA recently visited the barracks and on the 16th of this month I met with a deputation from Kildare Chamber of Commerce to discuss possible future uses. In terms of disposal the Deputy will appreciate that the market remains extremely difficult. Whilst I am open to any suggestions on the future use and development of the site I would like to reiterate that it is the Departments intention to dispose of the property, taking account of the market conditions, so as to maximise the return to the Defence Forces. Kildare County Council is currently preparing a Local Area Plan (LAP) for the town of Kildare. This plan will set out a vision for the future development of the town. The Magee site is a significant site in the town and will be a central feature of the plan. Accordingly it is unlikely that there will be any progress in disposing of the site until the LAP becomes available sometime next year.

Grant Payments

Tom Hayes

Question:

170 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37764/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 8 April 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing the 50% advance payment to issue to the person named on 15 November.

Dara Calleary

Question:

171 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a forestry premium will be paid in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [37784/11]

The Forest Service has no record of the application form for the 2011 annual premium being received from the applicant. A duplicate application form was sent to the applicant on 24 November for signing by him. The payment will be processed when a completed application has been received by the Forest Service.

Dara Calleary

Question:

172 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when outstanding REP scheme, single farm and area based payments will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [37785/11]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 20 April 2011. This application was selected for and was the subject of a Ground Eligibility/Cross Compliance Inspection. This inspection was completed and the results are now being processed.

In the vast majority of inspected cases, including this case, amendments have had to be made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. This work is ongoing and every effort is being made to complete the processing of those who were the subject of a Ground Eligibility Inspection.

Dara Calleary

Question:

173 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo may expect a response to a query regarding their suckler cow welfare scheme payment. [37786/11]

The person named submitted an application in 2008 to participate in the Suckler Welfare Scheme. In doing so he agreed to comply with all of the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme. One of the essential components was that each participant would attend the mandatory training course. These courses were held extensively throughout the country during 2008 and 2009. The final tranche of training courses were held in November 2010 and those participants who had not attended a course were advised that that was the final opportunity to attend and that failure to do so would result in exclusion from the Scheme . It was open to each participant to nominate a family member to attend if they were unable to do so and each participant was so notified. Each participant also undertook to carry out all of the measures required under the Scheme for the five years duration and to submit all relevant data relating to these measures. Data was submitted in relation to the seven animals born during 2008 and payment issued in respect of six of these animals. An error was identified with the remaining animal. However, weaning dates were not received in respect of the animals born during 2009 and 2010. In the interest of expediting payments under this Scheme, I recently introduced a requirement that all data had to be received within one year of the birth of each animal and a grace period until the end of August 2011 was allowed for any outstanding information to be submitted.

A medical certificate was submitted by the person named for his non-attendance at a training course. However, given that none of the measures required under the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme were registered by the person named for any of the calves born in 2009 and 2010, it was not possible for the person named to continue participating in this Scheme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

174 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37788/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 21 April 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing the 50% advance of the Single Payment to issue to the applicant on 22 November.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

175 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be permitted to switch from cattle to sheep and retain their entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37801/11]

Under the provisions of the Single Farm Payment, it is necessary for the applicant maintain an agricultural activity including maintaining the land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. There is no restriction, therefore, in an applicant altering his or her farming activity from cattle to a sheep breeding enterprise, for example. The important matter is that sufficient stock be maintained to keep the land compliant with Good Agricultural Condition and eligible for payment.

The Terms and Conditions governing the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme require applicants to maintain a minimum stocking density on their holding of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare declared, for a period of at least three consecutive months during the year of application. Various types of livestock are acceptable under the Scheme such as cattle, sheep, goats, etc. Sufficient proof under each category will be required. For cattle, sheep and goats, details are held on the Department's database; in respect of horses, passports are required to be sent to Disadvantaged Areas Section of my Department; while in respect of deer, a Department official can verify the numbers.

Food Safety Standards

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

176 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the date on which he intends to introduce a statutory instrument to ban the sale of raw milk; his plans to conduct a regulatory impact assessment on such a ban with regard to its effects on gourmet food consumers and tourists, specialist ingredient suppliers and niche food markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37829/11]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland and my Department's dairy science and veterinary experts have recommended that the sale of unpasteurised milk from all farm animals which is intended for direct human consumption should be prohibited. The most effective way to protect public health is to ensure that such milk is pasteurised. Pasteurisation is universally recognised as having been one of the greatest advances in public health and it is important that we do not create conditions in this country, by effectively opening up a new outlet for raw milk, which could undo some of that good.

Regulatory impact analysis is designed to assess the impact of new and different regulations and policy approaches. 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 until 2006) by my Department; and previously by most local authorities. The ban lapsed due to a change in EU legislation in 2006. In effect renewal of the ban will constitute a return to the status quo.

A public consultation process was held in 2008 in relation to the proposed extension of the ban to goats' and sheep milk. Seventeen submissions were received. The submissions were wide ranging and included requests to allow restricted sale of raw milk as well as a number of claims of perceived health benefits of drinking raw milk. All the submissions were carefully reviewed by my Department's experts in conjunction with the FSAI. They were satisfied that the claimed benefits from drinking raw milk did not outweigh strong advice concerning the known health risks associated with drinking raw milk. These include diseases such as TB, brucellosis, E. coli O157, Campylobacter and Salmonella. Illness associated with consumption of raw milk is thankfully rare, but this is precisely because of the fact that the vast bulk of liquid milk consumed in Ireland is pasteurised, partly due to the existence of the previous long-standing ban. International data show that outbreaks increase when the numbers consuming raw milk are allowed to increase.

Any food scare associated with the sale of raw Irish milk for direct human consumption could have major implications for our dairy industry. 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. 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.

I am advised by the FSAI that meaningful differences in nutritional value between pasteurised and unpasteurised milk have not been demonstrated. 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; and clearly demonstrating that pasteurised whole milk can be used in the manufacture of safe high quality dairy products.

Regulation allowing sale of raw milk for direct human consumption, on a restricted basis, would be difficult and costly to implement. Most important however such regulation would still not eliminate the serious health risks. Even under the best conditions, raw milk can contain low levels of human pathogens that can cause serious illness or rapidly increase to harmful levels. Labelling as a precaution would be least effective with some of the most at-risk groups i.e. the young and the elderly.

In all the circumstances I am satisfied that a renewal of the ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is justified. The date for introduction of the required Statutory Instrument will be a matter for discussion with my colleague the Minister for Health, as it is intended that the S.I. will be introduced under the Health Act 1947.

Milk Quota

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

177 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application for additional quota in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [37834/11]

The closing date for receipt of applications to the first stage of the 2012-2013 Milk Quota Trading Scheme was 7 October 2011. An application was received in my Department from the named person before that date.

The processing of the applications is now at an advanced stage, and I expect to be in a position to announce the results of the scheme in mid December. At that time my Department will notify all Co-ops of the outcome of the scheme and they, in turn, will inform their participating suppliers of the outcome of their individual applications.

I expect to announce the second stage of the 2012-2013 Scheme in early January 2012.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

178 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there is likely to be a surplus of quota left over at the end of the year to be distributed to over-quota producers as part of the flexi-milk system. [37843/11]

The flexi-milk arrangements are designed to redistribute unused quota within Co-op collection areas, so that the potential exposure of over-quota producers to a super levy can be mitigated. The question of whether the country will be over quota at the end of the year, of course, still has to be determined. Estimates based on Co-ops' submission of butterfat-adjusted delivery figures indicate that the country is 1.2 per cent over quota at the end of October 2011 (down from 2.4 per cent over quota at the end of September). I would therefore take this opportunity to remind all milk producers of their responsibility to produce in accordance with quota limits, and to plan accordingly over the coming months.

Grant Payments

John Browne

Question:

179 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a single farm allowance payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [37881/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 12 May 2011, processing of which has recently been finalised, thereby allowing the 50% advance payment to issue to the person named on 22 November.

John Browne

Question:

180 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the 25% REP scheme 4 payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [37885/11]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in May 2009 and received full payments for the first year of the contract. In addition, 75% of the year 2 payment for 2010 issued on 21 April 2011 for the amount of €5898.20. The remaining 25% year 2 balancing payment for 2010 for the amount of €1939.40 will issue within the next week.

Question No. 181 withdrawn.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

182 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37937/11]

The details requested by the Deputy in relation to my Department's websites are provided in the following table. My Department's websites are constantly reviewed and rationalised where possible and I have recently introduced a new Minister's Information Centre on my Department's website which provides access to up to date information on ministerial activities.

My Department also continues to develop our online services on an ongoing basis. The success of these initiatives is evidenced by the fact that online applications for the Single Payment System (SPS) increased by 25% in 2011, with over 54,000 online applications. In addition, the number of calves that have been registered online using my Department's Animal Identification Movement (AIM) system has increased by approximately 48% this year with over 400,000 calves registered thus far in 2011.

Website Name

Annual cost (ex vat) for each site in 2011

Total unique average monthly visitors 2011

http://www.agriculture.gov.ie (Department’s primary website)

€12,636.00

39,587

http://www.agfood.ie (Department’s portal for online services)

€29.99

11,707

http://www.fawac.ie (Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council website)

€29.99

550*

http://www.fishingnet.ie (Commercial Sea Fishing Network Portal)

€29.99

420*

http://www.killybegsharbour.ie (Killybegs Harbour Centre website)

€29.99

400*

http://www.coford.ie (3 sites) (COFORD Division website)

€89.99

775

http://www.woodspec.ie (Timber Resource website)

€29.99

3,616

http://www.woodenergy.ie (Wood Biomass Resource website)

€29.99

431

http://www.pcs.agriculture.gov.ie (Pesticides Control Division website)

Nil

1100*

http://www.pots.agriculture.gov.ie (National Potato Register of Growers and Packers)

Nil

350*

http://www.agriappeals.gov.ie (Agriculture Appeals Office Website)

€29.99

230*

*Approximate averages based on comparable annual usage.

In relation to agencies under the aegis of my Department, the number of websites and their cost of maintenance is an operational matter for the agencies themselves.

Agricultural Training

Brendan Griffin

Question:

183 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a green certificate will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37954/11]

Under the Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Act, 1988, Teagasc has statutory responsibility for the provision of education, advisory and research services to the agriculture sector. It is a matter for Teagasc and its Board to prioritise activities in the delivery of these services and to allocate its resources in accordance with these priorities. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and the Minister does not interfere in the day-to-day operations of Teagasc.

All matters relating to the delivery of Education programmes, including the issue of green certificates, are operational matters for Teagasc and its Board. I will forward the Deputy's question to Teagasc for appropriate attention.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

184 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their single farm payment and area aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37959/11]

An application under the 2011 Single Payment/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 26 April 2011. The application included a part of Coumduff commonage. This commonage has been over-claimed in the 2011 scheme year and payment cannot issue to any applicant, who declared a share in the commonage until this matter is satisfactorily resolved and my Department is attempting to do so with a view to making payment on the earliest possible date.

Departmental Schemes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

185 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if future agri-environment option scheme will have a longer opening period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37960/11]

The future of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme will be determined by the level of funding available to my Department following the outcome of the Estimates and Budget 2012 process and I will be making an announcement on the position at that stage.

Grant Payments

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

186 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) will receive their sheep grasslands scheme payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37968/11]

Under the 2010 Grassland Sheep Scheme, farmers were required to:

maintain ewes;

complete the Sheep Census return; and

submit the SPS application form by the closing date of 17th May 2010.

While an application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes was received from the person named on 12 May 2010, following validation it was found that while the person named had submitted the Sheep Census Return, as required, no breeding ewes were declared on the Census Return. Therefore, no payment was due under the Grassland Sheep Scheme to the person named. However, following a review of this case, on foot of an appeal from the person named, 60 breeding ewes have now been accepted for the Scheme, with payment due to issue shortly.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Billy Kelleher

Question:

187 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the timeframe in which she envisions a secure working agreement between Ireland and Vietnam for the resumption of adoptions will be established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37780/11]

Billy Kelleher

Question:

188 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the Adoption Authority of Ireland will sanction an agency to work with Vietnam in order to facilitate inter-country adoption to Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37781/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 188 together.

The Vietnamese authorities deposited the instrument of ratification of the Hague Convention earlier this month. Therefore, the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption will enter into force for Vietnam on 1 February 2012.

As provided for in Section 72 of the Adoption Act, 2010, the Adoption Authority may establish administrative arrangements concerning the processing of applications with other Hague countries in relation to intercountry adoptions. Preliminary discussions have taken place regarding official visits and exchange of information between Ireland and Vietnam with a view to putting in place administrative arrangements under Section 72 of the 2010 Act.

While the Hague Convention will take effect in Vietnam in February 2012, it is not yet clear how soon after that arrangements will be in place, in both jurisdictions, to allow intercountry adoption recommence. Ireland is one of a number of countries interested in intercountry adoption from Vietnam, and it is a matter for the Vietnamese authorities to decide with whom and in what order they operate. It is also not within the control of the Irish authorities to guarantee the availability, numbers, age or the level of needs of children for intercountry adoption from that country. While every effort is being made by Irish authorities to develop the necessary administrative agreement and other requirements, certain operational elements of the process are purely a matter for the sending country.

The position regarding the adoption agency referred to by the Deputy is that the application for accreditation by that agency is a matter for the Adoption Authority. The Authority informs me that they are awaiting information from the HSE on this matter.

Youth Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

189 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding cuts to youth services. [37845/11]

The City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB) has been for many years promoting, supporting and co-ordinating the development of youth projects and youth services in Dublin City and I am aware of the valuable work carried out by CDYSB in the youth work sector,

The main objectives of the Youth Affairs area are to develop and implement coherent, coordinated and relevant youth policies and strategies to support the youth sector in providing effective non-formal education and developmental opportunities for young people through which they can enhance and develop their personal and social skills and competencies. To support this work, the Youth Affairs area of my Department has a budget in 2011 of €60.154m on current expenditure and €0.8m on capital

In light of current budgetary constraints, the youth budget requires careful management with a focus on prioritising front-line services in so far as is possible. Officials from my Department have met with representatives of the youth sector including CDYSB, on an ongoing basis to ascertain the sector's views on how best to minimise the impact of budgetary constraints with a view to consolidating, in so far as is practicable, the progress made in previous years. Every effort will be made to notify the various youth work organisations and administering agencies of their 2012 allocations as speedily as possible.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Finian McGrath

Question:

190 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding adoption. [37846/11]

Adoptions from Ethiopia, effected under the transitional arrangements provided for in the Adoption Act 2010, are ongoing and are currently being examined, and recognised, by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). These transitional arrangements may lead to adoptions from Ethiopia taking place up to the end of October 2013.

Adoptions from Ethiopia which are not covered by the transitional arrangements referred to above require a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Ethiopia. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption with states who have not ratified the Hague Convention is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010 which states that "the Authority, with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non-contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State.”

Ethiopia, as it is not a signatory of the Hague Convention, is covered by Section 73 of the Adoption Act, 2010. The opening of negotiations on such a bilateral would require an analysis of

the current situation regarding adoptions in Ethiopia;

issues regarding the compatibility of the laws between the two countries and

the plans of that jurisdiction vis a vis the Hague Convention.

The AAI have indicated that certain issues could arise that would require detailed consideration, especially issues relating to the effect of Ethiopian adoptions in the context of the Adoption Act 2010. My Department is in regular and ongoing contact with the AAI and the Irish Embassy in Ethiopia in order to assess possible next steps vis a vis that jurisdiction. However further action will have to have regard for the wider work programme of the AAI and agreed priorities.

As the Hague Convention is designed to ensure a minimum set of standards in intercountry adoption, the Adoption Authority of Ireland have indicated that their first priority is to reach agreements on arrangements with other Hague countries.

Children in Care

Michael McCarthy

Question:

191 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 562 of 4 October 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive; the reason for the HSE’s delay in responding to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37936/11]

The Office of the National Director, Children and Families Services, HSE, has confirmed that the data is currently being collected but that it is a more lengthy process than was initially considered. A representative from the Office of Children and Families will be in contact with the Deputy with regard to his request.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

192 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide details of all websites under her remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; her views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37939/11]

Information in relation to websites supported by my Department is set out in the table.

Website

Description

Avg Unique Monthly Visitors

Annual Cost

www.dcya.ie

Department of Children and Youth Affairs website

20,000 approx

www.childrensdatabase.ie

Provides access to research and information on children.

1,500 approx

www.comhairlenanog.ie

Dedicated Comhairle na nOg website

400 approx

www.nprrc.ie

National Play and Recreation Resource Centre website

250 approx

Total cost for websites annually

These sites are managed as a single contract.

€6,731

www.ncac.ie

National Children’s Advisory Council website

not available

€702 (hosting)

My Department will continue to review the operation and maintenance of websites under its remit with a view to rationalisation where appropriate without compromising the service provided or e-Government objectives.

Domestic Violence

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

193 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the link between child abuse and domestic violence; if she will ensure that the best practice principle of protecting the child through the protection and support of the non-abusive parent is acknowledged and reflected in any new child protection structures and in any review of family law and domestic violence legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38050/11]

The new Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children identifies that exposure to domestic violence is detrimental to children's physical, emotional and psychological well-being and that the adverse effects of domestic violence have been well established. The correlation between neglect and parental substance misuse and parental mental illness and disability is also identified in the Guidance.

The HSE Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook, complements the Children First Guidance and is primarily aimed at front line professionals working with children. The Handbook identifies a number of risk factors, including domestic violence, that need to be considered when identifying, responding to and assessing child protection concerns. The Handbook highlights that the child's immediate safety must be the first consideration and that in the context of domestic violence an assessment should consider, amongst other issues, a detailed history of the child's experience of domestic violence and the impact of the domestic violence on the non-abusive parent's/carer's ability to parent and protect the child.

In all cases, where an initial assessment concludes that there is a primary concern of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, and it is determined that a child is at ongoing risk of significant harm, a child protection process outlines the pathway that must be followed and the outcome of the process is to ensure that the welfare and protection of the child and, where applicable, their siblings is of paramount importance.

The Domestic Violence Act 1996 introduced major changes in the legal remedies for domestic violence. There are two main types of remedies available:

(i) Safety Order: This Order prohibits a person from further violence or threats of violence. It does not oblige that person to leave the family home. If the parties live apart, the Order prohibits the violent person from watching or being in the vicinity of the home.

(ii) Barring Order: This Order requires the violent person to leave the family home.

The legislation gives the HSE the power to intervene to protect individuals and their children from violence. Section 6 of the Act empowers the HSE to apply for Orders for which a person could apply on his or her own behalf but is deterred from doing so through fear or trauma. The consent of the victim is not a prerequisite for such an application, although he or she must be consulted. Under Section 7 of the Act, the Court may, where it considers it appropriate, adjourn proceedings and direct the HSE to undertake an investigation of the dependent person's circumstances with a view to:

(i) applying for a Care Order or a Supervision Order under the Child Care Act 1991;

(ii) providing services or assistance for the dependent person's family; or

(iii) taking any other action in respect of the dependent person.

Family law and domestic violence legislation is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr Alan Shatter T.D.

Mental Health Services

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

194 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the reason a person, asked to do so by the family, was be prevented by staff from entering a public hospital to visit a member of that family and was told he or she will need written consent from the patient’s psychiatrist in order to visit; his views on whether this an infringement of the human rights of both the patient and the visitor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37971/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

220 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health his views on whether it is acceptable that a person was refused entrance to visit a patient in hospital, having been asked by the family to do so, and now has been told he or she will need written consent from the patient’s psychiatrist to visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37972/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 220 together.

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

Budgetary Submissions

Finian McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will decline to impose a charge for the medical card or increase the prescription charge. [37763/11]

A range of matters are being discussed by the Cabinet as part of the budgetary process. As part of this deliberative process, many policy options are proposed and discussed. No decisions have been taken on these matters as yet.

Hospital Services

Gerry Adams

Question:

196 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a detailed breakdown of how the €725,710 that has been made available for proposals relating to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth, between now and the end of the year will be spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37765/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

197 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the precise timeline for the additional funds that have been provided for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth; when the funding is due to cease; and the proposals in place for beyond that date. [37766/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

198 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the number of additional beds that have been opened in Louth County Hospital and in Navan Hospital, County Meath, as part of the measures introduced to tackle overcrowding in the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. [37767/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

201 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if any assessments have been carried out by hospital management or others of the bed capacity required in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth, to tackle issues of persistent overcrowding; the finding of such reports or assessments; the current bed capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37770/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 to 198, inclusive, and 201 together.

I have said very clearly on many occasions that the situation in our hospital emergency departments where people must wait for unacceptably long periods on trolleys will not be allowed to continue. For this reason, one of my first actions as Minister for Health was to set about establishing the Special Delivery Unit.

The SDU is establishing an infrastructure based on information collection and analysis, hospital by hospital, so that we will know what is actually happening in real time. It is providing information tools for hospital managers, including clinical managers, to map and measure bed capacity in their hospital depending on variations in for example the average length of stay of patients. This will allow us to begin to embed performance management in the system, to manage bed capacity and to sustain shorter waiting times.

The problems in our emergency departments are complex and they did not arise overnight. The particular issues vary from hospital to hospital and some of the solutions will depend on local factors. As part of the process of forming the overall picture of the emergency department situation nationally, the SDU has identified fifteen hospitals which between them account for 80% of the trolley wait problem in the hospital system. Eight Hospitals have been identified for very high support including Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda. Liaison Officers from the SDU are working pro-actively to support these sites.

I have also agreed that some additional funding may be provided, on a strictly once off basis, based on specific proposals from the hospital to reduce waiting times between now and the end of the year which will help address issues such as delayed discharges. Adherence to the agreed criteria will be closely monitored by the SDU.

The conditions and performance measures which Our Lady of Lourdes and other hospitals will have to meet are as follows: for the remainder of the year and throughout January 2012 no patient will wait more than 23 hours in the hospital's Emergency Department. In addition the trolley wait target must be maintained at least 70% below the maximum daily trolley count since January 2010. Other conditions/performance measures include:

Seven day ward/discharge rounds

Achievement of all Acute Medicine Programme milestones

Implementation of approved measures to effectively stream elderly patients.

In relation to Drogheda some €725,000 (including specific funding for Louth/Navan hospitals — see below) has been approved to help alleviate emergency department pressures including:

Extending the Medical Assessment Unit service including an increase in the opening hours from a five to a seven day a week basis.

Opening 8 medical beds in Drogheda

Opening 28 low acuity beds in Louth/Navan hospitals to provide intermediate care discharge area

Opening 27 beds in community/ private facilities to accommodate delayed discharge patients

Various measures for early assisted discharge for medically fit patients including additional home care packages, home IVs, and additional aids and appliances.

Hospital Staff

Gerry Adams

Question:

199 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the additional staff that have been employed in Louth County Hospital as a result of the measures introduced to provide additional bed capacity to tackle the issues of overcrowding in Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda; if agency staff have been employed or full-time ward staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37768/11]

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

Hospital Accommodation

Gerry Adams

Question:

200 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the bed capacity in each of the Health Service Executive regions here. [37769/11]

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

Question No. 201 answered with Question No. 196.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Gerry Adams

Question:

202 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the processing of applications through the Fair Deal scheme; if he will provide a month-by-month breakdown for 2011 of the number of applications that have been provided each month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37771/11]

The number of applications received by the HSE each month this year is as follows:

Month

Applications Received

January

861

February

759

March

1,374

April

713

May

858

June

754

July

513

August

868

September

534

October

470

Medical Cards

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

203 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in issuing a medical card to a person (details supplied). [37772/11]

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

Departmental Properties

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

204 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on plans for the future use or disposal of the site of the Dundrum Mental Hospital, Dublin; and a timeframe for the transfer of patients to the new facility at Portrane. [37775/11]

The ‘Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016: Medium Term Exchequer Framework', which was launched recently, indicated that capital funding will now be provided for the planned necessary infrastructural developments for the National Forensic Mental Health Service. This will include the replacement of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) and the development of associated facilities. The HSE is developing the project brief and specifications. The next phase of the project will include the appointment of Technical Advisors, expected in early 2012 followed by the design stage. It is anticipated that the entire project will be completed by 2016. Decisions in relation to the transfer of patients and the future use or disposal of the site will be considered as the main project progresses.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Jack Wall

Question:

205 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the reason the Health Service Executive has not replaced a component of a machine that is vital to the health condition of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37793/11]

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

Medical Cards

Willie O'Dea

Question:

206 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health if he will explain the delays being experienced by applicants for medical cards and by persons who are appealing decisions not to grant medical cards; his views on whether this situation is acceptable; his plans to alleviate the misery being endured by those who are most vulnerable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37797/11]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

207 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37798/11]

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

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

208 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Health how persons with long-term illnesses such as epilepsy will be affected by the proposed charges for medical cards and the proposed increase in the charge for prescriptions from 50 cent to €2; the person who will eventually pay for such medicines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37802/11]

Since October 2010, people with medical cards are charged 50c for medicines and other prescribed items that they receive from pharmacies, subject to a maximum charge of €10 per family per month. The prescription charge does not apply to items supplied under the Long Term Illness Scheme.

The Government is currently engaged in discussions concerning the Budget for 2012. As part of this deliberative process, many policy options are being discussed. No decision has been taken regarding an increase in the prescription charge.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

209 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will consider correspondence in relation to a person (details supplied); his views on whether it is acceptable that this person’s medical card has been withdrawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37811/11]

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

Accident and Emergency Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

210 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that the necessary supports are provided to Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal, to ensure that the new accident and emergency unit and additional facilities in the floors above are opened by March 2012. [37815/11]

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

Hospital Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

211 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health when the position of senior podiatrist for diabetes at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, will be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37840/11]

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

National Lottery Funding

Gerry Adams

Question:

212 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health the amount of funding that has been provided to the patient advocacy group Dignity4Patients for each of the past five years; the amount they it be provided with in 2012; and the amount of funding that has been requested by the group in each of these years. [37848/11]

This year I approved a grant, on a once-off basis, of €69,000 from my Department's allocation of National Lottery funds to Dignity 4 Patients. The funding was to go towards the cost of providing an office, a website, a helpline and office administration for the organisation.

Dignity 4 Patients also received a grant in 2010 of almost €172,000 from my Department's National Lottery funds. This was given towards the cost of providing information and support to victims of abuse wishing to attend the Drogheda Review which completed its work last year.

The level of funding sought by the group from my Department's National Lottery funds in 2010 was almost €224,000 and almost €370,000 in 2011.

No funding was sought by the group or provided by the Department from National Lottery funds in the three years prior to 2010.

Applications for 2012 lottery funding will be accepted as is usual at the start of the year, however it must be stressed that lottery funding is once-off discretionary funding and is not intended to provide a source of ongoing revenue funding. The statutory agencies work to provide a regulated quality service with other agencies (both statutory and non-statutory as they judge it appropriate). This context provides the potential for a longer term source of funding for an organisation such as Dignity 4 Patients, working in a way that is integrated and effective in tandem with the statutory service providers. My Department has requested the Health Service Executive to reply directly to the Deputy giving details of funding provided to Dignity 4 Patients by the Executive.

Health Services

Noel Grealish

Question:

213 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Health the number of psychologists and or therapists available to provide services in the Health Service Executive west to in-patients and outpatients in Ballinasloe and Galway; the number of sessions that can be provided on a daily basis for BPD; if written therapeutic treatment plans will be provided for patients with complex mental disorders who attend the services in Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37855/11]

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

Medical Cards

Billy Timmins

Question:

214 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37857/11]

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

I understand from the Primary Care Reimbursement Service of the Health Service Executive that where a person submits an appeal within 21 days of a decision, they retain their Medical Card/GP Visit card until the appeal is decided. I have asked the PCRS to verify the circumstances in this case, and I will revert to the Deputy directly in the coming days.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Simon Harris

Question:

215 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Health for details of the waiting list, on a regional and national basis, for magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, scans in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37895/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

216 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Health if there is a system of fast-tracking in place with regards to MRI scanning, where time-critical but non-urgent cases are identified and treated accordingly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37896/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

217 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Health if the Health Service Executive has considered extending the operating hours of MRI scanners with a view to addressing the waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37897/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 217, inclusive, together.

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals have been instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they have no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. Where they fail to do so, the NTPF will source the necessary treatments elsewhere and an appropriate budgetary adjustment will be made. In relation to outpatient appointments, long waiting times to see consultants and to access diagnostic services are a barrier to an efficient health service. In accordance with the HSE Service Plan for 2011 the Executive has undertaken an OPD Data Quality Programme in 2011 to help address deficiencies and to improve data quality in respect of both demand and access to OPD services to enable better management of OPD. During 2012 the SDU will focus its resources on this issue. It is envisaged that by the end of 2012 efficient collection of outpatient data will facilitate the implementation of a transparent and responsive out patient appointments system.

In relation to the Deputy's specific queries regarding MRIs my Department has asked the HSE to furnish any available information and I will be in further communication with him as soon as possible.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

218 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; his views on whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37946/11]

Information in relation to websites supported by my Department is set out in the following table.

Website

Description

Avg Unique Monthly Visitors

Cost

www.doh.ie

Department of Health website

31,000 approx

www.cpsqa.ie

Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance

Unavailable

Total cost for websites annually

These sites are managed as a single contract.

€9,100 *

healthupdate.gov.ie

Dedicated website for the Press Office

1,800 approx

€100, developed hosted and maintained in-house

patientsafetyfirst.gov.ie

Website of the Patient Safety Initiative

443 approx

as above

www.nacd.ie

Website of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs — recently subsumed into the Dept.

Unavailable

Unavailable

*Hosting — In the last 2 years, my Department has taken steps to streamline and reduce the number of websites it maintains. Both "healthupdate.gov.ie" and "patientsafetyfirst.gov.ie" were built using open-source technologies and are hosted on the Government Network infrastructure. It is intended to have the Department's main website redeveloped using similar technology which will reduce costs further.

Hospital Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

219 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that there are no bed closures in any of the community hospitals in County Kerry, in view of the fact that the hospitals are over-stretched at present and every bed is needed to take care of our elderly and ill population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37970/11]

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

Question No. 220 taken with question No. 194.

Medical Cards

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

221 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37984/11]

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

Hospital Services

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

222 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health when an appointment will be given for an urgent surgical intervention in respect of person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37985/11]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals have been instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they have no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. Where they fail to do so, the NTPF will source the necessary treatments elsewhere and an appropriate budgetary adjustment will be made.

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and facility involved.

Hospital Accommodation

Billy Kelleher

Question:

223 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if it is planned to have a further downgrading of Fermoy Community Hospital, County Cork; if a further reduction in the number of beds is planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37986/11]

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

Medical Cards

John McGuinness

Question:

224 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [38003/11]

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

Health Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

225 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health his plans to close a home (details supplied) in Fermoy County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38047/11]

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

Thalidomide Survivors

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

226 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health the current situation with regard to thalidomide survivors; if the supports promised by his predecessor have been put in place; if an individual point of contact within the Health Service Executive continues to be available to thalidomide survivors; if this system is considered to be working efficiently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38059/11]

As the Deputy may be aware, I met with the Irish Thalidomide Association, and separately with the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society, in July this year. I informed both organisations that the Government's main concern is to address their health and personal social care needs.

The Health Service Executive has appointed Carmel Buckley (Nursing and Midwifery Planning and Development Officer) as strategic national liaison with both thalidomide groups and the Department of Health. In regard to the specific health needs of thalidomide survivors living in Ireland it is also intended to appoint a key worker, who is a HSE health care professional, to act as liaison at local level with each survivor in their area.Ms Buckley has met with the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society. However, the Irish Thalidomide Association has declined her offer of a meeting.

Dr. Paul O'Connell, consultant in rheumatology and rehabilitation, Beaumont Hospital, has been working with Ms Buckley and health care professionals from the HSE to develop an evaluation process and a protocol for a multi-disciplinary health assessment of survivors of thalidomide living in Ireland. Officials from my Department, the Health Service Executive and Dr O'Connell met with the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society last week. Discussions centred around setting up an agreed process to carry out an evaluation of the individual health care needs of each survivor of thalidomide living in Ireland. The Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society expressed support for the evaluation process proposed and undertook to engage and work with the Department and the HSE around the details of how it would be planned, developed and undertaken. This work will now commence in relation to the thalidomide survivors represented by the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society.

The Irish Thalidomide Association were also invited to a meeting to initiate discussions on a health care package. However, they declined this invitation. Given that my priority is to see the health care needs of survivors addressed, my Department is available at any stage for a meeting to discuss this issue, should the association wish to reconsider their decision.

Primary Care Strategy

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

227 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if, in the context of budget 2012, he will make representations to the Department of Finance with regard to proposals made by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children of the 30th Dáil on the need to incentivise the delivery of a network of primary care centres across the country; if he still subscribes to the recommendations on primary care of that committee, of which he was a member; the steps he has taken to advance the committee’s recommendations since coming into office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38060/11]

This Government is committed to reforming our health system and, in particular, to enhancing and expanding capacity in the primary care sector.

There has been significant progress on many of the recommendations in the 30th Dáil's Joint Committee on Health and Children Report on "Primary Care in the Community", including the following:

The number of GP training places has been increased from 120 to 157 per annum.

The Irish College of General Practitioners and the HSE are working towards developing a fast-track training scheme for doctors who have extensive experience in General Practice, but who lack some component of training making them ineligible to hold a General Medical Service (GMS) contract (there are some 250 doctors in this position).

The Health (Provision of General Practitioner Services) Bill 2011 provides for the elimination of restrictions on GPs wishing to obtain a contract to treat public patients under the GMS Scheme. This new legislation will allow many young, highly qualified and vocationally trained GPs who currently have great difficulty in obtaining a GMS contract to apply for contracts.

At the end of October 2011, there were 401 Primary Care Teams operating, with almost 3,000 staff members (including nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, social workers, dieticians, psychologists, home helps, health care assistants, community mental health nurses) and 1,521 GPs participating. The following table gives a breakdown of these figures by HSE Area.

HSE Area

No. of Teams in Place

No. of GPs Participating

No. of HSE Staff on Teams in Place

Population Covered

Dublin Mid Leinster

117

428

1,082

945,217 (78%)

Dublin North East

85

241

542

647,520 (70%)

South

104

437

542

807,265 (75%)

West

95

415

804

851,269 (83%)

Total

401

1,521

2,970

3,251,271 (76%)

Approximately 60% of the Primary Care Teams include mental health personnel or have direct linkages with mental health services.

A Framework document to support community participation and service user involvement through Primary Care Teams and Health and Social Care Networks has been developed.

Modern, well-equipped Primary Care Centres (PCCs) are central to the effective functioning of Primary Care Teams. They allow multi-disciplinary services to be made available on a single site, provide a single point of access for users and encourage closer coordination between health providers. 17 PCCs have opened to date under leasing arrangements together with a further 15 funded by the Exchequer. The new centres will greatly assist in the provision of modern services, in particular chronic disease management by multi-disciplinary teams.

The Capital Investment Framework 2012 -2016 published earlier this month is evidence of this Government's commitment to the health sector. In a time of fiscal consolidation, the Government has provided substantial funding to support critical health infrastructure development, including additional Primary Care Centres. The funding for primary care will ensure that, in addition to private sector investment, primary care centres will also be provided by the State through a combination of converting existing HSE-owned premises, acquisition of premises and greenfield construction. State funding will be targeted at disadvantaged areas with the greatest health needs. An accommodation needs assessment for Primary Care Centres is currently being finalised by the HSE.

Access to GP care without fees will be extended in 2012 to persons covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme and in the following year to patients who receive medicines under the High Tech Drugs Scheme. Access to subsidised GP care will be extended to all in the next phase and universal access to GP care without fees will occur in the final phase. The delivery of universal primary care will require the recruitment of additional doctors, nurses and other primary care professionals. A consultancy study commenced in October 2011 which aims to develop a model of demand for and supply of GP and practice nurse services. The study entails a number of elements including:

An estimation of current utilisation rates of GP and practice nurse services, including a breakdown by geographical area to the degree that is supported by the available data;

A projection of the effect on utilisation/demand for GP and practice nurse services of demographic change including population ageing and epidemiological trends;

An assessment of any mismatch between demand and supply; and

A sensitivity analysis assessing the effect on matching demand and supply of adopting alternative demographic and epidemiological assumptions.

The Programme for Government also provides for the introduction of a new GMS contract with GPs with an increased emphasis on the management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. It is envisaged that the new contract will also focus on prevention and will include a requirement for GPs to provide care as part of integrated multi-disciplinary Primary Care Teams.

Hospital Closures

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

228 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will give an unequivocal undertaking that it is not his intention — or the intention of the Health Service Executive, which is under his direct control — to close St. Vincent’s Hospital, Athy, County Kildare, or to further reduce its capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38061/11]

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 as 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.

Taxi Regulations

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

229 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding hackney licences in respect of publicans who hold a full seven-day licence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37810/11]

The regulation of the taxi industry, including the provision of small public service vehicles (SPSV) in rural areas, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009. 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. As part of the Review, consideration is being given to proposals to address transport needs in rural areas. Good progress is being made on the work of the review and I would expect to submit proposals for Cabinet consideration at an early date.

Road Traffic Offences

Terence Flanagan

Question:

230 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding modified cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37824/11]

Vehicles in use on Irish roads must meet the standards specified in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963. These require vehicles to be fitted with a silencer or other device that will reduce exhaust noise to a reasonable level. Article 85 of these Regulations prohibits the use in a public place of a vehicle which causes excessive noise. The Regulations also prohibit the alteration of an exhaust silencer in such a way that the noise emitted is increased.

New cars with EC Type Approval must meet the noise levels specified in Directive 70/157/EC. This sets a limit of 74 dB for vehicles equipped with a petrol engine and 75 dB for vehicles equipped with a diesel engine. The current NCT noise limit is set at 99 dB which is deemed to be an acceptable maximum limit. However, I am aware that certain vehicles are fitted with standard exhaust systems when presented for their test and are subsequently retrofitted with modified, noisy exhaust systems once they have passed. This ensures that they pass the engine emission and exhaust noise aspects of the NCT test.

To combat this, I understand that the RSA works closely with An Garda Síochána to ensure that an effective enforcement strategy is in place to control the noise emitted from these vehicles between successive NCT tests and that An Garda Síochána have purchased sound measurement equipment which is being used at roadside enforcement checkpoints throughout the country. They have taken successful prosecutions against people for using vehicles in a public place that are fitted with exhaust systems recording over 99 dB under the existing provisions of the Road Traffic Act.

The penalty on conviction is a fine which, depending if there have been previous similar convictions, may not exceed €2,000 and/or, at the discretion of the court, imprisonment for a term

Irish Coast Guard

Brendan Griffin

Question:

231 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the report will be published on the review of the Coast Guard radio stations at Malin, Valentia and Dublin; if he will prioritise the continuation of the station at Valentia, County Kerry, for strategic purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37830/11]

An efficiency review is currently under way into the delivery of services by the Irish Coast Guard which includes costs and quality of services and a review of operational performance. The review is expected to be completed shortly and my Department will then consider the recommendations.

Road Network

Dessie Ellis

Question:

232 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to have a sound barrier constructed on the N3 near the areas of Littlepace, Swallowbrook and Bramblefield. [37889/11]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads, is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Noting this 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.

Departmental Websites

John Lyons

Question:

233 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of all websites under his remit; the annual cost of maintaining each website; the average number of hits per month on each site for the past year; whether these websites can be rationalised to bring about cost savings without compromising e-Government objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37951/11]

Details of publicly facing websites provided by my Department, approximate annual costs and averaged amount of unique site visits per month are set out in the following table.

Website

Site Reference

Number of unique visits per month (approx)

Annual Cost (inc VAT)

Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport

dttas.ie

21,967

€12,200 (covers the first five sites)

Road Haulage

roadhaulage.ie

Not available

Air Accident Investigation Unit

aaiu.ie

Not available

Irish Coastguard

irishcoastguard.ie

Not available

Safety On the Water

safetyonthewater.ie

Not available

Online motor tax

motortax.ie

344,000

€300,000 (covers four sites)

motarchain.ie

650

Change of vehicle ownership

motortrans.ie

35,000

End of Life Vehicle

motorelv.ie

500

Transport 21

transport21.ie

4,009

€774

Sustainable Transport

smartertravel.ie

1,182

€791

National Bike Week

bikeweek.ie

2,364

€162

My Department is constantly reviewing what savings can be achieved through rationalisation of its websites. Earlier this year, BikeWeek.ie was moved from an external provider to being managed and maintained internally, with resultant savings. My Department is currently migrating SmarterTravel.ie, and has similar plans for some of the other websites. Transport 21 was launched in 2005 and ran until 2010. It will be superseded by the new National Development Plan from 2012 and the Transport21 website will be wound down early in 2012.

The four motor vehicle related websites are transaction based rather than information services. Annual maintenance costs relate to the hosting of websites by a service provider. This maintenance also provides security services and associated support, critical given the large amount of financial transactions involved. An estimated €450 million will be collected in 2011 through online motor tax.

State agencies under the remit of my Department have been forwarded a copy of your inquiry. They have been requested to respond to you directly. Please advise my private office, if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Severe Weather Events

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

234 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, making resources available to provide salt bunkers for distribution by local authorities in order to allow residents in housing estates to store and access salt supplies for local roads and estates which are vulnerable to icy conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37965/11]

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.

Waterford City Council has procured 60,000 tonnes of salt in 2011 (on behalf of the Department) for distribution to local authorities for use on regional and local roads. As well as this it is open to local authorities to separately procure salt supplies for the winter period. It is a matter for each local authority to prioritise routes for salting and to decide if it is feasible to distribute salt to residents in their local areas.

Commemorative Events

Question:

235 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will publish a calendar of events for the Titanic centenary next year; if he will name the locations for the commemoration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37987/11]

The centenary of the Titanic sailing — although evoking sad memories of those who lost their lives — presents significant opportunities for Irish tourism. Work is already underway to ensure that the benefits are maximised. Tourism Ireland commenced its Titanic promotion activities last September with a week long showcase in the Grand Central terminal in New York. It has also set up a dedicated Titanic website and has brought overseas journalists to Cobh to highlight the links to the Titanic. Fáilte Ireland has been in regular contact with the organisers of Titanic 100 in Cobh regarding the commemoration of the centenary.

Due to the Titanic's strong association with Belfast I am also aware that the Northern Ireland Tourist Board are planning a series of events throughout 2012. However, I am not in a position to publish a calendar of events. I expect that such events will be publicised by the event organisers and if appropriate the State Tourism agencies.

Road Network

Brendan Smith

Question:

236 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if funding will be provided this year to enable Monaghan County Council to finish necessary improvement and safety work on the N2 Monaghan to Emyvale stretch, given that some of this work has been carried out, and in view of the urgent necessity to remove dangerous bends on the remainder of the road; if the funding as promised to Monaghan County Council will be approved without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38045/11]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads, is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Noting this I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Athletics Facilities

Dara Calleary

Question:

237 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the closure of an athletics track (details supplied); if he has any plans to engage with all interested parties to help find a resolution to the issues associated with the closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38049/11]

I was disappointed to learn that the UCD athletics track has been closed, with health and safety concerns cited as the reason. Such health and safety issues are of course a matter for UCD. However, under the Sports Capital Programme generous funding of almost €3.8m has been provided for the athletics facilities nearby at Irishtown Stadium in Ringsend, managed by Dublin City Council.

Rural Transport Services

Martin Heydon

Question:

238 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to integrate school transport and non-emergency Health Service Executive transport with the rural transport network in an effort to reduce costs; the progress made to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38063/11]

My Department is currently exploring efficiencies that can be made by bringing together aspects of HSE transport, school transport, the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) and other transport services. The overall aim is to reduce duplication and costs while increasing efficiency and maintaining service provision. I have received a copy of a Value for Money and Policy Review of the RTP which I intend to publish following consideration by Government. I will also publish a pilot study on local integrated transport services and both reports are being considered in the context of plans for the future of the RTP and the better integration of Exchequer funded transport services.