Written Answers

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

9 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the reason he changed the basis for calculating waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1189/12]

This list contained the names of approximately 14,000 people who had been listed for treatment on or before 31 December 2010. It is necessary to ensure that all those on this list are treated by 31 December 2011 in order to achieve the maximum waiting time target.

This explains why the list being operated by the NTPF for the SDU is calculated on a different basis to the list published by the HSE in its performance reports. The HSE list is also compiled by the NTPF and provides details of the number of persons who have been waiting longer than a given period, at a specific point in time. The PTL list, on the other hand, is being used by the health service to ensure that the maximum, waiting target is met.

Care of the Elderly

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

10 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if he will set out in detail the basis for his contention that Health Service Executive care homes for older persons with less than 50 beds are unsustainable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1317/12]

The Health Service Executive is facing challenges in respect of all services in 2012. In the case of Community Nursing Units for Older People these include challenges regarding staffing, funding, and environmental factors around the age and structure of the units. In addition further losses of staff are anticipated between now and the end of February 2012.

It is clear that on a business as usual basis, the HSE would have to close further beds across a range of public community nursing units in 2012. In the absence of reform, this would increase the cost of caring for older persons within the public system, undermine the viability of public community nursing units and reduce the overall number of older persons that can be supported within the budget available for Fair Deal. This is not a sustainable way forward and would not meet the needs of older persons, local communities, the taxpayer or those working in the public service.

Instead, we need a more pro-active approach to the provision of community nursing home units which seeks to protect the viability of as many units as possible within the funding and staffing resources available, including smaller units where challenges of scale may require more innovative approaches to service delivery. This is likely to require a combination of actions such as consolidation of services; changes in staffing, skill mix and work practices; the different types of services required — such as long-stay and transitional — and the respective strengths of public and private community nursing units in that regard; the public and private capacity available within an area; the age and structure of public units; the wider needs of the local community and alternative options for providing a viable community nursing service including a possible role for local communities or other voluntary providers. The HSE is already examining issues in this regard and will be working closely with the Department to develop an overall set of proposals for the Minister.

Hospital Services

Mick Wallace

Question:

11 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Health his plans to provide a neonatal unit and the relevant parental accommodation as part of the new national children’s hospital due to open in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1218/12]

The new children's hospital is planned to accommodate a total of 445 beds (392 in-patient beds and 53 day care beds) to meet paediatric healthcare demands projected to 2021. The configuration of these beds reflects international and best practice trends in paediatric acute bed requirements, resulting in a higher allocation of both critical care and day care beds within the overall bed complement.

Of the total of 445 beds, 62 beds are to be allocated to Paediatric Intensive Care and High Dependency areas, representing a one-third increase in the number of critical care beds provided by the existing children's hospitals. This includes a dedicated Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, High Dependency beds and cardiac and neurosurgical critical care beds. Provision will also be made within the intensive care and high dependency areas for all necessary supports to be available to support the range of critical care functions.

Parental accommodation will be available nearby within the hospital for parents of children in the neonatal intensive care unit and children admitted to the other critical care units. This accommodation will be provided within a family overnight unit which will provide en-suite bedrooms with suitable support accommodation.

Dedicated facilities are also planned for children who require long-term ventilation but who no longer need critical care accommodation. Access to paediatric and neonatal critical care services will be supported by a centralised national transport and retrieval service based at the new children's hospital.

Community Care

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

12 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health the community nursing homes he intends to close over the course of 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1184/12]

As the Deputy is aware it is a matter for the Health Service Executive to deliver services both nationally and locally within its budget and overall health policy priorities in line with the overall resources available to it. The HSE is facing challenges in respect of all services in 2012, and in the case of Community Nursing Units these include challenges regarding staffing, funding and the age and structure of its units. In this context the Department and HSE are working together regarding the 2012 National Service Plan.

It is clear that on a business as usual basis, the HSE would have to close further beds across a range of public community nursing units in 2012. In the absence of reform, this would increase the cost of caring for older persons within the public system, undermine the viability of public community nursing units and reduce the overall number of older persons that can be supported within the budget available for Fair Deal. This is not a sustainable way forward and would not meet the needs of older persons, local communities, the taxpayer or those working in the public service.

Instead, we need a more pro-active approach to the provision of community nursing home units which seeks to protect the viability of as many units as possible within the funding and staffing resources available, including smaller units where challenges of scale may require more innovative approaches to service delivery. This is likely to require a combination of actions such as consolidation of services; changes in staffing, skill mix and work practices; the different types of services required — such as long-stay and transitional — and the respective strengths of public and private community nursing units in that regard; the public and private capacity available within an area; the age and structure of public units; the wider needs of the local community and alternative options for providing a viable community nursing service including a possible role for local communities or other voluntary providers. The HSE is already examining issues in this regard and will be working closely with the Department to develop an overall set of proposals for the Minister.

Finally I would like to reassure the Deputy that should there be concern for the future of any unit, the HSE will engage fully in a local consultation process with all stakeholders before any decision is taken.

Medical Cards

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

13 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost to his Department in terms of medical cards envisioned by the abolition of concurrent payments of social welfare in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1281/12]

As part of Budget 2012, a number of changes were announced in relation to concurrent payments of certain social welfare benefits. The changes relate to Community Employment schemes, the payment of two qualified child increases, and half-rate payments of Jobseeker's Benefit, Illness Benefit and Incapacity Supplement.

As the Deputy is aware, the decision to award a medical card is made by the HSE mainly on the basis of the means of the applicant, as set out in detail in the HSE's Medical Card/GP Visit Card National Assessment Guidelines.

The HSE expects to issue an extra 100,000 cards in 2012 but this is primarily due to the general economic situation and not budgetary measures.

While undoubtedly, there will be some extra costs in terms of medical card provision arising from social welfare measures, an accurate overall forecast is not possible due to the very wide variation in personal circumstances.

The impact of these measures is minimised however by the fact that in most instances the measures relate to new social welfare applicants only.

The impact is further mitigated by the fact that where the only income of an applicant is from social welfare, there is an automatic entitlement to a medical card. So many of the persons affected by the social welfare changes will already have medical cards.

Health Service Reform

Barry Cowen

Question:

14 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if it is envisaged that any members of the new Health Service Executive directorate will have a greater level of remuneration than currently exists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1170/12]

Timmy Dooley

Question:

22 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health if positions for the new health care directorate will be advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1174/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 22 together.

The Government is committed to a radical reform of the health services which will see the introduction of Universal Health Insurance (UHI). As a step toward achieving this goal, I will be bringing legislation forward involving significant changes in the governance of the HSE. The legislation will abolish the Board of the HSE and will replace the Board structure with a Directorate structure. The purpose of the new Directorate structure is to drive greater transparency, accountability and efficiency, and to reshape the system in order to better support the Government's health reform programme. The Directorate team will run the health services as they exist and prepare for the transformation required in the move to UHI.

The following seven areas will be the subject of a Directorship: — Hospital Care, Primary Care, Mental Health, Children and Family Services, Social Care, Public Health and Corporate/Shared Services. One of the Directors will be appointed as the Director General.

It is envisaged that the Directorate posts will be filled on an accelerated basis in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. The remuneration for these positions will be in accordance with Government policy and will be subject to the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Human Rights Issues

Clare Daly

Question:

15 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health the steps he has taken to address the findings of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the A, B and C cases which deemed that Ireland was guilty of a serious violation of human rights. [1047/12]

Clare Daly

Question:

30 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health when he will introduce legislation to deal with the provision of abortion when the life of a woman is in danger in view of the urgency of the situation and the outcome of the cases before the European Court of Human Rights. [1046/12]

Clare Daly

Question:

947 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in bringing forward proposals to legislate for abortion arising from the outcome of the November 1992 referendum as well as the outcomes of the A, B and C cases. [1161/12]

As the Deputy is aware, abortion is prohibited in Ireland except where it is established, as a matter of probability, that there is a real and substantial risk to the life as distinct from the health of the mother and that this real and substantial risk can be averted only by the termination of her pregnancy. Following the ruling in the X case, the Irish electorate voted on three amendments to the Constitution on the 25th November 1992. The provision of abortion in Ireland, as proposed in the Twelfth amendment, was ruled out; its intention was to row back on the X case judgment by removing suicide as a reason for lawful termination of abortion. However, the right to travel and the right to information were accepted. Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution was therefore amended to read:

‘The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.'

Legislation was introduced on foot of the referendum, in the form of the Regulation of Information (Services outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995. The Act sets out the conditions under which information relating to services lawfully available in another State might be made available within the Irish State.

In relation to the ABC v Ireland judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government is fully committed to its implementation. As the Deputy is aware, the Government submitted an Action Plan to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 16th June 2011 as required by the European Court of Human Rights. The Action Plan contained a commitment by the Irish State to establish an Expert Group, drawing on appropriate medical and legal expertise with a view to making recommendations on how this matter should be properly addressed.

On 29th November 2011 the Government approved the establishment of this Expert Group. I expect the Group to be established by the end of this month and to report back to Government within six months of establishment. It would be inappropriate for the Government to pre-empt the recommendations of the Expert Group at this stage.

Hospital Staff

Michael Moynihan

Question:

16 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health if hospital consultants’ remuneration will be cut this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1187/12]

While the Programme for Government provides for a reduction in consultants' remuneration, my immediate priority is to achieve more effective implementation of the existing contract so that patients get faster access to services and achieve better outcomes within the budgets available to hospitals. I believe there is plenty of scope under the existing contract and the Croke Park agreement to achieve greater productivity from consultants. For example, increased consultant participation in patient discharges at weekends could more quickly free up beds for emergency admissions. I am satisfied that considerable efficiencies can be achieved under the terms of the 2008 contract, if consultants embrace this reform agenda.

The 2008 Consultant contract provides for an extended working day, an increase in the length of the working week and structured weekend work, with consultants working as part of a team delivering the Clinical Directorate Service Plan and focusing on greater equity in the provision of care. I believe that the efficiencies, productivity increases and reform, if achieved, will be worth more to the health system than simply reducing the pay of consultants. I would therefore strongly encourage consultants and their representative bodies to engage in a meaningful way with the HSE and hospital management to progress this important agenda.

Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 8.

Mental Health Services

Micheál Martin

Question:

18 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health if he intends to lift the staff moratorium in relation to psychiatric services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1180/12]

Joe Higgins

Question:

840 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Health if he will lift the ban on public sector recruitment in view of the situation that arose at a hospital (details supplied) over the Christmas and new year period, where long standing patients were moved into secured rooms. [40926/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 840 together.

The Government is committed to a reduction in public service numbers to 282,500 by 2015. This represents a reduction of 37,500, or 12% of staff, compared to 2008 levels. The health service must make an appropriate contribution to this reduction. The draft National Service Plan 2012, which is the subject of discussions between my Department and the HSE at present, will set out the level of reduction required in the current year. The Plan must also provide for all possible steps to minimise the effect of staffing reductions on services. These include pursuing to the maximum the flexibility and reform agenda provided for in the Public Service Agreement. In particular, it is essential that we bring about change in relation to rostering (especially of nursing and medical staff), skill-mix, a reduction in the use of agency staff and the continued implementation of the HSE's clinical programmes.

The current Employment Control Framework for the health sector gives the HSE some flexibility in relation to filling posts in order to protect frontline services in so far as possible while still achieving the required targets. In addition, the Public Service Agreement allows the HSE to redeploy staff based on service need. Nevertheless, the overall target reduction in numbers must be met, which will undoubtedly pose a significant challenge.

In relation to St. Brendan's Hospital, Grangegorman, temporary arrangements were put in place over the Christmas period to ensure continuity, quality and safety of services for all patients. Because of this, a number of female patients had to be transferred from Unit 3B to a low secure ward on the Grangegorman Campus. The Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, visited the hospital before Christmas and met with most of the women involved. I am satisfied that in the circumstances the best possible arrangements were put in place for these patients and that every effort was made to keep the disruption for them to a minimum.

Unit 3B had been due to reopen on the 16th January. However, with the co-operation of management and staff, the HSE was able to reopen the Unit a fortnight earlier than anticipated and the female patients have now returned to Unit 3B.

Hospital Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

19 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to provide additional services at Roscommon County Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1045/12]

As part of new management arrangements for hospitals in the west of Ireland, designed to deliver improved performance, organisational coherence and effectiveness, I recently announced the appointment of Mr Bill Maher as CEO to the Galway/Roscommon Hospitals Group. Mr Maher commenced duties on the 9th of January. The new management structure will provide accountability, greater efficiency and safer delivery of acute hospital services within a more unified hospital group. The new CEO will have full regard to the entire capacity of the hospital group, with a particular emphasis on developing the role of the smaller hospitals.

I have consistently said that the reorganisation of our acute hospital services must be a two way process. Just as more complex treatment, rightly, should be made available in larger facilities where there is a sufficient volume to ensure safe and effective delivery, routine and less complex treatment should generally be provided as close to a patient's own community as possible. With the development of linked hospital groups, in that area, under the new management structure, the transfer of such treatment to smaller hospitals should become more straightforward to implement.

There are a number of initiatives under way or being considered in relation to the range of services available at Roscommon County Hospital, including the following.

In relation to endoscopy services, there are two capital projects. The first, for an endoscopy suite with funding of €1.95 million, is at design stage. The second, for an interim endoscopy decontamination unit, is almost completed and is expected to be operational in this quarter.

Roscommon Hospital has been considered as a suitable site for an HSE West Medical Rehabilitation Service under the remit of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dublin. Accordingly, Roscommon, in association with the National Rehabilitation Hospital, has applied for a consultant in rehabilitation medicine.

Roscommon is also treating elective day case surgical patients who are on waiting lists at Galway University Hospital, with the numbers being treated expected to increase over 2012. As part of this initiative, the day case elective plastic surgery service is now established. Discussions are ongoing for the further development of the service.

The recruitment process for a consultant physician with special interest in respiratory medicine has been completed and a start date for the permanent appointment is awaited.

Our smaller hospitals should be a vibrant part of their communities and local regions, with major contributions to make in the delivery of acute services in their regional networks. I welcome the sort of initiatives that will support this position for Roscommon and other smaller hospitals.

In this context, I am preparing a Framework for the Development of Smaller Hospitals, including Roscommon, which will set out the type of services that can and should be provided in smaller hospital facilities. This approach will free up the larger hospitals to concentrate on more complex work, while enhancing the services provided by smaller hospitals to their local communities.

Health Service Staff

Brendan Smith

Question:

20 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health if he has prepared an impact analysis on the effects of reductions in staffing levels in February; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1194/12]

David Stanton

Question:

41 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health the way in which the staffing embargo and high level of retirements is impacting on the delivery of health services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1279/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

992 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the degree to which he has examined the impact of the recruitment embargo on the staffing levels throughout the health service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1607/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 41 and 992 together.

The most recent information available from the HSE indicates that over the period September 2011 to end February 2012 some 3,200 health service staff, equating in wholetime equivalent terms to approximately 2,700 employees will have retired. These retirements will contribute significantly to the achievement of the staffing reductions required in the health sector in 2012, in line with the Government's policy of reducing public service employment numbers on a phased basis to 282,500 by 2015.

The purpose of the three-month minimum notice period for retirement introduced for the public service in July 2011 was to allow management to have advance knowledge of the number of staff planning to retire in a particular service/area and to plan accordingly. In September last, I asked the HSE to carry out an assessment of the likely impact of retirements in the period to the end of February, based on the three months' notice period, queries to superannuation departments and the age profile of staff. I also requested the Executive to identify particular pressure points as a priority and to develop appropriate measures to deal with significant departures in a given service or area. As retirement applications have been received, the HSE has analysed the data on an ongoing basis to establish the emerging position as to the distribution of posts according to staff category and region.

The Executive, in preparing the National Service Plan 2012, has taken into account the expected reductions in staff numbers, and discussions between my Department and the HSE are under way at present, with a view to ensuring that the Plan provides for all possible steps to minimise the effect on services. These include pursuing to the maximum the flexibility and reform agenda provided for in the Public Service Agreement. In particular, it is essential that we bring about change in relation to rostering — especially of nursing and medical staff — skill-mix, a reduction in the use of agency staff, and the continued implementation of the HSE's clinical programmes.

Medical Cards

Catherine Murphy

Question:

21 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health the number of existing medical cards that were renewed from 2010 into 2011; if he is satisfied that each renewal is granted with due individual scrutiny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36209/11]

The Health Service Executive has confirmed that the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) issued 463,446 individuals a renewed medical card in 2011.

The issues arising in respect of medical card renewals are a matter of concern to me, and I have held detailed discussions with the HSE. A medical card holder who genuinely engages with the review of their medical card should not have their entitlement withdrawn before that review is complete. The HSE is taking steps to ensure that this rule is properly implemented. In particular, the HSE is undertaking significant changes to how it conducts reviews so that there is far less administrative burden placed on most medical card holders and so that reviews take far less time.

From this month, the HSE is easing the review process for pensioners. The change will mean that reviews for medical card holders who are 66 yrs or over will operate on a self-assessment basis, as currently happens with over-seventies. The self-assessment review model will also be extended to medical card holders under 66, who were granted their medical card on the basis of a means assessment, where the HSE is satisfied that the client has not passed away and is living in this jurisdiction.

The HSE is also standardising eligibility periods from two years to three years for people aged under 66yrs, with a new four year eligibility period for medical card holders aged 66 or over. Notwithstanding, there continues to be an obligation on all card holders to notify the HSE of any change in their circumstances which would disentitle them from holding a medical card.

These reforms should significantly reduce the administrative burden on these medical card holders and indeed the HSE, and ensure that some of the issues in relation to renewals are addressed. I am continuing to engage with the HSE in relation to other possible changes to the renewal and application process.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 14.

Community Care

Seán Crowe

Question:

23 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a list of all publicly run nursing homes and units; the number of beds in each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1318/12]

At the end of November 2011 the HSE indicated that there were 121 public long stay residential care units in operation across the country providing 8,098 residential care beds (this includes temporarily closed beds). Of these, 6,036 were designated long-stay beds under the Nursing Home Support Scheme (NHSS). The balance, 2,062 provide short-term care, i.e. rehabilitation, respite, convalescent and palliative care. A summary of the long stay public bed stock at November 2011 is set out below.

HSE Region

Number of Public Units

Designated NHSS Beds

Non-designated short term beds

Total Beds

South

37

1,719

701

2,420

DNE

21

1,122

227

1,349

DML

25

1,616

346

1,962

West

38

1,579

788

2,367

Total

121

6,036

2,062

8,098

The HSE is currently carrying out a review of all its long stay public residential units and I have asked the Executive to provide the Deputy with an updated list of each of the Public Units with bed numbers by region.

Assisted Human Reproduction

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

24 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Health the date on which he will publish legislation on assisted human reproduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37908/11]

My Department is currently examining policy proposals on Assisted Human Reproduction and related practices in Ireland. I will consider such proposals when presented to me.

Vaccination Programme

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

25 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health his policy regarding the setting of fees for administration of the flu vaccine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1321/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

43 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health the manner in which fees for general practitioners and pharmacists for the administration of the flu vaccine were determined; the reason for the difference in fees paid to GPs and pharmacists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1320/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 43 together.

On 11 August 2011, my Department placed notices in the national press advising that, in accordance with the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 (FEMPI), I had initiated a review of the fees payable to General Practitioners (GPs) in respect of the provision of immunisation services. As part of the process, submissions were sought from interested parties. Following consideration of submissions and compliance with the detailed requirements of the FEMPI legislation, I decided to reduce the fee payable to GPs in respect of the administration of the seasonal flu vaccine on behalf of the HSE from €42.75 to €28.50, a reduction of 33%. The new fee took effect on 3 November 2011. It is important to say that the fee of €42.75 had been built up over many years. The scale of the reduction had to satisfy the test of fairness/proportionality and also avoid the possibility of a sudden disruption of the vaccination programme that might arise if GPs were to withdraw their services. I am satisfied that the fee that was set met these two objectives, while at the same time realising savings to the HSE.

Separately, I decided last July that community pharmacists should be invited to participate in the HSE seasonal flu programme. This was the first occasion that pharmacists had been invited to participate in the seasonal flu programme. As such there were no "legacy" issues to be taken into account in setting the fee nor did I have to have regard to the various requirements of the FEMPI legislation. The fee for pharmacists of €15 was set in accordance with the provisions of the Community Pharmacy Contractor (CPC) Agreement.

Health Insurance

Willie O'Dea

Question:

26 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health his estimate for increases in premiums charged by private health insurers to customers in view of changes he announced in Budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1191/12]

I am concerned that private health insurance is becoming harder to afford, especially for older people, as insurers increasingly tailor their insurance plans towards younger, healthier customers. I am strongly committed to protecting community rating, whereby older and less healthy customers should pay the same amount for the same cover as younger and healthier people.

As part of Budget 2012, the Government agreed a number of changes to charges for patients who choose to be treated on a private basis in public hospitals. These changes will have no impact on public patients, who comprise the vast majority of those treated in public hospitals.

When individuals elect to be treated privately, they agree to meet the costs of the consultant's fee and hospital's maintenance costs. These issues were examined in the Value for Money and Policy Review of the Economic Cost and Charges Associated with Private and Semi-Private Treatment Services in Public Hospitals, which was published by the Department in December 2010. It is estimated that the average maintenance cost per bed-day in a category 1 hospital is €1,046. In keeping with the long-standing policy of moving towards recovering the full economic cost of providing treatment to private patients in public hospitals, the maintenance charges for private patients in public hospitals have been increased by between 3% and 5%, depending on the category of hospital, with effect from 1 January 2012. It is anticipated that this will yield additional revenue in the region of €18 million in 2012.

While the HSE and voluntary hospitals recoup considerable sums from private health insurance companies in respect of private and semi-private treatment services provided to their members, lengthy delays often occur between the discharge of patients and the receipt of payment from the companies. This has led to an unacceptably high level of debtor days with a significant amount in fees outstanding. Some hospitals are much more efficient at collecting this income than others. It is intended that more hospitals will achieve the income collection standard of the better performing hospitals, and, as a result, a target of €50 million in accelerated income has been set for 2012.

A significant proportion of private patients who are provided with treatment by a public hospital are not currently charged for the services because of the current rules on bed designation. In contrast, the public hospitals' consultants receive private fees even where the hospital cannot collect its maintenance charge. This represents a loss of income to the public hospital system and a significant subsidy to private insurance companies. It is intended to introduce new arrangements during 2012 to allow public hospitals to raise charges in respect of all private patients in public hospitals. This new system will be entirely in keeping with the changes required as we move along the road to universal health insurance. It is estimated that this new system will yield an additional €75 million in 2012.

In December 2011 I agreed with the three commercial health insurers to establish a Consultative Forum on Health Insurance, to tackle issues of mutual concern. We agreed to work cooperatively in driving down costs related to health insurance and to identify savings that could be achieved by both public and private hospitals. I indicated to the insurers that I would be happy to hear proposals from them which would result in lower costs for the health insurance sector. In addition, a new review of the VHI's claims costs will be carried out to establish what further savings can be made. The review is be completed early this year and will contribute significantly to more effective cost control within the private health insurance market. I am determined that these and other measures will have a significant impact in containing the level of any future increases in health insurance premiums.

Health Services

Joe Higgins

Question:

27 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Health if he will direct the Health Service Executive to maintain adolescent and child psychiatric services in Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, which is the youngest fastest-growing area of the country. [1050/12]

It is planned to relocate the Warrenstown in-patient service from Blanchardstown to St. Loman's Hospital, Palmerstown on an interim basis, pending transfer to a new unit in Cherry Orchard. The facility at Warrenstown can only accommodate 6 in-patient beds and this results in an inefficient utilisation of the staff resource available. The recently vacated and redecorated in-patient facility at St. Loman's will provide accommodation of a higher standard than that available in Blanchardstown and will also facilitate the expansion of the service through the provision of additional in-patient beds.

The new purpose built 22 bed in-patient unit proposed for construction in the grounds of Cherry Orchard Hospital will in due course, accommodate the Warrenstown Service and a new Older Adolescent In-Patient Service. The design team has been appointed and it expected that construction will be completed by the end of 2013/ early 2014. There are no plans to reduce the level of service currently provided by the Castleknock and Blanchardstown Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Teams. The buildings where they are currently accommodated are no longer fit for purpose and it is planned to relocate them to the new Child and Adolescent Day Hospital facility recently completed in Cherry Orchard, while continuing to provide clinics in the catchment areas.

Medical Cards

Michael Colreavy

Question:

28 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health if he will address, as a matter of urgency, the delays in processing annual reviews of medical cards in view of the fact that the current delays are causing qualified patients to lose medical card cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1319/12]

Since taking over the centralisation of the Medical Card scheme, six months ago, the HSE's Central Office is working to deal with some residual logistical problems which naturally arise with a project of this scale and magnitude.

The issues arising in respect of medical card renewals are a matter of concern to me, and I have held detailed discussions with the HSE. A medical card holder who genuinely engages with the review of their medical card should not have their entitlement withdrawn before that review is complete. The HSE is taking steps to ensure that this rule is properly implemented. In particular, the HSE is undertaking significant changes to how it conducts reviews so that there is far less administrative burden placed on most medical card holders and so that reviews take far less time.

From this month, the HSE is easing the review process for pensioners. The change will mean that reviews for medical card holders who are 66 yrs or over will operate on a self-assessment basis, as currently happens with over-seventies. The self-assessment review model will also be extended to medical card holders under 66, who were granted their medical card on the basis of a means assessment, where the HSE is satisfied that the client has not passed away and is living in this jurisdiction.

The HSE is also standardising eligibility periods from two years to three years for people aged under 66yrs, with a new four year eligibility period for medical card holders aged 66 or over. Notwithstanding, there continues to be an obligation on all card holders to notify the HSE of any change in their circumstances which would disentitle them from holding a medical card.

In addition, from February 1, the HSE will implement a new system that provides additional functionality to GPs to maintain the eligibility of their patients where a patient is going through the renewal process. This new system will also allow GPs to add new babies online.

These reforms should significantly reduce the administrative burden on these medical card holders and indeed the HSE, and ensure that some of the issues in relation to renewals are addressed. I am continuing to engage with the HSE in relation to other possible changes to the renewal and application process.

Care of the Elderly

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

29 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the degree to which he can or will examine and compare the costs associated with the operation of public nursing homes as compared to the private sector given a similar patient profile in terms of mobility and nursing or medical care requirements with a view to ensuring the maximisation of available resources to the best advantage and with the objective of catering for the greatest possible number of patients notwithstanding the difficult economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1051/12]

The cost of care in public and private nursing homes is published on the HSE's website at: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Find_a_Service/Older_People_Services/nhss/costs.html

The HSE is committed to examining all options to maximise the resources available for nursing home care, e.g. skill mix, rostering arrangements and reconfiguration etc. It should be noted that the 2010 Long-Stay Activity Statistics, prepared by the Department of Health, indicate that at end-2010, 83.7% of residents in public nursing homes were of high and maximum dependency. In private nursing homes, 59.7% of residents were in the same category.

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme is due for review later this year. The scheme will have been in operation for three years at that stage and established and validated trends and statistics will be available in order to inform the work. The review will look at, amongst other issues:

the ongoing sustainability of the scheme,

the relative cost of public versus private provision,

the effectiveness of current methods of negotiating price in private and setting price in public nursing homes, and

the balance of funding between residential and community care.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 15.

Hospital Accommodation

Denis Naughten

Question:

31 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to address the overcrowding crisis at Galway University Hospitals Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1044/12]

I have said 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 unit is establishing an infrastructure based on information collection and analysis, hospital by hospital, so we will know what is 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 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 Special Delivery Unit has identified 15 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 Galway. Liaison Officers from the unit are working proactively to support these sites. I have agreed that some additional funding may be provided, on a strictly once-off basis and based on specific proposals from the hospital, to reduce waiting times between 1 November 2011 and 31 January 2012 to help address issues such as delayed discharges. Adherence to the agreed criteria will be closely monitored by the unit.

I will set out the conditions and performance measures that Galway and other hospitals have to meet. For the remainder of 2011 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, the achievement of all Acute Medicine Programme milestones; and the implementation of approved measures to effectively stream elderly patients. In relation to Galway, some €0.35 million was approved to help alleviate emergency department pressures including the extension of the Medical Assessment Unit from 12/24 to 24/24 opening, the opening of an eight-bed, five-day unit; and the provision of off-site convalescence care for a two-week period, two patients per week for the remainder of the period. I am pleased to report that there has been an improvement in the number of patients on trolleys in the period.

Nursing Homes

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

32 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health the number of private nursing homes and the number of public nursing homes in the State. [1323/12]

At the end of 2011 there were 404 private nursing homes, 48 voluntary nursing homes and 121 public nursing homes registered to operate with the Health Information and Quality Authority.

Primary Care Strategy

Sandra McLellan

Question:

33 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health his plans regarding the roll out of free general practitioner care. [1325/12]

The Government is embarking on a major programme of reform of the health system, the aim of which is to deliver a single-tier health service that will deliver equal access to care based on need rather than income. A fundamental element of the reform process involves significant strengthening of primary care services to deliver universal primary care with the removal of cost as a barrier to access to GP services. This commitment will be achieved on a phased basis. Access to GP care without fees will be extended in 2012 to claimants of free drugs under the Long-Term Illness Scheme and in 2013 to claimants of free drugs 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. Primary legislation is required to give effect to these commitments. It is hoped that free GP care for claimants of free drugs under the Long-Term Illness Scheme will be in place by early Summer. There will be an announcement in due course about the start date for this arrangement.

Hospital Equipment

Joe Higgins

Question:

34 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Health when the MRI scanner at James Connolly Hospital, Dublin 15, will be delivered. [1049/12]

Following the publication of the Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016: Medium Term Exchequer Framework, the Health Service Executive commenced drawing up its capital programme for the multi-annual period 2012-16. The Executive is required to prioritise the capital infrastructure projects within its overall capital funding allocation taking into account the existing capital commitments and costs to completion over the period. A draft capital plan for the period 2012-16 has been submitted to my Department. My Department is reviewing the proposals and following up with the HSE where further details may be required. The proposed plan requires my approval with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Details of the plan will be published by the Executive following its approval.

Hospital Accommodation

Mick Wallace

Question:

35 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Health his proposals in the long term to assist the parents of premature babies in neonatal intensive care units who face separation from their child if they cannot afford to pay for private temporary accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1219/12]

Of the total of 445 beds in the new children's hospital, 62 beds are to be allocated to Paediatric Intensive Care and High Dependency areas, representing a one third increase in the number of critical care beds provided by the existing children's hospitals. This includes a dedicated Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, High Dependency beds and cardiac and neurosurgical critical care beds. Provision will be made within the intensive care and high dependency areas for all necessary supports to be available to support the range of critical care functions. Parental accommodation will be available nearby within the hospital for the parents of children in the neonatal intensive care unit and children admitted to the other critical care units. This accommodation will be provided within a family overnight unit which will provide en suite bedrooms with suitable support accommodation. Provision for accommodation for parents and families of children who require longer-term admission to the hospital will be provided in a facility directly adjacent to the new hospital. The HSE tries to maximise the availability of accommodation for parents of premature babies in neonatal intensive care units in existing hospitals. The priority for the HSE and acute hospitals is to ensure the most appropriate and safe treatment is provided to infants in the most appropriate location and as close to home as possible and that the families of such infants are provided with appropriate information and support. This includes the provision of dedicated and direct telephone access to the units treating the infants. The Deputy will be aware that there are proposals to move a number of maternity hospitals from stand-alone sites to sites adjacent to adult teaching hospitals. The issue of providing parental accommodation will be considered as these proposals are further developed.

Health Insurance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

36 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if he has examined the ongoing and increasing cost of health insurance with particular reference to the ability of the consumer to meet such costs; if he has evaluated the increase in premiums over the past five years with a view to a determination as to the action that might be taken to ensure that private health insurance is affordable and available to the widest possible age spectrum; if particular attention has been paid to the extent to which the impact on such insurance is affected by the public and or private health sectors respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1337/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

965 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on the fact that it has been estimated that because of the increasing cost of living and the increase in private health insurance cover that up to 6,000 persons a month are abandoning their health cover and that this amount of new public health patients will put an unbearable pressure on failing health service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1379/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 965 together.

I am concerned that private health insurance is becoming harder to afford, especially for older people, as insurers increasingly tailor their insurance plans towards younger and healthier customers. I am strongly committed to protecting community rating, whereby older and less healthy customers should pay the same amount for the same cover as younger and healthier people. Under Universal Health Insurance, everyone will be insured for health care and the current unfair discrimination between public and private patients will be removed. In the meantime, I am focusing on addressing the problems of the current private health insurance market, where insurers have a considerable financial incentive to cover younger, better risks than older, poorer risks.

To protect community rating, we need a system of Risk Equalisation which ensures community rating can survive. An Interim Scheme has been in place since 2009. It is designed to compensate insurers that have older, less healthy customers and therefore higher claims costs, compared to insurers with younger, less costly customers. It does so by a system of tax credits, based on age, in respect of people aged 60 or more. Without such a system, community rating cannot survive. To keep down the cost of health insurance for older people, I was pleased recently to increase significantly the age-related income tax credit for insured persons aged 60 years and over from 1 January 2012. Without this support, health insurers would have had a strong financial incentive to segment the market by offering policies targeted at young people, to the disadvantage of older customers.

The measures I took are designed to result in no overall increase of premiums in the market and to spread the risk more evenly between the healthy and the less healthy, the old and the young. The increased levy is balanced by a corresponding increase in tax credits for older people, so the system is Exchequer neutral. It is important to note that the levy on policies is not a revenue-collecting mechanism for the Exchequer. The Community Rating Levy, under the Interim Scheme, is placed on private health insurance providers for each insured individual, and not the individuals themselves. The extent, if any, to which they pass the levy on to their clients is a matter for the insurance providers. I welcome the announcements by Aviva Healthcare and the VHI that they do not envisage passing an increase on to customers' premiums on foot of the revised rates of Age-Related Tax Credit and Community Rating Levy for 2012.

As part of Budget 2012, the Government agreed a number of changes to charges for patients who choose to be treated on a private basis in public hospitals. These changes will have no impact on public patients, who comprise the vast majority of those treated in public hospitals. When individuals elect to be treated privately, they agree to meet the costs of the consultant's fee and the hospital's maintenance costs. These issues were examined in the Value for Money and Policy Review of the Economic Cost and Charges Associated with Private and Semi-Private Treatment Services in Public Hospitals, which was published by the Department in December 2010. It is estimated that the average maintenance cost per bed-day in a category 1 hospital is €1,046. In keeping with the long-standing policy of moving towards recovering the full economic cost of providing treatment to private patients in public hospitals, the maintenance charges for private patients in public hospitals have been increased by between 3% and 5%, depending on the category of hospital, with effect from 1 January 2012. It is anticipated that this will yield additional revenue in the region of €18 million in 2012.

While the HSE and voluntary hospitals recoup considerable sums from private health insurance companies in respect of private and semi-private treatment services provided to their members, lengthy delays often occur between the discharge of patients and the receipt of payment from the companies. This has led to an unacceptably high level of debtor days with a significant amount in fees outstanding. Some hospitals are much more efficient at collecting this income than others. It is intended that more hospitals will achieve the income collection standard of the better performing hospitals, and, as a result, a target of €50 million in accelerated income has been set for 2012.

A significant proportion of private patients who are provided with treatment by a public hospital are not currently charged for the services because of the current rules on bed designation. In contrast, the public hospitals' consultants receive private fees even where the hospital cannot collect its maintenance charge. This represents a loss of income to the public hospital system and a significant subsidy to private insurance companies. It is intended to introduce new arrangements during 2012 to allow public hospitals to raise charges in respect of all private patients in public hospitals. This new system will be entirely in keeping with the changes required as we move along the road to universal health insurance. It is estimated that this new system will yield an additional €75 million in 2012.

In December 2011, I agreed with the three commercial health insurers to establish a Consultative Forum on Health Insurance, to tackle issues of mutual concern. We agreed to work co-operatively in driving down costs related to health insurance and to identify savings that could be achieved by both public and private hospitals. I indicated to the insurers that I would be happy to hear proposals from them which would result in lower costs for the health insurance sector. In addition, a new review of the VHI's claims costs will be carried out to establish what further savings can be made. The review is to be completed early this year and will contribute significantly to more effective cost control within the private health insurance market. In the meantime, VHI has been finalising contract negotiations with the private hospitals treating its customers. In addition, VHI's contracts with consultants are due for renegotiation in mid-2012 and the VHI has informed consultants that it will be seeking further savings at that point.

I am determined that these and other measures will have a significant impact in containing the level of any future increases in health insurance premiums. The Government's clear objective is for the health insurance market to remain competitive and strong as we move towards a new system of Universal Health Insurance. It is my intention to ensure the private health insurance market is reformed, to ensure costs are reduced and there is a more even balance in the market. I recently welcomed the announcement that Quinn Healthcare's Health Insurance business was being bought out by the company's senior management team and will be underwritten by Swiss RE. The buy-out has brought certainty to customers of Quinn Healthcare in relation to the company's future and to the private health insurance market as a whole.

Cancer Screening Programme

David Stanton

Question:

37 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health his policy in relation to diagnostic and preventative screening for cancer patients and those needing screening for other conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1278/12]

The HSE National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) encompasses BreastCheck (the national breast screening programme) and CervicalCheck (the national cervical screening programme). The NCSS is preparing for the introduction of a national population-based colorectal cancer screening programme, which will be available to men and women aged between 65 and 69. International evidence does not recommend the introduction of a population based screening programme for prostate cancer at this time. The Department and the HSE are keeping emerging evidence under review including the results of randomised trials that are being conducted internationally. The embedding of best practice and quality assurance within cancer screening, in line with best international evidence, has been a strong focus of the development of cancer screening in Ireland. Further expansion of screening in accordance with the Programme for Government and international best practice includes the extension of the BreastCheck programme to provide screening to women aged between 65 and 69.

The national neonatal metabolic screening programme provides that all babies born in Ireland are screened for six medical conditions soon after birth. The conditions are Phenylketonuria; Homocystinuria; Maple Syrup Urine Disease; Classical Galactosaemia; Cystic Fibrosis; and Congenital Hypothyroidism. The neonatal screening programme enables potentially devastating diseases to be detected at a very early age and allows treatment and management to be commenced as quickly as possible. The policy on school health examinations forms part of the Best Health for Children guidelines, produced in 1999 and revised in 2006. These guidelines were produced after a rigorous evaluation of international literature, and a review of good practice in Ireland and abroad. A comprehensive training programme for staff working in this area was also developed. The policy is kept under review, and will be revisited in 2012 as part of the HSE work plan. New governance structures have also been put in place in relation to child health screening and surveillance in the HSE which will further improve the quality assurance of the process. In its 2007 review of child health in Europe, the World Health Organization commended the Best Health for Children approach that has been adopted by Ireland as an example of good practice. The Best Health for Children guidelines set out a clear timetable for child health checks and detail what is required at each stage. I am working with the HSE to examine the extent of compliance with the guidelines in the context of the 2012 Service Plan. I am committed to ensuring the continued provision of evidence based screening programmes within the limitations of available resources.

Health Insurance Levy

Michael Colreavy

Question:

38 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Health his views on the recent increase in the health insurance levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1322/12]

Community rating, in principle, provides that everybody is charged the same premium for a particular health insurance plan, irrespective of age, gender and the current or likely future state of their health. The only exceptions to this rule relate to children less than 18 years of age and students in full time education. Community rating therefore means that the level of risk that a particular consumer poses to an insurer does not directly affect the premium paid. It also means that premiums for younger or healthier lives are typically higher than their expected claims would require, whereas for older or less healthy lives, premiums are typically lower than the expected claims would require. The Interim Scheme of Age-Related Tax Credits and Community Rating Levy was introduced in 2009 to provide direct support to community rating. It achieves this by way of a mechanism which provides for a cost subsidy from the young to the old. It works by allocating Tax Credits for persons in six age bands and funding this by the collection of an annual levy on health insurance companies based on the number of lives covered by policies underwritten by them. The scheme is designed to be Exchequer neutral and ensures that every customer has the benefit of a community rated health insurance premium. The scheme provides that health insurers receive higher premiums in respect of insuring older people, but that older people receive tax credits equal to the amount of the additional premium so that all people continue to pay the same amount for a given health insurance product. In this way community rating is maintained and insurers are partly compensated for the higher level of claims associated with older people.

Last month I was pleased to announce changes to the Interim Scheme which will help to make private health insurance more affordable for older people. With the agreement of the Minister for Finance, there will be extra age-related income tax credit for insured persons aged 60 years and over, from 1 January 2012, funded by an increase in the annual levy on health insurers based on the number of lives insured by them. The new rates will be included in the forthcoming Finance Bill. The new rates are calculated to result in no overall increase in the total amount paid to health insurers by way of premiums and to spread the risk more evenly between the healthy and the less healthy, the old and the young. It is important to note that the levy on policies is not a revenue collecting mechanism for the Exchequer. The Community Rating Levy, under the Interim Scheme is placed on private health insurance providers for each insured individual, and not on the individuals themselves. It is a matter for the companies as to the extent, if any, they pass the levy on to their clients. I welcome the announcements by Aviva Healthcare and the VHI that they do not envisage passing an increase on to customers' premiums on foot of the revised rates of Age-Related Tax Credit and Community Rating Levy for 2012.

Primary Care Strategy

Pearse Doherty

Question:

39 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the action he has taken regarding the charging of fees by general practitioners for services that should be provided free to patients with medical cards. [1326/12]

Brian Stanley

Question:

904 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of doctors are charging their medical card patients for blood tests; the procedure for reporting this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41382/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 904 together.

General Practitioners who hold GMS contracts with the HSE must not seek or accept money from medical card or GP visit card holders for services covered under the GMS contract. For instance, in circumstances where the taking of blood is necessary to either (a) diagnose a patient or (b) monitor a diagnosed condition, the GP may not charge the patient if they are eligible for free GMS services. The HSE points out that in many GP surgeries, it is the practice nurse who takes blood samples and it significantly subsidises the cost of employing practice nurses. At my request, the HSE has written to all GMS GPs reminding them of their obligations under their contract in this regard. I encourage patients to follow up with the HSE if they believe they are being wrongly charged for services by their GP and the matter will be fully investigated by the Executive. Formal complaints will be dealt with through the HSE's Consumer Affairs Service. In a number of cases to date, the GP has reimbursed their patients following receipt of correspondence from the HSE. I appreciate that because of the nature of the GP/patient relationship, it may be difficult for patients to make such complaints. Where public representatives are made aware of GPs charging GMS patients in error, they may wish to notify the HSE directly.

Medical Cards

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

40 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health the current number of persons with medical cards; and the equivalent number in December 2010. [1324/12]

The Health Service Executive has confirmed that the number of people with medical cards in December 2011 was 1,692,605. The figure in December 2010 was 1,611,138.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 20.
Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 8.
Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 25.

Departmental Expenditure

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

44 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of the additional efficiency target to save €50 million that have been set for disability, mental health and child care services in Budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1280/12]

There is no doubt that there are challenges facing the mental health, disability and child care services as a result of reduced resources by way of an additional efficiency target of €50 million in 2012. This target is in addition to savings in employment and procurement costs which are required of the health services as a whole next year. The precise level of savings required will vary depending on the profile of individual service providers and is currently being considered in the context of the development of the National Service Plan for the HSE which has been submitted to me and which I am considering. It is clear that the acceleration of the health reform programme and the reduction of our dependency on costly staff-intensive models of service will be central to ensuring these efficiency targets are met. As I informed the House before Christmas, I am pleased to be in a position to provide additional ring-fenced funding of €35 million for mental health services in line with the commitment in the programme for Government. This funding will further advance the implementation of A Vision for Change, which was the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy. It will enable the HSE to enhance the multidisciplinary composition of the existing adult and child and adolescent community mental health teams; focus on key priorities in mental health; and increase the availability of psychological and counselling services at primary care level. As 90% of mental health needs are dealt with in primary care settings, this funding will assist in developing closer links between mental health services and primary care.

Embassy Closures

Finian McGrath

Question:

45 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the proposed closure of the Iranian Embassy. [40809/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

46 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the closure of the Vatican Embassy. [40810/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 46 together.

The Government's decision of 3 November 2011 to close the Embassies to the Holy See and Tehran was motivated by the need to maximise the return from the diminishing resources available to my Department to operate the Diplomatic and Consular network. All administrative and logistical processes associated with the closures are under way. These include the termination of accommodation leases, return or disposal of furniture, secure dismantling of the ICT infrastructure and removal of equipment. It also includes the settlement of outstanding local staff issues. It is expected that the Embassy in the Holy See will close this month and that the Embassy in Tehran will close by the end of the first quarter in 2012. The Government plans to maintain diplomatic relations with both states through the appointment of non-resident Ambassadors. The agreement of the Vatican to the nomination of the Secretary General of my Department, Mr. David Cooney, as Ambassador to the Holy See was received recently. It is proposed to accredit an Ambassador in the region as Ambassador to Iran.

Foreign Conflicts

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

47 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions being taken at EU and UN level to address the escalating crisis in Syria and in view of the number of reported deaths of anti-regime protestors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41003/11]

I have made clear my strong condemnation of the ongoing violence and serious repression of human rights in Syria, most recently in a statement on 20 December. The UN estimates that over 5,000 people have been killed by Syrian forces since last March. I am gravely concerned that, despite the presence of an Arab League observer mission since 27 December, the killings of unarmed protestors continue. I fully support the call from Arab League Secretary General el-Araby for a complete cessation of all violence in Syria. The international community, including the EU, the UN and the Arab League, has reacted to the violence in Syria with a series of robust economic, political and diplomatic measures to compel the Syrian regime to cease its appalling and unacceptable attacks on the Syrian people.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed on 1 December additional measures related to the energy, financial, banking and trade sectors, as well as the listing of additional individuals and entities involved in the violence or supporting the regime. This comes on top of extensive existing EU sanctions, including a ban on oil imports from Syria. I entirely support these additional sanctions and the statements of High Representative Ashton on Syria, including on 2 December. Ireland also fully supports implementation of the sanctions, including an asset freeze and an embargo on investments, imposed by the Arab League on Syria on 27 November. The Government, together with its EU partners, welcomes the leadership which has been shown by the Arab League in tackling the crisis caused by the Syrian regime's lethal repression against its own citizens. The Arab League has brought forward a plan which provides for the withdrawal of all Syrian forces from besieged towns and cities, for the release of all detainees and for the beginning of genuine political dialogue with the Syrian opposition. This plan represents the best way forward for Syria and it is vital that the Assad regime complies fully and without any further delay. I support the Arab League plan to continue its monitoring mission until 19 January and look forward to its full assessment of the situation at that stage.

At UN level, an overwhelming majority of UN member states, including Ireland, supported a resolution calling for an end to all human rights abuses in Syria which was adopted by the General Assembly on 19 December, following discussion and agreement in the Third (Human Rights) Committee in November. This followed the UN Human Rights Council's Special Session on Syria on 2 December which also adopted a strongly worded resolution on Syria. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Navi Pillay, laid out a persuasive case to the Security Council on 12 December that the Syrian regime is guilty of committing crimes against humanity in its brutal response to pro-democracy protests. Her presentation shared the conclusions of the report of the independent International Commission of Inquiry mandated by the HRC last August and which issued on 28 November.

These UN actions make it clear that the international community is united in its view that the violence in Syria must come to an immediate end. It is, therefore, extremely disappointing that the Security Council has still, after all this time, been unable to agree a robust Resolution on Syria to bring further pressure to bear on President Assad. I hope that it will soon be able to do so. I call on Security Council members with influence on President Assad to seek to persuade him to immediately relinquish power so that a political transition may begin. Ireland and its EU partners, working with the UN, the Arab League and international partners such as the US and Turkey, are determined to maintain strong and united political pressure on the Syrian regime until it ends the violent repression against its own people and begins a process of transition.

Ministerial Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

48 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the names and salaries of each person serving as a special adviser and or the names and salaries of each person directly appointed by him or a Minister of State to any other position within his Department or predecessors Department on each of the following dates; 1 December 2009, 1 December 2010 and 1 December 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41349/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables:

1 December 2011

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

Mark Garrett

Chief Adviser — Office of the Tánaiste

€168,000

Colm O’Reardon

Economic Adviser — Office of the Tánaiste

€155,000

Jean O’Mahony

Special Adviser — Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

€80,051

Doreen Foley

Personal Assistant — Office of the Tánaiste

€56,060

Karen Griffin

Personal Assistant — Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

€56,060

Anne Coleman

Personal Secretary — Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

€45,939

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Jan O'Sullivan TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

Joe Leddin

Personal Assistant

€52,925

Margaret O’Donoghue

Personal Secretary

€47,755

Tom Considine

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Timmy Hennessy

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

Stephen O’Shea

Special Adviser

€61,966

Barry Walsh

Personal Assistant

€43,715

Julie McGovern

Personal Secretary

€34,195

John Fagan

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Paul Neville

Civilian Driver

€32,964

1 December 2010

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

Christy Mannion

Special Adviser

€101,939

Tim Conlon

Special Adviser

€84,132

Elisabeth O’Donoghue

Personal Assistant

€46,334

Susan Kinsella

Personal Secretary

€38,760

Minister of State for European Affairs, Dick Roche TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

David Grant

Special Adviser

€92,672

Geraldine Cole

Personal Assistant

€51,653

Ciara Furlong

Personal Secretary

€44,673

Frank Rickard

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Noel Keyes

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Minister of State for Development, Peter Power TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

Jerry O’Connor

Special Adviser

€89,898

Brian Stokes

Personal Assistant

€47,394

Susan Coleman

Personal Secretary

€36,738

Michelle Crowley

Personal Secretary

€22,022

Frank Ryan

Civilian Driver

€32,964

Matthew Givens

Civilian Driver

€32,964

1 December 2009

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

Christy Mannion

Special Adviser

€110,210

Deirdre Gillane

Special Adviser

€103,389

Elisabeth O’Donoghue

Personal Assistant

€49,198

Susan Kinsella

Personal Secretary

€39,456

Minister of State for European Affairs, Dick Roche TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

David Grant

Special Adviser

€100,191

Geraldine Cole

Personal Assistant

€55,030

Ciara Furlong

Personal Secretary

€47,403

Frank Rickard

Civilian Driver

€34,826

Noel Keyes

Civilian Driver

€34,826

Minister of State for Development, Peter Power TD

Name

Position held

Annual Salary

Jerry O’Connor

Special Adviser

€93,499

Brian Stokes

Personal Assistant

€48,829

Susan Coleman

Personal Secretary

€40,270

Michelle Crowley

Personal Secretary

€23,181

Frank Ryan

Civilian Driver

€34,826

Tom Flannery

Civilian Driver

€34,826

Matthew Givens

Civilian Driver

€34,826

Departmental Staff

Denis Naughten

Question:

49 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he runs a graduate internship programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41364/11]

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade annually offers a small number of 11-month graduate internships in areas such as human rights, conflict resolution, disarmament and public international law. The Department's Development Cooperation Division, known as Irish Aid, also provides a number of 18-month internships for graduates with experience in international development. These are advertised through the careers offices of Irish third-level institutions. Separately, the Department annually facilitates four 6-month student placements in Irish Aid under a co-operation programme between the Department of Public Expenditure Reform and the University of Limerick. Consideration is also being given to temporarily recruiting a small number of Interns in summer 2012 to fill temporary additional posts allocated to the Department in the context of Ireland’s forthcoming Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013. All Interns are paid on the basis of the first point on the Executive Officer standard salary i.e. €26,122.

Departmental Offices

Dara Calleary

Question:

50 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his view that he, or any agency funded by him which owns properties in office complexes in which a management company is in place, should take an active role in the running of such management companies including the appointment of a nominee to the board of the company in order to protect the investment of tax payers’ money. [1154/12]

My Department occupies one property in the State which is owned by the State, namely Iveagh House. This premises does not fall into the category specified by the Deputy. There are no Agencies under the aegis of my Department.

Diplomatic Representation

Billy Timmins

Question:

51 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason the Irish Embassy to the Vatican closed; his plans to reopen it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1270/12]

The decision to close Ireland's Embassy to the Holy See, along with the Embassy to Tehran and the Irish Aid Office in Dili, was made following a comprehensive review of the Mission network and against a background of the need by my Department to reduce its expenditure in the current difficult economic climate that we face. As regards the Holy See, in addition into savings in staff costs, the Villa Spada, which has heretofore served as the Ambassador's residence and Embassy chancery, will be reallocated to the Embassy to Italy, thereby allowing significant savings in rental charges.

While there are no plans at this stage to appoint a resident Ambassador to the Holy See, this does not mean an end to diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The Government has nominated the Secretary General of my Department, Mr. David Cooney, as our non-resident Ambassador to the Holy See. The Holy See has signalled its agreement to this appointment and has indicated that Mr. Cooney will be invited to present his credentials in line with normal Vatican protocol. Mr. Cooney will be travelling to Rome regularly to maintain contacts with officials of the Holy See and to represent Ireland at major ceremonies.

For our part, the Government has agreed to the nomination of Monsignor Charles J. Brown as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland. I would like to congratulate Monsignor Brown on his consecration as Archbishop on Friday last and look forward to working with the Archbishop both in his position as Nuncio and as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

The Government will continue to review our network of diplomatic missions to ensure that it most efficiently and effectively meets Ireland's current needs, consistent with the resources available.

Billy Timmins

Question:

52 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Irish Embassies that are in operation; the location of same; the cost of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1271/12]

In 2011, Ireland had 58 Embassies, 7 multilateral missions and 11 Consulates General and other offices overseas. In addition to their country of primary accreditation, many Ambassadors are also accredited to additional countries on a non-resident basis. Our Missions abroad are involved in representing and advancing government policies with other States and in international organisations, in particular the EU and the UN; economic and cultural promotion; frontline consular and passport services to Irish citizens overseas; engaging with Irish communities and harnessing the resource they offer in assisting economic recovery; and managing programmes, particularly in Irish Aid priority countries.

The budget of each Mission in 2011 is provided in the following table. These budgets are considered to be the locally-devolved administrative (day-to-day) budget including local staff salaries but not salaries of diplomatic staff, which are a charge on the Headquarters budget. Likewise, my Department's small capital budget is not allocated to missions on an ongoing basis but is managed from Headquarters.

A number of Missions manage significant programmes on behalf of Irish Aid, funded from Vote 29, which reflect the additional management and oversight required for the effective implementation of those important programmes. These costs are shown separately in the following tables:

Administrative Budgets for Missions under Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs)

Mission Name

2011

ABU DHABI

466,900

ABUJA

267,599

ANKARA

397,809

ARMAGH

615,500

ATHENS

488,109

ATLANTA

147,400

BEIJING

750,784

BELFAST SECRETARIAT

697,715

BERLIN

929,251

BERNE

445,899

BOSTON

344,629

BRASILIA

524,784

BRATISLAVA

377,803

BRUSSELS (EMBASSY)

565,860

BRUSSELS (P.F.P.)

278,750

BRUSSELS (PR-EU)

3,307,842

BUCHAREST

485,075

BUDAPEST

465,593

BUENOS AIRES

426,217

CAIRO

396,657

CANBERRA

760,756

CHICAGO

340,825

COPENHAGEN

445,389

EDINBURGH

220,194

GENEVA

1,282,450

HELSINKI

539,283

HOLY SEE

420,987

KUALA LUMPUR

388,340

LISBON

431,630

LJUBLJANA

427,868

LONDON (Includes PPO London)

3,396,000

LUXEMBOURG

435,287

MADRID

1,038,990

MEXICO

442,290

MOSCOW

766,233

NEW DELHI

704,242

NEW YORK — C.G.

1,836,245

NEW YORK — PMUN

1,755,273

NICOSIA

365,313

OSCE — VIENNA

494,500

OSLO

615,300

OTTAWA

580,960

PARIS

1,635,188

PRAGUE

598,634

PRETORIA

705,300

RAMALLAH

347,291

RIGA

210,748

RIYADH

347,071

ROME

1,193,087

SAN FRANCISCO

394,350

SEOUL

413,750

SHANGHAI

567,923

SINGAPORE

828,590

SOFIA

408,350

STOCKHOLM

616,107

STRASBOURG

422,091

SYDNEY

647,462

TALLINN

390,376

TEHRAN

348,049

TEL AVIV

573,639

THE HAGUE

749,539

TOKYO

1,888,548

VALLETTA

322,379

VIENNA

670,686

VILNIUS

416,380

WARSAW

754,711

WASHINGTON DC

1,149,777

Administrative budget of Embassies from Vote 29 (Irish Aid)

Mission Name

2011

ADDIS ABABA

747,137

DAR ES SALAAM

878,000

DILI

215,600

FREETOWN

537,000

HANOI

745,000

KAMPALA

1,231,532

LLONGWE

644,185

LUSAKA

1,324,700

MAPUTO

1,086,500

MASERU

656,700

PRETORIA

477,350

Billy Timmins

Question:

53 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason the Irish Embassy to Iran was closed; his plans to reopen same; the balance of trade between Ireland and Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1272/12]

The decision to close the Irish Embassy to Iran, along with the Embassy to the Holy See and the Irish Aid Office in Dili, was made following a comprehensive review of the Mission network and against a background of the need by my Department to reduce its expenditure in the current difficult economic climate that we face. While the decision was met with disappointment by the Iranian authorities, they have expressed understanding of the very difficult decision the Government has had to take. They have also expressed the hope that the efforts to continue other areas of bilateral contact and co-operation, including political and cultural work, will continue, notwithstanding the closure of our Embassy in Tehran. I fully support this intention.

Despite our serious differences on issues such as human rights and the nuclear issue, Ireland has always emphasised the importance of dialogue and will continue to maintain communication with the Iranian authorities on a range of issues. While there are no plans at this stage to appoint a resident Ambassador based in Tehran, this does not mean an end to diplomatic relations with Iran. The Government plans to maintain diplomatic relations with Iran through the appointment of non-resident Ambassador, based in the region.

In 2010, Iran was Ireland's 55th largest merchandise trading partner, with merchandise trade worth €86.8 million. Irish exports were valued at €81.6m and imports were valued at €5.2m.

Irelands' principal merchandise exports to Iran include: General industrial machinery, equipment and parts; medical and pharmaceutical products; miscellaneous edible products and preparations. Our principal merchandise imports are fertilisers.

Figures for trade in services with Iran are unavailable from the CSO.

The Government will keep our network of diplomatic missions under review to ensure that it continues to serve Ireland's needs efficiently and effectively and that the available resources are deployed to best advantage.

Northern Ireland Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

54 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is not sitting back in the belief that the Northern question has been resolved; and the plans in place to further develop closer co-operation on the island in 2012. [1592/12]

The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has transformed life on the island of Ireland. In the May 2011 elections, the people of Northern Ireland gave their overwhelming endorsement to the parties committed to making the institutions of the Agreement work. The Government remains committed to protecting all of the benefits that have emerged from the Good Friday Agreement, and to strengthening the relationship between the traditions on this island. Further strengthening these relationships will require sustained effort on all sides. The Government is fully committed to this process. The main forum for advancing North South economic cooperation remains the North South Ministerial Council. The Programme for Government affirms our commitment to strengthening North South co-operation even further, and to working with our Northern colleagues to develop greater economic collaboration to accelerate the process of economic recovery and job creation on this island.

Sadly, there are those who still wish to disrupt the peaceful society which has emerged in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement. The level of cooperation and mutual support between the Garda and the PSNI in counteracting the threat from dissidents has never been higher, and my own Department continues to work towards erasing the scourge of sectarianism through the Reconciliation and Anti-Sectarianism Fund.

The decade 2012 -2022 will see the centenary of many seminal events in the history of modern Ireland, North and South. Commemoration of these has the potential to foster reconciliation and deepen understanding between all traditions on the island of Ireland. To this end, the Government has endorsed an overall approach to commemorations where by the Government's own commemorations, any commemorations organised by the public service, and any commemorations that the State supports will respect historical accuracy, promote tolerance, respect and inclusiveness and will recognise the All-Island and East/West shared past nature of the decade. Since becoming Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade I have visited Northern Ireland on a number of occasions and, during these visits, have met with my Northern Ministerial colleagues, as well as community representatives. I intend to continue to travel to Northern Ireland on a regular basis to continue building and strengthening relationships.

Economic and Monetary Union

Pearse Doherty

Question:

55 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if a social and economic impact assessment was carried out by him, or by another Department at his request, on the implications for Ireland of the new fiscal rule of 0.5% of GDP structural deficit limit, as contained in the statement by the eurozone area Heads of State or Government signed by the Taoiseach on 9 December 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40921/11]

Targeting an appropriate structural balance has been a feature of the European fiscal framework for a number of years already. To help ensure sustainable economic and budgetary policies, the structural balance is an appropriate tool, as it provides greater clarity on the underlying budgetary position by adjusting the headline fiscal position for short-term movements in the economic cycle. The statement by euro area Heads of State or Government recognises the important role it plays and European leaders are placing greater emphasis on this tool.

Its application is reflected in the budgetary policies adopted by each Member State and it is in this context that any economic assessment arises.

In terms of current economic and budgetary policies, the priority for the Government is delivering on our programme commitments, which will also help maintain the public finances on a sustainable path over the medium and longer term.

Tax Code

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

56 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the telecom companies are charging 23% VAT on charity related SMS text messages even though these are exempted from VAT by the Revenue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41226/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that charitable donations made via SMS text message, excluding any fees charged by the telecommunications provider or other service provider, are outside the scope of Irish VAT. Any fees charged by the telecommunications service providers in connection with the facilitation of donations are liable to VAT at the standard rate of 23%. Telecommunications providers have recently advised Revenue that their systems do not currently have the technical ability to distinguish between the telecommunications service which is liable to VAT at the standard rate of 23% and the charitable donation which is outside the scope of VAT. Therefore, the telecommunications service providers have to date accounted for VAT at the standard rate on the full amount including the donation made via SMS text message. However, it is Revenue's understanding that the telecommunications providers are working towards resolving this issue in the near future and are putting in place measures to ensure that the appropriate contribution from the charitable donations made via SMS text message is passed on VAT-free to the charities or to third party service providers acting on behalf of the charities where this is the case.

Revenue also understands that charities are working with the telecommunications providers with a view to resolving this matter.

Vehicle Registration

Billy Timmins

Question:

57 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if he will give consideration to the issuing of personalised vehicle registration plates in view of the fact that this would cut down on unnecessary administration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1275/12]

The registration plate in place under the current system allows members of the public and car buyers to ascertain, at a glance, both the year and county of registration of a vehicle. It is seen as a simple and effective registration plate system which is indeed the envy of many European registration authorities, including the UK. A move to a more complicated plating system, using variations of letters and numbers, could create confusion without providing any real benefits. A move to introduce a parallel system for personalised plates would also require inter-agency agreement, involving An Garda Síochána, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners; and would necessitate legislative and administrative changes.

The small size of the Irish car market, the potential for confusion and increased tax evasion, as well as the costs of administering such a scheme, raise considerable doubts as to whether any real overall benefit would accrue to the State if a personalised vehicle registration system was introduced. These difficulties are compounded by potential additional problems in the management of the national fleet and the identification of vehicles in connection with road traffic accidents and offences.

Motor Taxation

Billy Timmins

Question:

58 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if he will give consideration to the abolition of road tax and replace it with a quid pro quo tax on fuel in view of the fact that this would cut the cost of administration of the current system, would require no policing and would ensure that the user pays principle would be implemented as all road users would have to pay a cost based on their road usage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1276/12]

I do not intend to seek to replace the current system of motor tax with additional taxation on motor fuel.

Motor tax receipts for 2011 were in the order of €1bn. Maintenance of the tax base would require an increase in fuel excise rates of more than 20 cent per litre, with direct negative impacts on the rate of inflation and economic competitiveness. Goods vehicles and other high usage and high mileage vehicles, such as public service vehicles and buses, would have higher costs under a pay-as-you-drive system. There would be other distributional effects on, among others, those with longer distances to commute.

A significant increase in fuel duty would lead to an increase in cross-Border fuel purchasing, further depressing the tax base and requiring a compensatory adjustment to make up the shortfall. The potential for an increase in fuel laundering is also clear.

The benefits identified by the Deputy would have to be weighed against these issues, and many others, before the change proposed could be contemplated.

Insurance Industry

Michael McGrath

Question:

59 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some insurance companies are refusing to provide house insurance cover in respect of all residential properties in certain towns because of a deemed subsidence risk; if he has any concerns about such a practice from a competition point of view; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1416/12]

Neither the Central Bank nor I, as Minister for Finance, have powers to compel insurance companies to quote for business. The decision to provide any specific form of insurance cover and the price at which it is offered is a commercial matter for individual insurers. I am advised that individual insurers make their own decisions in respect of areas that are deemed to be of risk of subsidence, based on their own knowledge and on company claims experience. Insurance companies compete with each other for business. They also consider the claims history of individual properties and the relevant geographical and geological features of the area when deciding what premium to charge and what terms and conditions to apply.

Insurers report that such underwriting actions are taken in the interests of policy holders in general to keep household premiums affordable.

Tax Yield

Michael McGrath

Question:

60 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount raised from the levy on private medical insurance policies in each of the past three years; the rates of payment for different category of insured person that are made under the scheme; and the amounts paid to each of the medical insurers. [1507/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of the levy on authorised health insurers collected in the years 2009 to 2011 is as follows:

Tax Year

Amount

2009

€197million

2010

€317million

2011

€346million

The 2011 figure is provisional and subject to revision.

The rates of payment of age related tax credits (ARTC) for the different categories each year are as follows:

Age category of insured person

2009

2010

2011

50-59 years

€200

€200

€0

60-69 years

€500

€525

€625

70-79 years

€950

€975

€1,275

80 years and over

€1,175

€1,250

€1,725

The amounts of ARTC paid in respect of insured persons in the respective age categories, based on the cash flow payout to insured aged persons derived from claims made in the years 2009 to 2011 to date, are as follows:

Age category of insured person

2009

2010

2011

50-59 years

€39 million

€53 million

€6 million

60-69 years

€73 million

€104 million

€122 million

70-79 years

€71 million

€101 million

€133 million

80 years and over

€33 million

€50 million

€73 million

Total

€216 million

€308 million

€334 million

For reasons of taxpayer confidentiality it is not possible to provide details of the amounts paid to each of the medical insurers involved.

Motor Taxation

Brendan Griffin

Question:

61 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if there are exemptions to vehicle registration tax in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40766/11]

The legislation governing Vehicle Registration Tax provides that a vehicle may be registered without payment of VRT if the vehicle is the personal property of an individual and is being brought permanently into the State by the individual when he/she is transferring his/her normal residence from a place outside the State to a place in the State. This exemption (referred to as Transfer of Residence exemption) is subject to certain conditions and restrictions which are prescribed in Statutory Regulations. These Regulations provide that the relief shall not be granted in respect of a vehicle brought into the State more than 12 months after the transfer of normal residence unless the Commissioners, in their discretion, so decide in any particular case.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this taxpayer transferred her residence from Northern Ireland in 2005. The vehicle in question was brought into the State on 1 November 2011 — over 6 years later. Transfer of Residence relief was refused because the vehicle was not brought into the State within the 12 month period, as prescribed.

The taxpayer was notified of this decision and of the relevant Appeal procedures, should she wish to appeal this decision.

Tax Reliefs

Robert Dowds

Question:

62 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance his views on the tax write-off to which Ministers are entitled for the cost of having their clothing dry-cleaned; if he plans to abolish same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40776/11]

A Minister or a Minister of State, whose official duties as an office holder or as a member of the Oireachtas require him or her to maintain a second residence in addition to his or her main residence, can claim an income tax deduction in respect of expenses incurred in maintaining that second residence. The allowance is confined to office holders who represent constituencies outside the Dublin area and is known as the dual abode allowance. It should be noted that it is only where an office holder uses hotel or guesthouse accommodation as his/her second residence that any costs in relation to laundry can be allowed.

It should also be noted that overnight expenses are not paid to officers holders. Such expenses apply only to deputies and senators who are not office holders.

I do not intend to abolish the dual abode allowance at this time or to make changes to its operation.

Credit Availability

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

63 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the steps the Credit Review Office is taking to ensure that it is being promoted among the business community; the promotional campaigns it has undertaken; its main avenues of promotion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40893/11]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Credit Review Office was established to help SME or farm borrowers who have had an application for credit of up to €500K declined or reduced, and who feel that they have a viable business proposition. The CRO also look at cases where borrowers feel that the terms and conditions of their existing loan, or a new loan offer, are unfairly onerous or have been unreasonably changed to their detriment. In terms of the CRO being promoted among the business community, the two pillar banks are required to ensure that all letters of rejection to eligible borrowers include the CRO leaflet. These leaflets should be on display stands in all bank branches of the two pillar banks.

An ongoing media campaign is focused on national and regional radio advertisements, which comprises a weeklong radio advertising burst each quarter at prime commuting time. In addition, print media advertising is used to leverage advertorial and editorial articles in selective national and regional newspapers and the business press. The publication of the CRO quarterly reports trigger further coverage.

The Credit Reviewer has made himself available to meet with journalists for radio and press coverage, and speaks regularly at various business events. In addition, the CRO has taken trade stands at many SME events and conferences.

Gambling Regulations

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

64 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the implementation of a licensing system to regulate all forms of gambling activity, and the reform of the current taxation system with a taxation on profits rather than on turnover for the betting industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40901/11]

The Finance Act 2011 contains legislation that, subject to a Ministerial Commencement Order, provides for the extension of betting duty to remote bookmakers and betting exchanges. The tax changes provided for in the Finance Act can only be implemented once the Betting (Amendment) Bill, which will provide for a regulatory and licensing regime, is enacted. The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2011 is currently at an advanced stage of drafting. The proposed licensing regime will make it a condition of the license for the operator to collect the betting duty with the licensed operators being liable for payment of the duty. It is expected that by including this high-growth area of the betting sector, particularly given the increasing prevalence of smart phones, the tax base from betting will be boosted significantly. In a full year it is expected that the tax yield could grow up to €20 million depending on the prevailing market conditions.

Just as important is the positive signal this measure will convey to international betting operations that have expressed an interest in or have already invested in Ireland. A location with an appropriate licensing framework coupled with relatively low taxes provides real investment and employment opportunities in this sector.

The Deputy may wish to note that my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality received Government approval last July for the preparation of a new comprehensive Bill on Gambling. The Bill proposes to bring together under a single enactment the regulatory environment for all types of gambling, including the repeal of the Betting Act 1931.

Banking Sector Regulation

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

65 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to address the difference between the variable rate mortgage with Permanent TSB, with an interest rate of5.44%, and the AIB standard variable rate of 3.04%, the effect this is having on consumers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40941/11]

Neither the Central Bank nor the Department of Finance has a statutory function in relation to interest rate decisions made by individual lending institutions at any particular time. However, I can confirm to the Deputy that Permanent TSB did pass on, in full, the recent reductions to customers holding standard variable rate (SVR) mortgages and reduced further their LTV standard variable rates to align them with the SVR. Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each bank, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each bank, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

In his recent letter to the Taoiseach, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank stated that the Central Bank was not requesting the power to have regulatory control over the setting of retail interest rates. He indicated that the experience of such controls in the past, and in other countries, did not encourage the Central Bank to believe that such a regime would be advantageous in net terms as the banking system recovers its normal functioning. Binding controls tend to reduce availability of credit and channel it to the most creditworthy customers, starving smaller and less secure customers from credit. This could have an adverse effect on sound competition in the market. The Deputy Governor mentioned also that, within its existing powers and through the use of suasion, the Central Bank will engage with specific lenders which appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds.

However, the Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing arising from difficulty in meeting their loan, and in particular their mortgage, commitments and there are a number of measures in place to assist people in this situation.

In the first instance, the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (the Code) is the key framework that governs the relationship between lenders and borrowers who are in arrears, or facing arrears, on their mortgage. The Code provides a number of protections to borrowers. These include the establishment of a formal Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP) to deal with mortgage customers who are in arrears or pre-arrears, the establishment of dedicated Arrears Support Units and a separate internal appeals process by lenders to deal with individuals on a case by case basis. The Code also provides that a lender must not apply to the Courts to commence legal action for the repossession of a borrower's private residence until every reasonable effort has been made to agree an alternative arrangement with the borrower and that, where a borrower co-operates with the lender, the lender must wait at least twelve months from the date the borrower is classified as a MARP case before applying to the Court to commence legal action for repossession of a borrower's primary residence. This twelve month period does not include any time where the borrower is complying with the terms of any alternative arrangement agreed with the lender, or being processed by the internal Appeals Board, or any time during which a complaint against the lender against any aspect of the Mortgage Arrears Code is being processed by the Financial Services Ombudsman's Office.

There are also other public measures in place to assist eligible mortgage holders experiencing difficulty in respect of the mortgage on their primary home such as the Department of Social Protection Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme and the provision of a free, confidential and independent financial advice service from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

In addition, the report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mortgage Arrears, which was published last October, sets out a number of further recommendations to address the situation of significant mortgage difficulty. The report concluded that blanket approaches to tackling the mortgage problem would not be an effective use of scarce State resources and would, in any event, not address the real difficulty which is the level of significant arrears arising in some mortgages. Instead, it stated that the issue of mortgage difficulty can only be addressed in an efficient way on a case by case basis. Arising from the report, a number of developments are underway that will be of further assistance to mortgage holders experiencing significant difficulty. The reform of personal insolvency law was identified in the report as a critical measure to tackle mortgage distress, and considerable work has now been undertaken to prepare a Bill that should be shortly ready for Government consideration. Progress has also been made on preparing the groundwork for mortgage-to-rent schemes as a social housing response to this problem. In addition, the Central Bank has now received mortgage arrears resolution strategies and implementation plans from mortgage lenders and these will now be analysed and considered by the Central Bank. The implementation of the report's recommendations is key to tackling the major problem of significant mortgage distress and a Steering Group, chaired by my Department and including representation at a senior level from the other relevant Departments, has now been established by Government to oversee and drive the implementation of the report's recommendations across the range of relevant Departments.

Tax Code

Michael Creed

Question:

66 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is liable for the universal social charge on his or her retirement pension from FÁS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40959/11]

The position is that the Universal Social Charge (USC) does not apply to social welfare payments or payments of a similar nature. However, I should point out that occupational pensions are liable to the USC, if the payment is greater than the exemption limit, which from 1 January 2012 is €10,035 per annum.

Tax Reliefs

Clare Daly

Question:

67 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider including among the beneficiaries of his decision in budget 2012 the extension of mortgage interest relief provision to all those first-time buyers who agreed the purchase of their first property in 2008, even if the transaction was completed in early 2009 (details supplied). [40969/11]

As I stated in my Budget speech, the Government has now fulfilled its commitment contained in the Programme for Government to increase the rate of mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first-time buyers who took out their first mortgage in the period 2004 to 2008. The individuals in question do not qualify for the increased rate of mortgage interest relief, however, they should be able to avail of the existing rates which for them would be 25% for 2009 and 2010, 22.5% for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and 20% for 2014 and 2015.

Tax Clearance Certificates

Jack Wall

Question:

68 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare could be furnished with a valid tax credit certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40982/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are contacting the person concerned to obtain the full details necessary to issue the tax credit certificate.

Government Bonds

Peter Mathews

Question:

69 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance the average maturity of Government bonds issued each year since 1990; the average interest rate paid on Exchequer borrowings each year since 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40983/11]

Data supplied to my Department by the Central Bank of Ireland concerning the average maturity of Government bonds issued since 1990 is set out in the accompanying table. The Deputy should be aware that the information only pertains to Government bonds on the Central Bank's register and shows the simple average maturity on first issuance of new Government bonds in each year.

Average Maturity (Years)

1990

5.4

1991

7.0

1992

4.9

1993

8.9

1994

12.8

1995

10.6

1996

5.5

1997

10.9

1998

1999

9.4

2000

2001

2002

8.5

2003

6.2

2004

16.3

2005

2006

2007

11.0

2008

7.1

2009

8.4

2010

10.8

2011

Data supplied to my Department by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) concerning the average interest rate paid on the National Debt each year since 1990 is set out in the table below. The Deputy should be aware that the rate applies to all sources of funding for the National Debt including Government bonds, State saving and short-term paper.

Average Interest Rate

1990

8.5%

1991

8.5%

1992

8.1%

1993

7.6%

1994

7.3%

1995

7.0%

1996

7.4%

1997

8.2%

1998

7.0%

1999

6.1%

2000

5.4%

2001

5.2%

2002

4.6%

2003

4.8%

2004

4.4%

2005

4.5%

2006

5.0%

2007

4.4%

2008

3.5%

2009

4.0%

2010

4.1%

2011

4.3%

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Question:

70 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide full details, including the number of current and former employees affected and the amount of money involved, of any performance-related or contractual-related bonuses or deferred bonuses paid by any of the covered institutions in December 2011 or which fall due for payment in January 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41005/11]

I am informed by the respective covered institutions that no payments, as described in the Deputy's question, have occurred. For the sake of completeness, the Deputy should be aware that payments other than bonus payments of the type referred to in his question continue to arise. For example, sales commission payments continue to be paid in some of the covered institutions where this is an integral part of the employees' remuneration structure. In addition, where the institutions are deleveraging businesses or assets at overseas locations retention and contractual payments deemed necessary to achieve optimal results arise.

The Deputy will also note that payments to certain staff at EBS ltd, described as bonus payments in the relevant contracts, were not paid on the basis that the provisions underpinning the State's investment in the covered institutions prohibits the payment or awarding of bonuses whatsoever. While I have indicated, on the floor of the House, that I am anxious for the matter to be resolved any resolution will have to respect the parameters and conditions of the State's investment.

Banks Recapitalisation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

71 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money borrowed by the State since 2008 to recapitalise the covered institutions; the dates on which this money was borrowed; the body or institutions from whom the money was borrowed; the bank into which the money was transferred; the interest rates charged on this borrowing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41008/11]

In 2009 the Exchequer funded a €4 billion capital injection into Anglo Irish Bank. In 2009 also there was a frontloading of the 1% of GNP Exchequer contribution to the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) for 2009 and 2010 to part-fund the recapitalisations of Allied Irish Bank (AIB) and Bank of Ireland (BOI) announced in February 2009. The total sum transferred from the Exchequer to the NPRF in 2009 was €3 billion. Both AIB and BOI were recapitalised by way of a €3.5 billion capital injection in the form of Preference Shares in each institution with all of that capital provided from the NPRF. Generally speaking, transfers from the NPRF do not impact the Exchequer and are not therefore deemed borrowings.

In 2010, the Exchequer provided €625 million to Educational Building Society (EBS) and €100 million to Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) by way of special investment shares. This method of investment gave the State extensive powers and full economic ownership of the two building societies.

During 2010 also, capital injections totalling €30.85 billion were committed to Anglo Irish Bank, INBS and EBS. The respective amounts were €25.3 billion for Anglo Irish Bank, €5.3 billion for INBS and €250 million for EBS. The consideration for the capital injections was promissory notes issued by the Exchequer to the insitutions in lieu of cash. These notes will be redeemed over a period of several years with the Exchequer committed to making annual repayments of 10% of the initial capital value of the notes. This means the Exchequer did not require upfront cash funding for the capital injection. While the promissory notes impact the General Government Debt from the date they were issued, they only impact the National Debt as the annual instalments are paid.

In March 2011, the Exchequer provided a combined €3,060 million to Anglo Irish Bank and INBS — now known as Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) — representing the first instalment of the Promissory Notes committed to those institutions in 2010. In June 2011, the Exchequer provided €25 million to EBS, representing the first instalment of the Promissory Note committed to that institution in 2010.

Finally in relation to 2010, a further €3.7 billion was injected into AIB in return for ordinary shares. This capital was provided from the NPRF.

In July 2011, the Exchequer funded €7,568 million of the payments for the recapitalisation of the banking sector, which followed from the March 2011 PCAR process. €2,700 million was provided to Irish Life & Permanent (ILP) in return for ordinary shares and contingent capital notes, €985 million to BOI in return for contingent capital notes and €3,883 million to AIB by way of a capital contribution and contingent capital notes. Offsetting this cost somewhat were the €1,018 million in capital receipts transferred to the Exchequer from the NPRF from the sale of part of the State's shareholding in BOI and €46 million in fees related to the recapitalisations. This resulted in a net Exchequer contribution of some €6.5 billion towards the recapitalisation of the banking sector in 2011. The Budget 2012 Exchequer deficit estimate for 2012 made provision for €1.3 billion in Exchequer funding to complete the recapitalisation of ILP.

Of the €24 billion in capital identified as being required following the March 2011 PCAR process, a further €10 billion was provided from the NPRF with the balance of some €7.5 billion being sourced to date through burden sharing with subordinated bondholders, private investment, asset disposals and internal capital generation.

In terms of the dates on which borrowings were undertaken, the body or institution from whom the money was borrowed and the bank into which the money was transferred, the Deputy should be aware that there was no specific tranche of borrowing that was undertaken solely for the purpose of funding payments to banks. Rather the funds which become available to the State as a result of borrowing undertaken by the Exchequer are available, along with the funds sourced from revenues such as tax revenue, non-tax revenue and capital receipts, to fund overall expenditure, including the recapitalisation of the banks. But it is the case that in the absence of the requirement to provide capital to the banks, the Exchequer deficits and therefore the State's borrowing requirement would have been lower in these years. Because of the nature of the international capital markets it is not possible to identify exactly from whom the money was borrowed. All borrowing was transferred into the Exchequer account.

The average interest rate on Exchequer long-term borrowings undertaken in 2009 was 4.6% while the average interest rate on Exchequer long-term borrowings undertaken in 2010 was 4.7%.

In 2011 long-term funding was raised under the EU/IMF Programme rather than in the market. The average interest rate on Exchequer borrowings undertaken so far as part of the EU/IMF Programme is approximately 3.7%.

Tax Reliefs

Alan Farrell

Question:

72 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of providing the increased rate of mortgage relief for first time buyers for those who purchased their homes in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41018/11]

It is assumed that the Deputy has in mind increasing the existing rate of mortgage interest relief for first time buyers in 2009 to 30% in line with the Budget 2012 measure for first time buyers in 2004 to 2008 inclusive. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost to the Exchequer of the changes mentioned is tentatively estimated to be of the order of €4 million per year.

Tax Code

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

73 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance if any consideration has been given to changing the rules for travel agents and the charging of VAT for the holidays they sell; the rules for VAT on holidays sold by travel agents in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41020/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Finance (No.2) Act 2008 amended the Value-Added Tax Act 1972 to provide for the introduction a Travel Agents Margin Scheme. Under this scheme certain travel agents are liable to VAT on their supply of certain services, not in respect of the consideration they receive for such services but in respect of the travel agents margin on those services. This scheme, which is provided for in Articles 306 to 310 of the EU VAT Directive, was introduced with effect from 1 January 2010. The scheme deals with the activities carried on by travel agents who act in the capacity of a principal when supplying certain travel services such as transport, accommodation, etc, which they have bought in from third parties for onward supply to travelers. The Scheme is a standard EU wide Scheme and is in operation in the almost all Member States of the EU including the UK. In the UK it is referred to as the TOMS (Tour Operators Margin Scheme) but in Ireland it is referred to as the TAMS (Travel Agents Margin Scheme.) For the purposes of the VAT Directive both travel agents and tour operators covered by the Scheme are treated the same for VAT purposes. Consequently there is no material difference between the TAMS in operation here and the TOMS in operation the UK.

The rate of VAT that applies to the supply of travel facilities by a travel agent covered by the Travel Agents Margin Scheme is the standard rate of VAT, which is currently 23 per cent.

Detailed discussions took place with representatives of the travel industry prior to the introduction of the scheme.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael McGrath

Question:

74 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the way the €250 million allocated for each of the years 2012 and 2013 for a resolution fund for the credit union sector will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41025/11]

The purpose of the Resolution Fund under the Central Bank and Credit Institutions (Resolution) Act, 2012 is to provide a source of funding for the resolution of financial instability in, or an imminent serious threat to the financial stability of, an authorised credit institution. In particular the Resolution fund may be used for:

the payment of financial incentives for transfers,

providing capital for a bridge bank,

meeting the expenses of the Central Bank incurred when discharging functions under the Act, and

making certain payments under the Act, for example, the payment of expenses to an assessor appointed under the Act.

This Act applies to credit unions as well as other credit institutions such as banks and building societies.

Payments will be made on a case by case basis according to the resolution actions undertaken by the Central Bank under the Act. The Central Bank is responsible for managing and administering the resolution fund.

Question No. 75 withdrawn.

Banking Sector Regulation

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

76 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the decision by the EBS not to pay staff their 13th annual payment which has been a long-standing part of their employment contract; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that staff in EBS were only informed of this decision on the 6 December 2011, three days before payment was due, and that this has left many of them in a dire financial position; if he will intercede to resolve this issue; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the interest-free loans offered by EBS to staff to ameliorate this situation are subject to benefit in kind of 12.5% and if he will waive that provision for this specific case; the reason managers in EBS continue to receive their 13th annual payment but staff below that pay grade do not, which has created a grave unfairness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41045/11]

Ciara Conway

Question:

78 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Finance the reason an EBS worker (details supplied) in County Waterford along with all front line staff at that institution will not receive a thirteenth month payment in December 2011 as he or she traditionally has done while managers will be paid a bonus; if there will be any recourse for EBS workers in this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41077/11]

Brendan Ryan

Question:

95 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Finance his views that staff at team leader level and below at the State-supported Educational Building Society are not to be paid their annual Christmas payment when EBS staff from assistant manager level upwards are being awarded the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41429/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76, 78 and 95 together.

I have outlined my position on the various matters raised in the questions above when replying to previous parliamentary questions on the same subject (refs: 40290/11 and 40334/11 of 14 December 2011 and 40410/11, 40538/11 and 40633/11 of 15 December 2011) and in my contribution to a Topical Issues Debate on the issue of 15 December 2011.

In the course of that contribution, I indicated that I would like the matter to be resolved taking into account the parameters and restrictions surrounding the issue. I have also communicated this directly to the trade union involved and to solicitors representing it, on foot of legal correspondence received, indicating that the matter should be pursued directly with the employer — EBS Ltd.

Personal Debt

Billy Timmins

Question:

77 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding debt write-down or forgiveness for persons who cannot keep up payments and are finding they have no income left at the end of the month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41062/11]

The banks in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, are independent commercial entities and decisions on the handling of their loans are, in the first instance, a commercial matter for the individual institutions. However, the Government is aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are under arising from difficulty in meeting their loan, and in particular, their mortgage repayments.

The Deputy will be aware of the report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mortgage Arrears, which was published last October. The report sets out a number of recommendations to address the situation of those in mortgage arrears. The report stated that the issue of mortgage difficulty can only be addressed in an efficient way on a case by case basis. Arising from the report, a number of developments are underway that will be of assistance to mortgage holders experiencing significant difficulty.

The reform of personal insolvency law was identified in the report as a critical measure to tackle mortgage distress, and considerable work has now been undertaken to prepare a Bill that should be ready shortly for Government consideration. This legislation will be the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Progress has also been made on preparing the groundwork for mortgage-to-rent schemes as a social housing response to this problem. In addition, the Central Bank has received mortgage arrears resolution strategies and implementation plans from mortgage lenders and these will now be analysed and considered by the Central Bank. A Steering Group, chaired by my Department and including representation at a senior level from the other relevant Departments, has been established by Government to oversee and implement the report's recommendations across the range of relevant Departments.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 76.

State Banking Sector

Brian Walsh

Question:

79 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Finance if he will request that the Central Bank use its powers to engage with Permanent TSB regarding its standard variable mortgage rate, which is considerably higher than that of other State-controlled banks, in order to establish if the rate is disproportionate to the cost of funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41078/11]

As the Deputy is aware, neither the Central Bank nor the Department of Finance has a statutory function in relation to interest rate decisions made by individual lending institutions at any particular time. On 8th December 2011, permanent TSB confirmed that it will pass on the interest rate cut of 0.25% announced on that date by the ECB to all mortgage customers including those on Standard Variable Rates and Tracker Rates and including both home owners and investors in residential properties. In addition the bank has confirmed that it will reduce the rates applying to a number of variable rate mortgages held by both residential and investor customers by as much as 71 basis points. This includes the impact of the ECB reduction of 0.25%.

Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each bank, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each bank, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

In his recent letter to the Taoiseach, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank stated that the Central Bank was not requesting the power to have regulatory control over the setting of retail interest rates at this time given this could absolve banks of their responsibility to price risk accurately. He indicated that the experience of such controls in the past, and in other countries, did not encourage the Central Bank to believe that such a regime would be advantageous in net terms as the banking system recovers its normal functioning. Binding controls tend to reduce availability of credit and channel it to the most creditworthy customers, starving smaller and less secure customers from credit. This could have an adverse effect on sound competition in the market. The Deputy Governor mentioned also that, within its existing powers and through the use of suasion, the Central Bank will engage with specific lenders which appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds.

National Asset Management Agency

Michael McGrath

Question:

80 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the reason the National Asset Management Agency, when inviting tenders for the provision of insurance and advisory services, set a minimum turnover condition for bidders of €15 million for each of the past three years; his views that this condition is unfair on many small and medium sized businesses which might wish to tender for the contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41080/11]

I am informed by NAMA that, when tendering for services, it takes account of the scope for involvement of small and medium-sized businesses. However, in relation to the tender for insurance and advisory services, NAMA advises that the contract to be awarded concerns a worldwide portfolio of about €32 billion worth of assets, where multi-jurisdictional brokerage services and insurance advice is required. NAMA must be prudent in ensuring that a contracting party can meet its obligations and potential liabilities under any given contract and setting a minimum turnover is one of the means to assist NAMA in doing this. It should also be noted that the EU procurement law, with which NAMA must comply, does not allow for the artificial segmentation of required services into lots. Therefore, NAMA is restricted in what it can do in this regard. However, the Agency does permit tenderers to form consortia or to rely on the capacities of third parties so they can meet necessary requirements, provided that a tenderer can prove that the necessary support from those entities will be provided.

Pension Provisions

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

81 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 28 June 2011, if he has received further correspondence from any of the representative bodies of the pensions industry in relation to the pension fund levy; if any of the pension fund administrators or providers have absorbed any of the pension fund levy by reducing fees and charges; the steps he will take to encourage them to absorb the levy if they have not done so already; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41111/11]

On 1 June 2011, I wrote to the representative bodies of the pensions industry with whom I had previously met to further outline my view that the cost of the pension fund levy should be absorbed by a reduction in the fees and charges made by their members. These bodies responded to me by the end of that month but the responses were not particularly positive. One response indicated that it would be a matter for individual companies to decide on the question of the absorption of the cost of the levy into their existing fees and charges but that the scope for companies to do so was extremely limited. I am not aware whether any of the companies involved absorbed any of the pension fund levy in this way or what decisions have been made by them in relation to this issue. As regards further steps in this matter, I should point out that a group has been established to examine charges in the pensions industry. The group is chaired by the Department of Social Protection with representatives of the Central Bank and the Pensions Board. This study will provide an initial benchmark on the level of pension charges for different forms of funded supplementary pension arrangements and will provide information in relation to disclosure of charges. These data have not been available to date so the study will provide valuable information to inform policy. When this information on pension charges becomes available, I will consider how it may be used to advance the issue of the industry absorbing the impact of the pension fund levy.

Tax Code

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

82 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance if, with regard to the operation of the universal social charge, the surcharge of 3% on persons who have income from self-employment that exceeds €100,000 in a year applies equally to directors of limited companies whose income exceeds €100,000 in a year and who pay Class S PRSI; and if it does not, the reason this is so. [41151/11]

The position is that I am aware of the situation and the matter is currently under consideration.

Michael Creed

Question:

83 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is liable for the universal social charge in view of the fact that he or she holds a full medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41212/11]

The position is that full medical cardholders are currently exempt from the higher rate (7%) of Universal Social Charge (USC). In addition, in 2012, if a person's gross income is below €10,036 a year they are exempt from the USC. The exemption limit for 2011 was €4,004 a year. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that on the basis of the information available to Revenue, the person concerned is exempt from paying the USC for 2012. Her employer was informed of her tax credits on 19 December, 2011 and was advised that she is exempt from the USC.

The person concerned can obtain a copy of her Tax Credit Certificate by registering online for PAYE Anytime and viewing or printing the Certificate or by contacting Mr. Diarmuid O'Connor at Revenue House, Blackpool, Cork (Tel 021-6027506). The person concerned should notify Revenue in the event of any change which would bring her income above the €10,035 exemption limit.

Banking Sector Regulation

Brendan Ryan

Question:

84 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to tackle the discrepancies in variable mortgage rates between State-guaranteed banks; his further plans to tackle the State-guaranteed banks (details supplied) which offer the highest rates of variable interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41214/11]

The lending institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, are independent commercial entities. Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each lending institution, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each lending institution, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

I have no responsibility for any variation in the variable mortgage rates charged.

National Asset Management Agency

Arthur Spring

Question:

85 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Finance the reason the National Asset Management Agency does not have to put contracts for services it utilises out to tender like other State agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41215/11]

It is not correct to state that NAMA does not tender for services. NAMA as a contracting authority is subject to EU Directive 2004/18/EC, as implemented in Ireland by the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities' Contracts) Regulations 2006 (the "Regulations"), in respect of the procurement of goods, works and services above certain values (the "EU Thresholds"). The principles underpinning the Regulations are equal treatment, non-discrimination, mutual recognition, proportionality and transparency. Where the Regulations do not apply — either because the value of the procurement is below the EU Thresholds or falls outside of the Regulations — NAMA adopts a competitive process designed to obtain the best value for money which can be achieved in a manner that is both fair and transparent. This is in line with its statutory objective of obtaining the best achievable financial return for the State. NAMA informs me that it supports small and medium sized businesses in Ireland where that is possible without compromising its value for money principles.

In certain cases, NAMA has established panels of service providers who have demonstrated, through a tendering process, that they have the capacity to provide a particular service. NAMA advises me that it may then hold mini-tenders among suitably qualified members of a panel to obtain the most competitive price for any particular assignment.

Arthur Spring

Question:

86 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Finance the reason the National Asset Management Agency did not contract Irish auction houses to auction art that NAMA repossessed recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41216/11]

NAMA informs me that when selecting a sales agent to manage the disposal of art works, the Agency adopted a tendering process. The tender was to dispose of 14 works of art, nine of which were by Irish artists and five which were by either British or American artists. Four auction houses were requested to tender, two of them Irish. Each tendering party had indicated that it would undertake the disposal process at no charge to NAMA. NAMA advises me that it was clear from the responses of the two Irish auction houses to the tender that they would not provide the full service sought, i.e. they had the capacity to sell some but not all of the paintings. In reviewing the tenders, NAMA selected the tenderer which, in its view, was likely to provide the most comprehensive service in the circumstances and thereby to maximise the proceeds from the sale of the art works. NAMA cannot, in law, discriminate on the basis of the nationality of a service provider.

Tax Collection

Shane Ross

Question:

87 Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Finance if he will intervene to allow those taxpayers struggling financially to be allowed to pay the Revenue an amount per month to the end of the year, in recognition of the fact that there are many people who simply cannot afford the lump sum payments demanded by the State at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41248/11]

The Revenue Commissioners are charged with responsibility for the timely collection and recovery of taxes and duties due to the Exchequer. There is a clear requirement for every individual and business to pay the right amount of tax due and on time. Meeting this requirement is important in ensuring that tax revenues due to the Exchequer are paid on time and in maintaining a level playing field between businesses. Delay in payment or indeed non-payment impact on the level of Government borrowing and associated public debt interest. Those who delay payment secure unfair competitive advantage over compliant businesses. I fully endorse Revenue's approach in facilitating, supporting and expecting timely compliance by businesses and individuals. Individuals or businesses cannot take an approach of automatically or wilfully delaying payment of tax or treating Revenue as a bank or a lender of last resort. Revenue will rightly, not allow this. In particular, Revenue will take appropriate recovery and enforcement action where businesses continue to trade when there is no capacity or commitment to meet tax debts as they arise as the business trades into the future. I know that Revenue is conscious of the difficult economic and financial climate that prevails and how this can pose challenges for business and individuals in being timely compliant. Revenue has actively encouraged businesses and individuals experiencing particular payment difficulties to work proactively with them when such difficulties start to arise to find an agreed way through those difficulties and quickly restore voluntary timely compliance.

Revenue has published comprehensive material for businesses and individuals experiencing tax payment difficulties on its website at www.revenue.ie. Revenue’s approach has received positive endorsement from tax practitioners' bodies and trade representative bodies for the work that it has done in that regard and in the practical support and assistance it is providing to viable businesses.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

88 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41263/11]

Passenger transport services are exempt from VAT. This means that VAT is not charged on the passenger service and the passenger transport provider cannot claim input deductibility on any VAT incurred on costs related to their business, including any VAT paid on fuel costs. As such, the supply of fuel is subject to VAT at the standard rate of 23%. The exemption from VAT on passenger transport services is the subject of a derogation from the normal VAT rules, where passenger transport is normally subject to VAT at either the standard or reduced rates. Under the EU VAT Directive it is not possible to allow persons who supply exempt services to claim VAT input deductibility, this would equate to zero-rated treatment and zero rated treatment can only apply to those goods and services that were subject to the zero rate on 1 January 1991. In this regard it is not possible to allow passenger transport providers to claim the VAT incurred on their fuel costs. It is only for historic reasons that Ireland can apply the current exemption from VAT.

Fiscal Policy

Brendan Griffin

Question:

89 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the action he will take to secure sustainable access to capital that would enable a comprehensive stimulus package to be provided for the economy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41282/11]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the possibility of securing private capital, both from home and abroad, to establish a fund which would help stimulate growth and provide jobs. One of the primary avenues the Government has used to explore such possibilities is through the Global Irish Economic Forum. The first Global Irish Economic Forum brought together 130 globally connected Irish business leaders to explore how the Irish at home and abroad, and those with a strong interest in Ireland, could work together and contribute to our economic recovery.

In early 2010, the Global Irish Network was launched and now comprises over 300 of the most influential Irish and Irish-connected individuals abroad. Members of the Network, who come from a diversity of fields and are based in almost 40 countries, provide Ireland with an invaluable resource of international expertise from which we can draw as we work towards economic recovery.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Government was determined that the Global Irish Economic Forum in 2011 would have concrete outcomes. I, along with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and other Ministers participated fully in discussions. The report of the Forum confirms that there was an overwhelmingly positive response from Forum participants when requested to be part of the implementation of some of the initiatives identified at the forum. In particular, participants committed to providing internships for graduates in their companies, mentoring start-up companies, communicating positive messages about Ireland and using their influence to harness positive media coverage of Ireland, and participating in a financing project for Irish start-up companies. I am aware that the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade is in contact with these participants to move this process along. An additional priority of this government has been to incentivise foreign-based entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to place their investments in Ireland. With this in mind, Budget 2012 included an extension of the three year tax Relief for start-up companies and enhancements to Ireland's attractive R&D tax credit regime.

Finally, as the Deputy may be aware, the establishment of NewERA and the Strategic Investment Fund within the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which the Government announced last September, is a major initiative in this sphere.

The Strategic Investment Fund, will, following appropriate legislative changes to the investment policy of the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), channel commercial investment from the NPRF towards productive investment in the Irish economy. As well as money from the NPRF, the Fund will seek matching commercial investment from private investors and target investment in areas of strategic significance to the future of the Irish economy. It will comprise a series of sub-funds targeted at commercial investment in critical areas of the Irish economy, including infrastructure, venture capital and provision of long-term capital for SMEs. The NPRF will take a lead role in the development and implementation of each sub-fund.

In November 2011, the NPRF announced a significant commitment of €250 million to a new Irish infrastructure fund (the "Irish Infrastructure Trust"). This fund will seek to invest in assets designated for disposal by the Government and commercial State enterprises and also in new infrastructure projects in Ireland. The new fund, which will be an important source of new capital for infrastructure investment in Ireland, has been established by Irish Life Investment Managers while AMP Capital, a leading global infrastructure manager, will be the fund's discretionary investment manager. The fund is seeking commitments of up to €1 billion from institutional investors in Ireland and overseas and has already received commitments of €300 million, including the NPRF's €250 million.

Public Sector Remuneration

Gerry Adams

Question:

90 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons in the public sector on salaries in excess of the Government pay cap of €200,000 and to include the names and the salaries of those earning more than the pay cap; if he will outline in detail the instances in which he has sanctioned a breach of the pay cap since he came to office including the salary he sanctioned, the name of the individual in question, the details of the position and the reasons he sanctioned such an exception or breach of the pay cap. [41289/11]

In my Department, no staff members are in receipt of a salary of more than €200,000 per annum. I understand that although the Secretary General's nominal salary is significantly higher than €200,000, he has gifted the excess to the state on a voluntary basis. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, having taken salary sacrifice into account, there are no Revenue staff in receipt of a salary of more than €200,000 per annum.

As Minister for Finance I have no role in sanctioning conditions of employment of staff in the Central Bank. Under the Central Bank Act, 1942, the employment of staff at the Central Bank and their terms and conditions are matters for the Central Bank Commission.

The Central Bank of Ireland publishes details of the remuneration of its senior office holders in its annual report.

I have been informed by the Central Bank that the three office holders who are on salaries in excess of €200,000 are: Governor, Patrick Honohan (€213,000); Deputy Governor, Financial Regulation, Matthew Elderfield (€340,000); and Deputy Governor, Central Banking, Stefan Gerlach (€250,000).

In addition, two other employees of the Central Bank, on fixed term contracts, are on salaries between €200,000 and €250,000. For contractual reasons, it is not possible to name those individuals.

Only one employee of the Central Bank has been appointed on a salary in excess of €200,000 since the introduction of the pay cap — the Deputy Governor, Central Banking. In this case the appointment was being finalised when the pay cap policy was announced. The appointment was made with my consent and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform was also consulted and it was confirmed that the appointment was not contrary to Government decisions on higher level pay in the public service.

The general policy that a salary ceiling of €200,000 will apply to persons serving in higher positions in the public service does not apply to either the Central Bank or the NTMA. In the case of the NTMA, its remuneration structure is such that there are no general pay grades and all staff are employed under individually-negotiated contracts, confidential to the individual concerned. This business model has allowed the NTMA to staff itself to date with the necessary technical expertise to successfully carry out the financial and risk management functions which have been assigned to it, including the recruitment of specialists in mid-career from the private sector.

I am informed by the NTMA that there are 16 employees of the NTMA with salaries in excess of €200,000. Details of the remuneration of the Chief Executives of the NTMA, National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) have been published in the Annual Reports for 2010 for the respective bodies.

Tax Reliefs

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

91 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if the mortgage interest relief announced in the 2012 budget for those who bought their homes between 2004 and 2008 may be claimed by those who have been forced into rented accommodation themselves and who are renting out the mortgaged property to try and maintain mortgage payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41340/11]

The legislation setting out the detail of the proposed new 30% rate of mortgage interest relief announced in my Budget speech will be published in the forthcoming Finance Bill. However, the new rate of relief will be available only to individuals who bought their homes between 2004 and 2008 where such homes are the sole or main residence of the individuals. The proposed new rate of relief will not be available to individuals who bought their homes between 2004 and 2008 and who are now renting out that property. An individual who rents out a residential property is allowed a deduction in computing the taxable rents from that letting of 75% of the interest accruing on money borrowed to purchase, improve or repair that property.

Ministerial Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

92 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the names and salaries of each person serving as a special adviser and or the names and salaries of each person directly appointed by him or a Minister of State to any other position in his Department or his predecessor’s Department on each of the following dates; 1 December 2009, 1 December 2010 and 1 December 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41348/11]

Since my appointment as Minister for Finance on 9 March 2011 the relevant details are as follows:

Name

Title

Salary (per annum)

Duties

Mary Kenny

Special Adviser

€83,337

Any duties which may be assigned to her from time to time as appropriate to the position of Special Adviser as set out in Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997.

Eoin Dorgan

Special Adviser

€83,337

Any duties which may be assigned to him from time to time as appropriate to the position of Special Adviser as set out in Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997.

Since my appointment as Minister for Finance on 9 March 2011, the following staff have been appointed to my constituency office:

Grade

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

Personal Assistant

€43,715 – €56,060

1.00

My predecessor, the late Brian Lenihan, appointed two special advisers as follows: Ms Cathy Herbert (appointed in May 2008): Salary €107,485. Ms Herbert was not a member of the civil service pension schemes. Payments not exceeding 11% of her salary were made on her behalf to a pension fund in respect of her superannuation contributions. Dr Alan Ahearne (appointed in March 2009): Salary €135,000. Dr Ahearne was a member of the pension scheme of NUI Galway, from which body he was on secondment to the Department of Finance. Payments not exceeding 11% of the difference between his NUIG salary and the additional amount he received in respect of his position were made on his behalf to a pension fund in respect of superannuation contributions.

In addition, in May 2008 he also appointed a Personal Assistant and Personal Secretary. The salary scales in each case are set out below.

Title

Salary Scale (per annum)

Wholetime Equivalent

Personal Assistant

€46,558 – €55,030

1.00

Personal Secretary

€23,181 – €44,726

1.00

Departmental Staff

Denis Naughten

Question:

93 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if his Department runs a graduate internship programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41363/11]

The Government announced a new National Internship Scheme as part of its Jobs Initiative programme, which was published on 10 May 2011. The National Internship Scheme, known as JobBridge, provides at any one time up to 5,000 work experience placements of 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals in organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

It is a time-limited scheme for a maximum of 2 years and participants on the National Internship Scheme receive, through the Department of Social Protection, a single allowance (Internship Allowance) consisting of €50 per week on top of their equivalent existing social welfare entitlements. No employer top up contributions are allowed.

In my Department, one placement (Tax Policy Research Assistant) has been advertised on the JobBridge website and my colleagues are currently examining the application.

Tax Reliefs

Michael McGrath

Question:

94 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will qualify for the enhanced mortgage interest relief for persons who bought between 2004 and 2008 [41426/11]

As I stated in my Budget speech, the Government has now fulfilled its commitment contained in the Programme for Government to increase the rate of mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first-time buyers who took out their first mortgage in the period 2004 to 2008. I will be looking at the technical detail of how this will operate in the preparation of the Finance Bill.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 76.

Economic and Monetary Union

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

96 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the plans he has in place in the event of a break-up of the euro; if arrangements are in place to print a sovereign currency in the event of a break-up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1025/12]

As I have stated previously, there are many risks in the economic environment which are fully taken into account by me, in conjunction with my Department and the agencies that report to me. The euro is a firm and solid currency and there is no market expectation or Irish Government expectation of a collapse in the currency. The Central Bank continues to produce euro currency.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Brendan Griffin

Question:

97 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the measure being taken to target cigarette and tobacco smuggling; if there are new measures planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1028/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco, that the strategy employed by Revenue to tackle this illicit trade is multifaceted. It includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, ongoing review of operational policies, development of analytics and detection technologies, and optimum deployment of resources at point of importation and inland, in order to intercept the contraband product and to prosecute those involved. Interception at the point of importation is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling, intelligence, and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages. Revenue enforcement officers also target this illicit trade at the post-importation level by carrying out intelligence-based operations and random checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises. Since mid- 2010, Revenue has conducted a series of nationwide intensive tobacco "blitz"-type operations, which concentrated additional Revenue resources at ports, airports and at various inland retail points, including markets for the purpose of identifying illicit tobacco products. To date, Revenue has conducted nine such national tobacco "blitz" operations resulting in the seizure of over 34.6m cigarettes and 1,715 kgs of tobacco. These intensive operations are of course additional to Revenue's ongoing day to day illicit tobacco operations.

Revenue also carries out regular multiagency operations, particularly in relation to large maritime importations. Revenue both provides and receives intelligence from other Customs Administrations and works closely with the European Anti- Fraud Office, OLAF, in its efforts to tackle the illicit sale of tobacco at an international level. This international cooperation and sharing of intelligence and expertise plays an important role in combating illegal tobacco smuggling on the global scale.

As regards new measures planned the Revenue Commissioners have established a high level internal group, chaired at Commissioner level, to examine the risks related to tobacco products tax evasion and to oversee and optimise the detection of contraband and counterfeit tobacco products. This group has promoted a number of initiatives aimed at counteracting the illicit trade in tobacco. These include the adoption of a comprehensive tobacco strategy, which is underpinned by annual action plans. This 3-year (2011-2013) strategy, which is published on Revenue's website www.revenue.ie, includes a number of programmes, which are designed to complement each other in targeting the supply and demand sides of the market for contraband tobacco in Ireland.

Revenue's strategic-level plans include the taking of steps to ensure that the legitimate trade remains compliant, delivering more effective and visible interventions through enhanced capability and better deployment of its resources, further development of cooperation and intelligence sharing at organisational, national and international level, a commitment to prosecute all serious cases of tobacco tax evasion and a focus, in partnership with other Government agencies, on reducing the demand for contraband tobacco.

In the course of 2011 Revenue enforcement officers seized 109 million cigarettes with a retail value of €46 million and 11,158 kgs of tobacco with a retail value of €4 million. In addition Revenue secured one hundred and one court convictions for cigarette smuggling, with thirty custodial sentences, of which twenty were suspended, and fines of €136,300 imposed. Another fifty-seven convictions were secured for the sale of unstamped tobacco products with thirteen custodial sentences, of which seven were suspended, and fines of €115,850 imposed.

European Stability Mechanism

Peter Mathews

Question:

98 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance if, further to the communique issued after the recently agreed Fiscal Compact stating that a qualified majority voting of 85% will be required to approve funding from the European Stability Mechanism, ESM, to a member state, his attention has been drawn to the fact that this means that any country with 15% of the votes can veto Ireland accessing funding from the ESM; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that this provides France and Germany with a veto vote over any future Irish access to the ESM; his views that France may veto future Irish access to funding from the ESM if the Irish Government refuses to raise corporation tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1041/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, on 11 July 2011, the 17 Euro Area Finance Ministers signed the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), subject to the completion of the necessary national parliamentary procedure and subsequent ratification. The text of the ESM Treaty agreed on 11 July 2011 provides that the ESM shall have a Board of Governors, that each ESM Member shall appoint a Governor and that, in terms of voting rules, certain decisions must be made by mutual agreement of the Board of Governors that is, requiring the unanimity of members participating in the vote. Decisions requiring the mutual agreement of the Board of Governors include the granting of financial assistance to an ESM member. The Board of Governors may take other decisions, which are set out in Article 5 of the Treaty, by qualified majority. In such cases, the voting rights of each ESM Member is equal to the number of shares allocated to it in the authorised capital stock of the ESM as set out in Annex II of the Treaty. In Ireland's case, this amounts to just under 1.6% of the total votes.

On 21 July 2011, the Heads of State or Government (HoSG) decided to increase the flexibility and scope of the European Financial Stability Facility and also grant the ESM the same powers i.e. to:

intervene in the primary market and secondary markets

act on the basis of a precautionary programme and

finance recapitalisations of financial institutions through loans to governments including in non-programme countries.

Discussions have been on going since July 2011 to incorporate these new powers into the ESM Treaty which has yet to be ratified and come into force.

As the Deputy will be aware, on 9 December 2011, the HoSG agreed on the acceleration of the entry into force of the ESM Treaty — aiming for the ESM to come into force in July 2012. The HoSG also agreed on adjustments to the ESM Treaty to make it more effective including an amendment to the voting rules to provide for an emergency procedure. This emergency procedure involves replacing the mutual agreement rule by a qualified majority of 85% in cases where the European Commission and the ECB conclude that an urgent decision related to financial assistance is needed when the financial and economic sustainability of the euro area is threatened. At the meeting on 9 December, the Finnish Prime Minister indicated that his agreement to the emergency voting procedure was subject to confirmation by the Finnish Parliament.

The proposed 85% voting rule is restricted to the emergency procedure and if such procedure is invoked then ESM members with 15% of the voting rights would have the ability to veto any decision on granting emergency financial assistance to an ESM member. All other decisions on granting financial assistance however will still require the mutual agreement of the ESM's Board of Governors. In such cases, each and every ESM member could potentially veto a decision to grant financial assistance. Different parliamentary procedures across the Euro Area can result in it taking considerable time to reach mutual agreement on decisions to grant assistance despite the financial and economic sustainability of the euro area being threatened. The emergency procedure will enable faster assistance to be provided where deemed necessary.

Ireland's Corporation Tax rate of 12.5% is critical to our economy. Tax issues are decided by unanimity. The issue of potential threat to our corporate tax rate in the context of discussions on the ESM Treaty does not arise.

Pension Provisions

Nicky McFadden

Question:

99 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the position regarding the payment of local authority pensions from the Paymaster General’s Office (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1043/12]

As part of the move to the greater use of shared services in the public sector in order to drive efficiencies, the Paymaster General's Office, which is part of my Department, is taking over the payment, on an agency basis, of pensions of the retired staff of the Vocation Education Committees. Payment of these pensions was previously made through the local authorities. The Paymaster General's Office pays all pensions fortnightly on relevant Thursdays for the previous two weeks in arrears. The local authorities also pay pensions fortnightly, but their period of payment is for the two calendar weeks and, therefore, would contain an element of advance at the point of payment. In transferring to the Paymaster General's system, this element of advance payment was eliminated in the first fortnightly payment of pension. Thereafter pensions are paid for two weeks in arrears. No pensioner loses out as a result. Deductions, made by the Paymaster General's Office, from occupational pension payments, include Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR), Universal Social Contribution (USC) and Tax (PAYE).

As regards the matter of allowances, the Vocational Education Committee pensioners were transferred to the Paymaster General's system based on data supplied by the local authorities. The case mentioned by the Deputy has been investigated with the relevant local authority, and the pension payment rate in use by the Paymaster General's Office matches the rate previously payable by the Local Authority.

Redundancy Payments

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

100 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance further to the ongoing refusal of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, to release funds to pay the former employees of a company (details supplied), the contact there has been between him and NAMA and, in particular, the dedicated unit within his Department which liaises on a daily basis with NAMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1058/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

101 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance if he will make inquiries into any possible role he can play in facilitating a resolution of the dispute between the former employees of a company (details supplied), their employer and the National Asset Management Agency; if he will consider intervening in this matter to assist the former employees who are the innocent victims in this dispute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1059/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

115 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that a forensic examination of the accounts of a group of companies (details supplied) is carried out to ensure that workers are paid the redundancy payments to which they are entitled and to ensure that money or assets were not moved between legally separate companies within the group to frustrate the creditors of the company including the 32 workers who have been made redundant. [1308/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 101 and 115 together.

Every reasonable person sympathises with the employees arising from the failure of the company concerned and its shareholders to pay them their redundancy payments. While NAMA fully appreciates how difficult the situation is for the people who have lost their jobs, it advises me that it has no loans or relationship with the company which has failed to make the redundancy payments.

NAMA informs me that it was asked by the main shareholder to release funds from an unconnected company in which he is a shareholder. These funds are security for loans which a participating institution had lent to that company prior to NAMA being established and which later were transferred to NAMA. I am informed that the Agency carefully examined the request to release the funds. NAMA advises me that there is no legal basis for it using assets belonging to one company to make payments to another unrelated company with which it has no financial relationship, and that the sum of money which is the security for the loan must be used to help pay down that company's debt to the Irish taxpayer through NAMA. It would be inappropriate for me or my officials to attempt to interfere with the commercial decisions taken by the Board.

With regard to redundancy payments, it is the responsibility of an employer to pay statutory redundancy to all their eligible employees. An employer who pays statutory redundancy payments to their employees is then entitled to a rebate from the State of a percentage of the relevant amount. Responsibility for the processing of claims under the Redundancy Payments Scheme rests with the Department of Social Protection. Where an employer can prove to the satisfaction of the Department of Social Protection that they are unable to pay the statutory redundancy to their employees, the Department will make lump sum payments directly to the employees and will seek to recover the debt from the employer. To prove inability to pay the employer must submit documentary evidence to confirm that this is the position. It is therefore a matter for the Department of Social Protection to satisfy itself that this arises and that there are insufficient funds within that company to make redundancy payments.

Finally, with regard to the request for a forensic examination of the group of companies, NAMA informs me that there is no legal basis for the Agency to carry out any analysis of the accounts of a company with which it has no formal relationship.

National Asset Management Agency

Terence Flanagan

Question:

102 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to reduce the salaries being paid by the National Asset Management Agency to property developers in view of the economic difficulties being experienced by most households; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1082/12]

Both the Chairman of NAMA and I have separately explained on several occasions over the past few months that NAMA decides whether or not to work with any particular debtor on the basis of what will generate the maximum return for the taxpayer. NAMA only works with developers where it considers that this will provide the best return to the taxpayer. NAMA will continue to make its decisions on a case-by-case basis in line with its commercial mandate. I understand from NAMA that, as part of its business plan agreements with debtors, it normally looks for and obtains a reduction of 50% to 75% in overhead costs and that any remuneration paid to debtors is payable from this much-reduced budget. The fact that NAMA has had to take enforcement action in 99 cases so far shows that many developers are unwilling to work with NAMA because they consider the agency's terms and conditions to be too onerous.

NAMA has been established as a fully commercial agency to operate under the direction of a Board of Directors. As long as NAMA operates in accordance with statute, it would be inappropriate for me or my officials to attempt to interfere with the commercial decisions taken by the Board. On the basis of the information received from NAMA, I am satisfied that the Agency is acting appropriately in this matter and seeking to protect taxpayer's interests.

Revenue Operations

Seán Kenny

Question:

103 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of filling stations seized by Revenue Commissioners for selling illegal diesel and petrol for the years 2008 to 2011, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1090/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Year

Number of seizures of “illegal fuel” from filling stations

Litres of “illegal fuel” seized

2008

9

45,500

2009

7

31,040

2010

14

130,100

2011

53

299,357

I would add that in 2011 a total of 32 filling stations were "shut down" by Revenue for unlicensed trading.

Tax Reliefs

Dan Neville

Question:

104 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the legacy property based tax relief schemes for the high income earners, particularly section 23 type reliefs. [1118/12]

I announced two proposals in Budget 2012 relating to "legacy" property-based tax relief schemes in line with the Programme for Government commitment to reduce, cap or abolish such reliefs which benefit very high income earners. The Budget measures comprise: a property reliefs surcharge and a cap on Accelerated Capital Allowance Schemes.

Virtually all the area-based and property tax incentive schemes have ended. However, there is still a significant on-going legacy cost to the Exchequer as the various tax reliefs which were originally given, are gradually being used up by investors. The Budget 2012 measures are aimed at curtailing this legacy cost and bringing it to an end in a shorter time period.

The measures reflect the Government's belief that large scale investors in property that attracts tax reliefs can and should make more of a contribution.

With effect from 1 January 2012, a USC surcharge will be introduced on all investors with annual gross incomes over €100,000. The surcharge will apply at a rate of 5% on the amount of income sheltered by property reliefs in a given year and will be in addition to any normal USC payable on this income. This USC surcharge will apply to all investors with this level of gross income regardless of whether they invested in Section 23 type investments or accelerated capital allowance schemes.

In addition, investors in accelerated capital allowance schemes will no longer be able to use any capital allowances beyond the tax life of the particular scheme where that tax life ends after 1 January 2015. Where the tax life of a scheme has ended before 1 January 2015 no carry forward of allowances into 2015 will be allowed. The delayed implementation of this measure is designed to give individuals time to adjust to the absence of the carry forward provision.

Full details of both measures will be contained in the Finance Bill 2012.

Nicky McFadden

Question:

105 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of the concession provided by section 76 of the Finance Act 1982 which provides for VAT relief in respect of the purchase of certain services; the reason this relief was introduced; and if those reasons continue to justify the provisions of the section. [1137/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 76 of the Finance Act 1982 inserted a new subsection in what is now Section 28(2) of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010. The measure dealt with the VAT treatment of the supply of services by barristers. When a barrister supplies a service he or she is not legally entitled to receive a fee in respect of that supply, even though appropriate steps may be taken at the time to secure payment. Accordingly, for VAT purposes, no part of the fee charged to the client may be regarded as consideration, which the barrister "becomes entitled to receive" in accordance with section 37(1) of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010, and no liability to tax arises by virtue only of the supply of the service. Thus, section 28(2) of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 provides that a barrister's service is deemed to take place for VAT purposes when the consideration for the service is paid to him or her. Accordingly, a barrister will have no liability to VAT until he or she has both supplied a service and has been paid in respect of that supply. Also, the obligation to issue an invoice for the supply under section 66(1) of the VAT Consolidation Act does not arise until those two conditions have been fulfilled. In effect, the barrister operates VAT on a cash receipts basis. There is no cost, as such, to this measure, as the barrister must account for VAT when he or she has been paid in respect of a supply.

Tax Code

John Lyons

Question:

106 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the current difficulties faced by licensed bus owners, specifically those who operate school transport; if he will consider designating this service as zero rate VAT as opposed to the current exempt status in view of the fact that this would put operators on a par with UK and Northern Ireland counterparts who are gradually entering the market here; failing that, if he will introduce a mechanism to replace the fuel rebate to school transport operators which was discontinued two years ago. [1138/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the transport of passengers and their accompanying baggage is exempt from VAT under Paragraph 14(3) Schedule 1, Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act, 2010. All domestic VAT legislation must comply with EU legislation, in particular the EU VAT Directive. The exemption for passenger transport is provided by means of Article 371 of the VAT Directive which allows Member States to continue to exempt certain supplies which were exempt in the Member State at 1 January 1978, but only in accordance with the same conditions that applied on that date. References in the VAT Directive to "exempt" include both exempt without deductibility and exempt with deductibility. Exempt with deductibility is known as "zero-rated" in Irish VAT legislation. Passenger transport was exempt (without deductibility) in Ireland on 1 January 1978. The requirement that the exemption may continue, in accordance with the conditions that applied on 1 January 1978, means it would not now be possible to apply zero-rating (exemption with deductibility) to passenger transport.

The provision of a school transport service is exempt from VAT. A person who provides a school transport service does not register for VAT and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services used for the purposes of the person's school transport service.

UK passenger transport operators who establish their businesses in Ireland are subject to the same VAT rules as Irish operators. They are exempt and not entitled to deductibility in respect of VAT incurred. UK passenger transport operators who are not established in the State are not entitled to any refund of VAT incurred in this State for the purposes of carrying out passenger transport activities. UK established operators may be entitled to deductibility in the UK in relation to VAT incurred in that jurisdiction but under the terms of the VAT Directive that entitlement should only apply to the extent that the VAT is incurred for the purposes of making taxable (including zero-rated) supplies in the UK.

A derogation under EU Directive 2003/96 on Energy Taxation allowed the application of a reduced rate of Mineral Oil Tax to fuel used for the purposes of certain road passenger services. That derogation has expired and was terminated by the Finance Act 2008. It would not be possible, having regard to the relevant provisions of EU law, to re-introduce a scheme of that nature for those services.

Simon Harris

Question:

107 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance if he is considering measures to increase the level of VAT compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1142/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the overall approach to tackling compliance is to examine all the risks to the Exchequer and to make the appropriate intervention in a carefully selected case. The appropriate intervention is the one considered to be the most effective in targeting the specific risk or risks identified, and to influence the compliance behaviour of the taxpayer. By carefully selecting the cases for intervention, and carefully choosing the type of intervention, Revenue maximise the use of resources, and minimise the compliance burden on compliant taxpayers. Accordingly the focus may vary from a comprehensive look at all the taxes and duties for which a taxpayer may be liable, to a detailed look at a single tax-head, such as VAT, or to a concentration on a single issue of concern. The targeted approach is greatly supported and enhanced with appropriate technology, including Risk Evaluation Analysis and Profiling — REAP, integrated capturing of information from multiple sources, and integrated case management systems that facilitate case selection, provide invaluable information for evaluating our programmes, track the progress of cases and record the risks identified and examined.

REAP, developed by Revenue, categorises taxpayers in accordance with defined risk criteria. Risk criteria in relation to VAT feature prominently in REAP. The system allows for the screening of all tax returns against sectorial and business norms and provides a selection basis for checks or audits. This effectively means that 100% of self-assessed taxpayers will be risk assessed at least once a year. REAP contains considerable information on all self-assessed taxpayers, including those registered for VAT.

Revenue's recently published Headline Results for 2011 show that they carried out 11,066 audits, yielding €414.9m across the taxheads. They also conducted 546,499 assurance checks yielding €67.9m. In 2011 Revenue intensified its efforts to tackle the shadow economy. This included a range of compliance programmes aimed at the riskiest sectors. These were predominantly cash businesses and included sectors such as the hospitality sector and white-collar businesses. The results from these programmes are included in the overall compliance results for the year.

Revenue implements a range of compliance programmes to ensure that tax revenues, including VAT, are collected on time, bearing in mind that a shortfall in revenue or delays in collection impact on the level and timeliness of financial resources available to the Government and adds to the level of Government borrowing and public debt interest. A delay in collection also facilitates those who by withholding tax payments and using those monies to improve cash flow, attempt to secure unfair competitive advantage.

Revenue has a strong focus on making sure that everyone complies with their tax and duty responsibilities by filing the required tax return and paying the right amount of tax on time. Revenue expects businesses, notwithstanding the difficult economic circumstances in which they are operating, to maintain a clear focus and organise their financial affairs to ensure that tax debts are paid as they fall due. The majority of businesses meet their obligations in a timely fashion.

Revenue considers that the current rates of voluntary compliance by taxpayers with their obligations to file and pay their VAT 3 Returns are quite satisfactory, particularly in relation to the higher value payment cases. The following table provides details of the compliance rates achieved for 2011 (to end November 2011):

VAT Compliance Levels to November 2011

Due Month

One Month after Due Month

Large

94%

99%

Medium

86%

97%

Other

62%

78%

In the table, "Large" represents businesses with an annual tax liability of greater than €500,000 and "Medium" represents businesses with an annual tax liability between €75,000 and €500,000. In this regard, annual tax liability is a weighted mixture of ‘fiduciary' taxes (VAT, Employer PAYE/PRSI, RCT) and corporate/personal income tax.

Revenue's debt collection programmes operate on an integrated cross-taxhead risk focused basis. A range of collection enforcement options, including referrals to sheriffs and external solicitors, and attachment of third party debt are available in order to recover tax debts from those who refuse to pay the correct amount of tax on a timely basis. Revenue also imposes interest charges on taxpayers who consistently pay their taxes late, in order to influence their payment behaviour and move them back to timely compliance.

Departmental Properties

Dara Calleary

Question:

108 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance his view that he or any agency funded by him who own properties in office complexes in which a management company is in place, should take an active role in the running of such management companies including the appointment of a nominee to the board of the company in order to protect the investment of taxpayers’ money. [1153/12]

In response to the Deputy's question my Department and agencies under the remit of my Department do not own properties in office complexes in which a management company is in place.

Tax Collection

Peter Mathews

Question:

109 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his plans to take consideration of small investors with high debts and low incomes who do not have any legacy relief shelter in the Finance Act; if he will amend the 25% interest deductibility restriction that applies since 7 April 2009 for these persons in view of the fact that it is forcing highly indebted investors towards insolvency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1215/12]

The interest restriction on residential landlords introduced in the April 2009 supplementary budget was part of an urgent revenue-raising package aimed at stabilising the public finances. The reduction in the level at which interest could be claimed significantly reduced the cost of this relief to the Exchequer. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of tax foregone in 2009 (the latest year available) by allowing a deduction for interest on borrowings to be offset against all rental income assessable under Case V, Schedule D for both residential and commercial property was estimated at €745 million. This is a substantial outlay and increasing the relief for residential properties to 100% could result in an additional cost to the Exchequer of the order of €100 million per annum.

The context in which the 2009 measure was introduced, i.e. the need to stabilise public expenditure, still exists. Under the terms of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland, the State is committed to further substantial decreases in public expenditure. Against a backdrop of significant reductions in tax expenditures in many areas to broaden the tax base, a 25% restriction on the allowable interest available to residential landlords does not seem an unreasonable measure and I have no plans to reverse the 2009 Act provision.

Tax Code

Seán Kyne

Question:

110 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Finance if consideration will be given to extending the very welcome measure contained in budget 2012 on mortgage interest relief for those persons who purchased homes between 2004 and 2008 to those who purchased in 2009 and who now find themselves in financial difficulty, exacerbated by the decrease in the property value of their home. [1261/12]

As I stated in my Budget speech, the Government has now fulfilled its commitment contained in the Programme for Government to increase the rate of mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first-time buyers who took out their first mortgage in the period 2004 to 2008. I will be looking at the technical detail of how this will operate in the preparation of the Finance Bill.

Mortgage Arrears Working Group

Simon Harris

Question:

111 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the action that has been taken to date to assist those in mortgage arrears following on from the publication of the report of the interdepartmental mortgage arrears working group; the timeline in which he expects recommendations from these reports to be acted upon, information on co-ordination of efforts between him and other Departments in an effort to enact some of the recommendations of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1266/12]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

119 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made regarding the implementation of the strategic approach suggested by the interdepartmental mortgage arrears working group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1408/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 119 together.

Last October the Government published the Report of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Mortgage Arrears and, as the Deputies are aware, the Report was subsequently the subject of an extensive Dáil debate.

The implementation of the report's recommendations is a key part of the Government's ongoing efforts to tackle mortgage difficulty.

A Steering Group, chaired by a Second Secretary General in my Department, has been established to oversee and drive the overall implementation of the report's recommendations and to report regularly to the Economic Management Council and to Government on this. In addition to the Department of Finance, the Steering Group also consists of senior representation from the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Justice and Equality, Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform. The Central Bank is also represented on the Group.

Separate working groups have also been established to progress the individual work streams of this broad work area and these groups report to the overall Steering Group. Additionally, a dedicated team is being established in my Department, with resources drawn from the relevant Government Departments, to progress the relevant initiatives. This will be supplemented, as necessary, with additional legal, financial and technical expertise as the implementation work proceeds.

Significant progress has already been achieved across a number of the individual work areas.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has produced an initial General Scheme of a Personal Insolvency Bill. This is being finalized for consideration by Government this month before it is available for publication. The General Scheme will propose solutions to the sensitive issue of finding the right balance for resolving problems with secured debt.

On "mortgage to rent", the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government has advanced work with a bank and social housing association to pilot a scheme in order to test the practicality associated with such a measure in advance of a wider roll out.

Regarding the engagement with the banks, the Central Bank, as the regulator of credit institutions, has now received mortgage arrears resolution strategies and implementation plans from all mortgage lenders and these are being considered by the Central Bank.

Finally, work has commenced on the necessary steps to put in place the mortgage advisory function as recommended by the Inter-Departmental group.

The Government has also indicated that, in its ongoing consideration of appropriate measures to address this problem, it will take careful note of the suggestions made by Deputies and also by outside groups.

It is the Government's intention to continue to work intensively on this matter and to significantly further advance all these work measures in the early part of 2012.

Bank Drafts

Billy Timmins

Question:

112 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance his plans to deal with bank drafts which have remained uncashed for an unacceptable time period; if his attention has been drawn to the amount of uncashed bank drafts that are five years or older. [1277/12]

I am advised by the Central Bank that it is a matter for the payee when he or she wishes to cash a bank draft. I have no knowledge of the number or amount of bank drafts that remain uncashed for five years or longer.

Departmental Expenditure

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

113 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the total amount of money spent by the State on rental of buildings and lands and the rental of office equipment and leasing of office equipment; and his policy on the acquisition of lands, buildings and equipment as opposed to leasing them. [1294/12]

The Office of Public Works is involved in most purchases and leasing of buildings and lands by the State. In relation to any property occupied by the Department of Finance, this Department would always consult with the OPW before any agreements are entered into with landlords. My Department owns most equipment in use in this Department. However some equipment can only be leased. An example of this would be the landline phone system.

Tax Yield

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

114 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the total amount of taxation in all forms taken from motorists in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1295/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the revenue accruing to the Exchequer through various motor taxes i.e. excise and carbon tax on petrol and auto-diesel, vehicle registration tax and VAT, from 2009 to date is shown in the following table. As VAT receipts are not disaggregated by sector, the figures shown for VAT are estimated. VAT figures for 2011 are not yet available. Please note that 2011 figures are provisional and subject to change.

2009

2010

2011 Prov

Mineral Oil Tax

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

1,075

982

989

Auto Diesel

1,061

1,040

1,085

Total

2,136

2,022

2,074

VRT

375

383

387

VAT (estimate)

637

769

N/a

Carbon Tax on petrol and auto-diesel

164

158

In addition, I am advised by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government that gross receipts from motor tax (including driver licensing receipts) for 2009, 2010 and 2011 are as follows:

2009 — €1,057.8m

2010 — €1,023.8m

2011 — €1,010.4m.

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 100.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

116 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of income earned, according to information available to the Revenue Commissioners, in tabular form under the headings (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1328/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested, estimated by reference to the income tax year 2011, is set out in the following table. However, because of the Revenue Commissioners' obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of individual taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers, the breakdown by income bands requested by the Deputy is not provided in relation to incomes exceeding €2 million due to the small numbers of income earners with incomes in excess of that level. The figures for numbers of income earners with incomes above €100,000 are distributed in income bands that are wider than €10,000 because of the relatively fewer numbers at the various income levels in that income category.

All income earners for Income Tax Year 2011 (provisional)

Income €

Number

0 — 10,000

394,931

10,001 — 20,000

384,388

20,001 — 30,000

385,744

30,001 — 40,000

293,428

40,001 — 50,000

204,850

50,001 — 60,000

137,311

60,001 — 70,000

94,466

70,001 — 80,000

68,362

80,001 — 90,000

47,247

90,001 — 100,000

32,818

100,001 — 125,000

47,941

125,001 — 150,000

22,950

150,001 — 175,000

11,746

175,001 — 200,000

6,910

200,001 — 250,000

7,942

250001 — 300,000

4,226

300,001 — 350,000

2,563

350,001 — 400,000

1,601

400,001 — 450,000

1,126

450,001 — 500,000

788

500,001 — 750,000

2,000

750,001 — 1,000,000

626

1,000,001 — 2,000,000

519

Over 2,000,000

117

Total

2,154,599

It should be noted that the income ranges shown in the above table relate to Gross Income as defined in Revenue Statistical Report 2010.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends in the interim. These are, therefore, provisional and likely to be revised. It should also be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Departmental Agencies

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

117 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the number of State agencies currently financed by the Exchequer; the number of board members attending each State agency; the expenses issued for each meeting; if any review of the membership of board members is to be taken in order to monitor attendance levels or lack of attendance by any member; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1363/12]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to agencies under the remit of my department is as follows:

National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA)

There are 5 Boards coming under the NMTA as outlined in the following table.

Please note that, in line with paragraph 3.8 of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, attendance at meetings of the National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee, the State Claims Agency Policy Committee, the National Development Finance Agency Board, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission and the National Asset Management Agency Board is published in the relevant Annual Report of the body concerned.

Board/Body Name

No of board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

Up to 7 Board members.Currently 1 vacancy

Chair €50,000.Agreed to make a gift of 10% of 2009 remuneration to the Minister for Finance under s483 of the Taxes Consolidation Act.Ordinary Members €25,000.Agreed to make a gift of 10% of remuneration to the Minister for Finance under s483 of the Taxes Consolidation Act from 1 January 2009.Secretary General Department of Finance receives no fee in respect of his membership.A total of €25,318 in expenses was paid to Advisory Committee members in 2010 reflecting travel and accommodation expenses incurred by non-Irish based members.

National Development Finance Agency (NDFA)

Up to 8 Board members.

Chairman, as an ex-officio member, receives no fee.Ordinary Members €12,600 p.a.2 members (Chief Executive of the NTMA and the Chief Executive Officer of the NDFA) receive no fees in respect of their membership.A total of €2,104 in expenses was paid to board members in 2010 primarily reflecting travel expenses.

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

Up to 7 Board members

Chair €51,424.Ordinary members €34,283.One member (Chief Executive of the NTMA) receives no fee in respect of his membership.A total of €15,554 in expenses was paid to commissioners in 2010 reflecting travel and accommodation expenses incurred by non-Irish based members.

National Asset Management Agency

Up to 9 board membersCurrently 2 vacancies

The Chairman receives a fee of €150,000, six members receive fees of €60,000 each per annum while one member (also Chairman of the Credit Committee) receives a fee of €75,000 per annum. Each member of the NAMA Board also chairs or is a member of various NAMA Board committees. Their fees associated with these committees are included in the above.2 ex-officio members (Chief Executive of the NTMA and the Chief Executive Officer of NAMA), receive no fees in respect of their membership.A total of €36,246 in expenses was paid to board and committee members in 2010 primarily reflecting travel and accommodation expenses of a member not based in Ireland.

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

Up to 7 Board membersCurrently 2 vacancies

Chair €13,713 p.a.Ordinary members €9,142 p.a.2 members (serving civil servants) do not receive fees in respect of their membership.A total of €270 in expenses was paid to committee members in 2010 in respect of travel costs.

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

The Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal comprises a Chairperson and a panel of members (doctors) who are appointed by the Minister for Finance on the nomination of the Minister for Health. The Chairperson is also a consultant in the NRH and the Department of Finance recoups her salary costs to the NRH.

Board/Body Name

No of board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

The Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

There are currently 5 panel members

In addition to the Chairperson, two doctors from the panel attend each Appeal Board sitting. Those two doctors receive a session rate of €660 per doctor per hearing since November 2007. This rate was reduced by 8% with effect from 1 March 2009 to €607.20 in line with the Government Decision of 3 February 2009. The overall amount paid to these doctors is reasonably low; for example in 2010 the total amount paid to those doctors combined was around €21,860 in session fees, €5,635 in locum payments and €1,691 in travel and expenses.

No review has been carried out, but panel members are only paid if they attend an appeal hearing.

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited

Board/Body Name

No of board members

Remuneration details in respect of board members and board chairpersons

Irish BankResolution Corporation Limited

There are currently 8 board members of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited.

2011 expenses in the amount of €1,758.21 have been incurred in respect of Directors attendance at meetings, including in some cases costs in respect for attendance via conference call. This relates to 2 board members.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

118 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding mortgage interest relief in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1407/12]

As I stated in my Budget speech, the Government has now fulfilled its commitment contained in the Programme for Government to increase the rate of mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first-time buyers who took out their first mortgage in the period 2004 to 2008. I will be looking at the technical detail of how this will operate in the preparation of the Finance Bill.

Question No. 119 answered with Question No. 111.

Liquor Licences

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

120 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of pub licences that were refused in the years 2007 to 2011, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1424/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are responsible for the administration of the issue or renewal of public house licences. The numbers of licences issued for each of the calendar years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 to date are set out below. Please note that the licensing year runs from the 1st October to the 30th September.

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

No. Issued

No. Issued

No. Issued

No. Issued

No. Issued

Publicans:

Full

9,402

8,857

9,067

8,393

8,509

Six-Day

7

2

13

10

11

Early-Closing

Six-Day and Early-Closing

9

8

2

2

3

Additional Duty — No. issued

Total

9,418

8,867

9,082

8,405

8,523

The Revenue Commissioners may only facilitate the issue of a licence when the appropriate certificate has been issued by a District Court and certain conditions, as set down in the legislation, are met. These include:

Valid, Original Court Certificate (New Licensee)

Valid Tax Clearance Certificate

Short Certificate of Incorporation (if Licensee is a company)

Certificate of Registration of Business Name

The Revenue Commissioners facilitate the issue of publican licences on the instruction of the Court Certificate and therefore the right of refusal to apply for a licence rests with the Court. Accordingly the Revenue Commissioners do not record the numbers of refusals in any particular period.

Banking Sector Regulation

Peter Mathews

Question:

121 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, despite passing on the recent ECB interest rate reductions, Permanent TSB charges the highest standard variable rate mortgage; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that Permanent TSB increased its standard variable rate four times between July 2009 and February 2011 even though the ECB did not adjust interest rates in this period; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that this high interest rate is forcing some customers to restructure their mortgages and forcing other customers into arrears on their mortgages; his plans to ensure that banks cannot charge excessive rates on standard variable mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1428/12]

I am aware of the interest rates charged by Permanent TSB. However the lending institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, are independent commercial entities. Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each lending institution, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each lending institution, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

I have no responsibility for any increases/decreases in the variable mortgage rates charged by Permanent TSB.

The Deputy will be aware of the report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mortgage Arrears which was published last October. The report sets out a number of recommendations to address the situation of those in mortgage arrears. The report stated that the issue of mortgage difficulty can only be addressed in an efficient way on a case by case basis. Arising from the report, a number of developments are underway that will be of assistance to mortgage holders experiencing significant difficulty.

Personal Debt

Peter Mathews

Question:

122 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties faced by young couples who bought apartments in recent years that are now too small because they are now raising children; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that these couples are unable to move to a larger property because they are in severe negative equity; his plans to allow families in this situation to carry their negative equity with them into their next mortgage on a larger property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1449/12]

I am aware of the difficulties that the Deputy refers to in his question. In that regard, the Central Bank has advised me that they wrote to all mortgage lenders to ascertain whether they were offering, or intended to offer, a mortgage product that would allow home owners to sell their existing home and transfer the negative equity portion of the original loan to the new loan. In response to the Central Bank's letter, only a small number of mortgage lenders said that they would consider offering such a facility. A trial period commenced in mid-2011 and was due to be assessed by the Central Bank and the institutions involved before the end of 2011. However, the low level of activity made it difficult to conduct a meaningful review at the end of 2011. Therefore, the proposed review will not take place until later this year.

Any institution offering such a mortgage facility may do so only in accordance with criteria agreed with the Central Bank. In the circumstances, any further consideration of introducing this facility may only be undertaken on completion of the Central Bank's review.

Tax Code

Jack Wall

Question:

123 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the entitlement of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the person is entitled to claims through their partner for themselves and their children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1493/12]

The position is that the married person's tax credit is only available where the persons concerned are married, or are registered as civil partners under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 and are jointly assessed to tax. The Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 only applies to same sex couples. Where the individuals concerned are cohabiting, without being married or being registered under the Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 there is no entitlement to the married tax credit. The one-parent family tax credit is not available to cohabiting individuals, to a married couple jointly assessed to tax, or to individuals where their civil partnership is registered and they are jointly assessed to tax.

Tax relief is available to the person concerned through her partner for certain medical expenses incurred by the person concerned on her own and her children's behalf.

General Government Debt

Michael McGrath

Question:

124 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the outstanding General Government Debt as at 31 December 2011 or most recent available date; its composition in terms of Exchequer Debt, Retail Debt, Promissory Notes and EU/IMF obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1504/12]

The latest data for which the General Government Debt can be disaggregated is 30/09/2011. This estimate is produced by the Central Statistics Office using data from the NTMA and the Department of Finance. The CSO compiles quarterly estimates of General Government Debt one quarter in arrears. General Government Debt at 30 September 2011 is reported as EUR162 billion, of which EUR130 billion is Gross National Debt and EUR28 billion is debt outstanding on the promissory note.

The composition of the General Government Debt on 30 September is as follows:

Euro Billion

Government bonds

90

State savings (retail debt)1

14

Promissory note obligation

28

Debt to EFSM/EFSF/IMF

26

Other2

4

Total

162

1State savings are defined on page 10 of the NTMA Annual Report 2010

2‘Other’ includes accruals and debts of other General Government bodies

The Department of Finance estimate of General Government Debt for the end of 2011 is EUR167 billion or 107% of GDP. This forecast was given in the Budget 2012 publication and is the latest official estimate of General Government Debt. The estimate is based on the available data from the NTMA, the CSO and from within the Department.

Michael McGrath

Question:

125 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the change in the General Government Debt from December 2007 to December 2011; the way this is broken down between the building up of cash balances, paying for Government goods and services, and recapitalisation of the banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1505/12]

General Government Debt grew from 25% of GDP in 2007 to 107% of GDP in 2011. The change in nominal terms over the entire period is EUR119m. The official measures of General Government Debt for 2007 to 2010 are given in the table below, along with an estimate for 2011. These are based on data published by the CSO, the NTMA and Department of Finance. The estimate for 2011 is based on the Budget 2012 forecast of debt of 2011 at 107% of GDP and is based on the latest Department of Finance, CSO and NTMA data.

Table General Government Debt 2007-2011 (EURbn)

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

a

General governmentdebt

47.4

79.8

104.8

144.3

166.6

b

Change in gen gov debt

32.4

24.9

39.5

22.3

c

Change in cash balances

17.6

-0.2

-9.2*

-1.3

d

Net bank recapitalisation (direct from Exchequer)

0

4

0.7

6.6

e

Bank recapitalisation (promissory notes)

0

0

30.9

-2.5

f

Other net borrowing of General Govern [=b-(c+d+e)]

14.9

21.1

17.1

19.3

*In this table the change in cash balances in 2010 includes EUR3.6bn spent on the purchase of HFA commercial paper by the NTMA

Rounding may affect totals

The change in debt over the entire period can be broken down as follows:

(c) EUR7bn is due to a build-up of cash balances;

(d) EUR11bn is due to bank recapitalisation of certain banks;

(e) the obligation of the promissory notes (used for recapitalisation of Anglo Irish Bank, INBS and EBS) added EUR31bn to our debt in 2010, of which EUR3bn is paid off in 2011;

(f) other net borrowing including exchequer items, not already included in d and e, and payment for goods and services by other general government bodies added EUR73bn to the debt.

Please note that bank recapitalisations paid out of NPRF funds (amounting to EUR 20.7 billion over the period) does not add to General Government Debt, as no new liabilities are incurred.

Tax Yield

Michael McGrath

Question:

126 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the approximate number of litres of agricultural diesel which qualified for tax relief sold in the State in each of the past three years; the approximate number of litres of fully duty paid auto diesel and petrol sold in the State in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1510/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to identify agricultural diesel separately but the figures for Marked Gas Oil (MGO), which is mainly used for agriculture, industrial and heating purposes are given below. It should be noted that 2011 figures are provisional and subject to change.

2009

2010

2011(Prov)

Litres(’000)

Litres(’000)

Litres(’000)

MGO

1,274,063

1,225,893

1,155,000

Petrol

2,117,045

1,930,180

1,829,000

Auto-diesel

2,714,350

2,559,664

2,560,000

Michael McGrath

Question:

127 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he is concerned by reports that the laundering of agricultural diesel is resulting in a substantial loss of revenue to the Exchequer; if he has given consideration to introducing a rebate scheme to replace the current system; if he intends to bring forward alternative proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1511/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of mineral oil tax and for tackling the illicit trade in mineral oil products, that they are acutely aware of the various illegal activities that lead to loss to the Exchequer of mineral oil tax. The most serious risk in this regard is the large scale laundering of markers from mineral oil which is subject to a reduced rate of mineral oil tax on condition that it is not used in road vehicles. The Deputy will appreciate that, due to its nature, it is impossible to provide a reliably accurate estimate of the extent of any illegal activity. Revenue employs a broad range of compliance and enforcement strategies to detect and counteract illegal practices involving mineral oils. These include ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem; development and sharing of intelligence with agencies on both sides of the border; the conduct of intelligence driven operations using covert surveillance to identify oil laundry locations; seizure of illicit product, laundering equipment and vehicles; physical sampling at road checkpoints; and prosecution of those involved in illegal activities in relation to mineral oils.

In 2010, Revenue enforcement staff detected four oil-laundering plants in this jurisdiction and seized 228,000 litres of laundered oil. In addition, nine retailers were found dealing in laundered oil and eight haulage companies were detected using it in their vehicles. There were four court convictions in 2010 for laundered oil offences.

In 2011 nine oil laundries and 327,000 litres of laundered fuel were seized, together with nine oil tankers and twenty-nine other vehicles. Sixteen persons were arrested in the course of these operations and files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who has to date issued directions to prosecute on indictment in respect of two of the cases. In addition, a further 718,181 litres of illicit mineral oil has been seized, the large majority from retail outlets or in the course of delivery to such outlets.

Revenue is currently reviewing its enforcement options, to ensure that its action against this illegal activity continues to be as effective as possible. The matters being addressed include the potential development of an enhanced fuel marker. In this regard, close liaison has been established with HM Revenue & Customs. Consideration is being given also, in the context of the forthcoming Finance Bill, to possible changes in the law, particularly from the point of view of the control of the supply of oil, which would enhance the capacity to combat this illegality.

It is assumed that the Deputy's question envisages a movement away from the current system of marking of oil to which a reduced rate of tax applies to one in which certain users would be given refunds of part of the mineral oil tax paid by them in respect of fuel used for non-auto purposes. This would, however, involve the establishment of an extensive repayments system, which would give rise to a significant administrative burden and costs for oil traders, users and Revenue, as well as posing significant cash-flow costs for those who currently use marked oil. Moreover, repayment systems are vulnerable to abuse and would be likely to be targeted by criminal elements such as those currently involved in oil laundering. It has to be borne in mind also that, even if there were a move to a repayments system, those involved would still have the possibility of sourcing UK marked oil for laundering. A move away from marking could only be considered, therefore, if the UK were to do likewise.

For those reasons, it is not clear that a repayment system would be less susceptible to fraud. The intention, therefore, is to ensure that controls relating to the sale and distribution of oils, and enforcement action for combating laundering, are as effective as possible.

Electronic Payments

Michael McGrath

Question:

128 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the way further progress can be made on reducing cash usage and increasing electronic payments; when the National Payments Implementation Plan will be launched; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1512/12]

In June 2009 the National Payments Implementation Plan Advisory Group presented my predecessor with recommendations for a proposed new Payments Task Force to develop a strong, shared commitment to implementing a modern, efficient payments environment, driven by the requisite leadership and investment from key stakeholders. The Advisory Group also recommended that a national payments plan should be designed to secure a decisive shift to electronic payments resulting in a reduced usage of cash and cheques as well as a significant reduction in the level of financial exclusion. As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland has lagged significantly behind our European peers in the use of cheaper, more efficient electronic payment instruments. This is not only a competitiveness issue for Ireland, but our dependence on paper-based payments has social costs and also has implications for consumer choice and for financial inclusion. In addition, it has the potential to significantly impede Ireland's ability to take advantage of the foreign direct investment and indigenous growth opportunities that are likely to materialise from the advent of new technologies and from recent changes in the EU regulatory framework for payments.

Arising from the report of the Advisory Group, in June of last year, I asked the Central Bank to take a lead role in preparing a National Payments Plan for Government consideration and approval. I consider that the Central Bank is well placed for such a role given its existing role as overseer of Irish payment systems, including in this capacity its general obligation to promote the efficiency of the Irish payment system. I understand the Bank has appointed a project manager to drive the preparation of the Plan and has convened a high level steering group to oversee this work, comprising representatives of consumers, businesses, the banking sector and the public sector. The Bank has also, over the last number of months, been engaged in a process of consultation with a broad range of stakeholders as well as undertaking the research that will be required to underpin a National Payments Plan. I am informed by the Bank that it expects to submit a draft National Payments Plan to me before the end of this year.

Tax Yield

Michael McGrath

Question:

129 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has held discussions with his counterpart in the Northern Ireland Executive on the best way to tackle the problem of cross-Border fuel smuggling and the consequent loss of Exchequer revenue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1513/12]

This issue is under ongoing discussion with the Northern Ireland authorities. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of mineral oil tax and for tackling the illicit trade in fuel products, that they are aware of the threat to the Exchequer posed by laundered fuel. The predominant illicit activity in the mineral oil area in both Northern Ireland and the Republic is the laundering of marked diesel and its sale through illegal outlets. In both jurisdictions the respective difference in excise rates between marked (rebated) and normal diesel offers a considerable incentive for oil laundering and this illicit activity poses a serious threat to the Exchequer and the economy on both sides of the border. Revenue employs a broad range of compliance and enforcement strategies to detect and counteract illegal practices involving mineral oils. These include ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem; development and sharing of intelligence with agencies on both sides of the border; the conduct of intelligence driven operations using covert surveillance to identify oil laundry locations; seizure of illicit product, laundering equipment and vehicles; physical sampling at road checkpoints; closure of unlicensed or improperly licensed outlets and seizure of stock and prosecution of those involved in illegal activities in relation to mineral oils.

Revenue is currently engaged in a vigorous campaign targeting specific locations nationwide, with the intention of immediate closure of unlicensed outlets and the challenging of other instances of non-compliance. As part of this drive, warning letters have been issued to unlicensed retail outlets and a number of these have been effectively closed down by the actions of Revenue enforcement teams. This campaign is ongoing and Revenue is in the process of seizing illicit product and closing down a further number of unlicensed or otherwise illegal retail outlets.

Revenue continuously keeps under review the effectiveness of legislation and regulations in relation to combating the illicit trade in mineral oil. This includes reviewing powers, penalties, etc, and making recommendations to my Department where legislative amendments are required. The ongoing review of effectiveness includes consideration of alternative approaches, as referred to by the Deputy, to tackling the illicit removal of fuel marker. General consideration has been given, in this context, to a rebate system. However, Revenue advises me that such a system would pose different problems. It would involve the establishment of a very extensive repayment system, giving rise to a very significant administrative burden for oil traders, consumers and for Revenue and would pose significant cash-flow difficulties for those who currently use marked gas oil. Repayment regimes are vulnerable to abuse and liable to be exploited by criminal elements, such as those currently involved in fuel laundering.

Revenue is currently reviewing its enforcement options in the context of reductions in the sulphur content of some fuels that have been introduced under recent EU environment legislation. The matters being addressed include the potential development of an enhanced fuel marker. In this regard, close liaison has been established with HM Revenue & Customs. Revenue is also considering strengthening the Regulations governing the keeping for sale of fuel products and a renewed focus on links in the laundered fuel supply chain.

Banks Recapitalisation

Michael McGrath

Question:

130 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the gross cost to date of the bank recapitalisation; the breakdown of this between cash injections from the Exchequer and the National Pensions Reserve Fund to date; the outstanding balance on the promissory notes; the amount received to date by the Exchequer under the financial support scheme and the eligible institutions guarantee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1516/12]

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.

The legal amount due on the Promissory notes at this point is €28.1bn.

Fees received to date since the introduction of the Credit Institutions Financial Support Scheme (CIFS) in September 2008 and the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee Scheme (ELG) which supersedes CIFS amount in total to €2.58bn including accrued interest.

Pension Provisions

Billy Timmins

Question:

131 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance when the issue of non-payment of tax on some private pensions came to light; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1611/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no issue of non-payment of tax on private pensions. The issue which is currently topical relates to the payment of tax on Department of Social Protection Pensions. In September 2011, under the auspices of a High Level Group of officials charged with ensuring ever closer working between the Department of Social Protection and Revenue, work commenced on looking afresh at data holdings in both organisations which had not previously been exchanged and which, with improvements in technology, could now be exchanged.

Subsequently, under its existing data exchange arrangements with the Department of Social Protection (DSP), information relating to long-term social welfare recipients was received by the Commissioners in late November 2011. This consisted of some 560,000 records relating to the State Pension, the Transition Pension, Widows/Widowers/Surviving Civil Partner's Pension and Invalidity Pension.

At the end of November, Revenue advised my Department that the aggregate amount of additional tax likely to be collected from this and other compliance activities with DSP was material so that we could factor it into the Budget arithmetic. This is a normal part of the interaction between my Department and the Commissioners and what I expect from them.

Revenue analysed the records received from DSP and matched them with Revenue's own records. Following this exercise, it transpired that in approximately one quarter of the cases — 150,000 — the amounts on record did not match for a variety of reasons — some were paying too much tax, others were paying too little. A large proportion had not reported their DSP pension to Revenue as they are required to do, and advised to do, by the DSP when they are awarded the pension in question. In some 15,000 cases, and these are the cases which have caused the most confusion, the taxpayers involved had not reported their DSP pension to Revenue but it appeared to Revenue that they are most likely exempt from tax.

The Revenue Commissioners have accepted that the communications strategy could have been handled better in this instance, in particular if they had more time before the start of the tax year. Their overarching objective was to ensure that the taxpayers involved pay the right amount of tax at the right time for 2012 and beyond, and I support that objective.

Revenue has a job to administer the tax system fairly and efficiently. Government policy encourages exchange of information to support smarter working and it also supports fairness in the tax system. In fairness to those who pay their taxes, including pensioners, this information had to be acted on by Revenue as soon as they could.

In accordance with their normal practice, I expect that Revenue will deal with the question of arrears on a risk basis. Some cases will be uneconomic to pursue having regard to the resources available to Revenue and the other jobs they have to do. Some cases are very recent pensioners so the question of arrears will not arise at all. I expect that the issue of arrears will not arise for a large proportion of the cases.

Revenue has a good track record in managing large projects in a sensible way while at the same time collecting the tax that the State needs and I am confident that they will in this case also.

Redundancy Payments

Áine Collins

Question:

132 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will explain the way partial redundancy for special needs assistants is calculated. [40770/11]

The terms of the redundancy arrangements for Special Needs Assistants are outlined in my Department's circular 58/2006. A copy of the Circular is below for the information of the Deputy. The terms of the redundancy arrangements as outlined were agreed at the Labour Relations Commission. These arrangements provide that SNAs in primary and second level schools in approved posts with more than one year's continuous service whose posts are surplus to the approved allocation to the school are entitled to four weeks redundancy payment for every year of service, plus a bonus week. Where a redundancy situation arises due to a reduction in hours, i.e. ‘partial redundancy', redundancy compensation is on a pro rata basis.

Circular 0058/2006

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

PAYROLL DIVISION

TO:Boards of Management, Principal Teachers and Special Need Assistants in Primary and Second Level Schools.

Redundancy Arrangements for Special Need Assistants

1. Introduction

1.1 The Minister for Education and Science wishes to advise Boards of Management of the arrangements which have been agreed at national level in relation to redundancy compensation for special need assistants employed in primary and second level schools. The arrangements were agreed at the Labour Relations Commission.

2. Terms of the Redundancy Agreement at the Labour Relations Commission:

2.1 The arrangements agreed provided for redundancy compensation of twice the statutory terms to be applied to full time special need assistants employed in primary and second level schools in approved posts with more than one year's continuous service.

2.2 The arrangement also provided for compensation to those losing full time status and associated benefits to be applied on a pro rata basis.

2.3 Under the Redundancy Payments Act, 2003 an eligible employee is entitled to two weeks statutory redundancy payment for every year of service, plus a bonus week.

2.4 The agreement referred to at Para.1 provides that full-time special need assistants with more than one year’s continuous service whose posts are surplus to the approved allocation to the school shall be entitled to four weeks redundancy payment for every year of service, plus a bonus week, with part-time special need assistants with more than one year’s continuous service having a pro rata entitlement.

Where a redundancy situation arises due to a reduction in hours as provided for in section 4.2 below, redundancy compensation will again be on a pro rata basis.

3. Review of the Special Need Assistant Posts Allocation in Schools:

3.1 The allocation of special need assistant posts to your school will be reviewed on an annual basis. The employment of special need assistants may be reduced from full-time to part-time or terminated by way of redundancy where the approved allocation to the school is reduced and it is necessary to compulsorily cease the employment of special need assistants. A redundancy situation arises where the post ceases to exist and the special need assistant is not replaced. Thus a special need assistant who is dismissed for any reason other than redundancy (e.g. misconduct, inefficiency) or who voluntarily leaves the employment is not entitled to a redundancy payment.

3.2 A redundancy situation may also arise in cases where the services of a special need assistant(s) is no longer required in your school e.g. where a special needs child terminates her/his attendance at your school for whatever reason and there are no other vacancies in the school.

4. Selection Criteria for Redundancy:

4.1 Termination of special need assistant posts

The selection criteria for redundancy will be on a last in first out (LIFO) basis subject to the contractual arrangements already in place. This means that, in the case of redundancy, unless the most junior special need assistant in the school has a written child specific contract that entitles her/him to remain in the school, her/his contract should be terminated on the basis that she/he is the most junior special need assistant in the school in terms of length of service (Circular Letters SNA 12/05 and 15/05 on contracts of employment refer).

4.2 Reduction of one full-time special need assistant post to a part-time post

Where a full-time special need assistant post within the school is reduced to a part-time post, the issue of a redundancy payment in respect of the loss of hours may arise. The entitlement to redundancy is subject to the special need assistant's eligibility in accordance with the terms of the redundancy agreement set out at section 1 above and the criteria outlined in Para. 3.1. Again, the selection criteria for redundancy in this scenario will be on a last in first out (LIFO) basis subject to the contractual arrangements already in place in the school.

5. Service Reckonable in the Calculation of Seniority and Redundancy:

5.1 The period of a special need assistant's absence on maternity leave, additional maternity leave, parental leave, paternity leave and force majeure leave is reckonable.

5.2 Absences on sick leave in excess of 26 weeks in the three year period prior to the date of the redundancy arising are not reckonable in the calculation of reckonable service for redundancy. Absences on sick leave up to 52 weeks are reckonable, if the absence is due to occupational accident or disease.

5.3 The arrangements that apply regarding the calculation of adoptive leave and carers leave are outlined in the "Guide to the Redundancy Payments Scheme" booklet issued by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

5.4 In the event that a special need assistant was job-sharing the job-sharing rate of pay is the rate used for redundancy calculation purposes.

5.5 Where a special need assistant receives a redundancy lump sum payment, his/her continuity of employment is broken. The period of service reckonable for redundancy payment purposes will only consist of the period of the special need assistant's continuous service in the school in which she/he was last employed.

5.6 Please refer to Circular 0059/2006 for further information on determining the seniority of special need assistants.

6. Termination of Contract of Employment:

6.1 In terminating a special need assistant's contract of employment, the provisions of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973 to 2001 should be applied. Adequate notice should be given in accordance with the terms of that Act as follows:—

an SNA who is in service for a period of between thirteen weeks and two years should be given a minimum of one week's notice

an SNA who has been in continuous service for more than two years but less than five years should be given two weeks notice

an SNA who has been in continuous service for five years but less than ten years should be given four weeks notice

an SNA who has been in continuous service for ten years but less than fifteen years should be given six weeks notice

an SNA who has been in continuous service for more than fifteen years should be given eight weeks notice.

7. Applications for Payment of Redundancy:

7.1 There is a standard application form for payment of redundancy (Form RP50) which is attached as Appendix 1. An example of Form RP50 containing the information which must be completed, initially by school management and subsequently by the special need assistant, is attached at Appendix 2.

Details on the completion of the form are also outlined in the "Guide to the Redundancy Payments Scheme" booklet issued by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

7.2 The time limit for submitting an application for payment of redundancy is 52 weeks after the date of termination of the contract of employment.

7.3 Form RP50 should be completed by school management in the first instance and then submitted to the SNA Payroll Section, Payroll Division, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, Co. Westmeath for payment. The special need assistant should be given a copy at that stage for her/his information.

7.4 Where the Department deems that the special need assistant is entitled to a redundancy payment, this payment together with the original Form RP50 will issue directly to the special need assistant concerned. The special need assistant must confirm on the original Form RP50 that payment has been received and she/he must return this form to the Department.

8. Implications of Redundancy Payment on Unemployment Benefit:

8.1 A person under 55, who receives a redundancy payment in excess of €19,046.07, may be disqualified from receiving Unemployment Benefit for a period of up to 9 weeks. The disqualification is applied on a sliding scale, depending on the amount of redundancy received. Further information on the implications of redundancy payment on Unemployment Benefit is available directly from your local Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs Office.

9. Appeal Procedures:

9.1 In the event of a dispute arising between this Department and the special need assistant concerning her/his right to a lump sum, the special need assistant may decide to bring the matter to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) for adjudication. The Tribunal has its headquarters at Davitt House, Adelaide Road, Dublin 2 and further information on it's role is available on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment website http://www.entemp.ie.

10. Further Information on Redundancy:

10.1 Further information regarding redundancy payments is available from the Employment Rights Information Section, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Davitt House, Adelaide Road, Dublin 2. Tel (01) 6313131. Lo-call (if outside 01 area) 1890 220222 Website http://www.entemp.ie

11. Dissemination of Information:

11.1 Management authorities are requested to bring the contents of this Circular to the attention of all special need assistants in their schools, including those on maternity leave, sick leave etc. and also to the attention of the members of the Boards of Management.

12. Queries on this Circular:

12.1 If you have any query in relation to this circular please contact the SNA Payroll Section, Payroll Division at 090 648 4136 or e-mail your query to sna_pay@education.gov.ie.

An Irish version of this circular is available, on request.

P. Maloney,

Principal Officer,

Payroll Division.

May 2006.

View Forms

Appendix 1 — Notification of Redundancy Form (RP50)

Appendix 2 — Guide to completing Notification of Redundancy Form (RP50)

School Transport

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which school transport at a school (details supplied) can be continued to meet requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40792/11]

One of the changes in the school transport scheme which took effect from the beginning of the 2011 school year was an increase from seven to ten in the minimum number of eligible pupils, residing in a distinct locality, required to establish or retain an individual school transport service.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that in this case, the number of applications from eligible pupils did not match the above requirement and consequently the service was withdrawn from the beginning of the current school year.

This minimum number requirement has been applied to all individual school transport services nationally from the commencement of the 2011/12 school year.

As is currently the position, families of eligible pupils, for whom there is no school transport service available, may apply for a remote area grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements.

Departmental Bodies

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

134 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Education and Skills in respect of the statutory Teaching Council, the current level of staffing of the council; the staffing complement as required and requested by the council in order to carry out its functions; the reason an employment control framework is being applied to the council in view of the fact that it is fully funded by the annual registration fees and other fees, paid by registered teachers and by applicants for registration; if he will seek to have the necessary staffing level reinstated, in view of the fact that there is no obvious cost to public funds in so doing and in view of the delays being experienced by applicants for registration and council services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40804/11]

The current authorised permanent staffing complement for the Teaching Council is 28.5. The Teaching Council has submitted a request for further staff which it considers necessary to carry out its functions. This request is under consideration at present, and my Department is in ongoing communication with both the Teaching Council and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the Council's staffing issues.

The Employment Control Framework agreed for my Department covers the period 2010 to 2014 and comprehends staff working in a range of bodies and organisations across the education area. Regardless of funding status, agencies under the aegis of the Department, including the Teaching Council, are required to order and prioritise their work and working practices to take account of any limitations resulting from the application of the Employment Control Framework. This process of effectively managing staffing resources is ongoing and is regularly monitored with a view to ensuring continued effective delivery of key services.

Irish Language

Simon Harris

Question:

135 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 179 of 20 September 2011, the progress that has been made by him on redesigning the criteria for Irish language exemptions in primary and secondary schools to include children with diagnoses of Aspergers Syndrome; if parents will be consulted or invited to participate on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40829/11]

As the Deputy was informed previously in September, 2011 my Department has given some consideration to consolidating and updating the departmental circulars which deal with exemptions from the study of Irish in recognised primary (12/96) and post-primary schools (M10/94). My Department has established an expert working group to review the current Irish exemptions circulars. The working group has drafted a single consolidated circular to cover both primary and post-primary schools which will be considered by my Department's Standing Committee on the Curriculum. Among the issues which the Standing Committee will consider are revisions to the criteria for exemptions for students with special educational needs. Under the current departmental circulars, for recognised primary and post-primary schools, students with Asperger's Syndrome could be exempted from learning Irish if they meet the criteria for exemption as specified. However, the learning profiles of students with Asperger's Syndrome would not generally meet the criteria for general or specific learning disability as set out in the circulars, as a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome relates more to emotional and social communication needs. Many students with Asperger's Syndrome are high functioning and achieve well at school.

School Patronage

Simon Harris

Question:

136 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has any plans to reverse the decision which mandates him to place minority faith secondary schools in the same category as fee-paying private Catholic secondary schools; if his attention has been drawn to the hardships that this designation is causing minority faith schools and families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40830/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

138 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rationale behind the withdrawal of support grants to Protestant faith schools in view of the impact of this on the pupil teacher ratio at such schools and the long standing safeguards in place to protect their viability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40846/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 138 together.

I refer the Deputy to the decision of the previous Government to remove certain funding from Protestant fee-charging schools in the Budget of October 2008. The previous Government also decided at that time make changes to how fee-charging schools should be treated in relation to the number of publicly funded teaching posts they are allowed. Teachers in fee-charging schools are currently allocated at a pupil teacher ratio of 20 to 1, which is a point higher than allocations in non fee-charging post-primary schools. As part of the Budget announced in December last, the pupil teacher ratio in fee-charging post-primary schools will be increased by 1 point to 21:1 with effect from the 2012/2013 school year. All schools will also be required to manage guidance provision from within their standard staffing schedule allocation.

The funding was withdrawn with effect from 1 January 2009 due to real concerns about the constitutionality of making grants available to fee-charging schools of one ethos and not to those of another. The Constitution specifically states that the State shall not discriminate against one religion in favour of another.

There are 26 distinctively Protestant schools, of which 20 charge fees. Many of the schools have a boarding facility, reflecting the dispersed nature of the communities across the country. The six Protestant schools within the free education scheme receive the same funding as all other schools within the free education system.

This Government recognises the importance of ensuring that students from a Protestant or reformed church background can attend a school that reflects their denominational ethos while at the same time ensuring that funding arrangements are in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

With regard to the fee-charging Protestant schools, an arrangement exists whereby funding is paid to the Secondary Education Committee, an organisation run by the churches involved in managing the schools. The Secondary Education Committee then disburses funds to the Protestant fee-charging schools on behalf of pupils who would otherwise have difficulty with the cost of boarding fees and who, in the absence of such financial support, would be unable to attend a second level school of a reformed church or Protestant ethos. Funding amounts to €6.5 million annually.

In addition to this funding, teachers employed within the approved annual staffing allocation granted by my Department in fee-charging schools are paid by the State; an arrangement that pre-dates the introduction of free education arrangements and which has existed since the foundation of the state. The estimated cost of these posts is in the order of €100m. I am already on record as saying that this is not a simple matter as these arrangements, which are historic and of long standing, impact upon a substantial number of schools which cater for religious minorities.

Simon Harris

Question:

137 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures undertaken by him to recognise the diversity of the school going population, and to ensure that parents can access schools whose ethos reflects their own faith, in view of changes to the funding provided to such schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40845/11]

In recognition of the increasing diversity of the school-going population and in order to improve the capacity of the school system to cater for that diversity, the measures I have undertaken since my appointment as Minister for Education and Skills include: The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector — a key objective of the Programme for a National Government 2011-2016, was officially launched on 19th April, 2011. The terms of reference of the Forum are to advise me on:

how it can best be ensured that the education system can provide a sufficiently diverse number and range of primary schools catering for all religions and none;

the practicalities of how transfer/divesting of patronage should operate for individual primary schools in communities where it is appropriate and necessary; and

how such transfer/divesting can be advanced to ensure that demands for diversity of patronage (including from an Irish language perspective) can be identified and met on a widespread basis nationally.

An Advisory Group appointed to convene the Forum has held a number of meetings in public, during June and November 2011and has sought and received submissions from the public as part of its work. The Group is currently finalising its report and I expect to receive it shortly.

I have also continued the piloting of the new Community National School model of primary school patronage and I will be considering the contribution which these schools can make to the patronage options at primary level in the context of the outcome of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.

In June of last year I announced that over 20 new primary schools and over 20 new post-primary schools are to be established in the next 6 years. At that time I also announced the establishment of new arrangements for the recognition of new primary and second-level schools.

The new arrangements provide a balanced approach to allow for applications to be made from prospective patrons of schools for the establishment of schools where the Department has identified that there is a demographic need for the school. The new arrangements will result in applications for patronage of new schools being considered having regard to criteria. The criteria place a particular emphasis on parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage. The new arrangements involve applications by patron bodies for the establishment of new schools in areas identified by the Department. Department officials will draft a report to be considered by the New Schools Establishment Group and it will submit a report with recommendations for my consideration. This Government recognises the importance of ensuring that students from a Protestant or reformed church background can attend a school that reflects their denominational ethos while at the same time ensuring that funding arrangements are in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

With regard to the fee-charging Protestant secondary schools, an arrangement exists whereby funding is paid to the Secondary Education Committee, an organisation run by the churches involved in managing the schools. The Secondary Education Committee then disburses funds to the Protestant fee-charging schools on behalf of pupils who would otherwise have difficulty with the cost of boarding fees and who, in the absence of such financial support, would be unable to attend a second level school of a reformed church or Protestant ethos. Funding amounts to €6.5 million annually.

Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 136.

Special Educational Needs

Simon Harris

Question:

139 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he sees there being a role for an educational model of speech therapy as well as a health model; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40852/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Health Service Executive is responsible for the provision of health supports including Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy to children. In some instances such therapy services are delivered in schools. An integrated approach is adopted by the education and health sectors to target resources to the areas of greatest need and to integrate services to the greatest extent possible.

Progress in this regard is kept under review by an Interdepartmental Cross Sectoral team, (comprising of representatives of: the Departments of Education and Skills, Health and Children, the National Council for Special Education and the Health Service Executive) which plans for co-ordinated service delivery across the disability sector.

School Curriculum

Pearse Doherty

Question:

140 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills with respect to the abolishment of the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative Budget, if he will detail the basis for this decision; the total saving to the State arising from the decision; the number of teachers who will lose their jobs as a result of this and a breakdown of the numbers of schools affected by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40863/11]

As part of the Budget 2012 decisions that have been announced, the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative will be cease at the end of the 2011/2012 school year. The €2.5million in savings from this measure will go towards the cost of implementing the new National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, which is a key commitment in the Programme for Government.

Since becoming Minister for Education and Skills, I have spoken repeatedly about the need to raise educational standards. In terms of curriculum reform, the priorities in the period ahead are to strengthen achievement in literacy and numeracy, to implement reforms in maths, Irish and science, and to progress junior cycle reforms.

The Modern Languages Initiative was a pilot scheme involving approximately 550 schools and has been operating since 1998. There are over 270 part-time tutors employed by the primary schools to deliver language tuition. The tutors are paid by school Boards of Management from grants issued by my Department. The employment of tutors under the Modern Languages Initiative by these schools will cease at the end of the current school year.

The decision to end the scheme was based in part on policy advice from a 2008 Report by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which has identified serious issues with curricular overload at primary level. The NCCA's advice recommended that Modern languages should not be part of the Primary School Curriculum as an additional and separate subject at present.

The primary curriculum is currently being reviewed by the NCCA in the context of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. The focus of the review will be on how best to enhance children's learning in these areas, provide a clearer delineation of the learning outcomes required, and integrate into the infant cycle the learning experiences from Aistear, the curriculum framework for early childhood education.

At post primary level, targeted support is provided to schools to enable them to diversify language provision with a particular focus on Spanish, Japanese, Russian and Italian. Other languages taught at second level include French, German and Arabic.

Participation in foreign languages, relative to other subjects, remains high. The vast majority of students are studying two languages and are therefore developing core skills which will serve them well in future language learning over the lifespan, and there are many opportunities outside the second level system for people to resume language learning.

It was not an easy decision to end this scheme, but I gave careful consideration to the concerns about the teaching of languages before taking it. The information requested by the Deputy in relation to participating schools, detailed by county, is set out in the following table:

School Name

Address

County

Language

Bigstone National School

Ballyraggan, Rathvilly,

Co. Carlow

French

Gaelscoil Eoghan Ní Thuairisc,

Bóthar Phollerton, Ceatharlach,

Co. Carlow

German

Bishop Foley National School

Station Road, Carlow

Co. Carlow

German

St. Patrick’s National School

Ballymurphy, Borris,

Co. Carlow

German

Carlow National School

Green Road, Carlow.

Co. Carlow

German

Holy Family Girls National School

Askea, Carlow,

Co. Carlow

German

St. Columba’s Boys National School

Tullow,

Co. Carlow.

French

Borris Mixed National School

Borris,

Co. Carlow.

German

Carlow Educate Together

Unit 5, Shamrock Bus. Park, Graiguecullen,

Co. Carlow.

German

Scoil Bhríde

Grange, Tullow,

Co. Carlow.

Spanish

St. Mary’s National School

Arva,

Co. Cavan.

French

Billis National School

New Inns, Ballyjamesduff,

Co. Cavan.

French

Dernakesh National School

Maudabawn, Cootehill,

Co. Cavan.

French

St. Kilian’s National School

Mullagh, via Kells,

Co. Cavan.

French

Kill National School

Kill, Cootehill,

Co. Cavan.

French

Bodyke National School

Bodyke

Co. Clare

French

Sixmilebridge National School

Sixmilebridge,

Co. Clare

French

Kilmihil National School

Kilmihil, Kilrush,

Co. Clare

French

Clouna National School

Ennistymon

Co. Clare

French

Carrigaholt National School

Carrigaholt, Kilrush,

Co. Clare

French

St. Mochulla’s National School

Ennis Road, Tulla,

Co. Clare

French

Dromindoora National School

Dromindoora, Caher,

Co. Clare

French

St. Tola’s National School

Tullyglass Road, Shannon,

Co. Clare

French

Clarecastle National School

Clarecastle

Co. Clare

French

Scoil Chríost Rí

Cloughleigh Road, Ennis

Co. Clare

French

Toonagh National School

Fountain, Ennis,

Co. Clare.

French

Mullagh National School

Mullagh, Ennis,

Co. Clare.

French

Kilnaboy National School

Kilnaboy, Ennis,

Co. Clare.

French

St. Cronan’s National School

Carron, Ennis,

Co. Clare.

French

McCreehy’s National School

Liscannor,

Co. Clare.

French

Scoil Mhuire Ruan

Ruan,

Co. Clare.

French

Inchicronan Central National School

Crusheen,

Co. Clare.

French

St. Senan’s Primary School

Convent of Mercy, Kilrush,

Co. Clare.

French

Rineen National School

Rineen, Miltown Malbay,

Co. Clare.

French

Scoil Iosef

Máigh, An Leacht,

Co. Clare.

French

Barefield National School

Barefield, Ennis,

Co. Clare.

French

Fanore National School

Fanore, Ballyvaughan,

Co. Clare.

German

Scoil Mhuire Náisiúnta

Cora Finne,

Co. Clare.

German

St. Conaire’s National School

Tullyvarraga, Shannon,

Co. Clare.

German

S.N. na Maighdine Mhuire

Newmarket-on-Fergus,

Co. Clare.

German/French

Ballycar National School

Ballycar, Newmarket-on-Fergus,

Co. Clare.

Spanish

Boston National School

Ennis,

Co. Clare.

Spanish

Tubber National School

Tubber, Ennis,

Co. Clare.

Spanish

Scoil Padre Pio

Churchfield,

Cork

French

Sunday Wells National School

Blarney Road,

Cork

French

Ballintemple National School

Crab Lane, Ballintemple,

Cork

French

Scoil Phadraig Naofa

Bandon,

Cork

French

Scoil Ursula

Blackrock,

Cork

French

Scoil Mhuire na nGrás

Greenmount, Green Street,

Cork

French

St. Joseph’s National School

Mardyke,

Cork

French

Scoil Croise Naofa

Avenue de Rennes, Mahon,

Cork

French

Scoil Chríost Rí

Crosaire Tuirnéir

Cork

French

Maria Assumpta Senior School

Pearse Road, Ballyphehane,

Cork

French

St. Catherine’s National School

Bishopstown Avenue, Model Farm Road,

Cork

French

Scoil Bhríde

Eglantine, Douglas Road,

Cork

French

Scoil Iosagaín

Fearann Rí,

Cork

French

Gaelscoil Naomh Therese

Bishopstown Avenue,

Cork

French

Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh (B)

Curaheen Road, Bishopstown,

Cork

French

Scoil Mhuire Fatima

North Monastery Road,

Cork

French

Coachford National School

Coachford,

Cork

French

St. Joseph’s C.B.S.

Turnpike Road, Doneraile,

Cork

French

St. Columba’s BNS

Douglas,

Cork

French

Presentation Primary School

Doneraile,

Cork

French

St. Marie’s of the Isle National School

Bishop Street,

Cork

German

Scoil an Spioraid Naomh C

Curragheen Road, Bishopstown,

Cork

German

Gaelscoil Mhachain

Ave. de Rennes, Mahon,

Cork

German

Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire

Rathpeacon, Mallow Road

Cork

German

Scoil Mhuire ar Chnoc na hAoine

Cnoc na hAoine,

Cork

Italian

North Presentation Primary

Gerald Griffin Street,

Cork

Italian

Scoil Barra Noafa Cailíní

Beaumont,

Cork

Spanish

Cloghroe National School

Cloghroe,

Cork

Spanish

Togher Boy’s National School

Togher,

Cork

Spanish

Scoil an Athair Maitiú

Togher,

Cork

Spanish

Gaelscoil Dr Uí Shuilleabháin

Gort na Cloiche, An Sciobhairín,

Co. Chorcaí.

French

Scoil Fhionnbarra

Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh,

Co. Chorcaí.

Spanish

Union Hall National School

Union Hall,

Co. Cork

French

Cullen National School

Lislehane, Cullen, Mallow, Cork.

Co. Cork

French

Gaelscoil Charraig Uí Leighinn

Carraig Uí Leidhin, Co. Chorcaí.

Co. Cork

French

Gaelscoil Mhainis Din na Corann

Ionad an Phobail, Mainistir na Corrann,

Co. Cork

French

St. Patrick’s National School

Whitechurch,

Co. Cork

French

Kilbrittain National School

Kilbrittain,

Co. Cork

French

Mallow (No.1) National School

Shortcastle, Mallow,

Co. Cork

French

South Abbey National School

Youghal

Co. Cork

French

Gaelscoil Mhuscraí

Shean Lower, Blarney,

Co. Cork

French

Dromahane National School

Dromahane, Mallow,

Co. Cork

French

Newcestown National School

Newcestown Village, Bandon,

Co. Cork

French

Rylane National School

Rylane,

Co. Cork

French

Presentation Primary School

Bandon,

Co. Cork

French

Scoil Naomh Eoin

Ballincurrig, Leamlara,

Co. Cork

German

Inch National School

Killeagh,

Co. Cork

German

Beaumont Boys School

Woodvale Road, Beaumont,

Co. Cork

Italian

St. Luke’s National School

Douglas,

Co. Cork

Spanish

Ballinadee National School

Ballinadee, Bandon,

Co. Cork

Spanish

S.N. Inis Chleire

Oileán Chleire, Sciobhairin,

Co. Cork.

French

Scoil Barra Noafa

Baile an Mhanaigh,

Co. Cork.

French

Gaelscoil Choráin

Sráid na Trá, Eochaill,

Co. Cork.

French

Gaelscoil de hÍde

Mainistir Fhearmai,

Co. Cork.

French

Scoil Mhuire B

Caraigh Thuaithail,

Co. Cork.

French

Kilbehenny National School

Kilbehenny, Mitchelstown,

Co. Cork.

French

Gaelscoil an Teaghlaigh Naofa

Bothar na nBuairciní, Baile Fletheán,

Co. Cork.

French

Scoil an Athar Tadhg O’Murchu

Bóthar Theas na Dughlaise,

Co. Cork.

French

Convent of Mercy, St. Joseph’s Primary,

Clonakilty,

Co. Cork.

French

Fermoy Adair School

Greenhill, Fermoy,

Co. Cork.

French

St. John the Baptist

Midleton,

Co. Cork.

French

Goggin’s Hill National School

Goggin’s Hill, Ballinhassig,

Co. Cork.

French

Sherkin Island National School

Baltimore, Skibbereen,

Co. Cork.

French

Scoil Mhuire Banrion

Mayfield,

Co. Cork.

French

Ballygarvan National School

Ballygarvan,

Co. Cork.

French

Scoil Chlochair Mhuire

Main Street, Carrigtwohill,

Co. Cork.

French

Rahan National School

Lavally, Mallow,

Co. Cork.

French

Scoil Dhairbhre

Cruary, Clonakilty,

Co. Cork.

German

St. Brigid’s Presentation Primary School

Midleton,

Co. Cork.

German

Rushbrooke Convent Primary School

Rushbrooke, Cobh,

Co. Cork.

German

Scoil Mhuire Lourdes

Carrigaline,

Co. Cork.

German

Scoil Bhríde

Crosshaven,

Co. Cork.

German

Bishop Murphy Memorial School

Fermoy,

Co. Cork.

German

Gaelscoil Sheáin UíÉaigeartaigh

Carraig an Fhia, An Cóbh,

Co. Cork.

German

Scoil Mhuire na Trócaire

Castle Orchard, Buttevant,

Co. Cork.

French

Vicarstown National School

Vicarstown,

Co. Cork.

German

Scoil Náisiúnta Chúil-Aodha

Cúil-Aodha, Maighchromtha,

Co. Cork.

Italian

Gaelscoil an Ghoirt Álainn

Aibhinne Murmont, Gort Álainn,

Co. Cork.

Italian

Inchiclough National School

Inchiclough, Bantry,

Co. Cork.

Italian

St. Mary’s National School

Cobh,

Co. Cork.

Italian

Bunscoil Mhuire

O’Brien’s Place, Youghal,

Co. Cork.

Italian

S.N. Garrán an Easaigh

Kilbrittain

Co. Cork.

Spanish

Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa

St. Anne’s Rd., Blarney,

Co. Cork.

Spanish

Scoil Mhuire

Doire Beaga,

Co. Dhún na nGall

French

Scoil Náisiúnta Gort a Choirce

Goirt a Choirce, Leitir Ceanain,

Co. Dhún na nGall

French

Scoil Phádraig

Dobhar, Leitir Ceanann, Co. Dhún na nGall

Co. Donegal

French

St. Francis National School

Barnesmore, Donegal Town

Co. Donegal

French

Scoil Mhuire

Dristernan, Gleneely, Inishowen,

Co. Donegal

French

Scoil Naomh Fionán

Whitecastle, Quigley’s Point, Inishowen,

Co. Donegal

French

Scoil Naomh Iósaf

Illies, Buncrana,

Co. Donegal

Spanish

St. Mura’s National School

St. Mary’s Road, Buncrana,

Co. Donegal.

French

Scoil Naomh Bríd

Muff

Co. Donegal.

French

St. Ernan’s National School

Ballintra,

Co. Donegal

French

Robertson National School

Main Street, Ballintra,

Co. Donegal.

French

S.N. Mhín Tine Dé

Meentinadea, Ardara,

Co. Donegal.

French

S.N. an Bhreacaigh

Brackey, Ardara,

Co. Donegal.

French

Ardara Mixed National School

Hillhead, Ardara,

Co. Donegal.

French

St. Mary’s National School

Hillhead, Ardara,

Co. Donegal.

French

Crannóg Buí National School

Crannóg Buí, Ardara,

Co. Donegal.

French

Gortnacart National School

Gortnacart, Ardara,

Co. Donegal.

French

St. Baithin’s National School

St. Johnston, Lifford,

Co. Donegal.

French

Scoil Mhuire

Ramelton,

Co. Donegal.

French

Scoil Cholmcille

Drumman, Ramelton P.O.,

Co. Donegal.

French

Ayr Hill National School

Tank Road, Ramelton,

Co. Donegal.

French

Scoil Cholmcille

Glengad, Malin, Lifford,

Co. Donegal.

French

Cranford National School

Letterkenny,

Co. Donegal.

German

Scoil Cholmcille

Kerrykeel, Letterkenny,

Co. Donegal.

German

Scoil Mhuire

Caiseal, Ceaundroma, Fánaid,

Co. Donegal.

German

St. Colmcille National School

Kilmacrennan, Letterkenny,

Co. Donegal.

German

Scoil Naomh Bríd

Downings,

Co. Donegal.

German

Scoil Mhuire

Milford, Letterkenny,

Co. Donegal.

German

St. Joseph’s National School

Rathmullan,

Co. Donegal.

German

Scoil Eoin Baiste

Carraig Airt,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

Gleneely National School

Crossroads. Killygordon,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

Scoil Mhuire

Stranorlar,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

Glencovitt National School

Glencovitt, Ballybofey,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

Dromore National School

Dromore, Killygordon,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

Clonmany National School

Clonmany,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

St. Patrick’s National School

Rasheeny, Clonmany,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

St. Patrick’s Girls National School

Convent Road, Carndonagh,

Co. Donegal.

Spanish

St. Laurence O’Tooles, Senior Girls School

Seville Place,

Dublin 1 (N)

French

Rutland Street National School

Lower Rutland Street,

Dublin 1 (N)

Italian

St. Michael’s National School

Dominican Campus, Kylemore Road, Ballyfermot,

Dublin 10 (S)

Spanish

St. Gabriel’s National School

Dominican Campus, Ballyfermot,

Dublin 10 (S)

Spanish

St. Raphael’s National School

Dominican Campus, Ballyfermot,

Dublin 10 (S)

Spanish

St. Brigid’s National School

Old Finglas Road, Glasnevin,

Dublin 11 (N)

French

St. Vincent’s Primary School

St. Philomena’s Road, Glasnevin,

Dublin 11 (N)

Spanish

Scoil Cholmcille SNS

Newbrook Road, Donaghmede,

Dublin 13 (N)

French

Rathfarnham Educate Together

Loreto Avenue, Rathfarnham

Dublin 14 (S)

French

Our Ladys Grove Primary School

Goatstown Road, Goatstown,

Dublin 14 (S)

French

Holy Cross National School

Upper Kilmacud Road, Dundrum,

Dublin 14 (S)

Spanish

St. Patrick’s National School

Diswellstown Road, Castleknock,

Dublin 15 (N)

French

Scoil Bhride G.N.S.

Blanchardstown,

Dublin 15 (N)

French

St. Philip the Apostle S.N.S.

Mountview, Clonsilla,

Dublin 15 (N)

French

St. Mochta’s National School

Porterstown Road, Clonsilla,

Dublin 15 (N)

Spanish

Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna

Seanbhóthar Chnoc Liamhna,

Dublin 16 (S)

French

Scoil Naomh Padráig

Ballyroan,

Dublin 16 (S)

Italian

Ballyroan Boys National School

Ballyroan Road, Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16 (S)

Spanish

Our Ladys’ Girls’ National School

Ballinteer Avenue,

Dublin 16 (S)

Spanish

Divine Word National School

Marley Grange, Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16 (S)

Spanish

St. Francis Senior National School

Priorswood,

Dublin 17 (N)

French

Our Lady Immaculate S.N.S.

Darndale,

Dublin 17 (N)

Spanish

Holy Trinity National School

Glencairn Drive, Leopardstown,

Dublin 18 (S)

French

St. Brigid’s B.N.S.

Mart Lane, Foxrock,

Dublin 18 (S)

French

St. Patrick’s G.N.S.

Foxrock Avenue,

Dublin 18 (S)

French

St. Mary’s National School

Lamb’s Cross, Sandyford,

Dublin 18 (S)

French

Talbot Senior N.S.

Bawnogue, Clondalkin,

Dublin 22 (S)

French

St. Ronan’s National School

Deansrath, Clondalkin,

Dublin 22 (S)

French

Gaelscoil na Camoige

Bóthar an Úlloird, Cluain Dolcáin,

Dublin 22 (S)

French

Scoil Naomh Caoimhin

Kilnamanagh, Tallaght,

Dublin 24 (S)

French

St. Mary’s National School

Bancroft Avenue, Greenhills Road, Tallaght,

Dublin 24 (S)

German

Scoil Santain

Bothar na Labhann Mor, Tamhlact,

Dublin 24 (S)

German

St. Kevin’s Girls National School

Kilnamanagh,

Dublin 24 (S)

German

St. Killian’s Senior Primary School

Kingswood Heights, Castleview,

Dublin 24 (S)

Italian

Ballycragh National School

Firhouse

Dublin 24 (S)

Italian

St. Mary’s National School

Windsor Avenue, Fairview,

Dublin 3 (N)

French

Scoil Mhuire

15, Gilford Road, Sandymount,

Dublin 4 (S)

French

Star of the Sea B.N.S.

Leahy’s Terrace, Sandymount,

Dublin 4 (S)

French

St. Mary’s National School

Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook,

Dublin 4 (S)

French

St. Patrick’s Boys National School

Cambridge Road, Ringsend,

Dublin 4 (S)

Spanish

St. Brigid’s National School

Haddington Road, Ballsbridge,

Dublin 4 (S)

Spanish

St. Brigid’s National School

Howth Road, Killester,

Dublin 5 (N)

French

St. John of God Primary School

Kilmore Road, Artane,

Dublin 5 (N)

German

Scoil Chatriona Cailini

Measc Avenue, Coolock,

Dublin 5 (N)

Italian

St. Brendan’s National School

McAuley Road, Artane,

Dublin 5 (N)

Spanish

Scoil Mologa

Clareville Road, Harolds Cross,

Dublin 6W (S)

German

St. Clares Convent National School

Harolds Cross Road,

Dublin 6W (S)

German

St. Pius X NS Boys N.S.

Fortfield Park, Terenure,

Dublin 6W (S)

Spanish

Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál

Tyrconnell Road, Inchicore,

Dublin 8 (S)

French

Inchicore National School

Sarsfield Road, Inchicore,

Dublin 8 (S)

French

Griffith Barracks National School

South Circular Road,

Dublin 8 (S)

Spanish

St. Patrick’s Cathedral National School

St. Patrick’s Close,

Dublin 8 (S)

Spanish

Drumcondra National School

Church Avenue, Drumcondra,

Dublin 9 (N)

Italian

Scoil Mhuire Marino

Griffith Avenue,

Dublin 9 (N)

Spanish

Gaelscoil An Duinninigh

Draighnean, Féltrim, Swords,

Co. Áth Cliath

Spanish

St. Andrew’s National School

Church Road, Malahide,

Co. Dublin (N)

French

Holy Family S.N.S.

River Valley, Swords,

Co. Dublin (N)

French

St. George’s National School

Naul Road, Balbriggan,

Co. Dublin (N)

French

Balbriggan Educate Together N.S.

Moylaragh, Balbriggan,

Co. Dublin (N)

French

Balscadden National School

Balscadden, Balbriggan,

Co. Dublin (N)

Spanish

Balrothery National School

Balrothery, Balbriggan,

Co. Dublin (N)

Spanish

Our Lady of Good Counsel G.N.S.

Johnstown, Dun Laoghaire,

Co. Dublin (S)

French

Archbishop Ryan Senior National School

Balgaddy, Lucan,

Co. Dublin (S)

French

Carysfort National School

Convent Road, Blackrock,

Co. Dublin (S)

French

Harold Convent Girls School

Glasthule,

Co. Dublin (S)

French

Dominican Convent National School

Convent Road, Dún Laoghaire,

Co. Dublin (S)

French

Scoil Lorcáin

Cearnóg Eaton, Baile na Manach

Co. Dublin (S)

French

Our Lady of Good Counsel B.N.S.

Johnstown, Dún Laoghaire,

Co. Dublin (S)

French

St. Patrick’s Boys National School

Hollypark, Blackrock,

Co. Dublin (S)

German

Griffeen Valley Educate Together NS

Griffeen Glen Boulevard, Lucan,

Co. Dublin (S)

German

St. Patrick’s National School

Harbour Road, Dalkey,

Co. Dublin (S)

Italian

Lucan Educate Together N.S.

Mount Bellew, Willsbrook, Lucan

Co. Dublin (S)

Spanish

Glenageary Killiney National School

Killiney Road,

Co. Dublin (S)

Spanish

All Saint’s National School

Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock,

Co. Dublin (S)

Spanish

Guardian Angel’s N.S.

Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock,

Co. Dublin (S)

Spanish

Kill O The Grange National School

Deansgrange,

Co. Dublin (S)

Spanish

SN Cholmcille N.S.,

School Road, Castlegar,

Galway.

French

Scoil Bhríde

Shantalla,

Galway.

Spanish

St. Nicholas’ National School

The Claddagh,

Galway.

French

St. James National School

Circular Road, Bushypark,

Galway.

French

Scoil Einde

Dr. Mannix Road, Salthill,

Galway.

French

St. Patrick’s B.N.S.

Lombard Street,

Galway.

German

Scoil Chaitríona Senior

Renmore,

Galway.

German

Scoil an Trinoide Naofa

Mervue,

Galway.

German

Scoil an Linbh Iosa

St. Francis Street

Galway.

Spanish

Castleblakeney National School

Castleblakeney, Ballinasloe,

Co. Galway

French

St. Patrick’s National School

Fohenagh, Ahascragh, Ballinasloe,

Co. Galway

French

S.N. Naomh Treasa

An Caiseal, Connamara,

Co. Galway

French

Clydagh National School

Clydagh, Headford,

Co. Galway

French

St. Colman’s National School

Corofin, Tuam,

Co. Galway

French

Scoil Einne

An Spideal, Spiddal,

Co. Galway

French

St. Joseph’s National School

Carrabane, Athenry,

Co. Galway.

French

Scoil an Chroi Naofa

Ballinasloe,

Co. Galway.

French

Kilglass National School

Kilglass, Ahascragh, Ballinasloe,

Co. Galway.

French

Bawnmore National School

Bawnmore, Claregalway,

Co. Galway.

French

Scoil Pádraig Naofa

Cregmore, Claregalway,

Co. Galway.

French

Scoil Mhuire

Clarinbridge

Co. Galway.

French

St. Annin’s Natonal School

Roscahill

Co. Galway.

German

Ballyglass National School

Ardrahan,

Co. Galway.

German

Scoil Chiaráin Naofa

Newtownlynch, Doorus, Kinvara,

Co. Galway.

German

St. Brendan’s National School

Eyrecourt,

Co. Galway.

Italian

Scoil Mhuire

Moycullen,

Co. Galway.

Spanish

St. Patrick’s Primary School

Dublin Road, Tuam,

Co. Galway.

Spanish

Scoil Iósaif Naofa

Oranmore,

Co. Galway.

Spanish

Scoil Mhuire

Oranmore,

Co. Galway.

Spanish

Scoil Náisiúnta Cheann Trá

Ceann Trá, Trá-lí,

Co. Chiarraí.

Spanish

Scoil an Ghleanna

Na Gleannta, Daingean Uí Chúis,

Co. Chiarraí.

Spanish

Scoil Mhaolchéadair,

Baile na nGall, Trá-Lí,

Co. Chiarraí.

Spanish

Scoil Mhuire

Knocknagoshel, Abbeyfeale,

Co. Kerry

French

Scoil Naomh Erc

Glenderry, Ballyheigue,

Co. Kerry

French

Scoil Mhuire na Mainistreach

New Road, Killarney,

Co. Kerry

French

Fossa National School

Fossa, Killarney,

Co. Kerry

Spanish

Scoil Íde,

Curranes, Castleisland,

Co. Kerry.

French

Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail

Lios Thuathail,

Co. Kerry.

French

St. Teresa’s National School

Kilflynn, Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

French

Derryquay National School

Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

French

Scoil Mhuire National School

Kilmurry National School, Cordal, Castleisland.

Co. Kerry.

French

Scoil Mhic Easmainn

Rath Ronain, Trá Li,

Co. Kerry.

French

Convent Prmary School

Listowel,

Co. Kerry.

French

St. Brigid’s National School

Duagh, Listowel,

Co. Kerry.

French

Dromclough National School

Listowel,

Co. Kerry.

French

Scoil Mhuire gan Smál

Lixnaw,

Co. Kerry.

French

Ballyduff Central National School

Ballyduff, Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

French

St. Joseph’s National School

Bouleenshere, Ballyheigue, Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

French

St. Brendan’s National School

Blennerville, Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

French

Ballincrossig National School

Ballyduff, Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

French

Scoil Naomh Gobnait

Dún Chaoin, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh, Trá Lí,

Co. Kerry.

French

Scoil Mhuire National School

Killorgin,

Co. Kerry.

French

St. Oliver’s National School

Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

French

Glenflesk National School

Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

French

Sen. Phrionnsias Naofa

An Neidin,

Co. Kerry.

French

Kilcummin National School

Kilcummin, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

French

Scoil Nuachabháil

Gort a Tsleibhe, Baile Mhic Ealgóid, Trá Lí,

Co. Kerry.

German

Sacred Heart Primary School

Castle Street, Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

German

Aghatubrid National School

Cahirciveen,

Co. Kerry.

German

St. Joseph’s Primary School

Cahirciveen,

Co. Kerry.

German

Scoil Dar Earca

Valentia,

Co. Kerry.

German

An Fhail Mhor

Filemore, Cahirciveen,

Co. Kerry.

German

Scoil Mhuire Ráithín

Raheen, Headford, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

German

Scoil Bhride Loreto National School

Loreto Road, Scartlea.

Co. Kerry.

German

Tiernaboul National School

Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

German

Cahooreigh National School

Two Mile School, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

German

Curraheen Mixed National School

Curraheen, Glenbeigh,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Glenbeigh National School

Glenbeigh,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Scoil an Fhirtearaigh

Baile a Fhirtearaigh, Tra Lí,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Scoil Iognáid Rís

Daingean Uí Chíus

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Scoil Cháitlín Naofa

Cillmhicadomhnaigh, Fionntrá, Trá Lí,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Scoil Eoin

Balloonagh, Tralee,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Douglas National School

Killorglin,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Scoil Realt na Mara

Cromane, Killorglin,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Coolick National School

Kilcummin, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Anabla National School

Kilcummin, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Knockanes National School

Knockanes, Headford, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Faha National School

Faha, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Holy Cross National School

New Road, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Scoil an Chuileannaigh

Lios a Phúca, Cill Airne,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Kilgobnet National School

Kilgobnet, Beaufort, Killarney,

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Coars National School

Caherciveen

Co. Kerry.

Spanish

Gaelscoil Uí Fhiaich

Bóthar Chill Droichid, Maigh Nuad

Co. Chill Dara

Spanish

Scoil Uí Riada

An Chearnóg, Cill Choca,

Co. Cill Dara.

French

Scoil Eimhín Naofa

Monasterevin,

Co. Kildare

French

Scoil Chóca Naofa

Kilcock,

Co. Kildare

French

Caragh National School

Caragh, Naas,

Co. Kildare

French

Robertstown National School

Robertstown, Naas,

Co. Kildare

French

Monasterevin No. 2 School

Monasterevin,

Co. Kildare.

French

St. Peter’s National School

Drogheda Street, Monasterevin,

Co. Kildare.

French

St. David’s National School

Dublin Road, Naas,

Co. Kildare.

French

Scoil Bhride National School

Milltown, Newbridge,

Co. Kildare.

French

St. Joseph’s B.N.S.

Kilcock,

Co. Kildare.

French

St, Conleth’s National School

Derrinturn, Carbury,

Co. Kildare.

French

Straffan National School

Straffan,

Co. Kildare.

French

Scoil Bhríde

Kilcullen,

Co. Kildare.

German

Killashee Multi-Demon. N.S.

Kilcullen Road, Naas,

Co. Kildare.

German

Scoil Naomh Bhríd

Main Street, Celbridge,

Co. Kildare.

Spanish

Scoil Bhríde

Prosperous Road, Clane,

Co. Kildare.

Spanish

St. Brigid’s National School

Ballysax, The Curragh,

Co. Kildare.

Spanish

Scoil Mhuire Presentation Primary School

Parnell Street,

Co. Kilkenny.

French

St. Brendan’s National School

Newmarket, Hugginstown,

Co. Kilkenny.

French

Owning National School

Piltown,

Co. Kilkenny.

German

Marymount National School

The Rower, via Thomastown,

Co. Kilkenny.

Spanish

Kilkenny School Project N.S.

Springfields, Waterford Road,

Co. Kilkenny.

Spanish

No. 2 National School

Sandylane, Portarlington,

Co. Laois.

French

St. Patrick’s B.N.S.

Davitt Road, Mountmellick,

Co. Laois.

French

St. Pius X National School

Ballacolla, Portlaoise

Co. Laois.

French

Scoil Mhuire

Ballyroan, Abbeylex,

Co. Laois.

French

Scoil Bhríde

Rathdowney,

Co. Laois.

French

Scoil Iosaif Naofa

Mountmellick,

Co. Laois.

French

Leitrim Mixed N.S.

Leitrim, Carrick-On-Shannon,

Co. Leitrim

French

Largy National School

Largy, Kinlough,

Co. Leitrim.

French

Scoil na Maighdine Muire

Dublin Road, Carrick-On-Shannon,

Co. Leitrim.

French

An Mhodhscoil

Bealach Uí Chonaill

Limerick

Spanish

Gaelscoil Chaladh an Treoigh

Móin a Lin, Caladh an Treoigh,

Co. Luimnigh

Spanish

S.N. Ailbhé

Killinure, Brittas,

Co. Limerick

French

Crecora National School

Crecora, Patrickswell, Co. Limerick.

Co. Limerick

Spanish

Athea National School

Athea,

Co. Limerick.

French

Effin National School

Effin, Kilmallock,

Co. Limerick.

French

Milford National School

Milford-Grange, Castletroy,

Co. Limerick.

French

Bilboa National School

Cappamore,

Co. Limerick.

French

Oola National School

Oola,

Co. Limerick.

German

Gaelscoil O Doghair

Caisleanin Nua Thiar,

Co. Limerick.

German

St. Senan’s National School

Foynes,

Co. Limerick.

German

Croom National School

Croom,

Co. Limerick.

German

St. Jame’s School

Cappagh, Askeaton,

Co. Limerick.

German

Galbally National School

Galbally,

Co. Limerick.

German

Convent National School

Doon,

Co. Limerick.

German

Knockea National School

Knockea, Ballyneety,

Co. Limerick.

German

Scoil Naomh Iosaf

Adare,

Co. Limerick.

German

Anglesboro National School

Anglesboro, Kilmallock,

Co. Limerick.

German

Roxborough National School

Roxborough, Ballysheedy,

Co. Limerick.

Spanish

Scoil Ide

Corbally,

Co. Limerick.

Spanish

Kildimo National School

Kildimo,

Co. Limerick.

Spanish

St. Paul’s National School

Dooradoyle,

Co. Limerick.

Spanish

St. Nessan’s National School

Mungret,

Co. Limerick.

Spanish

St. Patrick’s Girls National School

Dublin Road, Limerick.

Co. Limerick.

Spanish

St. Theresa’s National School

Clontumpher, Ballinalee,

Co. Longford

French

Scoil Eimear

Templemichael, Longford,

Co. Longford

French

Scoil Bhríde

Glen, Edgeworthstown,

Co. Longford

French

Scoil Bhride

Killasonna, Granard,

Co. Longford

French

St. Bernard’s National School

Abbeylara

Co. Longford

French

Sacred Heart Primary School

Granard

Co. Longford.

French

Ballycloghan National School

Carrickboy,

Co. Longford.

French

St. Colmcille’s National School

Aughnacliffe,

Co. Longford.

French

Castletown G.N.S.

Castletown Road, Dundalk,

Co. Louth

French

Lechéile E.T.N.S.

Mornington Road, Drogheda,

Co. Louth

French

St. Peter’s National School

Dromiskin, Co. Louth.

Co. Louth

French

Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál

Kilsaran, Castlebellingham,

Co. Louth

French

Ballapousta National School

Smarmore, Drogheda,

Co. Louth

French

St. Peter’s National School

Bolton Street, Drogheda,

Co. Louth.

French

St. Niochlas National School

Nicholas’ Street, Dundalk,

Co. Louth.

French

Redeemer Girls National School

Ard Easmuinn, Dundalk

Co. Louth.

French

Gaelscoil Dhún Dealgan

Muirtheimhne Mór, Dún Dealgan,

Co. Louth.

French

Marymount National School

Ballsgrave, Drogheda,

Co. Louth.

Spanish

St. Paul’s National School

Rathmullen, Drogheda,

Co. Louth.

Spanish

Scoil Aonghusa

Geata an Domhnaigh, Droichead Atha,

Co. Lú.

German

Knock National School

Knock, Claremorris,

Co. Mayo

French

Behymore National School

Behy, Ballina,

Co. Mayo

French

S.N. Gob a’Choire

Achill Sound, Westport,

Co. Mayo

French

Crimlin National School

Crimlin, Castlebar,

Co. Mayo

French

Scoil Mhuire

Glencorrib, Shrule,

Co. Mayo

French

Scoil Naomh Aingeal

The Lawn, Castlebar,

Co. Mayo

French

Glenmore National School

Crossmolina,

Co. Mayo

French

St. Colmcille’s National School

The Quay, Westport,

Co. Mayo

French

St. Joseph’s National School

Derrywash, Castlebar

Co. Mayo

French

Bangor Erris

Bangor Erris,

Co. Mayo

French

St. John’s National School

Breaffy, Castlebar,

Co. Mayo

French

St. Attracta’s National School

Lowpark, Charlestown,

Co. Mayo

French

Gaelscoil Uileog de Búrca

Lochán na mBan, Claremorris,

Co. Mayo

French

Kilmovee National School

Kilmovee, Ballaghadereen,

Co. Mayo

French

Scoil Íosa

Abbeyquarter, Ballyhaunis, .

Co. Mayo

French

Gaelscoil na Cruaiche

Bothar na Lóistín, Westport,

Co. Mayo

French

Brackloon National School

Brackloon, Wesport,

Co. Mayo

French

St. Peter’s National School

Snugboro, Castlebar,

Co. Mayo

French/German

Scoil Raifteirí

Faiche an Aonaigh, Caislean an Bharcaigh,

Co. Mayo

Italian

Scoil Uí Ghramhnaigh

Ráth Cairn, Áth Buí,

Co. Na Mí.

French

St. Peter & Pauls’ N.S.

Drumconrath, Navan,

Co. Meath

French

Clonmellon National School

Clonmellon, via Navan,

Co. Meath

French

Scoil Mhuire

Coolroonan, Ballivor

Co. Meath

French

St. Columbanus National School

Ballivor, Co. Meath

Co. Meath

German

St. Patrick’s National School

Loman Street, Trim,

Co. Meath

German

St. Joseph’s National School

Boyerstown, Navan,

Co. Meath

German

St. Oliver Plunkett N.S.

Proudstown Road, Navan,

Co. Meath

German

S.N. Mhuire, Moynalvey

Moynalvey, Summerhill,

Co. Meath

German

Mulhussey National School

Mulhussey, Kilcock, .

Co. Meath

Spanish

Knockcommon National School

Beauparc, Navan,

Co. Meath.

French

Scoil Oilibhéir Naofa

Kilcloon,

Co. Meath.

French

Scoil Naomh Treasa

Bellewstown,

Co. Meath.

French

Scoil Cholmcille

Mount Hanover, Duleek,

Co. Meath.

French

Dangan National School

Clonmahon, Summerhill,

Co. Meath.

French

Scoil an Spioaid Naoimh

Laytown,

Co. Meath.

French

Dunboyne National School

Dunboyne,

Co. Meath.

French

Duleek Boys National School

Duleek,

Co. Meath.

French

St. Bennin’s National School

Trim Road, Duleek,

Co. Meath.

French

St. Dympna’s National School

Kildalkey,

Co. Meath.

French

St. Michael’s National School

Patrick Street, Trim,

Co. Meath.

French

Rathmore National School

Rathmore, Athboy,

Co. Meath.

French

Kilbride National School

Trim,

Co. Meath.

French

St. Paul’s National School

Abbeylands, Navan,

Co. Meath.

French

Yellow Furze National School

Beauparc, Navan,

Co. Meath.

French

Kentstown National School

Kentstown, Navan,

Co. Meath.

French

Robinstown National School

Robinstown, Navan,

Co. Meath.

French

St. Declan’s National School

Ashbourne,

Co. Meath.

Spanish

St. Finian’s National School

Clonalvy,

Co. Meath.

Spanish

St. Michael’s N.S.

Rackwallace, Castleshane,

Co. Monaghan

French

St. Joseph’s N.S.

Carrickmacross,

Co. Monaghan

French

Scoil Bhride

Mullaghrafferty, Carrickmacross,

Co. Monaghan

French

Edenmore National School

Emyvale,

Co. Monaghan

French

St. Tiarnach’s Primary School

Roslea Road, Clones,

Co. Monaghan

German

Deravoy National School

Deravoy, Emyvale,

Co. Monaghan.

French

Doohamlet National School

Castleblaney,

Co. Monaghan.

French

Knockconan National School

Ballyoisin, Emyvale,

Co. Monaghan.

French

St. Patrick’s National School

Clara, Kilbrone P.O., Monaghan.

Co. Monaghan.

French

Ballybay Central School

Castleblaney Road, Ballybay,

Co. Monaghan.

French

S.N. Mhuire, Coolanarney

Coolanarney, Blueball, Tullamore,

Co. Offaly

French

Scoil Muire Banrion

Gilroy Avenue, Edenderry,

Co. Offaly

French

St. Cronan’s National School

Lusmagh, Banagher,

Co. Offaly

French

Edenderry No 2 School

Edenderry,

Co. Offaly

French

Clonaghadoo National School

Geashill,

Co. Offaly

German

Mercy Primary School

Birr,

Co. Offaly

Spanish

Ballybryan National School

Ballybryan, Rhode,

Co. Offaly.

French

Shinrone Mixed National School

Main Street, Shinrone,

Co. Offaly.

French

St. Colman’s National School

Cappagh, Croghan, Tullamore,

Co. Offaly.

French

St. John’s National School

Rath, Thomastown, Birr,

Co. Offaly.

French

Gaelscoil de hÍde

Cnoc na Crúibe, Bóthar na Gaillimhe, Roscomáin

Co. Ros Comáin

German

Castlesampson National School

Castlesampson, Bealnamulla, Athlone,

Co. Roscommon.

French

Carrick National School

Carrick, Ballinlough, Roscommon,

Co. Roscommon.

French

Attyrory National School

Attyrory, Ballinasloe,

Co. Roscommon.

French

Cornafulla National School

Cornafulla, Athlone,

Co. Roscommon.

French

Tibohine National School

Tibohine, Castlerea,

Co. Roscommon.

French

Scoil Mhuire Convent Primary

Convent Road

Co. Roscommon.

French

St. Mary’s Primary School

Strokestown

Co. Roscommon.

French

St. Joseph’s Primary School

Summerhill, Athlone,

Co. Roscommon.

Italian

S.N. Réalt na Mara

Rosses Point,

Co. Sligo

French

Killavil National School

Ballymote,

Co. Sligo

French

St. John’s National School

Ballisadare,

Co. Sligo

French

St. Brendan’s National School

Cartron,

Co. Sligo

French

Mary Immaculate Girls National School

Collooney,

Co. Sligo

French

Scoil Asicus Naofa

Strandhill,

Co. Sligo

French

Grange National School

Grange,

Co. Sligo

French

St. Lassra’s National School

Ballinacarrow, Ballymote,

Co. Sligo

French

Moylough National School

Moylough, Tubbercurry,

Co. Sligo

French

St. John’s National School

Temple Street,

Co. Sligo

German

Scoil Padraig Naofa

Ballyweelin, Ballinfull

Co. Sligo

German

Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal

Droimban, Curry,

Co. Sligo

Spanish

Srs. Of Charity N.S.

Mary Street, Clonmel,

Co. Tipperary

French

Newtown Upper N.S.

Carrick-On-Suir,

Co. Tipperary

French

Birdhill National School

Birdhill, Killaloe,

Co. Tipperary

French

Templederry National School

Templederry, Nenagh,

Co. Tipperary

German

Convent of Mercy National School

Newport,

Co. Tipperary.

French

Moyne National School

Thurles,

Co. Tipperary.

French

Grange National School

Clonmel,

Co. Tipperary.

French

Gaelscoil Aonach Urmhumhan

Plás Eoin, Nenagh,

Co. Tipperary.

French

Christian Brothers Primary School

The Monastery, Tipperary Town,

Co. Tipperary.

German

Scoil Mhuire SNS

Caisleain Nua na Suir, Cluin Meala,

Co. Tipperary.

German

Lisvernane National School

Lisvernane, Aherlow,

Co. Tipperary.

German

Kilross National School

Kilross,

Co. Tipperary.

German

Presentation Primary School

Clonmel,

Co. Tipperary.

Spanish

St. Mary’s B.N.S.

Ferrybank,

Co. Waterford

French

Passage East National School

Crooke, Passage East,

Co. Waterford

French

Christ Church National School

Lower Newtown, Waterford,

Co. Waterford

German

Killea Boys’ National School

Dunmore East,

Co. Waterford

German

Gaelscoil Philib Barún

An Trá Mhór,

Co. Waterford

Spanish

Faithlegg National School

Faithlegg,

Co. Waterford

French

Glór na Mara

Convent Hill, Tramore,

Co. Waterford.

French

Our Lady of Mercy National School

Military Road, Waterford

Co. Waterford.

French

Holy Cross National School

Ballycarnane, Tramore,

Co. Waterford.

French

Bunscoil Gleann Sidheáin

Cappoquin,

Co. Waterford.

French

Liosmór Mochuda

Lismore,

Co. Waterford.

French

Kilmacthomas Boys National School

Kilmacthomas,

Co. Waterford.

French

Villierstown National School

Villierstown, Cappaquin,

Co. Waterford.

French

Bunscoil Bhothar na Naomh

Lismore,

Co. Waterford.

French

Gaelscoil Phortlairge

Baile Mhic Gonair,

Co. Waterford.

German

St. Mary’s Primary School

Youghal Road, Dungarvan

Co. Waterford.

German

Presentation Primary School

Slievekeale Road,

Co. Waterford.

German

Light of Christ National School

Dunmore East,

Co. Waterford.

Italian

Glenbeg National School

Dungarvan,

Co. Waterfrod.

German

Taghmon National School

Mullingar,

Co. Westmeath

French

Scoil Naomh Clár

Tubberclare, Glasson, Athlone,

Co. Westmeath.

French

St. Colman’s National School

Delvin Road, Bellview, Mullingar,

Co. Westmeath.

French

Scoil na gCaithre Maistri

Diseart Mhuire, Bothar na Dithreibhe, Ath Luain,

Co. Westmeath.

French

Presentation Senior School

Harbour Street, Mullingar,

Co. Westmeath.

French

Scoil Náisiúnta na Scríne

Screen, Enniscorthy

Co. Wexford

French

St. Patrick’s National School

Craanford, Gorey,

Co. Wexford

French

Monaseed National School

Monaseed, Gorey,

Co. Wexford

French

Ballycullane National School

Ballycullane, New Ross,

Co. Wexford

French

Scoil Mhuire

Horeswood, Campile, New Ross,

Co. Wexford

Italian

Ballyfad National School

Ballyfad, Inch,

Co. Wexford.

French

Loreto Primary School

Gorey,

Co. Wexford.

French

Boolavogue National School

Boolavogue, Ferns,

Co. Wexford.

French

Arklow Boys National School

Coolgreaney Road, Arklow,

Co. Wicklow.

French

Kilcoole Primary School

Kilcoole,

Co. Wicklow.

French

Powerscourt National School

Enniskerry,

Co. Wicklow.

French

Wicklow Educate Together

Marine House, The Murrough, Wicklow Town,

Co. Wicklow.

French

Scoil Mhuire Fatima

Grangecon

Co. Wicklow.

French

Scoil Chualann

Bothar Vevay, Bre,

Co. Wicklow.

German

St. Patrick’s National School

Curtlestown, Enniskerry,

Co. Wicklow.

German

St. Fergal’s Senior National School

Boghall Road, Bray,

Co. Wicklow.

German

St. Mary’s Senior National School

Blessington,

Co. Wicklow.

German

St. Cronan’s Boys National School

Vevay Crescent, Vevay Road, Bray,

Co. Wicklow.

Spanish

St. Laurence’s School

Greystones,

Co. Wicklow.

Spanish

St. Brigid’s National School

Trafalgar Road, Greystones,

Co. Wicklow.

Spanish

Jonathan Swift National School

Dunlavin

Co. Wicklow.

Spanish

Scoil Nioclais Naofa

Dunlavin

Co. Wicklow.

Spanish

Donard National School

Donard

Co. Wicklow.

Spanish

Schools Building Projects

Seamus Kirk

Question:

141 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will advise on the criteria for deciding between applications from Catholic ethos, Educate Together and vocational education committees for applications being considered in post-primary school building sites for the north Drogheda area, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40890/11]

Applications for patronage of the new second level schools to be established in 2013 and 2014 have recently been sought by my Department from prospective patrons. The closing date for receipt of applications is 24th February 2012. Details of the new arrangements for patronage of new schools and the criteria for deciding on patronage of these new schools are available on my Department's website, www.education.ie.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

142 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is an application being considered for an extension or refurbishment for a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40891/11]

My Department has no record of having received an application for capital works from the school referred to by the Deputy. It is open to the school authority to submit an application for such works and the relevant application form can be downloaded from my Department's website www.education.ie.

Higher Education Grants

Brian Walsh

Question:

143 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application for a higher education grant will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [40895/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority. However, I understand that a decision has issued from the grant awarding authority and that the student has appealed this decision to the grant awarding authority's appeals officer. A decision on the appeal will issue in due course.

If the student is not satisfied with the appeals officer's decision, he may appeal this to the Department or the independent Appeals Board as appropriate to his circumstances.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

144 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) is still being paid the unqualified teacher rate of pay despite being qualified and registered since October 2011 and being a member of the Teaching Council since 12 October 2011; when may they expect to be paid the correct salary and have outstanding amounts backdated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40904/11]

The person referred to by the Deputy is a new appointee to teaching in 2011. Her salary has been adjusted to pay her correctly with effect from the 9th January 2012. It is proposed to pay any arrears owed to substitute teachers who are new appointees at the end of February.

School Staffing

Brian Walsh

Question:

145 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision will be made for teachers currently engaged in the modern languages in primary schools initiative to be redeployed within the education system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40912/11]

There are over 270 part-time tutors employed by primary schools to deliver language tuition under the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative (MLPSI).

Under the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, the Government gave a commitment that compulsory redundancy will not apply in the public service, save where existing exit provisions apply. Redeployment arrangements exist in order to ensure that surplus public servants covered by that commitment are redeployed into vacancies. Where a tutor employed by a school solely to deliver the MLPSI, the post is not regarded as a public service post for the purposes of the Public Service Agreement. The commitment against compulsory redundancy therefore does not apply.

Dan Neville

Question:

146 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the redeployment of staff who are disengaging from a crèche facility (details supplied). [40915/11]

The employment of staff in Co. Limerick Vocational Education Committee is a matter for that VEC. I understand that the crèche run by the VEC in Shanagolden closed with effect from 31 December 2011.

Under the terms of paragraph 1.6 of the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement, the Government has given a commitment that compulsory redundancy will not apply to permanent staff within the public service, save where existing exit provisions apply. To that end, redeployment arrangements have been developed in the public service to re-assign staff to comparable roles in the wider public service.

There were 7 permanent members of staff employed by Co. Limerick VEC in the crèche in Shanagolden. I understand that upon the closure of the crèche five of the permanent crèche staff opted for voluntary redundancy.

Co. Limerick VEC are working closely with officials in my Department to identify suitable vacancies within the wider public service to facilitate the permanent redeployment of the remaining 2 permanent staff of the crèche subject to the arrangements for redeployment of staff as detailed in the appendix to the Public Service Agreement which deals with redeployment arrangements for staff in the Education sector.

These 2 staff remain in employment with Co. Limerick VEC and are working in the VEC Head Offices since 3 January 2012 pending their redeployment to a permanent public sector position in line with the terms of the Public Service Agreement.

Redundancy Payments

Denis Naughten

Question:

147 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will receive their redundancy payment; the reason for the delay; the total payment due to the person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40947/11]

A redundancy application in respect of the person referred to by the Deputy has been received by my Department and is currently being processed. The person will be contacted directly by the Redundancy Section of my Department as soon as the payment is finalised and ready to issue.

Redundancy applications from Special Needs Assistants are processed by my Department in date order of receipt and every effort is being made to process these applications as quickly as possible. Extra resources have been assigned to the Redundancy Unit to ensure that Special Needs Assistants that have been made redundant will have their claims for payment processed as quickly as possible. My Department is also prioritising the processing of redundancy applications from those SNAs who have not obtained alternative employment in a non teaching capacity in primary, secondary or community / comprehensive schools in the current school year.

Higher Education Grants

Billy Timmins

Question:

148 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a third level grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40950/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority.

An applicant may appeal the decision of the grant awarding authority to its appeals officer.

Where the appeals officer decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department or the independent Appeals Board, as appropriate.

It is open to the student in question to invoke this procedure if she is not satisfied with the grant awarding authority's decision on her application.

School Staffing

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

149 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied) regarding guidance counselling. [40955/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

154 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the impact on County Louth of cuts to guidance teachers or counsellors in schools including a list of any schools in which posts will be cut; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40974/11]

Billy Timmins

Question:

159 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding guidance counsellors hours (details supplied). [41048/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

168 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the decision to cut the guidance counsellors service (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [41119/11]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

188 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the decision to cut the allocation for guidance counsellors in second level schools; if he agreed that this will have an acutely detrimental effect on the educational and personal development of second level pupils, particularly those in disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41292/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

190 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding career guidance hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41297/11]

Simon Harris

Question:

242 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a staffing circular instructing all post-primary principals to ensure that effective and sufficient guidance counselling services are offered in individual post-primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1080/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

249 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter regarding guidance counsellors (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1331/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 154, 159, 168, 188, 190, 242 and 249 together.

The change that has been announced gives schools greater autonomy in how they allocate staff resources to best meet the needs of their students, including how they provide for guidance and counselling. It is a change to how resources are allocated to schools not a policy decision to terminate guidance provision as some may chose to present it.

Until now, a specific resource was provided for guidance in addition to the standard teacher allocation to post primary schools. In future, schools must meet their guidance requirements from within the overall resource provided by that normal staffing schedule. Individually schools can continue to make provision for guidance and counselling. Decisions on how this will be done will be taken at school level in the best interests of students and to ensure the best use of resources available.

In this way, the main teacher allocation can be maintained at 19:1 for schools generally, while schools will have discretion to balance what they allocate for guidance against the competing demands of providing subject choice.

I have also provided for the filling of 300 Assistant Principal posts in second-level schools over the level originally planned. This will ensure that schools have sufficient management positions to ensure appropriate supports are available for all students.

A key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target available funding at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. All 195 second-level school in DEIS will be given targeted support by a more favourable staffing schedule of 18.25:1. This is a 0.75 point reduction compared to the existing PTR of 19:1 that applies in non fee-paying second-level schools. The budget measures, including those relating to guidance, come into effect from September 2012. Schools will be notified in the normal manner in relation to these changes. My Department will be issuing a Circular this month that will outline the staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/13 school year. The Department will set out the position clearly and this should dispel any potential for misunderstanding the budget measure.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Creed

Question:

150 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills the process used by him when considering higher education grant appeals; if he does in fact adjudicate on the merits of appeals or merely refer them back to the awarding authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40963/11]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority in the first instance.

An applicant may appeal the decision of the grant awarding authority to its appeals officer.

Where the appeals officer decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department or the independent Appeals Board, as appropriate.

All student grant applications made under the 2011 student grant scheme and subsequent schemes are appropriate to the independent Appeals Board. This is provided for under the Student Support Act 2011.

Student grant applications under all previous schemes are appropriate to my Department.

A full review of a student grant application is carried out in both processes to ensure that the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme and governing legislation are properly applied in the cases involved. A decision in this regard subsequently issues from the Department/independent Appeals Board to the appellant and the grant awarding authority as appropriate.

Michael Creed

Question:

151 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is in receipt of an appeal from a person (details supplied) in County Cork regarding the decision by Cork County Vocational Education Committee to refuse them a higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40964/11]

No appeal has been received in my Department to date from the candidate referred to by the Deputy.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Ray Butler

Question:

152 Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the changes announced by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on 5 December 2011 regarding payment of qualification allowances will affect teachers who are currently studying but have not yet graduated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40971/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

165 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his reasons for establishing the maximum amount payable to new entrants in qualification allowances not to exceed the amount payable for an honours degree €4,426, when those with higher qualifications are not being financially recognised such as new entrants with a masters degree; the reason those with lower qualifications are financially recognised and those with higher qualifications are not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41094/11]

Michael McGrath

Question:

182 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the decision to remove the masters degree allowance for teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41252/11]

Denis Naughten

Question:

185 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the decision to cut the masters degree allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41266/11]

Tom Fleming

Question:

231 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will retain the qualification allowance for teachers who have already committed to the time and expense of undertaking a master’s degree and who have done so on the understanding that the traditional automatic allowance accorded to all previous masters graduates would be payable to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1003/12]

Pat Breen

Question:

246 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) qualifies for a masters qualification allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1227/12]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

255 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that his Department gives recognition to an additional academic qualification secured by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1409/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152, 165, 182, 185, 231, 246 and 255 together.

The Government announced as part of Budget 2012 that, pending completion of the public service-wide review of allowances, changes to teacher qualification allowances were being made with immediate effect. These changes affect both existing teachers and new appointees in the future.

Circular 70/2011, which clarified the position on qualification allowances for teachers, schools and the public, was published on my Department's website on Friday, 16 December 2011. This Circular outlines the position in relation to existing teachers and those entering the profession on or after 5 December 2011.

Individual teachers who have been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the allowances they were in receipt of on that date. Existing teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011.

The position of existing teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the public service-wide review of allowances announced in Budget 2012 which is to be led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Teachers who enter public sector teaching on or after 5 December 2011 are eligible to receive combined qualification allowances up to a maximum value equivalent to that of the honours primary degree allowance. Where a teacher on first appointment is eligible for payment of an allowance below that equivalent to honours primary degree level he or she will, in common with existing teachers, not be paid any additional allowance should he or she acquire a further qualification.

This basis for this decision was the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. Without any changes, the cost of qualification allowances are expected to result in an additional €150 million increase in the cost of teacher salaries by 2020.

To put this in context, the other reductions in education expenditure announced in Budget 2012 amount to €76 million. Without immediate action, this upward pressure would have cancelled out the savings made elsewhere in the education system and would bring about even harsher adjustments to schools and services.

School Staffing

Gerry Adams

Question:

153 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline in detail which schools in County Louth will be affected by the education cuts introduced in budget 2012; if these cuts are as a result of the cuts to legacy programmes in place prior to the roll out of the DEIS initiative in 2005 which are due to be phased out or other cuts; the number of teaching posts in each school in County Louth in the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40973/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

166 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a teaching post in respect of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [41117/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

167 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding staff cuts at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [41118/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

183 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has carried out an impact assessment of the budget cuts he has introduced which affect designated disadvantaged schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41257/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

184 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 114 of 13 December 2011 if he will provide a list of all the schools affected by the decision to withdraw 428 posts from disadvantaged or DEIS schools and if he will outline the number of posts that each school will lose. [41258/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

187 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding staff cuts at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [41274/11]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

226 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the schools in the Dublin 8, 10 and 12 areas which are DEIS schools, and to explain for each the likely effects on teaching hours, resource teaching, language teaching and career guidance in each of the schools and if a change from the announced changes in the education budget is likely to take place before the end of January in view of the distress this is causing for disadvantaged communities. [41432/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

227 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has confirmed that certain DEIS schools have been told they will not be experiencing those cuts imposed on them in budget 2012. [41440/11]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

239 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will mitigate the impacts of budgetary adjustments on a school (details supplied) which anticipates losing 12 teachers and €74,000 per annum arising from the loss of DEIS band 2 status in addition to other financial losses arising out of the reduction to capitation and other grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1064/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

252 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teaching posts that will be lost in each of the following DEIS schools (details supplied) in the Dublin Central constituency. [1371/12]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

257 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria by which exemptions for schools due to lose staff as a result of the removal of concessionary posts announced in budget 2012 will be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1491/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153, 166, 167, 183, 184, 187, 226, 227, 239, 252 and 257 together.

It is important to note that a key aspect of the EU/IMF Programme of Support and Ireland's overall budgetary strategy is a requirement to reduce the public sector payroll. In the Education sector finding savings and controlling the increase in public sector numbers is particularly difficult given that one third of all public sector employees work in the education sector.

A significant challenge in our school sector, unlike other countries, is the rapidly rising school going population. Places have to be provided for the extra 70,000 pupils arriving in our schools in the next six years. Teachers have to be appointed to teach them. Providing for increased enrolments is a key priority but making some adjustment to teacher numbers is unavoidable given the budgetary constraints. The net impact on overall teacher numbers in our schools has been minimised to the greatest extent possible. Achieving savings in my Department's budget has required very difficult decisions to be made. Despite the pressures on spending, the Government has shielded, to the greatest extent possible, frontline services in schools.

Conscious of the concerns of some schools that will be adversely affected by the withdrawal of certain posts under previous disadvantage schemes, I have met with school principals, teachers, parents and communities in recent weeks, to hear their concerns and clarify the position in relation to changes announced under Budget 2012 to posts allocated to schools under previous schemes to tackle educational disadvantage.

Consequently, I have asked my Department for a report within the coming weeks on the position of DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 schools who currently have posts under older schemes, in the context of the staffing allocations due to issue to all schools in the coming weeks.

My Department is currently working on the staffing allocation for all schools and is not in a position at the present time to give details of staffing measures for individual schools.

Schools will be notified in the coming weeks of their staffing entitlements under the new arrangements for 2012/13.

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 149.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

155 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers, school support and assistant posts that have been lost in schools across County Donegal over the past two years; and if he will outline the schools affected. [41006/11]

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive data at individual school level in county order. The most recent information available relates to the 2010/2011 school year. Statistical information in respect of the current school year is currently being compiled in my Department and is due for publication in September 2012.

Schools Building Projects

Clare Daly

Question:

156 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the new second level school for Lusk, County Dublin will be delivered in its entirety or in phases; and if in phases, the phases that will be delivered initially in terms of number of classes and specialist facilities. [41024/11]

The new second level school for Lusk is one of 20 new schools, announced by the Minister in June 2011, to be established in the next 6 years. It will be a post primary school for 1000 pupils and it is anticipated that the first intake of pupils will be in September 2013.

The construction of the new school will be delivered in phases. It is intended to deliver the first phase by September 2013. This phase of accommodation will be capable of catering for a minimum of 350 pupils and comprise of circa 2,400m2. Along with general classroom accommodation, phase one will include specialist accommodation such as music/drama area, business/computer room, science laboratory, art/craft room, home economics, technical graphics and construction studies/engineering/technology rooms.

Higher Education Grants

Michael McGrath

Question:

157 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of his plans to introduce a capital asset test as part of the qualifying criteria for maintenance grants at third level from 2013 and, specifically, if agricultural land and other business assets will be included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41028/11]

As I announced last December, the means test for student grants will be amended to take account of the value of certain capital assets as well as income for the 2013/14 academic year. A dedicated Capital Asset Test implementation group has been established. The group has been charged with bringing forward detailed implementation proposals on new means testing arrangements for student grants, to include the value of assets, for new applicants from the 2013/14 academic year. In the circumstances, I am not in a position to say at this time what assets may be included. However, any proposals will require further Government agreement and necessitate legislative amendment.

School Staffing

Billy Timmins

Question:

158 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding staffing levels at a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41047/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

164 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills his strategy for ensuring that the tradition of providing education in denominational schools for the Protestant community will be protected in view of cuts to pupil-teacher ratios in one, two, three and four teacher schools in budget 2012 as well as suggestions that smaller schools should look at amalgamating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41091/11]

Finian McGrath

Question:

172 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the closure of small schools (details supplied). [41158/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding staffing levels at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41178/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the closure of small schools (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41228/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

179 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) that will be directly affected by the changes announced in budget 2012 with regard to the appointment retention figure for small schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41231/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 164, 172, 174, 178 and 179 together.

There is no increase in the staffing schedule general average of 28:1 for the allocation of classroom teachers at primary level. However, there is a phased increase in the pupil threshold for the allocation of classroom teachers in small primary schools. As part of the Budget decisions announced, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. The schools concerned are those with four or less classroom teachers. It is important to emphasise that no small schools will be closed due to the changes that have been announced.

The phased adjustment is estimated to yield a saving of 250 teaching posts over the next three years, with 100 of these posts being removed in 2012/13 school year. The resulting surplus teachers will be redeployed to vacancies in other neighbouring schools in accordance with the redeployment arrangements.

The phasing of these measures provides the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible. We have a very significant number of small schools across the country. The changes that we are introducing will mean that in September 2012 a minimum of 14 pupils will be required for the appointment of the second teacher in the 2 teacher school. The subsequent increases in September 2013 and September 2014 will increase this minimum pupil threshold to 20 pupils. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented the threshold will still be significantly lower than the minimum of 28 pupils that were required for the appointment of the second teacher in schools prior to the mid 1990's. The existing staffing schedule also acts as a disincentive for small schools to consider amalgamation. We have to ensure that the very valuable but limited resources we have available in the system are used in the best and fairest way across the whole system.

A value for money review on small primary schools is currently underway in my Department. This review is part of the normal review processes undertaken by all Departments on an annual basis on selected areas of expenditure and is being conducted in line with the standard procedure for value for money reviews. Work on the review is well advanced and I expect that the report of the review should be available to me early this year. I will then have to consider its outcomes and proposals.

Question No. 159 answered with Question No. 149.

Schools Recognition

John O'Mahony

Question:

160 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will make an announcement on the designation of new primary schools for September 2012 and September 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41068/11]

In June of last year I announced that 20 new primary schools and 20 new post-primary schools would be established up to 2017. My Department recently informed patron bodies of the locations of new primary schools to be established in 2012 and 2013 and invited applications for patronage of same. My Department has prepared a report on these applications for the consideration of the New Schools Establishment Group who will submit a report to me in due course for final consideration and decision.

School Enrolments

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

161 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills with regard to the operation of section 29 appeals, on school enrolment, if it is his position that section 19(3) of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 cannot be used as a reason for upholding section 29 appeals; if this has always been the position, or if this is a new or revised position; if all institutional stakeholders, that is schools, boards of management, parents associations and so on, in section 29 appeals have been advised of this position; and if it is common practice for him to issue instructions to members of section 29 committees that section 19(3) cannot be used. [41075/11]

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 is responsible for administering appeals, including clarifying for appeal members their legal jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals. My Department liaises with the Office of the Attorney General in relation to all legal advice in this area.

The applicability of Section 19(3) of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 in relation to Section 29 appeals arose in the context of the appeals before Section 29 committees during 2011, on foot of which my Department sought legal advice. Committees were subsequently briefed on the advice received, to the effect that section 19(3) of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 cannot be used as a reason for upholding appeals. My Department is currently making the appropriate arrangements to standardise the provision of this advice to all parties of Section 29 appeals in relation to refused enrolments.

The Deputy will be aware that in 2011, I launched a "Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment". My officials are co-ordinating the submissions received. The feedback from this consultation will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment, to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent. I will be reviewing the purpose and scope of Section 19(3) of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 as part of this work.

School Accommodation

Brendan Ryan

Question:

162 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the situation in a school (details supplied) in County Dublin whereby students in fourth and fifth class are sent home when the weather gets too cold in view of the fact that the prefabs they are educated in are insufficiently insulated; his plans to improve the facilities in this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41076/11]

I can confirm that the school, to which the Deputy refers, has applied to my Department seeking funding to replace temporary accommodation in the school. The current status of all projects on the school building programme, including the school referred to by the Deputy, may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this will be updated regularly throughout the year.

The temporary accommodation to which the Deputy refers is the property of the school. The responsibility for its maintenance therefore rests with the school authority. My Department has no record of receiving correspondence from the school relating to the matters to which he refers. However it is open to the school authority to prioritise the use of the funds that it recently received under the Minor Works Grant towards improvement works, it considers appropriate.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which was published on 10th November 2011, sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system in the coming years. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet the demographic demands will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. On that basis, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project, referred to by the Deputy, at this time.

School Evaluations

Michael Colreavy

Question:

163 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will urgently arrange for a whole-school evaluation to be carried out on a school (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will ensure the evaluation incorporates a detailed examination of the issue which he commented on in Dáil Éireann on 16 November 2011. [41079/11]

All primary and post-primary schools are subject to external evaluation by my Department's Inspectorate. Evaluations are carried out under published procedures and provide schools and the public with an assessment of the quality of school management, teaching, learning and support for students. These procedures are not intended to encompass individual complaints. For obvious reasons it is not possible to give advance notice of when any particular school may be scheduled for an inspection.

In accordance with my Department's role, I wish to advise the Deputy that my officials have provided clarity to the parent of the pupil in question on how the complaint against the school can be progressed. My officials also wrote to the HSE seeking their advice on the matter.

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. I also understand from my officials that the NEWB recently wrote to the parents of the pupil in question with a view to meeting them to discuss the case.

Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 158.
Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 152.
Questions Nos. 166 and 167 answered with Question No. 153.
Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 149.

School Staffing

Seán Crowe

Question:

169 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he plans to redeploy FÁS staff to fulfil the role of school guidance counsellors in secondary schools. [41121/11]

I have no specific plans in this regard. However the Deputy may wish to be aware of related activity in the activation area. The Government is in the process of establishing SOLAS — the new Further Education and Training Authority — with a new remit in this area. FÁS is being disbanded. As part of that process, over 700 former FÁS community employment staff have recently joined the Department of Social Protection to work alongside staff in the employments and benefits service. The new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES) of the Department of Social Protection will have a role which includes the provision of an appropriate career guidance support as part of the jobseekers engagement and referral system.

Teacher allocations to secondary school are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. Until now, a specific resource was provided for guidance in addition to the standard teacher allocation to post primary schools. In future, schools must meet their guidance requirements from within the overall resource provided by that normal staffing schedule. As part of the budget measures all 195 second-level schools in DEIS will be given targeted support by a more favourable staffing schedule of 18.25:1. This is a 0.75 point reduction compared to the existing PTR of 19:1 that applies in non fee-paying second-level schools.

Schools will, of course, continue to make provision for guidance and counselling. Decisions on how this will be done will be taken by principals in the best interests of students and the best use of resources available. My Department has also provided as part of Budget 2012 for the filling of 300 Assistant Principal posts as additional alleviation for second-level schools. This will ensure that schools