Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

FÁS Training Programmes

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

12 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that allowance to persons attending the schemes such as the national learning network, that provides courses for persons with a disability, have had their weekly allowances cut and in view of the costs of trainees if he will agree to review the impact this is having on those participating in courses. [2951/12]

FÁS contracts with Specialist Training Providers such as the National Learning Network to deliver training programmes to people with disabilities. Training allowances set by FÁS are paid directly to the trainee and FÁS reimburse the training provider based on invoices received.

As part of Budget 2012, it was decided to reduce training allowances in respect of 16 and 17 year old on FÁS courses from €76.65 and €95.75 respectively to €40 per week. This reduction applies to new entrants from 1st January 2012 and is mirrored in the Youthreach programme for early school leavers managed by the VECs.

I have been informed by FÁS that the change to the rate of training allowances paid to new participants under 18 years of age is the only rate change implemented by FÁS in 2012.

This reduction does not apply to persons under 18 years old receiving Disability Allowance.

School Curriculum

Billy Kelleher

Question:

13 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider proposals contained in the recent report by the National Competitiveness Council which recommended that the education system be overhauled with a much greater emphasis on maths in primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2923/12]

I am pleased to note that the National Competitiveness Council endorses the approach outlined in Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life which I launched in July 2011. The Strategy provides for a range of measures which will improve mathematics. These include curriculum reform, actions with parents to support their children's learning, improved initial and continuing professional development for teachers, strengthened assessment, school leadership and planning, and support for children with identified needs.

In that context, a national programme of professional development is under way for primary and second level schools. Primary schools have been asked to increase the time spent on mathematics by 70 minutes per week from January 2012, to introduce a third point of standardised testing in literacy and maths, and to report the results to parents as part of an overall report on their children's progress.

I recently launched a report on the first phase of evaluation of DEIS which shows significant improvements in literacy and numeracy scores since 2006/7, and a report of English reading and Mathematics achievement in Irish medium schools.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Martin Ferris

Question:

14 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will revisit his decision to exclude Bethany Home, Dublin, survivors from a State redress mechanism in view of the deluge of information that is now in the public domain detailing the State’s oversight and involvement in the institution. [2954/12]

Following my meeting with representatives of the Bethany Home Survivors Group last year, I reviewed the relevant papers in relation to the Home. Having taken all the circumstances into account, I found no basis to revisit the decision not to include the Home within the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme. That remains the position.

Literacy and Numeracy Strategy

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

15 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if public libraries will be integrated into the development of the literacy and strategy programme. [2975/12]

Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life: The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020 acknowledges the important role which libraries play in literacy development through engagement with learners, parents, early childhood education settings, schools and communities. The Strategy envisages that libraries will support parents and families and help them to build and develop their children's literacy and numeracy skills. It also acknowledges the importance of close links between libraries and schools.

Officials in my Department have met with library interests to discuss models of engagement and to progress the implementation of actions in the Strategy relating to libraries.

Third Level Charges

Dara Calleary

Question:

16 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the increase in participation at third level over the past decade, if he considered the likely impact on participation at third level following decisions taken in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2907/12]

Continuing high demand for higher education is extremely welcome in the context of the steps we are taking to support economic recovery and the development and expansion of sustainable employment opportunities into the future. This Government has had to take difficult and unpalatable decisions which will unfortunately mean that liable students will pay an increased student contribution from the next academic year.

In considering the scale of increase, the Government was highly conscious of affordability and the need to promote participation. Every effort has also been made to protect resources for the most disadvantaged students and to support them in achieving an undergraduate qualification while continuing to provide support for a relatively wide number of post graduate students.

The Government has also committed a further €10m to support unemployed people in accessing higher education opportunities on a part time basis in 2012 through the further development of the Springboard initiative introduced as part of the Jobs Initiative last May.

Schools Building Projects

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

17 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in Dublin 7, a DEIS band two school is still on the list for capital funding in the context of the school building and modernisation programme; if he will clarify the position of the school on the queue; and if there are any proposals to initiate a more simplified system when schools can easily access their position in relation to a proposed school building. [2952/12]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department is currently in the process of acquiring a site for the school to which she refers. An application for planning permission forms part of the site acquisition process. A draft design for the school was discussed with the school authority and the design is currently being revised in light of those discussions.

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

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 nationally as well as the demands in the area to which the Deputy refers, will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years.

I have previously committed to publishing shortly a five year plan outlining the school building projects to be constructed in that time.

Departmental Staff

Sean Fleming

Question:

18 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of teachers who have applied to retire by 29 February; the number of these who will be re-employed by post primary schools following their retirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2920/12]

A total of 798 primary and 582 secondary community and comprehensive school teachers have applied to my Department for benefits on retirement in the period 1 December 2011 to 29 February 2012. Of these, 935 have given a February 2012 retirement date, with the breakdown in February between the levels as follows: 520 in primary and 415 in secondary, community and comprehensive school teacher. In addition, information provided to my Department from VECs in December 2011 indicates that 217 teachers employed in vocational schools and community colleges had, at that time, given expressions of interests in retiring before 29 February 2012.

I announced measures in November 2011 permitting post-primary schools to re-employ teachers who retire between 1 December 2011 and 29 February 2012 and who, immediately before their retirement, have been teaching students preparing to sit the Junior or Leaving Certificate examinations in 2012. These teachers may be re-employed until the summer holidays for the teaching duties for which they were timetabled immediately before their retirement. I do not have information of the numbers of retirees who will be re-employed under these special arrangements as it will be a matter for the school and teacher concerned to decide if they wish to avail of them.

Departmental Bodies

Sandra McLellan

Question:

19 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the single awarding authority for student grants will be in place for the 2012-2013 academic year applications. [2956/12]

Plans are well underway to replace the 66 existing student grant awarding bodies with one single grant awarding authority. I have appointed the City of Dublin VEC to operate the centralised authority commencing operation for all new grant applicants for the 2012/13 academic year and implementation arrangements are well advanced for this purpose.

It is intended therefore that the new grant awarding authority will accept all new student grant applications from the 2012/13 academic year onwards. The existing 66 grant awarding bodies will continue to deal with the renewal of applications for their existing grant-holders for the duration of their current courses. This will wind down the involvement of the existing grant awarding bodies in the student grants function over a three to four year period.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that this is a positive example of genuine public sector reform. I believe it will ensure a better level of customer service for all those who use the student grant system.

Languages Initiative

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

20 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is examining any options, such as sourcing funding from the European Union, to restore the modern languages initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2931/12]

My consideration of the modern language initiative is wider than one of funding alone.

The Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative has been a pilot scheme involving approximately 550 schools that has operated since 1998.

The decision to end the scheme took account of a 2008 Report by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The report identified serious issues with curricular overload at primary level.

The NCCA's advice recommended for the present modern languages should not be part of the Primary School Curriculum as an additional and separate subject. The advice in relation to curriculum overload predated the wake up call on literacy and numeracy triggered by the PISA results. I am taking that advice on board and with particular regard to the demands on time in school that will result from a heightened focus on literacy and numeracy.

The primary curriculum is currently being reviewed by the NCCA in the context of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. The €2.5million in savings from this measure will go towards the cost of implementing the new National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. The 17% of primary schools at present in the Initiative, who have had even more time demands than others in a crowded curricular space, should as a result be better placed to deliver under the strategy.

Given the priority of literacy and numeracy I have acted on the 2008 advice about overload and could not justify either the continuation of the initiative in the existing schools or its expansion to all schools even if funding was not an issue. The issue of seeking alternative resources from the EU does not arise.

Departmental Bodies

Dessie Ellis

Question:

21 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the expected management and organisational structures of new further education and training authority SOLAS; and the percentage of its management that will come from the entity previously known as FÁS. [2958/12]

SOLAS will have strategic responsibility for further education currently delivered by Vocational Education Committees (VECs) and training currently delivered by FÁS. FÁS will be disbanded as part of this process and its training provision transferred to VECs. While it is envisaged that SOLAS itself will be staffed mostly by former FÁS Head Office staff, around 700 FÁS Training Division staff (including trainers) will transfer to VECs. In addition, the 33 VECs will be rationalised into 16 Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs). Already, some 700 FÁS Employment and Community Services staff have transferred to the Department of Social Protection as part of the establishment of the National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES).

I chair the SOLAS Implementation Group, established by the Government, charged with drafting the Action Plan which will set out the change process involved. A stakeholder consultation process has commenced, the results of which will inform the Action Plan. Details of the process are available on my Department's website.

Departmental Staff

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

22 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a report into the staffing levels of professional development service for teachers. [2965/12]

My Department has allocated a total of 170 teachers to teacher professional development of which 87 are employed full time in the Professional Development Service for Teachers. Teachers are engaged on a secondment basis from their schools and reviewed on an annual basis. These arrangements provide flexibility and ensure that the needs and priorities of the service are met while also allowing for the career development of individual teachers. While the overall resources allocated to teacher professional development have declined in line with recent budgetary adjustments, additional resources were secured last year to support the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and other priorities. PDST staffing is augmented by the availability of serving teachers who work on a part time basis as required. My Department is currently reviewing the PDST to ensure that its structures are fit for purpose in the context of the Government reform agenda.

School Patronage

Gerry Adams

Question:

23 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the patronage for new second level schools in Dundalk and Drogheda, County Louth [2967/12]

In June of last year I announced that 20 new second level schools would be established up to 2017 to meet increasing demographics. These included new second level schools in both Dundalk and Drogheda, each with an indicative opening in 2014.

Applications for patronage of the new second level schools to be established in 2013 and 2014 have been sought by my Department from prospective patrons and the closing date for receipt of applications is 24th February 2012. My Department asked prospective patrons to register expressions of interest by Friday last, 13th January, of the areas where they intended making formal applications for patronage of the new schools. Expressions of interest were received from Co. Louth VEC in relation to patronage of the new school in Dundalk and from the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, Educate Together and Co. Louth VEC in respect of patronage of the new school in Drogheda. It remains open to patrons to apply even if they have not made an expression of interest.

School Staffing

Mick Wallace

Question:

24 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the largest secondary school in the country (details supplied) in County Wexford which cannot retain guidance counselling positions in place of other subjects due to the large number of students it caters for and, as a result, stands to lose three much needed guidance counsellors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2901/12]

All schools must continue to provide guidance to their pupils. However, from September 2012 guidance provision will be managed by schools from within their standard staffing allocation.

The impact of this decision for the school referred to by the Deputy will be to reduce its staffing by 3 posts out of a total of over 100 posts.

Schools will have autonomy on how best to prioritise its available resources to meet its requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to its students. Decisions on how this is done will be taken at school level and I am confident that schools will act in the best interest of students when determining precisely how to use the teaching resources available to them.

School Statistics

Sandra McLellan

Question:

25 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a database of primary school pupils and details of works being progressed by him to improve its systems in order to facilitate access to accurate and up to date information on individual schools, both to ensure more efficient use of the official time and to reduce the administrative burden on schools. [2957/12]

My Department continues to seek to enhance the quality and timeliness of datasets which are required for resource planning purposes, most notably in providing online facilities to streamline the collection of data. In recent years a number of initiatives have been developed in the area of online interaction with schools. There have been a number of developments in the area of pupil data collection from post-primary schools. My Department is currently in the process of streamlining the post-primary returns process to allow for a live online system allowing for easy exchange of information that reflects the up-to-date situation in regard to enrolment at any one time and to cut down on administrative burden and the scale of paper-based information flows across the Department and its associated agencies. My Department intends to proceed, as soon as timing and resources permit, to extend this development to primary level schools.

School Staffing

Clare Daly

Question:

26 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way the undermining of DEIS band 2, by reallocating teachers away from these schools to other schools, will contribute to the economic regeneration of the State, as he has claimed this in response to queries from parents in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [2820/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

36 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects to be in a position to review the impact of the budget 2012 throughout the educational sector with particular reference to the need to provide for the most sensitive and vulnerable areas in view of the necessity to retain the integrity and structure of education even in times of economic difficulty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2834/12]

Clare Daly

Question:

37 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason DEIS band 2 category does not appear on the teacher allocation staffing schedule 2012-2013 for primary schools. [2821/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 26, 37 and 36 together.

The requirement to find savings and control the increase in public sector numbers and remain within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teacher numbers, which is a key aspect of the EU/IMF Programme of Support and Ireland's overall budgetary strategy, is particularly challenging for my Department.

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.

The reason DEIS Band 2 schools are not specifically mentioned in the Teacher Allocation Staffing Schedule is because they are entitled to the same pupil teacher ratio as all other mainstream schools. This has always been the case. The Deputy will be aware that while DEIS Band 2 schools have the same pupil teacher ratio as other mainstream schools, they receive additional supports under the DEIS scheme that are not offered to mainstream schools.

The announcement I made on the 11th January in relation to my Department reporting to me within four weeks refers only to the impact of the withdrawal of certain posts allocated under previous disadvantaged schemes in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools.

This report will detail the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, applying the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report will take account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year.

It is only when this report is made available to me that I will be in a position to make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved.

Niall Collins

Question:

27 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline in further detail the structure of the review to be carried out by him into the effect of the removal of legacy DEIS posts on a case by case basis; the way this review will operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2910/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

32 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline and publish the terms of reference for the DEIS schools review under budget 2012. [2953/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 32 together.

I announced in the house on 11th January that my Department will be reporting to me within four weeks on the impact of the withdrawal of certain posts allocated under previous disadvantaged schemes in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools, following concerns raised by some schools with me that will be adversely affected by these budget measures.

This report will detail the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, applying the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report will take account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year.

It is only when this report is made available to me that I will be in a position to make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved.

Future Skills Needs

Denis Naughten

Question:

28 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to meet the future skills needs of industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2727/12]

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs identifies future skills needs of enterprise outlining current provision of education & training and identifies gaps in provision, where enterprise requirements cannot be met from current supply. The Expert Group has a key role to play in the identification of skills shortages in the enterprise sector and its recommendations will continue to be reflected in all new Labour Market Activation programmes and its research will continue to inform education provision at all levels.

The timely training and upskilling of the country's workforce through a variety of relevant training programmes, further education and higher education programmes is a vital step to meet the future skills needs of industry.

In 2011, the training and further education sectors provided almost 300,000 places. In addition enrolments in the third level sector reached 166,000. The Department of Education and Skills expects to maintain this general level of place provision in 2012.

Following on the Labour Market Activation Fund which operated in 2010 and 2011, a new fund will be introduced in 2012 specifically targeted at the long term unemployed. This fund amounting to €20 million, from the National Training Fund, will deliver upwards of 6,500 education and training places.

There will be a further roll out of the Higher Education Springboard initiative. The precise number of places to be provided will be determined by the results of an open competitive tendering process which will be conducted in the first quarter of 2012.

One of the areas which has been identified by the EGFSN with emerging skills shortages it the ICT sector. In response, the Government through the Departments of Education and Skills and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has developed an action plan to address the ICT skills demands articulated by business through a recent Forfás study. The Action Plan sets out clear timed actions that will be commenced in 2012 to ensure a sustainable domestic supply of suitably qualified graduates from the education system in the future and will be published shortly.

Skillnets which is an enterprise-led body funded through the National Training Fund (NTF) to provide companies with new opportunities to develop relevant, effective answers to their training and development needs was set ambitious targets for 2011 to train 40,000 persons, of which up to 8,000 will be unemployed, with up to 50% of training being for the low basic skilled. Similar targets to 2011 have been set for 2012 which will target the long term unemployed.

Future Skills Needs Programme fund, Job-seekers Support Programme fund and New Certified Programme Development fund were introduced in 2011 by Skillnets to respond to labour market needs as identified by industry and policy makers. In July 2011, the Government decided to create a new further education and training authority called SOLAS, under the aegis of my Department to establish a single new authority with strategic responsibility for the training currently delivered by FÁS and the further education currently delivered by Vocational Education Committees (VECs).

SOLAS's mandate will be to ensure the provision of 21st century high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners. SOLAS and the National Employment Service (NEES) will be involved in working on an integrated basis to provide targeted appropriate training and to provide for the first time a direct referral for both Further Education and Training Programmes.

An enterprise engagement forum was established by my Department in late 2011 and is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. Its aim is to ensure that there are good communication channels between enterprise partners and the education system.

School Staffing

Joe Higgins

Question:

29 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he still intends to press ahead with cuts to learning support teachers under the general allocation model; if so, if he will detail those planned cuts and the timescale for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2940/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

33 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he still intends to press ahead with cuts to learning support teachers under the general allocation model; if so, if he will detail those planned cuts and the timescale for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2939/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 33 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that there are no plans to cut the overall number of learning support/resource teachers provided to schools under the General Allocation Model (GAM). The Deputy has misunderstood the changes that will be made to the General Allocation Model.

GAM allocations for primary schools will be updated from September 2012, through a redistribution of the existing GAM learning support resources, based on the number of classroom teaching posts in each school in the previous school year. Classroom teacher posts are themselves based on the previous school year's enrolment figures.

This will provide for a more equitable distribution of the existing GAM resources for schools, based on updated enrolments. The existing GAM resources were originally allocated in 2005 based on 2003/04 school year enrolments and for most schools, has not been updated since, despite the likely changes in the enrolment of individual schools since that time. In taking the decision to update the GAM the Government has also taken into account concerns expressed by the Ombudsman for Children that the GAM has not been updated.

While the overall level of learning support resources being provided under the GAM will not change, as the revised allocations will be based on updated enrolments, there will inevitably be some schools that will lose posts and other schools that will gain posts. Schools will be advised of their new GAM allocations for September 2012 in the coming weeks.

The revised allocation procedures will also allow GAM allocations to be updated annually based on the number of classroom teaching posts in each school in the previous school year.

Teaching posts previously designated for English Language Support will also now be combined with GAM allocations to create a single simplified allocation process to cover both the GAM and language support through general allocation.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 9.

School Patronage

Catherine Murphy

Question:

31 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the meaning of the words “a development of the existing designated community college model or a new community school model” in part 2(a) of the clarification of patronage models for new second level schools issued by the forward planning section of his Department on 1 December 2011; if he will outline potential consequences for future patronage models under these terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2903/12]

The existing designated community college model is one in which the VEC is the sole patron but colleges are "designated" as being of a particular denomination due to the composition of the Board of Management and the provision of other supports. The current community school model involves joint patronage between the VEC and one or more denominational patrons.

Developing the existing designated community college model would allow for a partnership approach, whereby a VEC could make applications for patronage on a partnership basis with another patron body. This is happening in Clonburris, Lucan, where Co. Dublin VEC is finalising an agreement with Educate Together. Developing the current community school model would require consideration of issues around the existing Deeds of Trust in relation to property and other matters.

These issues are being considered by my Department in consultation with the relevant education partners, and will inform the basis of any future patronage models to be established.

Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 27.
Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 29.

School Staffing

Mick Wallace

Question:

34 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the problem at a school (details supplied) in County Wexford at which three guidance counsellor positions are about to be lost; his views that this is particularly serious in a school which has had three suicide-related deaths in the past two years alone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2902/12]

John Browne

Question:

38 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm if schools are still required to provide an appropriate level of guidance provision following decisions taken in budget 2012; what he deems appropriate guidance to be; the way he will ensure that schools continue to provide a certain level of guidance provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2905/12]

Seán Crowe

Question:

41 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the likely loss of school guidance posts contravene section 9(c) of the Education Act 1998 which states that one of a school’s functions is to ensure that students have access to appropriate guidance to assist them in their educational and career choices. [2948/12]

Denis Naughten

Question:

91 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the important pastoral role which guidance counsellors play and the scale of youth suicide, if he will review the changes as outlined in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3101/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 38, 41 and 91 together.

All schools must continue to provide guidance to their pupils. However, from September 2012 guidance provision will be managed by schools from within their standard staffing allocation. As things currently stand and before any changes are made, 42% of second level schools do not presently have a full-time guidance counsellor.

Schools will have autonomy on how best to prioritise its available resources to meet its requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to its students. Decisions on how this is done will be taken at school level and I am confident that schools will act in the best interest of students when determining precisely how to use the teaching resources available to them.

Guidance is a whole school activity and under existing arrangements each school is expected to develop a school guidance plan as a means of supporting the needs of its students. These requirements have not changed and my Department's forthcoming Circular will make this clear and point schools to the relevant documentation and guidance available to support such work by schools.

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.

Proposed Legislation

John McGuinness

Question:

35 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in addressing the concerns of a group (details supplied) in the preparation of legislation to establish the statutory fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2936/12]

Work on the drafting of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill is at an advanced stage and I hope to be in a position to publish the Bill in the coming weeks. When the Bill is published I will arrange for copies to be provided to the various survivor groups and I will of course be happy to receive any comments from former residents and anyone else in relation to its contents.

In that regard I had a very constructive meeting with groups representing survivors of residential institutional abuse on 22nd July last, when we discussed the Government's approach to the proposed Statutory Fund to support the needs of victims of residential institutional abuse. Attendees at that meeting raised a number of issues regarding aspects of the proposed approach as set out in the General Scheme of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill. I have also received a number of submissions in relation to particular aspects of the proposed legislation, which are being considered as the drafting process continues.

The Government's legislative proposals in relation to the Statutory Fund followed extensive consultations with survivors of residential abuse and the groups which support them, together with a public consultation process. In this context, the report on the consultation process and the General Scheme of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill were published on my Department's website.

I acknowledge that some former residents advocated a simple distribution of the available money rather than the establishment of the Statutory Fund. However, as I outlined when I published the legislative proposals, I believe that the Fund should target resources at services to support former residents' needs. The General Scheme provides for approved services to include, counselling, psychological support services and mental health services together with such health and personal social services, educational services and housing services as the Fund may determine. Further services can be prescribed as appropriate.

Questions Nos. 36 and 37 answered with Question No. 26.
Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 34.

School Staffing

Denis Naughten

Question:

39 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to reduce the impact of budget cuts on rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2728/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

57 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if arising from budgetary curtailments affecting small and rural schools, he is prepared to accommodate technical structures at local level which will allow for the pooling of resources and retention of existing structures thereby preventing the possibility of any situation emerging which might affect the rural, social and economic fabric and recognising the high quality of education traditionally provided in small rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2835/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 57 together.

The staffing schedule at primary level disproportionately benefits small primary schools. It is worth noting that we have 3,200 primary schools across Ireland. Over two thirds of those schools have more than 86 pupils and, as a result, have far higher average class sizes than all of the schools affected by this measure. For example a two teacher school with 32 pupils has an average class size of 1 teacher for sixteen pupils. In contrast, a typical ten teacher school with 272 pupils has an average class size of 27.2 pupils.

It is important to retain a sense of perspective and balance when discussing this matter and to realise the exceptionally favourable supports my Department will continue to provide for small schools.

For that reason, as part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014.

While I acknowledge the concerns raised by the Deputies the budget measure must be seen in the context of the major challenges we have as a Government in trying to shelter public services to the greatest extent that we can in these exceptional times.

The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible. The numbers of pupils in these schools is relatively small so it is not necessarily the case that capital investment would be needed to support amalgamation. Each case will have to be assessed on an individual basis to determine the extent and type of accommodation required taking into account the condition of buildings, site capacity etc. My Department would discuss the issues arising with the boards of management of the schools and would aim to provide an appropriate accommodation solution subject to available resources.

Arising from this specific budget measure, I wish to re-emphasise that no small schools will be forcibly closed by my Department and, if amalgamations do take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

40 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of posts allocated to primary schools in each county for the teaching of English as an additional language; the number of posts allocated to second level schools in each county for the teaching of English as an additional language and skills; the number of appeals submitted this year by primary schools against a decision by him not to sanction the appointment of a teacher of English as an additional language; and the number of schools to which posts were allocated on appeal. [2962/12]

Significant support is given to schools by way of language support provision. The level of extra teaching support provided in respect of language support to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible pupils enrolled and the associated assessed levels of those pupils' language proficiency. There are circa 920 full-time teaching posts in respect of English as an additional language (EAL) allocated to primary schools in the current school year. The corresponding whole time equivalent figure for post primary schools is 210 posts.

72 primary schools appealed their EAL allocation to the Primary Staffing Appeal Board. 29 schools were successful. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

I regret that my Department is not in a position to provide the requested breakdown on a county by county basis. The main focus of the Teacher Allocation Section within my Department at this time is the allocations process for the 2012/13 school year.

Under the proposed reforms for the coming school year the combined resources available for GAM (General Allocation Model) at primary level and learning support at post primary level and language support will be used to create a single simplified allocation process to cover both the GAM and language support at primary level and learning support and language support at post primary level. Schools will have autonomy on how to deploy the resource between language support and learning support depending on their specific needs.

The new arrangements also provide for additional permanent teaching posts to be given to schools with high concentration of pupils that require language support. Further additional temporary EAL support will also be provided, as necessary, to schools that will have high concentrations of pupils that require language support in the 2012/13 school. These allocations will be made on the basis of appeals by any of these schools to the Staffing Appeals Board.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 34.

School Uniforms

Michael Colreavy

Question:

42 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a progress report into efforts to make school uniforms more affordable for parents. [2969/12]

In accordance with the provisions of the Education Act 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school.

Individual school authorities are responsible for the drawing up of a school policy in relation to the wearing of school uniforms. However, my Department recommends that the formulation of such a school policy should allow for prior consultation with teachers, parents and pupils where appropriate and enable any concerns about the issue of cost to be raised and considered.

Decisions regarding school uniforms are a matter for the Board of Management of each individual school.

Equality Issues

Pearse Doherty

Question:

43 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he implements equality impact assessments similar to other countries when considering changes to legislation governing funding and changes in policy. [2970/12]

As with all Government Departments, when considering changes to legislation governing funding and changes in policy my Department complies with the procedures as outlined in the Cabinet Handbook. These require that where proposals for legislation relate to matters on which Government policy has not already been laid down or where they involve a new development or a material departure from existing policy, they should first be submitted to the Government by way of a memorandum for a decision in principle of the policy at issue.

Any such memorandum seeking approval for legislation involving changes to the regulatory framework or seeking approval for a Government Order involving changes to the regulatory framework must be accompanied by a Regulatory Impact Analysis, which includes an examination of possible impacts on the socially excluded or vulnerable groups including gender equality, poverty, people with disabilities and rural communities.

Where no requirement for a RIA arises, each memorandum is required to indicate clearly, as appropriate, the impact of the proposal for employment including gender equality, the impact on persons experiencing or at risk of poverty or social inclusion and people with disabilities.

As regards any further or systematic equality impact assessments the IVEA and the Equality Authority have been developing guidelines and practice on Equality Impact Assessments. In 2007 the IVEA/ Equality Authority produced "Guidelines for conducting equality impact assessments on IVEA and VEC plans, policies and programmes". These guidelines, inter alia: define equality impact assessments (EIAs); identify when an EIA should be carried out; identify equality target groups; illustrate how to undertake an EIA. They also include an EIA template.

Schools Refurbishment

Micheál Martin

Question:

44 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a provision in his capital budget for 2012 to continue the small annual devolved building grant scheme for schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2929/12]

It is not envisaged that a Minor Works Grant to primary schools will be issued in 2012 for the school year 2012/2013. The grant for the school year 2011/2012 was issued last November at a cost of €28m.

The focus of my Department's capital allocation for the school sector in 2012 is on major school projects and smaller projects devolved to schools to meet demographic demands.

Third Level Charges

Dessie Ellis

Question:

45 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the fact that student contribution fee increases beyond 2012 were not included in the comprehensive expenditure report 2012 to 2014, if he will confirm that there will be no further increases beyond that announced in budget 2012. [2959/12]

The reality of our economic situation presents significant challenges that have to be reconciled with limitations on public resources. Ireland must adhere to its agreed economic recovery programme in order to reduce the budget deficit to 3% of GDP by 2015 and to restore our independence. This will mean that forthcoming budgets will involve further adjustments in taxation and public spending. Regrettably, education cannot be spared from this adjustment as the size of the challenge is so large, in this context I cannot rule out further increases to the Student Contribution in future years.

It should be noted that the contribution is paid by the Exchequer in respect of students who qualify under the third level grant schemes. Tax relief is also available for second and subsequent siblings to alleviate costs for families.

School Closures

Pearse Doherty

Question:

46 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria governing his decision to close small schools. [2971/12]

There has been no decision to close small schools. However, the reality is that the staffing schedule at primary level disproportionately benefits small primary schools.

It is worth noting that we have 3,200 primary schools across Ireland. Over two thirds of those schools have more than 86 pupils and, as a result, have far higher average class sizes than all of the schools affected by this measure. For example a two teacher school with 32 pupils has an average class size of 1 teacher for 16 pupils. In contrast, a typical ten teacher school with 272 pupils has an average class size of 27.2 pupils.

For that reason, as part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented, the threshold for small schools 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. I wish to remind the Deputy that there were no forced closures of schools when the staffing schedule operated at the levels set in the 1990s so it is incorrect to say this will happen when we implement all of these phased increases.

This budget measure must be seen in the context of the major challenges we have as a Government in trying to shelter public services to the greatest extent that we can in these exceptional times.

The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible and only where communities chose to do so.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

47 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the announcement in Budget 2012 that qualified teachers who undertake and complete further studies such as a masters or doctorate will no longer receive additional salary allowances, if he will clarify the position of teachers who were participating in or had recently completed courses at the time of the budget announcement; if he recognises that undertaking these courses requires a significant financial investment and can involve taking time off work and, consequently, loss of income and these teachers had legitimate expectation that their investment would be somewhat offset by an additional qualification allowance following graduation. [2961/12]

The position of 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 being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I am aware that undertaking any course of further or higher education requires a high level of commitment and financial investment. In common with many professions, the additional qualifications achieved by teachers who undertake additional study should prove an advantage in securing employment in their chosen areas. The decision to cap allowances at current levels for existing teachers was taken due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. 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.

Teaching Qualifications

Brian Stanley

Question:

48 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the updated supports that are in place to ensure the upskilling of teachers for the enhanced delivery of the literacy and numeracy strategy. [2972/12]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

49 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills under the literacy and numeracy strategy, the in-service sessions that have been provided for teachers in Irish medium schools; and the plans he has put in place to ensure the roll-out of the literacy and numeracy strategy in the Irish medium school sector. [2964/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 48 together.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers is charged with leading the teacher support element of the Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life strategy. An integrated plan to support the strategy has been developed by the PDST and the other support services. Thus far seminars have been held for all school leaders which outline the responsibility of the school in the implementation of the strategy at a local level.

Provision has been made for continued support 2012 and planning is advanced in this regard. Additional posts have been provided to the PDST for this purpose. All schools receive a similar level of support including schools who teach through the medium of Irish. A number of additional literacy and numeracy Summer courses were provided in 2011; there will be further development in this area in 2012 and all summer courses will include a school self-evaluation and school improvement focus. Access to summer courses will also be extended to post-primary teachers in 2012

Student Support Schemes

Joan Collins

Question:

50 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the possible impact of abolishing postgraduate grants on his areas of responsibility such as promoting innovation, research, enterprise, investment and job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36054/11]

While the areas of responsibility referred to are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, student supports come under my remit. I appreciate the Deputy's concerns. However, this Government has had to take difficult and unpalatable decisions under Budget 2012. For this reason, unfortunately, less support will be available to some students going to college from next September.

While we have had to scale back the support for postgraduates, we are prioritising funding for the most disadvantaged students in this cohort. In this regard, though maintenance support will not be available, new students on the lowest income entering postgraduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.

A limited number of other low-income students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees.

The approach now being taken will continue to provide support for a relatively wide number of post-graduate students.

In addition to this, the Student Assistance Fund will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees.

Departmental Agencies

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

51 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any of the current management assigned to SOLAS from FÁS were investigated following the revealing of financial irregularities at FÁS; and if any such person investigated was sanctioned for actions during their time as senior manager or director in FÁS. [2960/12]

The legislation for the creation of SOLAS has not as yet been passed and no staff have been assigned to SOLAS.

Disciplinary issues in relation to FÁS staff are an operational matter for FÁS within the meaning of the Labour Services Act 1987 and I have no role or function in these matters.

I have been informed by FÁS that a number of staff were subject to disciplinary sanctions in relation to certain procedural findings concerning the Corporate Affairs Unit of FÁS. These sanctions were as a result of an independent investigation which is now complete. A small number of staff that were investigated still remain with FÁS. However, the findings against these staff resulted in the application of sanctions at the lower end of the scale due to the nature of the specific findings involved.

School Staffing

Seán Crowe

Question:

52 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the consultation he and his officials have had with teachers from DEIS band schools affected by the phasing out of pre-DEIS school legacy posts. [2949/12]

I personally 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.

I have also held many meetings with my Government colleagues, who have also met with schools, teachers, parents in their local communities. Consequently, I announced to the House on 11th January that my Department will report to me in the coming weeks on the impact of the withdrawal of these posts in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools.

Stay Safe Programme

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

53 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding available from him to implement the stay safe programme; and if the training and the relevant support materials are easily accessible and available to teachers. [2950/12]

The Stay Safe Programme is funded by my Department and the Health Services Executive. The Programme received approximately €172,000 in 2011 of which €120,000 was allocated by my Department. This funding covers salaries, materials and programme delivery costs. Funding for the programme is allocated following consultations with the Programme provider, the Professional Development Service for Teachers and has regard to the support needs of teachers and schools and the overall availability of resources. A total of €125,000 was allocated for resource development including booklets, DVDS, videos, parent materials over the last 5 years.

Materials and support are provided through visits to schools by the Programme Provider and members of the PDST. Materials are also readily available for download on the Safe Safe website.

Funding for 2012 is currently under consideration.

Youth Services

Gerry Adams

Question:

54 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the circular letter 00742011 relating to the cuts in funding to Youthreach services, if this will deter young persons from availing of this scheme. [2966/12]

Circular 74/2012 gave effect to the Budget 2012 decision to reduce allowances paid to Youthreach participants under 18 years of age from €76.65 (16 year olds) and €95.75 (17 year olds) per week to one rate of €40.00 per week. The new rates apply to new entrants under 18 years of age with effect from 1 January 2012.

I am conscious of concerns expressed by some educators that it is not correct to incentivise students to drop out of mainstream second level school so they can instead attend Youthreach courses and receive payments for doing so. However, I remain convinced that the Youthreach provision is an important part of our education system which helps those who find second level school is not for them. I listened carefully and reflected on these two arguments before making the decision to merge and reduce the two payments for Youthreach. I believe the changes made balance both sides of the argument and that Youtreach will remain a well used service.

I am also pleased to inform the Deputy that the number of places available in Youthreach has been maintained — there are almost 6,000 places nationally, with 3,700 provided by VECs in just over 100 Youthreach centres and the majority of the remainder provided by FÁS in Community Training Centres.

Youthreach participants also remain eligible for meal and travel allowances, which have not been reduced, and for free childcare, under the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) scheme, administered by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

School Staffing

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

55 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary teachers who have applied for probation since September 2011; and the number of primary teachers who successfully completed the probationary process during the last academic year. [2963/12]

The total number of primary teachers who have applied for probation since September 2011 is 2,052. The number of primary teachers who successfully completed the probationary process during the 2010/11 academic year was 1,976.

Educational Projects

Brian Stanley

Question:

56 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the importance of private sponsorship in encouraging the development of science and technology subjects; and the efforts he is making to ensure schemes such as the BT Young Scientist Award are replicated. [2973/12]

I would like to acknowledge the important sponsorship, both financial and in human resource input provided by BT to the Young Scientist competition. Industry in Ireland has engaged extensively with education at all levels. The Discover Science programme, the Engineers Ireland STEPS programme, Smart Futures, Chemistry in the Classroom, ICT Champions, are all examples of programmes supported by indusry which encourage students to explore the world of science, technology, maths and engineering.

Project Maths which is under way in all second level schools, is being supported by an industry-education partnership implementation support group. An ICT Steering Group, led by Paul Rellis, head of Microsoft Ireland represents stakeholders including teachers, parents, industry, relevant Government Departments and students, and advises on ICT in schools.

There are many other examples, such as the role of the County Enterprise Boards in promoting Student Enterprise Awards, the Young Social Innovators Programme, and the Business in the Community initiative under which corporate and public enterprises work together to support the education sector. I believe such partnerships are essential to enrich the curriculum and give practical relevance to the ongoing work of schools.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 39.

Irish Passports Statistics

Paudie Coffey

Question:

58 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Irish passports that are in use around the globe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3014/12]

The total number of valid Irish passports in circulation in Ireland and around the world is approximately 4.5m. Of this figure it is estimated that approximately 3.85m are held in Ireland, including Northern Ireland; 380,000 are held by Irish citizens resident in Great Britain; and 270,000 held by Irish citizens resident in other countries around the world.

Passport Service

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

59 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of passports that have been stolen, lost or mislaid in each of the years 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3225/12]

Details of the numbers of passports reported as lost, stolen or mislaid since 2009 are set out in the table below.

YEAR

PASSPORTS ISSUED

LOST or MISLAID

STOLEN

TOTAL

% OF PASSPORTS ISSUED

2009

579,508

29,801

4,821

34,622

5.97%

2010

603,753

26,405

4,382

30,787

5.09%

2011

599,468

26,151

4,295

30,446

5.07%

Individual citizens are primarily responsible for the safe keeping of their own passports. In this regard the Department is constantly urging that passports should always be kept in a secure place and that citizens take particular care of the document when travelling. However, passports are lost and the Department strongly advises that citizens notify the Passport Service of any lost passport at the earliest opportunity.

Once a passport is reported lost, this information is relayed to Interpol through An Garda Síochána. Interpol receives these updates on a daily basis. The information is then made available immediately to police forces and border control officers worldwide. Any individual who attempts to travel on a lost or stolen passport will as a result most likely be stopped at border control points.

Motor Industry

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

60 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the motor industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3068/12]

I have no proposal at this stage for an alternative number to be put on next year's registration plates. However, any proposals that are brought forward will be examined by my Department in advance of Budget 2013.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

61 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding grants to employers (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2993/12]

Sections 472A and 88A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provide tax incentives for both employers and employees, to help the long-term unemployed to return to employment. The relief under Section 472A, known as the Revenue Job Assist scheme, allows qualifying employees, in addition to their normal tax credits, to claim certain income deductions, including additional deductions for qualifying children, for the three year period after taking up employment. Section 88A provides an associated tax incentive for employers. Employers may claim a double deduction in computing the profits of the trade or profession in respect of the first 3 years' wages paid to qualifying employees. This double deduction may also be claimed in respect of the employers' PRSI contribution on such wages.

Both incentives apply in respect of individuals who have been unemployed for at least 12 months and are in receipt of a specified social protection payment or, who are in a category approved for the purposes of the scheme by the Minister for Social Protection with the consent of the Minister for Finance. I intend to bring forward an amendment in Finance Bill 2012 so that individuals signing on solely for credits with the Department of Social Protection can also qualify for the relief. This change is being operated on an administrative basis by the Revenue Commissioners currently. Application forms for this scheme are available athttp://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/it/leaflets/it59.html. The Deputy may also wish to enquire of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation as to whether there are grants available to employers through the various agencies under its aegis.

Financial Services Regulation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

62 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding bonuses (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3003/12]

I have outlined my position on this matter when replying to previous parliamentary questions on the same subject most recently on 11 January 2012 (refs: 41045/12, 41077/12 and 41429/11).

Tax Collection

Paudie Coffey

Question:

63 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Finance the total amount of income tax that was paid by all persons who earn more than €100,000 per year in the year 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3019/12]

Paudie Coffey

Question:

64 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who earned more than €100,000 in the year 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3020/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 64 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that for the tax year 2009, the latest year for which the necessary detailed data is available, the number of income earners earning in excess of €100,000 was 109,109 and paid €4.9 billion in income tax. It should 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.

Financial Services Regulation

Patrick Deering

Question:

65 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Finance if he will reconsider the lending restrictions imposed on credit unions (details supplied). [3048/12]

The imposition of lending restrictions is the responsibility of the Registrar of Credit Unions, who is the independent regulator for credit unions. Within his independent regulatory discretion, the Registrar acts to support the prudential soundness of individual credit unions, to maintain sector stability and to protect the savings of credit union members. This is part of normal regulation and supervision of the sector. As Minister for Finance, my role is to ensure that the legal framework for credit unions is appropriate for the effective operation and supervision of credit unions. It would not be appropriate for me, as Minister for Finance, to examine or adjudicate on whether the placing of lending restrictions is necessary on a case by case basis. I believe that such action would represent interference in the work of the independent regulator.

The Registrar has put lending restrictions in place in order to protect the savings of members in credit unions and to ensure that credit unions focus on risks when making lending decisions. Restrictions are imposed on a case-by-case basis and are reviewed regularly. The type of lending restrictions can include maximum individual loan size, overall maximum monthly lending limits and restrictions on business lending.

The Registrar has advised that about 50% of credit unions are subject to lending restrictions at present. Almost all credit unions with a lending restriction have a maximum individual loan size restriction. Of the credit unions with lending restrictions over 65% can lend €20,000 or more to an individual member. Less than 3% of credit unions are restricted to loans of less than €10,000 to an individual member, and less than 1% of credit unions are restricted to lending less than €5,000 per member. Commercial lending restrictions apply to approximately a third of credit unions.

Tax Code

Arthur Spring

Question:

66 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Finance the possibility of 0% VAT being charged on the admission price to pet farms for educational school tours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3053/12]

Irish VAT law is subject to the provisions of the EU VAT Directive with which it must comply. Article 110 of that Directive provides that Member States may continue to apply reduced rates, including the zero rate and exemptions from VAT, where such reduced rates or exemptions were in place at 1 January 1991. As Ireland was not applying a zero- rate to admissions to pet farms at that date the zero rate cannot apply to those admissions. Up to 31 December 2011 admissions to historic houses and gardens, and open and pet farms were treated for VAT purposes as lettings and regarded as exempt from VAT. Having regard to certain decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), where a letting was defined for VAT purposes, it was decided that such admissions could no longer be treated as exempt lettings and they became subject to VAT from 1 January 2012.

While admissions to pet farms became liable to VAT from 1 January last, I announced in the Budget that the VAT rate applicable to such admissions would be the reduced rate of 9% and not the standard 23% VAT rate, and this will be provided for in the forthcoming Finance Bill.

Schedule 1 to the VAT Consolidation Act 2010 does provide an exemption for the provision of children's or young people's education by educational establishments recognised by the State. This exemption does not extend to admissions to pet farms for educational school tours.

Departmental Communications

Robert Dowds

Question:

67 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he will give guidance to the Revenue Commissioners on the way they should approach taxpayers in relation to taxation matters; and his views on the way the recent debacle between the Revenue Commissioners and pensioners could be best avoided in future. [3065/12]

Communications between the Revenue Commissioners and members of the public are the responsibility of the Commissioners and they use a variety of methods and means to explain the many complexities of taxation. The Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners has already explained at the recent Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting that due to the short timeframe available to update the PAYE records of DSP pension recipients from receipt of the information from DSP in time for the start of 2012, the standard of service that we come to expect from Revenue was not met on this occasion. The Chairman went on further at the Committee meeting to publicly apologise for the distress caused to some people on receipt of the letters concerned.

Lastly, as also indicated at the Joint Committee meeting, the Revenue Commissioners advise that they will be reviewing their approach to communications in light of the issues raised following on from the issue of the letters to DSP pension recipients and they will be working with Age Action and the Irish Senior Citizen's Parliament as well as other groups representing pensioners and other DSP pension recipients to identify how they can improve their communications with that group.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Tom Fleming

Question:

68 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to address the growing problem of cigarette smuggling here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3126/12]

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 multi-faceted. 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 multi-agency 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.

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 websitewww.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 seized a total of 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.

There is no internationally recognised method for precisely determining the level of the illicit trade in cigarettes. However, a survey commissioned by Revenue and the Office of Tobacco Control in 2009 estimated that 20% of cigarettes consumed in the State had not been taxed in this jurisdiction. The 20% figure was further broken down as 14% illegal product and 6% legally imported by passengers arriving into the State from other jurisdictions. Revenue and the Office of Tobacco Control commissioned a similar survey in the last quarter of 2010 and the results of this latest survey show a consistency with the 2009 figures i.e. 20% of all cigarettes consumed in the State were not taxed in the State with 14% again classified as illegal product and 6% classified as legal non-Irish duty paid product. A further survey is currently underway.

Tax Collection

Barry Cowen

Question:

69 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money the office of the Revenue Commissioner incorrectly issued into taxpayer accounts in 2011 and subsequently requested its return. [3132/12]

Monies incorrectly paid into a taxpayer's bank account by Revenue would normally be as a result of an incorrect return filed by a taxpayer or a processing error by Revenue — each of these cases would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Revenue does not maintain a central record of these instances — therefore the information as requested by the Deputy is unavailable.

Barry Cowen

Question:

70 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money the office of the Revenue Commissioner charged taxpayers in view of tax under payment in 2011. [3133/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that interest arises both in respect of late payment of tax and underpayment of tax — this would include interest that is part of a phased payment plan. In the year 2011, a total of €158.5m was charged in interest having regard to all of these circumstances. Penalties amounting to €32.34m arose during the course of audits in the same period.o

Barry Cowen

Question:

71 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance the online payment mechanisms the office of the Revenue Commissioner operates for taxpayers to pay any outstanding money due to the Revenue Commission and other pay methods available. [3134/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that online payment methods are provided through the Revenue On Line Service (ROS). This is an internet facility that provides taxpayers with a secure and efficient facility to pay tax liabilities and file tax returns. The ROS facilities are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The three payment methods currently available on ROS are:

1) ROS Debit Instruction (RDI) — This allows that taxpayer to authorise Revenue to deduct payment from the taxpayer's nominated bank account

2) Debit/Laser Card

3) Online Banking (only available for payment of Income Tax)

It is planned to introduce payment by Credit Card on ROS during 2012. A facility to pay tax using a Credit Card over the phone is already available.

Taxpayers who are not already obliged to make payments and file returns using ROS can also avail of other payment methods including: Direct Debit; Single Debit Authority — This is a customised payslip issued by Revenue which allows the taxpayer to authorise Revenue to deduct a single payment from the his/her bank account; GIRO/EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer) — The taxpayer arranges payment into a nominated Revenue account; Cheque/bank draft/money order accompanied by Revenue's pre encoded payslip.

Tax Code

Billy Timmins

Question:

72 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding tax credits in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3144/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a revised Tax Credit and Universal Social Charge Certificate issued to the persons concerned on 13 January 2012. This revised Certificate, which included the tax exemption credit, adjusted the allocation of tax credits against the respective incomes of the persons concerned so as to maximize their benefit to the taxpayers.

Revised certificates have also issued to the pension providers. This will allow the pension providers to refund any excess tax deducted since 1 January 2012 in accordance with the commitment made by Revenue to rectify such cases very quickly.

Banking Sector Regulation

Patrick Deering

Question:

73 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Finance the reason there is such a variation in mortgage interest rates charged by AIB and Permanent TSB, both State owned banks. [3163/12]

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.

Neither the Central Bank nor I have responsibility for any variation in the variable mortgage interest rates charged by the two institutions. However the Central Bank has advised me that, within its existing powers, it will continue to engage with specific lenders which appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds.

Mortgage Assistance

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

74 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if he has any plans to assist mortgagees in negative equity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3174/12]

I have no plans to introduce a general scheme to assist mortgage holders in negative equity. Trade down mortgages, in appropriate circumstances, were recommended in the report of the Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group. This Group reported in October 2011. In order to ensure that proposals in relation to such mortgages are consistent with the Central Bank's consumer protection and prudential policy objectives, a maximum loan to value ratio and other parameters would need to be agreed between mortgage lenders and the Central Bank.

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 Collection

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

75 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which his income is likely to be affected following the recent communication from the Revenue Commissioners in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3188/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there was a difference in the details received from the Department of Social Protection and their details on record in relation to the widowers' pension of the person concerned for 2012. Department of Social Protection Pension details were €11,611 and the Revenue Commissioners figures were €10,473. These details have now been updated for 2012 and based on this information there may be a small increase in his tax liability for the year.

Financial Services Regulation

Michael McGrath

Question:

76 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the need to ensure adequate protection for whistleblowers within the financial services sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3215/12]

The Central Bank Supervision and Enforcement Bill, which was published in July 2011, provides protections from civil liability and penalisation by employers for whistleblowers within the Financial Services Sector. The provisions are flexible enough to provide for protection outside the strict employer/employee context. The Bill also provides a mandatory disclosure regime for those performing pre-approval controlled functions (senior or influential positions within financial service providers); failure to disclose could be grounds for an investigation and action under the fitness and probity regime.

EU-IMF Programme

Michael McGrath

Question:

77 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the implications for Ireland’s funding programme of any possible change in the credit rating of the European Financial Stability Facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3216/12]

On Monday January 16th 2012, Standard & Poor's (S&P) announced the downgrade of the EFSF long term rating to AA+.

S&P's downgrade of EFSF's long term rating had been signalled in advance and was not a surprise. The financial markets have already priced in such a development for the EFSF. EFSF issuance has been pricing in line with French yields as opposed to German yields. The EFSF continues to be assigned the best possible credit rating by Moody's (Aaa) and Fitch (AAA), underlining its solidity. Neither rating agency has indicated any rating action for EFSF in the immediate future. Clearly, it would be preferable for the EFSF to maintain the highest rating with all agencies.

I note that Mr Klaus Regling, the CEO of the EFSF, has indicated that the S&P's decision will not reduce the EFSF's lending capacity of €440 billion. The EFSF has sufficient means to fulfil its commitments under current and potential future adjustment programmes and will continue to be backed by unconditional and irrevocable guarantees by Euro Area Member States

The EU Heads of State or Government (HoSG) decided on 9 December 2011 to advance the introduction of the permanent stability mechanism, the ESM, to July 2012. The ESM will have its own capital base and thus be less affected by ratings of Euro Area Member States. The adequacy of the overall lending ceiling of the EFSF/ESM of EUR 500 billion will be reassessed by March 2012.

There is no risk to the commitment to fund Ireland's programme. The commitments from the EFSF to provide total funding of €17.5 billion in funding remain in place. The EFSF has already successfully undertaken two short term funding auctions, one of which was after the downgrade.

The EFSF raised €1.5 billion in 6 month bills at an auction on Tuesday 17th January 2012 — at an annual rate of 0.2664%. There was strong interest in the auction with a bid cover ratio of 3:1. Some €0.48 billion of this is to be provided to Ireland.

In December 2011, the EFSF raised close to €2 billion (€1.971 billion of 3 month bills) at an annual interest rate of 0.222% of which some €1 billion was provided to Ireland.

For Ireland, the guarantee commitment fee of 0.1% is added to these amounts to bring the cost up to 0.3664% and 0.322% respectively. These yields are at similar levels to French yields on similar maturities.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

78 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a combination of the recent VAT and excise duty increases, a weak euro and high crude oil prices has resulted in record motor fuel prices; his views on the impact this will have on consumers and business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3217/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

79 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the additional VAT that will be collected in 2012 relative to budget day targets if average petrol and diesel prices remain at 155c per litre; if he will give consideration to a mid-year review of motor fuel excise duty rates such that consumers and business are protected from rising fuel prices without impacting his budget target for the combined VAT and excise duty taken from motor fuel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3218/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.

Ireland, as with other countries, has experienced an increase in the cost of petrol and auto-diesel. The increase in fuel prices is an international phenomenon. Fuel prices are driven by a number of factors including the price of oil on international markets, exchange rates, production costs and refining costs. The rise in oil prices over recent periods reflected additional factors such as geopolitical uncertainty in Northern Africa and the Middle East with potential supply disruptions.

The excise rates (including the carbon charge) in Ireland on motor fuels are 58.8 cent per litre of petrol and 47.9 cent per litre of auto-diesel. However, our rates remain lower than many of our main trading partners and significantly lower than our nearest neighbour the UK. The rates for petrol and auto-diesel were increased with effect from 7 December 2011, arising from an increase in the carbon charge for those fuels from €15 to €20 per tonne of CO2 emitted. This represented an increase of less than 1.5 cent per litre in the case of petrol and just over 1.5 cent per litre in the case of diesel, when VAT is included. The rate of VAT that applies to those fuels increased from 21% to 23% with effect from 1 January 2012.

The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT per litre of fuel, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase. However, in this regard it should be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

It should also be noted that businesses are of course entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on their business inputs, including VAT incurred on fuel. For example, VAT incurred on auto-diesel and marked gas oil (MGO or green diesel) used in the course of business is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system. VAT on petrol can not be deducted/reclaimed.

There are no plans for temporary taxation adjustments, as to do so, could lead to significant costs to the Exchequer. The issue of rising fuel prices was discussed by EU Finance Ministers at an ECOFIN meeting last year where they reconfirmed the approach taken in 2005 and again in 2008, when oil prices were very high, which endorsed a coordinated approach towards not making distortionary fiscal adjustments.

EU-IMF Programme

Michael McGrath

Question:

80 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the reduction in the interest rate being charged to Ireland from funds paid out of the EFSF and EFSM took effect; and if he will provide a complete schedule of the current interest rates being charged to Ireland on all sources of funding under the EU-IMF programme of assistance, including bilateral loans. [3220/12]

The Euro Area Heads of State or Government (HOSG) agreed on 21 July 2011 to reduce the cost of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to lending rates equivalent to those of the Balance of Payments facility close to, without going below, the EFSF funding cost. In addition, further amendments to the EFSF framework have removed the interest rate margin on EFSF funds and were incorporated into a new legal agreement on the 27th of October in which the interest rate margin is now defined as zero. The agreement incorporates a guarantee commitment fee of 0.1% per annum and a service fee to cover the cost of operations of the EFSF. The NTMA has estimated that the overall net reduction in Ireland's EFSF interest rate margin and other changes will be in the range of 2.7% to 2.8%. It should be noted that the EFSF's cost of funds depends on the interest rate it pays for its market issuance when raising funds for programme countries.

In October, the EU Council of Ministers approved an EU Commission proposal to eliminate the margin of 2.925% on the EFSM facility. This change was incorporated into an amendment to the existing legal agreement on 28th of October and the margin is now defined as zero. This will apply to EFSM borrowings back to the date upon which they were issued. The actual cost of funding depends on the prevailing market rates at the time of each drawdown.

In relation to the schedule of the current interest rate being charged to Ireland on all forms of funding under the EU/IMF Programme of financial support, the following table supplied by the NTMA, provides the information for all amounts drawn down up to 16 January 2012

Drawdown Date

Maturity Date

Interest Rate

Currency

Principal

EFSF

01/02/2011

18/07/2016

2.75%

EUR

4,193,835,977

EFSF

14/11/2011

04/02/2022

3.60%

EUR

3,000,000,000

EFSF

15/12/2011

15/03/2012

0.32%

EUR

985,950,000

EFSF

12/01/2012

04/02/2015

1.73%

EUR

1,270,000,000

Total EFSF

9,449,785,977

EFSM

12/01/2011

04/12/2015

2.50%

EUR

5,000,000,000.00

EFSM

24/03/2011

04/04/2018

3.25%

EUR

3,400,000,000.00

EFSM

31/05/2011

04/06/2021

3.50%

EUR

3,000,000,000.00

EFSM

29/09/2011

04/09/2026

3.00%

EUR

2,000,000,000.00

EFSM

06/10/2011

04/10/2018

2.38%

EUR

500,000,000.00

EFSM

16/01/2012

04/04/2042

3.75%

EUR

1,500,000,000

Total EFSM

15,400,000,000.00

IMF

18/01/2011

18/01/2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

5,012,425,200.00

IMF

18/05/2011

18/05/2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

1,410,000,000.00

IMF

07/09/2011

07/09/2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

1,319,000,000.00

IMF

16/12/2011

16/12/2021

Floating SDR + Surcharges

XDR

3,309,000,000.00

Total IMF1

11,050,425,200.00

UK Bilateral

14/10/2011

15/04/2019

4.72%

GBP

403,370,000.00

Total UK Bilateral

403,370,000.00

Note 1: The interest rate on IMF loans is variable. It is composed of a weekly setting of the IMF SDR interest rate and surcharges which are volume and time dependent. As of 19 January 2012 the SDR interest rate accruing on Ireland's IMF loans is 0.10% and the surcharges are 2.32% making a total of 2.42%.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Michael McGrath

Question:

81 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the date he instructed that a review be carried out into remuneration and severance packages at the covered institutions; the date the review commenced; and if he will confirm the person conducting the review. [3222/12]

I have indicated to the Deputy, in response to his previous questions on the subject (refs. 27135/11 and 27578/11 of 4 October 2011) the review is presently being conducted by my Department. The respective covered institutions were contacted by the NTMA, on behalf of the Department, in late April 2011 to initiate the review. Detailed work on data collection with the covered institutions took place over the summer and autumn of last year and work is on-going on the review which, as I have alluded to previously, is an iterative one as the data is examined and compared.

Disabled Drivers

Tom Fleming

Question:

82 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if he will examine an application for vehicle registration tax remission in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [3255/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 134(3) of the Finance Act 1992 (as amended) and Statutory Instrument No. 353 of 1994 (Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations, 1994 (as amended) provide for permanent relief from the payment of specified maximum amounts of VAT and VRT for persons registered under the scheme. An application for exemption under the Scheme was received in the Central Repayments Office on 4th October 2011 from the person (details supplied) and a Vehicle Chassis Number was included. On the basis of the information supplied, an Exemption Notification issued on 5th October 2011.

Under the terms of the Scheme, a vehicle must be purchased from an ‘authorised person'. On receipt of the invoice, it transpired that the Chassis Number quoted was not in respect of a vehicle purchased from an ‘authorised person' and therefore it does not qualify for relief under the above Scheme.

The Certificate of Approval for relief from Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax) was withdrawn on 5th January 2012. The Motor Taxation Office, Tralee was notified accordingly on this date.

The vehicle in question was originally registered as a commercial vehicle and has recently been converted to a passenger vehicle. Additional VRT is now due on this vehicle as a result of the conversion (unless the person elects to convert the vehicle back to commercial use).

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

83 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants from his Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3823/12]

My Department currently has 4 civil servants working in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels in the following positions:

Financial Counsellor

Financial Services Attaché

Fiscal Attaché

Budget Attaché

Disadvantaged Status

Joe Higgins

Question:

84 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the schools in Dublin 15 that will be affected by the DEIS cutbacks; the number of teachers that will be lost and the locations of same; and the impact this will have on education in Dublin West. [2979/12]

I announced in the house on 11th January that my Department will report to me within four weeks on the impact of the withdrawal of these posts in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools. This report will detail the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, applying the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report will take account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year.

It is only when this report is made available to me that I will be in a position to make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved and finalise and publish the staffing schedules for 2012/2013.

School Enrolments

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

85 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the status of the review into enrolment policy; the date on which it will be completed; when he expects to be in a position to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2986/12]

Earlier this year, I launched a discussion paper on school enrolment. The document, "Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment" contains suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent.

The paper was not meant to be prescriptive, nor have any decisions been made as to what elements will be contained in any final regulations or legislation. The purpose of the paper was to lead and provoke debate on enrolment policies and practices. I invited education partners and interested parties to submit their views to my Department by the 28th of October last and my officials are now 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.

Technological Universities

Paudie Coffey

Question:

86 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received the report in regard to the criteria for the establishment of technological universities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3013/12]

In May of last year, I formally asked the Higher Education Authority to provide advice to me on draft performance criteria for a process for the designation of technological universities. Draft criteria had been developed by an international expert commissioned by my Department following the publication of the national strategy on higher education. In developing their advice, the Authority undertook a consultation process on the criteria which was completed last Autumn. Following from this, I understand that the Authority is at present finalising its advice and it is hoped to publish final criteria in the relatively near future. The criteria will set out a roadmap for the potential re-designation of institutes of technology, who can meet the performance requirements set out, as technological universities.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Robert Troy

Question:

87 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will defer any reduction in pupil teacher ratio for schools of under 86 pupils until a substantial review takes place. [3022/12]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

93 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the impact that changes to the staffing schedule in small schools 2012 will have on many rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3147/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 93 together.

The staffing schedule at primary level disproportionally benefits small primary schools. It is worth noting that we have 3,200 primary schools across Ireland. Over two thirds of those schools have more than 86 pupils and, as a result, have far higher average class sizes than all of the schools affected by this measure. For example a two teacher school with 32 pupils has an average class size of 1 teacher for 16 pupils. In contrast, a typical 10 teacher school with 272 pupils has an average class size of 27.2 pupils. It is important to retain a sense of perspective and balance when discussing this matter and to realise the exceptionally favourable supports my Department will continue to provide for small schools.

For that reason, as part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014.

While I acknowledge the concerns raised by the Deputies the budget measure must be seen in the context of the major challenges we have as a Government in trying to shelter public services to the greatest extent that we can in these exceptional times.

The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible.

If amalgamations do take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.

Schools Refurbishment

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

88 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to fund small scale building works under a summer works scheme during 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3038/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government's Medium Term Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework, which was published on 10th November last, sets out the demographic challenge facing the education system. Total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by almost 70,000 between now and 2018 — over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post primary — and will continue to grow up to at least 2024 at post-primary. In view of the very real need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of new schools, together with extension projects, will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years.

In the context, therefore, of the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of school accommodation, it is not possible for me to advance with a summer works programme this year.

Schools Amalgamation

Michael McCarthy

Question:

89 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the extra costs involved in the amalgamation of small schools in the form of extra classrooms and school transport arrangements to accommodate new pupils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3062/12]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

94 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any provisions will be made for small schools who can prove that amalgamation will result in students having to travel unreasonable distances; the distance he considers to be a reasonable for a pupil to travel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3148/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he or his Department has received communication from the relevant management authorities at local level in regard to any rationalisation in respect of smaller rural schools; if he will have regard for the local community needs and traditions with a view to meeting community requirements to the maximum extent possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3312/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will have regard for the necessity to recognise the danger of rural isolation and urban disadvantage in any reconfiguration of the network of school throughout the country arising from the budgetary situation and put in place amelioration measures as required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3313/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 94, 107 and 108 together.

It is worth noting that we have 3,200 primary schools across Ireland. Over two thirds of those schools have more than 86 pupils and, as a result, have far higher average class sizes than all of the schools affected by this measure. For example a two teacher school with 32 pupils has an average class size of 1 teacher for 16 pupils. In contrast, a typical ten teacher school with 272 pupils has an average class size of 27.2 pupils.

For that reason, as part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented, the threshold for small schools 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.

This budget measure must be seen in the context of the major challenges we have as a Government in trying to protect public services to the greatest extent that we can in these exceptional times.

The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible and only where communities chose to do so.

If amalgamations take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department. The initiative for an amalgamation may come from a variety of sources, such as parents, staff, Board of Management and in particular, the Patron. The decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the Patron of a school, subject to the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills. The numbers of pupils in these schools is relatively small so it is not necessarily the case that capital investment would be needed to support amalgamation. Each case will have to be assessed on an individual basis to determine the extent and type of accommodation required taking into account the condition of buildings, site capacity etc. My Department would discuss the issues arising with the boards of management of the schools and would aim to provide an appropriate accommodation solution subject to available resources. When a community makes a decision to amalgamate, clearly travel distances will be an important factor and the judgement on this will be made locally in light of local circumstances. Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kms from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

School Staffing

Brendan Smith

Question:

90 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give urgent consideration to a request made directly to him by a board of management (details supplied) in relation to the need for this school to retain its staffing complement as outlined in the detailed letter forwarded to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3100/12]

I am aware of the correspondence referred to by the Deputy. The staffing schedule at primary level disproportionally benefits small primary schools. It is worth noting that we have 3,200 primary schools across Ireland. Over two thirds of those schools have more than 86 pupils and, as a result, have far higher average class sizes than all of the schools affected by this measure. For example a two teacher school with 32 pupils has an average class size of 1 teacher for sixteen pupils. In contrast, a typical ten teacher school with 272 pupils has an average class size of 27.2 pupils. It is important to retain a sense of perspective and balance when discussing this matter and to realise the exceptionally favourable supports my Department will continue to provide for small schools.

For that reason, as part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. While I acknowledge the concerns raised the budget measure must be seen in the context of the major challenges we have as a Government in trying to shelter public services to the greatest extent that we can in these exceptional times.

The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible.

If amalgamations do take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department. The announcement I made on the 11th January in relation to my Department reporting to me within four weeks refers only to the impact of the withdrawal of certain posts allocated under previous disadvantaged schemes in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools.

This report will detail the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, applying the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report will take account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year.

It is only when this report is made available to me that I will be in a position to make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved. The school referred to by the Deputy is a DEIS rural primary school and will continue to receive the following supports: — additional capitation funding based on level of disadvantage. — additional funding for schools books. — access to the School Meals Programme — access to numeracy/literacy supports and measures. — access to planning supports. — access to a range of professional development supports.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 34.

Special Educational Needs

Tom Fleming

Question:

92 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he is taking to assist children with autism in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3127/12]

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's ongoing commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum.

Many children with autism are fully integrated into mainstream classes. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) provides additional resource teaching hours and special needs assistant support to schools in respect of fully integrated enrolled students with autism.

Some students with autism require further support in school. The establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for these children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. My Department supports provision in mainstream schools, some 450 special classes for autism attached to mainstream and special schools and 18 special schools for children with autism throughout the State which cater for the educational needs of some 5,000 children with autism. These figures include 17 classes for autism in Co. Kerry. The NCSE will continue to establish more classes as required.

Children in these classes benefit from having a reduced pupil-teacher ratio of 6:1. Class teachers are required to be fully-qualified and have access through the Special Education Support Service to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). A minimum of 2 special needs assistants are provided for each class. Other special needs assistant posts may be allocated in line with the needs of the enrolled children. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full or partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Funding is also provided for assistive technology and specialist equipment as required and special school transport arrangements may also be put in place.

My Department's home tuition scheme provides a grant to parents to facilitate the provision of education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children with special educational needs awaiting an educational placement and provide early education intervention for pre-school children who have been assessed as having autism. The grant provides for ten hours' home tuition per week for each child with autism aged between 2.5 and 3 years of age. This increases to twenty hours per week on the child's 3rd birthday.

The Deputy will be aware that the NCSE is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from primary, special and post primary schools for special needs supports on the basis of applications in respect of individual pupils. The SENOs operate within the policy outlined in my Department's circulars for allocating such support.

Each SENO works in an assigned local area with parents, schools, teachers, psychologists, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in that area for children with special educational needs. All schools have contact details of their local SENO. It is also open to parents to contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 87.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 89.

Disadvantaged Status

Terence Flanagan

Question:

95 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the teacher numbers affected in DEIS band 1 and 2 schools in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3149/12]

I announced in the House on 11th January that my Department will report to me within four weeks on the impact of the withdrawal of these posts in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools.

This report will detail the facts for each individual school affected by this measure, applying the most up to date enrolments for September 2011. In addition, the report will take account of the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools, for example increasing and decreasing enrolments and the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process, all of which will determine the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year. It is only when this report is made available to me that I will be in a position to make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

96 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of a proposed building project (details supplied); when the project is likely to proceed to the next stage and to construction stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3154/12]

A Master Plan for the site on which the proposed school, referred to by the Deputy, is to be constructed is currently being finalised. The production of the Master Plan is the first step in the process for the delivery of a primary, post primary and special school on the site. My Department is due to meet with the Local Authority in early February to discuss the Plan. The outcome of the meeting will influence the delivery dates for all schools to be constructed on the site.

I have previously committed to publishing shortly a five year plan outlining the school building projects to be constructed in that time.

Disadvantaged Status

Brendan Smith

Question:

97 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the names and addresses of schools that have DEIS 1 and DEIS 2 status on a county basis. [3156/12]

The information which the Deputy has requested is available on the Social Inclusion section of my Department's website at following link —http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/deis_school_list.htm.

Higher Education Grants

Patrick Deering

Question:

98 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider reviewing the criteria for third level grants in view of the fact that qualified persons now find themselves unemployed and who wish to reskill but the course they are considering is often at a similar or lower level than their existing qualifications which means they are ineligible for grant aid and must also give up their social welfare as they are no longer available for work. [3160/12]

To satisfy the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

The objective of this policy is to help as many students as possible to obtain one qualification at each level of study. Given the level of demand on the student grant budget from first time students and students that are progressing with their studies to a higher level, there are no plans at present to change the arrangements in place.

The key objective of the Springboard higher education initiative introduced for the first time in 2011 was to support unemployed people, including graduates, to obtain new qualifications in areas of emerging skills needs. Programmes were offered on a flexible part time basis and participants were able to pursue a qualification at the same level or lower than their existing qualifications while continuing to receive Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. The Springboard initiative will be further expanded in 2012.

Home Tuition Scheme

David Stanton

Question:

99 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to make changes to the home tuition and July provision schemes; the budget allocated for all the home tuition schemes for 2012; if he has details of the number of tutors delivering tuition under this scheme this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3170/12]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department's home tuition scheme provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement and also to provide early educational intervention for pre-school children with autism. A separate strand of the home tuition scheme provides for children who are unable to attend school for reasons other than medical condition or special education needs.

This latter scheme includes cases where a child is currently without a school placement or the offer of a school placement. My Department is currently reviewing operational elements of the home tuition schemes, including the appointment of tutors. The number of tutors who have been approved to deliver tuition in the 2011/2012 school year to date is 1,157. The scheme cost €10, 348,098 in 2011. The Deputy will be aware that provisional figures for expenditure in my Department for 2012 have been published. However the process is not yet finalised therefore the actual allocation for the scheme is not currently available.

The July Education Programme is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism who choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides for a July Programme for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. Where school based provision is not feasible, home based provision may be grant aided.

The Deputy may be aware that the scheme is currently under review. Future improvements to the administration of the scheme will be considered in the context of this review.

Vocational Education Committees

Gerald Nash

Question:

100 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in respect of the amalgamation of the Louth and Meath Vocational Education Committee bodies; when he expects the amalgamated body to move to Drogheda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3214/12]

In October 2011, my officials concluded an agreement with SIPTU, the trade union representing the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of VECs, on a redeployment scheme for CEOs in the context of the Croke Park agreement. This scheme will be used, in the first instance, for determining the appointment of CEOs to the new Education and Training Boards, following the enactment of the relevant legislation.

The agreed scheme provides an opportunity for those appointed (other than in a temporary acting capacity) in the grade of CEO of a Vocational Education Committee to elect for redeployment to the new CEO positions. Where there is more than one volunteer for any of the new CEO positions, the scheme provides for the position to be offered, in the first instance, to the most senior eligible volunteer.

In the event that the elective process does not result in the filling of all of the posts, the scheme provides for assignment of an existing permanent CEO to a post for which s/he has not volunteered or for appointment of a holder of an analogous post in the Public Service to any of the available positions in accordance with the provisions of the Croke Park agreement.

In October of last year, I finalised and announced my decision in relation to the location of headquarters of the merged VECs. My officials are currently in discussion with SIPTU regarding the salary scales which each of the CEO positions will attract. Details of the salary which each of the CEO positions in the new Boards will attract are required under the scheme in order to inform the elective redeployment of Chief Executive Officers.

Also in October of last year, following approval of the Government, in a new way of doing business, I referred the General Scheme of an Education and Training Boards Bill to the Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education. This Bill is a substantial piece of legislation which will consolidate the existing nine Vocational Education Acts and will provide for the legal establishment of the Education and Training Boards. I have been invited to appear before the Joint Committee later this month, to discuss the Joint Committee's report on the Heads of the Bill, which it published last month. The Bill is expected to be introduced to the Oireachtas in the first half of this year and I am hopeful that the new Boards will be in place and that CEOs will have been appointed to them before the end of this calendar year.

In relation to the specific merger of Co. Louth VEC and Co. Meath VEC as you know I have decided that the headquarters of the Education and Training Board will be in Drogheda. Redeployment of staff from both Dundalk and Navan to Drogheda is possible under the Croke Park agreement. However I expect that the offices in both Dundalk and Navan will remain open for some time and that the approach to redeployment will be measured and considered.

It will be a matter for the CEO of the new Education and Training Board to work through and judge what the best approach is to ensure the optimum approach to service delivery. The establishment of SOLAS is also likely to have a bearing on the precise arrangements to be made.

I want to make clear that my Department will not be forcing any one size fits all approach to staff deployment and office accommodation by the new Education and Training Boards. We will be receptive to any reasonable and sensible arrangements that are the best fit for the needs of the areas served by the new board.

Departmental Funding

David Stanton

Question:

101 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount allocated to the National Council for Special Education in 2010, 2011 and the amount expected to be allocated in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3227/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that my Department allocated funding of €9,215,000 in 2010 and €9,015,000 in 2011 to the National Council for Special Education. My Department is currently finalising the funding allocation to the National Council for Special Education for 2012.

David Stanton

Question:

102 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount allocated to National Education and Psychological Service in 2010, 2011 and the amount expected to be allocated in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3229/12]

As the Deputy will be aware all primary and post- primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. In 2010 my Department's expenditure in support of this service amounted to €16.65m, in 2011 to €17.79m (provisional) and the allocation in this regard in the 2012 budget is €18.72m. The number of individual psychologists currently employed by NEPS is 173 and it is envisaged that this number will increase by 6-7 in the coming year.

Scéimeanna Scoláireachta don Ardoideachas

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

103 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Áire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil aon athrú déanta nó an bhfuil aon athrú beartaithe do na scéimeanna scoláireachta tríú leibhéal 1916, Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta agus aon scéim scoláireachta tríú leibhéal eile de chuid na Roinne; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [3230/12]

Mar a d'fhógair mé faoi Bhuiséad 2012, tá sé i gceist scéim aonair nua, stíl sparántachta agus bunaithe ar fhiúntas, a chur in ionad na cúig scéim scoláireachta don Ardoideachas atá ann cheana féin, lena n-áirítear Scoláireacht Sheachtain na Cásca 1916 agus na trí Scoláireacht Gaeilge. Beidh na dámhachtainí faoin scéim nua socraithe ag €2,000 an mac léinn. Beidh an sparántacht mar thacaíocht bhreise mar spreagadh agus chun ard-ghnóthachtáil a aithint do mhic léinn ó scoileanna DEIS. Beidh na mic léinn sin a mbronntar na dámhachtainí orthu i dteideal freisin iarratas a dhéanamh ar dheontais ard-oideachais. Tá an t-athrú seo déanta agam d'fhonn an úsáid is fearr a bhaint as acmhainní ganna chun díriú ar na mic léinn is fearr feidhmithe sa chóhort dóibh siúd is mó a bhfuil cúnamh airgeadais ag teastáil uathu.

Ní bheidh aon éifeacht ag na hathruithe seo orthu siúd a bhfuil scoláireachtaí acu cheana féin.

Employment Support Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

104 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he has examined the full extent of the training, upskilling or temporary placements for the long-term unemployed to emerge in the coming year with particular reference to SOLAS and the need to make a serious and positive impact on unemployment levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3309/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total expected number of positions to be created for the unemployed through SOLAS in each of the next four years; the extent to which the areas most seriously affected by unemployment are likely to benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3310/12]

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

The funding provision for further education and training is decided annually as part of the Estimates process. In 2011, the further education and training sector provided almost 300,000 places. In addition, enrolments in the third level sector reached 161,000 and 5,900 places were provided through Springboard. While the final configuration of places is yet to be determined, my Department expects that the level of funding in 2012 will be maintained at these levels. All of these places are open to the unemployed. In addition, the Department of Social Protection will provide almost 49,000 job placement and work experience places in 2012. FÁS and the VECs have been requested to prioritise the long-term unemployed in their 2012 provision. Interim referral protocols, which will facilitate the referral of unemployed people from welfare offices to VEC further education programmes, have been agreed to complement existing referral protocols between welfare offices and FÁS. The establishment of SOLAS, which will have strategic responsibility for the further education and training sector, is part of a wider process of reform, which includes the roll-out of the National Employment and Entitlements Service by the Department of Social Protection. The service will act as a ‘one stop shop' for unemployed people. Together, these structural reforms will help to ensure unemployed people can speedily access more of the upskilling and reskilling opportunities they need to re-enter the labour market.

Unemployment Levels

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which experiences throughout Europe in dealing with the needs of the young unemployed can be incorporated in future policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3311/12]

As in other areas of policy and provision, international experience including that of EU Member States in dealing with the needs of the young unemployed can provide a very useful input to the formulation of policies in Ireland that relate to the needs of this cohort. Reviews by the OECD can also provide a useful input. The Government also welcomes the increased visibility that the Youth on the Move initiative, as a flagship initiative of EU2020, will give to education, training and improving the employment situation of young people in policies and programmes at European level in the coming years. Ireland is committed to further promoting the mobility of young people in the context of Youth on the Move and to working towards a more joined-up approach between national and European initiatives in this regard in the future.

Questions Nos. 107 and 108 answered with Question No. 89.

Third Level Courses

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students known to have dropped out of third level education in each of the past three years to date in 2012 for whatever reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3314/12]

The HEA is responsible for collection data on student progression. The most recent report by the HEA entitled ‘A study of Progression in Higher Education' is available on the HEA website'. The table from the report that follows this reply illustrates the non-presence rates of new entrants in their second year of study by sector, NFQ level and course duration. New entrants are classified as ‘not present' if they do not appear in the statistical returns of that institution in the following academic year. The proportion of new entrants in 2007-08 who were not present one year later was 15% on average across all sectors and NFQ Levels. Prior educational attainment is a very significant factor.

Non-Presence Rates for New Entrants by Sector and NFQ Level (2008-09)

Sector

Level

Most Common Points Attained

% Not Present

Institutes of Technology

Level 6

250-300

25%

Level 7

250-300

26%

Level 8

300-350

16%

L8 3 yr duration

300-350

16%

L8 4 yr duration

300-350

16%

L8 4+ yr duration

450-500

10%

All New Entrants

300-350

22%

Universities

Level 8

400-450

9%

L8 3 yr duration

350-400

10%

L8 4 yr duration

450-500

9%

L8 4+ yr duration

550-600

3%

Other Colleges

Level 8

450-500

4%

L8 3 yr duration

450-500

2%

L8 4 yr duration

400-450

7%

All Institutions

Level 8

350-400

11%

All Institutions

All New Entrants

350-400

15%

Third Level Enrolments

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of third level places available at third level institutions in each of the past three years to date in 2012; the extent to which this meets the requirements for third level places; his intentions if any to increase or make provisions for an increased number of places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3315/12]

The number of full time enrolments in publicly funded higher education institutions over last three years are: 2008/09 — 148197; 2009/10 — 157946; 2010/11 — 161647. The actual enrolments in 2010/11 slightly exceed the projected demand for that year (161089). The number of places made available to students is a matter for higher education institutions. Projected demand calculations are published on the Department of Education and Skills website and show a sharp increase in demand to 2030.

At my request the HEA completed an initial report late last year on the implications of increased growth in numbers, funding challenges and measures of quality on the sustainability of the system. The report is published on the HEA website, captures the changes in funding over the last number of years, and provides some evidence to the impact of reductions. However, the HEA has emphasised that the study and the report are interim only and that substantial additional work now needs to be undertaken before comprehensive proposals as to how we can fund higher education on a sustainable basis into the future can be developed. The HEA is continuing its work in this area and I expect to receive further advice later this year.

Bullying in Schools

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which school bullying continues to be monitored and identified as a problem in all schools throughout the country; if any particular initiatives are being considered to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3316/12]

Under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, all schools are required to have in place a Code of Behaviour and this code must be drawn up in accordance with the guidelines of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). The NEWB guidelines were issued to schools in 2008 and make it clear that each school must have policies to prevent or address bullying and harassment and schools must make clear in their code of behaviour that bullying is unacceptable. The guidelines further state that as well as making explicit that bullying is prohibited in the school, and having an anti-bullying policy, the code of behaviour should indicate what action the school will take in relation to alleged breaches of the school's bullying policy.

Every school therefore must have in place a policy, within the framework of the school's overall school code of behaviour, which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour. Such a code, developed through consultation with the whole school community and properly implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools.

Responsibility for tackling bullying falls to the level of the individual school, as it is at local level that an effective anti-bullying climate must be established and at that level that actions should be taken to address allegations of bullying.

My Department has issued Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour as an aid to schools in devising measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of school management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of their school.

As a further aid to post-primary schools my Department published in 2007 a template that can be used by post-primary schools in developing an anti-bullying policy. The anti-bullying policy template is based primarily on the key document Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour. However, it also takes account of more recent legislative and regulatory changes, and reference is made to issues of contemporary concern such as the need to tackle text bullying, cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

When a Whole School Evaluation (WSE) is conducted by my Department's Inspectorate, the code of behaviour, including its anti-bullying policy, is reviewed by the inspection team to check that it is in line with the Department's guidelines. Inspectors normally meet with the principal, the board, post-holders, year heads, class teachers, programme co-ordinators, the pastoral care team, representatives of the students and parents. During these meetings there is a particular emphasis on the quality of student care and support. The inspectors' evaluation is also informed by observations in classroom settings and throughout the school. Where there are weaknesses in a school's policy or implementation of policies clear recommendations for improvement are made and are included in the published report of the inspection.

Revised procedures for WSE in schools have recently been put in place. A new element of the revised WSE process involves the issuing of questionnaires directly to pupils and parents. Children and parents are asked to respond to questions about how the school deals with bullying, discipline in the school and whether or not the school provides a safe environment for children. This enhanced engagement with parents and pupils through questionnaires aims to further support all schools to implement effective measures to counter bullying.

The Deputy will also be aware that the education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is part of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum. SPHE is now a compulsory subject both at primary level and in the junior cycle of post-primary schools. Since 2001, national professional development support services have provided ongoing support to schools in planning policies on child protection and the code of behaviour and in supporting teachers and principals in the implementation of SPHE. In addition, training on The Stay Safe Programme is offered on an ongoing basis to primary schools.

Other measures in place include the Webwise Internet Safety Initiative, the EU Safer Internet Programme campaign and the establishment of the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) which is currently working with over 80 post-primary schools to promote and support positive student behaviour.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that the pupil-teacher ratios in all schools throughout County Kildare are likely to remain within the average nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3317/12]

The Statistics section of my Department's website contains extensive information relating to pupil teacher ratio (PTR) and class size in primary schools. The source of this data is the National School Annual Census. Statistical information in respect of the current school year is currently being compiled in my Department and is due for publication in September 2012. The Deputy will be aware from the recent budget announcements that there is no increase in the general average of 28:1 for the allocation of classroom teachers at primary level. However the staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of other budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. The reform of the allocation process is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools so there will inevitably be some schools that will lose posts and some schools that will gain posts. My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for 2012/13 school year.

Special Educational Needs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that the requirements of special needs pupils in mainstream education will be addressed on an ongoing basis notwithstanding the budgetary situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3318/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that in relation to special needs education it should be noted that there has been no reduction in the number of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) which will be available for schools next year, with 10,575 posts remaining available for allocation.

There has also been no reduction in the overall number of resource teaching posts which will be available for allocation to mainstream schools next year, either through the General Allocation Model or which are available for individual allocation by the National Council for Special Education.

The fact that the number of special needs assistant and resource teaching posts are being maintained at current levels is a reflection of this Government's commitment to prioritising supports for children with special educational needs, at a time when there is a requirement to make expenditure savings across a range of areas. This commitment to protecting frontline services for children with special educational needs will ensure that the requirements of special needs pupils in mainstream education can continue to be provided for on an ongoing basis, despite overall budgetary pressures.

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

114 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of civil servants from his Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3821/12]

One Assistant Principal Officer has been assigned as Education and Skills attaché at the Irish Permanent Representation to the European Union. This officer represents the Department in dealings with EU institutions, including the European Commission and European Council working groups which deal with education and skills issues. She also keeps the Department informed of EU policy developments and contributes to the development and promotion of the Irish position at an EU level.

Coast Guard Service

Michael McNamara

Question:

115 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the conveyance of lands for the development of a new Coast Guard station at Doolin, County Clare, will be complete; when construction will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2981/12]

The Chief State Solicitors Office is in ongoing correspondence with the vendor's Solicitors to complete the legal formalities for the conveyance of the site in Doolin for the provision of a Coast Guard Station. The matter is being treated as a priority and will be complete as soon as possible. The construction of the Station will commence, following the completion of the conveyance and a tender process, when the Irish Coast Guard confirm that funding is in place.

Departmental Properties

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

116 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to a matter (details supplied) regarding charges for using the Phoenix Park, Dublin; if he will review this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2985/12]

It is the policy of the Office of Public Works to charge a fee for any commercial enterprise which makes use of State property for profit. In the case of ‘boot camps', the fee is set at €10 plus VAT per day. The level of fees charged for the use of State property is judged to be appropriate and no fees are charged for charitable or non-profit making enterprises.

Departmental Staff

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

117 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide an analysis of Revenue staff at the following grades, higher executive officer, assistant principal and principal officer, on the basis of gender and age, at 31 December 2011 and the likely position at 1 March 2012 based on notifications of intended retirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3115/12]

The Revenue Commisioners have provided me with the information in Tables 1 and 2 in response to the Deputy's question. Officials from my Department, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Finance are in discussions on how to address critical skills losses that will arise due to these retirements.

Table 1: Staff Serving at 31 December 2011

Age

Grade

Gender

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-54

55-59

Over 60

Grand Total

PO

F

7

7

10

7

2

33

M

3

11

29

35

6

84

PO Total

10

18

39

42

8

117

AP

F

2

29

34

41

21

6

133

M

2

4

55

76

125

24

286

AP Total

4

33

89

117

146

30

419

HEO

F

2

47

121

176

118

7

471

M

37

136

205

124

17

519

HEO Total

2

84

257

381

242

24

990

Table 2: Estimated Staff Serving 1 March 2012

Age

Grade

Gender

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-54

55-59

Over 60

Grand Total

PO

F

7

7

10

6

0

30

M

3

11

29

29

5

77

PO Total

10

18

39

35

5

107

AP

F

2

29

34

40

18

2

125

M

2

4

55

75

106

10

252

AP Total

4

33

89

115

124

12

377

HEO

F

2

47

121

174

100

4

448

M

37

136

204

103

7

487

HEO Total

2

84

257

378

203

11

935

Members' Allowances

Catherine Murphy

Question:

118 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual amount paid to each qualifying party leader and each Independent Deputy and Senator under section 1 of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2001 for the period of 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2011; the frequency and number of payments made to each qualifying party leader and each Independent Deputy and Senator under the terms of section 1 of the aforementioned Act; the formula by which such annual payment amounts are calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3118/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

119 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual amount paid to each qualifying party under the Electoral Acts, and not section 1 of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2001, for the period of 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2011; the frequency and number of such payments made to each qualifying party; the formula by which such annual payment amounts are calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3119/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 119 together.

The Party Leader's Allowance is provided for in the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) Act, 1938, as amended by the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act, 2001.

As indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 40637 on 15th December last, I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly in relation to the Party Leader's Allowance.

The allowance is paid to the parliamentary leader of a qualifying party in relation to expenses arising from the parliamentary activities, including research, of the party. Payments are made in respect of members of the party elected to Dáil Éireann and members elected/nominated to Seanad Éireann at the last preceding general election, or a subsequent by-election or, in the case of Seanad Éireann, nominated to it after the last preceding general election. The conditions governing entitlement to payment of the allowance are set out in the Act. The primary restriction in the Act on the use of the allowance is that it may not be used in respect of election expenses.

Under the legislation, the amounts paid to the parliamentary leader of a qualifying party are calculated on the following basis:

TDs

€ Opposition Parties

€Government Parties*

First 10 members

71,520

47,680

11 members to 30

57,214

38,143

31 members and over

28,616

19,077

Senators

First 5 members

46,766

Over 5 members

23,383

*The legislation provides that, in the case of a qualifying party forming part of the Government, allowances due in respect of TDs of that party are reduced by one third.

The legislation also provides that payments may be made to a member of Dáil Éireann, who at the last preceding general election or at a subsequent by-election was elected as a member other than as a member of a qualifying party. Such qualifying Independent TDs are entitled to an annual rate of €41,152. A similar provision in the Act provides for an annual payment of €23,383 for Independent Senators.

A table setting out the total amounts paid in 2011 in the case of each qualifying party, Independent T.D. and Senator, is set out below in Appendix I. The allowances are generally payable monthly in arrears. Because of the change in Government during 2011, there was not a full 12 months entitlement to payment in some cases.

Provision is also made for two payments to be made to qualifying political parties under the Electoral Acts.

Section 50(c)(ii)(I)(a) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001, provides for an annual sum of €4.948 million to be shared among qualified political parties. Payments are calculated on the basis of the share of first preference votes obtained by an individual qualified party at the previous general election.

Section 50(c)(i)(a) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001, also provides for an annual payment in each period of 12 months to each qualified party of €126,973.81.

Payments in respect of both amounts are generally made quarterly in arrears and details of the amounts paid to qualifying parties in the year 2011, including in respect of the last quarter of 2010, are detailed in Appendix II. As a result of the General Election held in February 2011, five payments rather than the usual four were made in 2011. Appendix I

Political Party

Total paid in 2011

Fianna Fáil

1,746,500.88

Green Party

75,583.10

Fine Gael

2,579,029.69

Labour

1,634,607.19

Sinn Féin

933,875.54

Socialist Party

120,902.86

People before Profit

120,902.86

Independent TDs

F McGrath

39,437.30

M Lowry

39,437.30

M O Sullivan

39,437.30

J Healy Rae

4,654.09

S Ross

34,783.20

Michael Wallace

0.00

Michael Healy Rae

34,783.20

Noel Grealish

34,783.20

Stephen Donnelly

34,783.20

Luke Flanagan

34,783.20

John Halligan

34,783.20

Mattie McGrath

34,783.20

Catherine Murphy

34,783.20

Thomas Pringle

34,783.20

Tom Fleming

34,293.30

Seamus Healy

34,783.20

Independent Senators

D Norris

23,112.33

S Ross

3,618.79

F Quinn

23,112.32

J O Toole

7,198.92

E Harris

7,198.92

R Mullen

23,112.32

John Crown

15,913.40

Sean Barrett

15,913.40

Martin McAleese

3,247.63

Fiach Mac Conghaill

14,394.35

Eamon Coghlan

14,394.35

Dr. Katherine Zappone

14,394.35

Mary Ann O Brien

14,394.35

Marie Louise O Donnell

14,394.35

Jillian Van Turnhaut

14,394.35

Appendix II

Payments made under section 50 (c) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2011

1 January 2011-31 December 2011

Party

First preference vote payment

Flat rate payment

Fianna Fáil

1,508,733.78

126,973.81

Fine Gael

1,869,664.07

126,973.81

Sinn Féin

502,301.67

126,973.81

Green Party (Paid in respect of 30th Dáil Éireann)

100,149.53

51,142.23

Labour Party

909,076.40

126,973.81

Overall Total

4,889,925.45

559,037.47

Election Management System

Niall Collins

Question:

120 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a detailed cost breakdown for the count centre, and associated count personnel, for the recent Dublin West by-election, including the additional cost incurred due to the recount called by one of the candidates. [3120/12]

Returning Officers are required to submit accounts to the Department of Finance within six months of holding an election. The accounts for the recent by-election have not yet been submitted and an accurate break down of costs will not be available until that time. However, €231,000 was advanced to the returning officer to cover the estimated cost of holding the by-election.

Flood Relief

Paudie Coffey

Question:

121 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of funding that will be allocated for a scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3012/12]

Waterford County Council, as the commissioning authority, will shortly seek tenders for the second phase of the Waterford Flood Relief Scheme. Pending the receipt of tenders, it would not be appropriate to indicate the expected cost of the contract. The capital allocation for the Office of Public Works will allow the scheme to commence in 2012.

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

122 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the measures the Civil Service has in place to allow members of the Irish public service gain work experience within the European Commission or to be seconded to the Commission from relevant Irish Departments; the number of Irish civil servants who are working within the European Commission under any such arrangement; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3039/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

123 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of civil servants from each Government Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3040/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 123 together.

The Civil Service participates in the EU Commission programmes allowing for the secondment, on a temporary basis, to the EU Commission of national experts in order to foster the exchange of professional experience and knowledge of European policies. The decision to participate in these programmes is a matter for individual Departments in the context of their business needs. Heads of Departments have delegated sanction to award special leave under the terms of Circular 33/1991: Special leave without pay to take up an appointment with an institution of the European Communities or other international organisation of which Ireland is a member.

Special leave to serve with organisations within the EU may be granted for a maximum of ten years or up to the minimum retiring age, whichever is the shorter, including extensions and regardless of the number of institutions served.

My Department currently has no staff member working in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels.

Public Service Recruitment Embargo

Gerald Nash

Question:

124 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in which areas he will focus his plans for the partial lifting of the public service recruitment embargo announced in his budget 2012 contribution to Dáil Éireann in 2012; the number of posts he intends to sanction; if he will give specific details on the nature of the posts involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3226/12]

The Government is committed to reducing Public Service numbers to 282,500 by 2015. Given the importance of meeting this challenging numbers target, any recruitment will be limited and targeted towards areas of most need.

Public Service Organisations must fully use all options for discharging work through reorganisation and redeployment of staff. Only after this will the issue of recruitment for current or emerging business needs arise. Each Sector in the Public Service has been establishing its own Strategic Workforce Planning Group to ensure that sectoral employers are developing plans to deal with the operational and strategic consequences arising from staffing reductions.The sectoral groups are feeding into a central Strategic Workforce Planning Forum under the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Factors such as emerging demographic gaps in management grades will also be considered, for example with a competition for Administrative Officers to be held in the Civil Service.

Job Creation

Ciara Conway

Question:

125 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the creation of more than 13,000 Industrial Development Agency supported jobs in 2011 announced by that agency earlier this month, and in view of the net increase of IDA supported jobs of 6,000 compared with 2010, the number of these new jobs that were created in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2997/12]

In making his 2011 end of year statement, the Chief Executive Officer of IDA Ireland announced that IDA Ireland's client companies created over 13,000 new jobs, up 20% on the previous year's level of 10,897, increasing the total number of those employed by IDA client companies to almost 146,000. Overall there was a net employment increase of over 6,000.

IDA Ireland has informed me that there are 31 IDA Ireland supported client companies in County Waterford employing 5,196 people. 72 new jobs were created in Waterford in 2011.

One of the targets in IDA Ireland's strategy document ‘Horizon 2020’ is the creation of 62,000 direct new jobs with 105,000 total jobs impact in Ireland over the period 2010-2014, with 50% of these investments to be based in locations outside of Dublin and Cork. Central to IDA’s strategy is to build on existing regional strengths to ensure Ireland’s economic development, while optimising regional spread, in line with the National Spatial Strategy.

IDA Ireland's Strategy for the South East region is to market the region to overseas clients to acquire new greenfield investments, to work with existing clients by encouraging them to engage in transformation of their businesses and to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In recent years, the Agency has re-positioned the South East region as a knowledge-based industry centre, while marketing the Waterford Gateway as an investment location.

The implementation of this Strategy is resulting in employment creation in the region. Last June I announced that Mycroft Inc., the global innovation leader in delivering IT identity and security solutions, would be establishing an Operations Centre in Waterford with 50 employees. In October I officially opened a €150 million expansion of Genzyme's Biotechnology Campus, which will greatly add to the South-East's reputation as a valued location for foreign direct investment.

The South East Employment Action Plan, which I published last month, outlines the extent of IDA's activities in seeking to attract additional investment to Waterford, drawing on the skill sets of the Talk Talk employees and the available facility, which is ready for use. IDA Ireland has assured me that it is targeting overseas companies based in Ireland, by bringing the existence of the vacant facility and its skilled workforce to their attention. The Agency has developed a prospectus on the Waterford facility, particularly focussing on the skill sets of the workforce, the structure of the facility and its suitability as a modern call centre, which has been circulated to IDA's offices worldwide.

The global economy, and in particular the European economy, which is the primary target market for FDI clients in Ireland, is in a low growth phase. The challenge for IDA Ireland is to win FDI in this low growth environment. In addition, the agency faces the challenge of intense international competition to win FDI, which is mainly dominated by Metro City Regions with populations in excess of 1 million people i.e. London, Manchester, Boston, Los Angeles etc. Ireland has one Metro Region, the Greater Dublin area, so in order to achieve balanced regional development, IDA focuses on marketing Gateway locations, such as Waterford. IDA Ireland also highlights the opportunities provided by Hub locations, which are within commuting distances of these Gateways, in addition to other locations as part of its marketing efforts and in response to specific client queries.

While the global outlook for foreign direct investment remains challenging, IDA Ireland has assured me that it will continue to compete vigorously for these projects and will continue to promote the South East Region and Waterford in line with the objectives set out in "Horizon 2020".

Waterford also received a major jobs boost within the last week with the announcement that Eishtec, a Waterford-based company providing consumer contact centre services, is to create 250 new jobs by mid-2012 as part of a major new expansion at its new custom built facility situated at the Cleaboy Business Park. This investment is part funded by the Government through Enterprise Ireland. Recruitment for the new positions is currently under way.

Enterprise Support Services

Paudie Coffey

Question:

126 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made to recommence the enterprise platform programme; the new format that it will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3018/12]

The Enterprise Platform Programme (EPP) comprises a suite of entrepreneurship development courses operated by the Institutes of Technology (IoTs). The Programme has become an established mechanism for the development of entrepreneurs and the creation of start-up businesses across the regions. The Programme was funded until mid-2010 by the Higher Education Authority at which point budgetary responsibility transferred to Enterprise Ireland.

During 2011 Enterprise Ireland and the IoTs conducted a review of the current programme, with the objective of improving programme performance and increasing value for money. Arising from this review the operation of the programme has been redesigned in an effort to ensure increased value for money through more competitive operating costs, greater economies of scale through, for example, partnerships and consortia of IoTs, higher standards of entry and progression, and more focus on output metrics. The overarching aim of the programme is to accelerate the development of sustainable new businesses which have strong employment and export potential. The enterprises developed on the programme will be primarily based on a technology or innovative business application. Enterprise Ireland anticipates that approximately 100 business starts of varying scale will emerge from the programme annually and that of these a significant proportion will evolve to become HPSUs.

The revised EPP will operate as an intensive programme focusing on developing the entrepreneur's skills and the business concept. It will be targeted at scaleable businesses based on innovative or knowledge intensive product or service and will seek high-quality potential entrepreneurs who show both the commitment and the capability to develop sustainable businesses.

The following IoTs will operate the programme and are currently phasing in the new programme.

Waterford IT in partnership with IT Carlow

Cork IT

Limerick IT in partnership with IT Tralee

Galway Mayo IT

IT Sligo in partnership with Letterkenny IT

Dundalk IT

IT Tallaght in partnership with IT Blanchardstown

Dublin IT

Athlone IT

Enterprise Ireland will provide expertise and support to the IoTs and will engage in promotion of the programme both nationally and overseas to high-quality potential entrepreneurs.

Employment Rights

John Deasy

Question:

127 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason for the delay in obtaining a decision from the Employment Tribunal for a hearing held in September 2011 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and when a decision will be made in this regard. [3223/12]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) is independent in the exercise of its quasi-judicial function and I have no direct involvement in its day-to-day operations. However, having made inquiries, I understand that in the case of the person referred to, a Determination issued to the parties on 12 January 2012.

Delays currently being experienced in the EAT are a regrettable consequence of the significant increase in its caseload that has occurred in recent years. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of claims referred to the EAT trebled and this has increased the time it takes for cases to be heard and for subsequent determinations to issue.

While various short-term steps have been taken to address these delays, the functions of the EAT will be more comprehensively addressed in the context of my planned reform of the State's employment rights and industrial relations structures and institutions. As part of this, I am chairing an Implementation Group charged with overseeing the restructuring of five existing employment rights and industrial relations bodies into a simplified two-tier structure. This reform and streamlining project is aimed at producing measurable improvements in the quality of services provided to users of the State's employment rights and industrial relations dispute resolution services and reduce the burden of accessing such services for users and reduce costs to the State. The project has already provided some early improvements including the development of a single complaint form for use in all existing bodies; the establishment of a single contact portal for centrally administering the receipt of complaints; and the creation of a centralised website containing information on all relevant bodies. Further improvements are planned for early 2012.

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

128 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of civil servants from his Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3824/12]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.

My Department has five staff on secondment to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, i.e. two Counsellors and three First Secretaries working in the Permanent Representation in Brussels.

The role of the Permanent Representation Brussels (PRB) is to represent Ireland's position on a wide variety of topics to the EU Council, the Commission, the European Parliament and other Member States and to keep the Department informed of relevant developments.

The PRB comprises of staff that have been seconded from all Government Departments. The primary function is to serve the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), other key EU Committees, Working Groups and to liaise with EU Affairs Section and relevant Policy Sections in the various Departments. The 5 representatives in the PRB from my Department are working in the area of Trade, Company Law, Consumer Issues, Competition, Research and Development, Intellectual Property and Patents, Industrial Policy, State Aids, Internal Market and Employment.

Departmental Offices

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

129 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection when the births-deaths certificates office will be reopened at Bunratty Road Civic Centre, Coolock, Dublin 17. [2978/12]

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

Redundancy Payments

Willie Penrose

Question:

130 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for redundancy payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if same will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2987/12]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 29 July 2011. Redundancy lump sum claims received at the start of June 2011 are currently being processed.

Willie Penrose

Question:

131 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for redundancy payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if same will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2988/12]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 23 September 2011. Redundancy lump sum claims received at the start of June 2011 are currently being processed.

Employment Support Services

Terence Flanagan

Question:

132 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding grants to employers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2994/12]

JobBridge is a National Internship Scheme that provides work experience placements for interns for a 6 or 9 month period. The aim of the National Internship Scheme is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills. The scheme also gives people a real opportunity to gain valuable experience to bridge the gap between study and the beginning of their working lives.

The scheme provides for up to 5,000 work experience placements in the private, public and voluntary sectors. Interns receive an allowance of €50 per week on top of their existing social welfare entitlement for the period of the internship.

There are significant benefits for organisations taking part in the JobBridge scheme including the following:

Give an unemployed person the opportunity to gain relevant work experience

Access potential future employees

Enhance the performance of your organisation by offering an internship to motivated individuals with enthusiasm and a passion for developing their careers

Bring in fresh talent, fresh ideas and new thinking

Access newly trained interns with recent skills sets or skilled workers that add real value to your organisation.

A PRSI exemption scheme applied previously (June '10-Dec '11) for companies who offered employment to their JobBridge interns. PRSI exemption does not apply in 2012.

There are no grants made to employers and there are currently no plans to make such grants available.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

133 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the period for assessment of applications for rent allowance has become so protracted since the community welfare service has transferred to her Department; the reason rent allowance applications which could be processed within days when being dealt with by the local community welfare officer are now taking months to process since the system was centralised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3041/12]

The centralisation of rent supplement payments has been on-going over the past number of years within the Community Welfare Service in Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare. The service transferred to the Department of Social Protection in October 2011. Rent supplement claims which are processed in central units are dealt with through a P.O. Box No. Claims are normally paid within four weeks and any back logs pertinent to the rent units have been cleared in the recent past. Claims outstanding are mainly due to the fact that further documentation is awaited from the client. Any queries can be directed to the relevant Locall phone numbers for the units.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

134 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if any statistical address has been done on the rate of applications for rent allowance, the approval, refusal and appeal rates on rent allowance applications; the average length of time to process an application; the percentage of cases in which further information requests have issued since the system was centralised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3049/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being compiled and will be issued to him shortly.

Noel Coonan

Question:

135 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for domiciliary care will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3051/12]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 19th October 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 5th January 2012 advising of the decision. In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed. Alternatively, they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within twenty one days.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

136 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3071/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 1 December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 6 January 2012 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

137 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a matter in respect of a person (details supplied). [3107/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 7 October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Joe Higgins

Question:

138 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Social Protection if there has been a change in criteria for persons applying for domiciliary care allowance; and if the conditions for eligibility have changed to make it more difficult to qualify. [3142/12]

There has been no change in the qualifying criteria for Domiciliary Care Allowance. In general, the Allowance can be payable in respect of children under 16 years of age who have a disability so severe that it requires the child needing care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be given by another person, effectively full-time, so that the child can deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months.

Eligibility for the Allowance is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted. In addition, the person claiming the Allowance for the child must be providing for the care of the child and must be considered habitually resident in the State.

Where a person is not satisfied with the decision of a Deciding Officer, they may seek to have the decision reviewed or they may appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Joe Higgins

Question:

139 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Social Protection if there has been an increase in refusal of applications and renewal applications for domiciliary care allowance since March 2011. [3143/12]

The Department has been accepting new claims for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) since 1st April 2009. The number of applicants for DCA that were received, awarded and refused in 2010 and 2011 (to end November) is detailed in the table below. There has been no significant change in the overall rate of refusal for the allowance.

Domiciliary Care Allowance applications — 2010-Nov 2011

Applications received

Applications fully processed in year

Applications allowed incl. on review

Applications refused

2010

5,457

5,333

2,576

2,757 (51%)

2011 (to 30th November)

5,226

5,118

2,347

2,771 (53%)

Jack Wall

Question:

140 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection if rent allowance has been reinstated in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3146/12]

The person concerned is in receipt of his full entitlement to rent supplement based on his household circumstances. A payment issued to the person concerned in December and will continue to issue from January onwards as the necessary documentation was recently received.

Social Welfare Appeals

Sandra McLellan

Question:

141 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal for domiciliary allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3151/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13th June 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 2nd August 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 4th January 2012 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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

Brendan Smith

Question:

142 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal will be determined in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cavan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3153/12]

An application for invalidity pension, by the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on 6th September 2011. I am informed by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there is no trace of appeal against this decision by the person concerned.

In the normal course, an appeal against the decision of a Deciding Officer must be made within 21 days of a decision being notified. Appeals received outside of this time limit may be accepted at the discretion of the Chief Appeals Officer. This limit is not rigidly enforced but in view of the length of time which has elapsed since the person concerned was notified of the decision and in the absence of any explanation for the failure to make the appeal within the prescribed time, it is considered that the acceptance of an appeal would not be warranted at this late stage.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Anne Ferris

Question:

143 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to recent media reports that the Government was considering withdrawing or restricting the free travel scheme; if her further attention has been drawn to the concerns this has created among those who depend on the scheme, particularly elderly citizens; if she is considering any such proposals and, if so, when any changes are likely to take effect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3157/12]

I do appreciate the important role that free travel plays in promoting social inclusion and preventing the isolation of elderly people.

Funding for the scheme was frozen by the previous Government at 2010 levels of expenditure as outlined in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 and the 2011 Budget. This cap was confirmed in the 2012 Budget. The Department, therefore, is not in a position to make payments in excess of that level of expenditure during 2012. The Department has written to all companies operating the free travel scheme and has had discussions with a number of them regarding the current position of the scheme and in order to try to minimise the impact of the cap on expenditure on our customers. This may have given rise to some media speculation. The Department has not proposed any changes to the operation of the scheme.

The current free travel scheme operated by the Department provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as Luas and services provided by over 90 private transport operators. At the end of December 2011, there were over 726,000 people in receipt of Free Travel at a cost of almost €76 million.

All of the schemes operated by the Department of Social Protection, including free travel, were examined in the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure and continue to be kept under review given the ongoing need for savings. The Review continues to inform the Department's decisions in relation to future spending.

Social Welfare Appeals

Anne Ferris

Question:

144 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal on an application for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3167/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 22nd October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Pat Breen

Question:

145 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3168/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there is no registered appeal for the person concerned. However, because of the large number of appeals currently being lodged, there is a backlog in the office in registering appeals. If the appeal has been submitted in recent weeks the appeal will be registered and acknowledged in due course. The Chief Appeals Officer has assured me that all appropriate measures are being taken to address this situation.

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

Question No. 146 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an application for disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been received in the relevant section of her Department; when it is likely that a decision will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3206/12]

I can confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance from the person concerned. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome. The average time taken to process a claim for disability allowance to completion, including assessment of the claimant's means, medical condition and habitual residence status is currently approximately 17 weeks.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when disability allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3207/12]

The person concerned was refused a disability allowance on the ground that, based upon the medical assessor's assessment of the medical evidence supplied in support of the claim, the person is not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and the person was notified in writing of this decision on 5 September 2011.

Further medical evidence was subsequently supplied and was referred to the Department's medical assessor who was also of the opinion, based on the information supplied, that she was not medically suitable for disability allowance. Accordingly, the deciding officer decided that there were no grounds to revise the original decision and the person concerned was notified in writing of this outcome on 29 December 2011.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when domiciliary care allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3208/12]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 31 May 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 26th October 2011 advising of the decision. In the case of an application which is refused on medical grounds, the applicant may submit additional information and/or ask for the case to be reviewed. Alternatively, they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within twenty one days.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when jobseeker’s allowance will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3212/12]

The person concerned has an appointment at her local social welfare office on 18 January 2012 regarding an application for jobseeker's benefit. Once all details are to hand a decision will be made on her claim as soon as possible.

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

151 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance application review in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3236/12]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 18 July 2011. The person concerned informed the Department that additional information would follow. However, no additional information was received. The application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance and a decision to this effect issued on 4 November 2011.

The person concerned requested a review of this decision and subsequently submitted additional supporting information. The application has been forwarded to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for review. When this medical opinion is received, a decision will issue to the customer.

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

152 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of civil servants from her Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; and their titles and functions. [3825/12]

The Department currently has two civil servants at Assistant Principal level based in Brussels in the following roles:

Title: Attaché seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs working in the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union

Function: The officer represents and promotes the concerns and interests of the Department of Social Protection to the EU Institutions and representatives of other Member States.

Title: Seconded National Expert to the European Commission working in the Directorates-General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

Function: The officer contributes to the monitoring and assessment by the European Commission of employment, social inclusion and social protection policies in Ireland.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

153 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of civil servants from his Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3819/12]

My Department has a single EU Attaché at Assistant Principal level based in the European Commission. The EU Attaché is seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the period of his assignment and is based in Ireland's Permanent Representation in Brussels.

The purpose of the post is to represent Ireland in relation to EU developments in respect of the functions of my Department. The Attaché participates in, monitors and reports on such developments and liaises with the European Commission and with other Member State representatives, while keeping in close contact with relevant Government Departments and Agencies in Ireland. The Attaché also helps to shape Ireland's approach to EU developments in relation to my Department's functions and our approach to the upcoming Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013.

Inland Fisheries

Thomas Pringle

Question:

154 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consider appointing a fisherman’s representative from Lough Foyle, County Donegal, to the board of the Loughs Agency to ensure that their views are taken into consideration in the work of the agency. [3002/12]

I can advise the Deputy that Board appointments to North South Bodies are a matter for the North South Ministerial Council in accordance with the British Irish Agreement Act 1999.

The term of appointment of the previous Boards of the North South Implementation Bodies and Tourism Ireland came to an end on 12 December, 2011 and new appointments to these Boards were approved by the North South Ministerial Council at its plenary meeting of 18 November, 2011.

All twelve positions on the Board of Loughs Agency have been filled and there are no vacancies at present. Any future appointments to the Board are a matter for the North South Ministerial Council.

Telecommunications Services

Paudie Coffey

Question:

155 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress he has made in communicating with the National Roads Authority to ensure that access is provided to its duct network to strengthen the resilience of the broadband network in the south east, as outlined in the recent Forfás report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3016/12]

The Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Act, 2010, which amended the Communications Regulation Act 2002, permits the National Roads Authority (NRA) to make its road ducts on national roads available to facilitate the roll-out of backhaul fibre networks by the industry.

The legislation allows the NRA to make a charging scheme for access to these ducts, subject to the approval of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport — who has policy responsibility for roads in Ireland. The legislation also provides for consultation with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Minister of Finance on this charging scheme. Following this consultation, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport notified the NRA, in 2011, that approval was granted for the NRA's proposed charging scheme, subject to a number of specified conditions.

Since then my Department has maintained ongoing contact with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the NRA to pursue the objective of making its road ducting available for broadband bearing in mind that the operational arrangements surrounding the granting and managing of access to the ducts are the responsibility of the NRA.

My officials have been informed by the NRA that it intends to shortly publish its policy regarding the use of underground national road capacity by electronic communications network operators.

Departmental Programmes

Brendan Ryan

Question:

156 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consider opening the better energy scheme to local authority tenants on the proviso that the tenants will pay any balance of costs above the individual grant threshold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3026/12]

The Better Energy programme, which is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland on behalf of my Department, provides energy efficiency upgrades in privately owned homes. The Warmer Homes Scheme specifically fully funds energy efficiency upgrades in vulnerable private owned houses. Since 2004, retrofitting measures in local authority housing are undertaken as part of the local authority-owned housing improvement works programme. The Programme is the responsibility for the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government.

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government advise that the Social Housing Improvement Programme, is provided to Housing Authorities to undertake improvement works to occupied and vacant social housing units, including works to improve the energy efficiency and general standard of the houses concerned. Some €31 million was made available for this purpose in 2011.

Telecommunications Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

157 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3075/12]

The provision of electronic communications services, including broadband services, is in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers operating in Ireland's fully liberalised telecommunications market. Decisions relating to the provision of broadband services are commercial matters for the commercial service providers.

Neither I nor ComReg, the telecommunications regulator, have statutory power to compel any service provider to offer higher levels of broadband service at any particular location, nor is it appropriate for me to intervene in relation to private sector investment plans.

Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband customer access to every home and business in the State. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce which I convened last summer has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations shortly. It is my intention to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce and to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Electric Vehicles

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

158 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the electric charging points being installed across the country are not compatible with all electric vehicles available to consumers; his plans to legislate for a uniform charging socket on all electric vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3098/12]

I am advised by ESB that the charge points being installed by the company are compatible with the latest standards for electric vehicles which are being supported by the major motor manufacturers. ESB also advises that some earlier models of electric vehicles, such as legacy quadricylces, may not be able to use the charge points.

I have no plans at present to introduce legislation in relation to electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Tax Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

159 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding haulage contractors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3083/12]

The current arrangements for charging motor tax on the basis of whole calendar months for periods of three, six or twelve months have applied since the 1960s, and in a more restricted form since the 1950s. These arrangements are intended to provide a stable source of funding to meet the costs of local services while giving reasonable flexibility to those taxing a vehicle. A tax period of three months is already shorter than in many other countries, and motor tax is only one element of the overall costs of staffing, maintaining, running and insuring a vehicle.

The introduction of an option for a monthly tax period would increase the administrative costs and complexity of the motor tax system, including the necessity to issue monthly renewal notices in such cases, and add to administrative costs for hauliers.

Water Services

Tom Fleming

Question:

160 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that public water supply pipelines which are asbestos based are non-health hazardous and that the interior insulating coating is corrosion free. [3250/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

189 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his policy on public water pipelines which are asbestos based; and if he is satisfied that the insulation coating is adequate to withstand corrosion and is up to standard regarding posing any health hazards. [3253/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 189 together.

Asbestos cement piping formerly used in local authority water mains was required to meet the specifications defined in Irish Standard 188 to include bitumen lining and coating. The main health risk associated with asbestos products relates to inhalation of airborne asbestos particles. The potential exposure to such risk has led to a decline in the use of asbestos materials generally. With the availability of more robust materials, asbestos cement piping is no longer used in Ireland for new public water mains or sewer pipes.

The World Health Organisation's position on asbestos in drinking water is that there is no consistent evidence that ingested asbestos is hazardous to health and that there is no need to establish a health-based guideline value for asbestos in drinking water.

Local Authority Charges

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

161 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will specify the actual houses in each housing estate entitled to avail of the unfinished housing estate waiver in the list of estates for Mayo County Council. [3007/12]

The list of housing developments which have been designated eligible for a waiver from the household charge were extracted from the National Housing Survey 2011, having regard to the categorisation of estates by local authorities under the Unfinished Housing Developments Public Safety Initiative. This list is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012. All households resident in a development prescribed as an unfinished housing estate for the purposes of the Act are covered by the waiver.

Planning Issues

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

162 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status and details of the planning enforcement proceedings or any other legal action which has been instituted by Mayo County Council or Ballina Town Council against the developer of a housing estate (details supplied) in County Mayo together with details of all reports prepared by the councils or at its request pertaining to outstanding planning matters including sanitary and road problems affecting this estate. [3024/12]

The enforcement of the conditions attached to a planning permission is a matter for the relevant planning authority and I have no role in the matter. Under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, I am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned, including cases of planning enforcement.

Local Authority Housing

Brendan Ryan

Question:

163 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with regard to the €31 million allocated to local authorities to improve the insulation of local authority houses, the amount of the €31 million that was drawn down by local authorities; the amount that went to each local authority; the number of local authority houses that benefited from the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3025/12]

Under my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities were allocated capital funding in 2011 in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme included a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers. My Department is currently compiling detailed information in relation to the outputs achieved across all local authorities under the retrofitting measure in 2011. On the basis of a preliminary assessment of the figures, it would appear that in excess of 2,500 properties were improved under this measure.

Information in relation to the amounts allocated and paid to each local authority in 2011 in respect of improvement works carried out under the retrofitting measure is set out in the following table:

Local Authority

Amount Allocated €

Amount Paid €

Carlow County Council

310,000

222,579

Cavan County Council

620,000

621,638

Clare County Council

675,000

947,201

Cork County Council

1,375,000

1,184,352

Cork City Council

1,840,000

1,170,000

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council

875,000

920,066

Donegal County Council

1,090,000

1,098,643

Dublin City Council

5,500,000

7,500,000

Fingal County Council

925,000

926,716

Galway County Council

640,000

623,847

Galway City Council

450,000

225,000

Kerry County Council

1,275,000

1,275,522

Kildare County Council

700,000

847,262

Kilkenny County Council

425,000

1,299,110

Laois County Council

400,000

391,027

Leitrim County Council

360,000

368,283

Limerick County Council

2,425,000

2,045,043

Limerick City Council

1,150,000

702,223

Longford County Council

425,000

388,860

Louth County Council

880,000

873,895

Mayo County Council

745,000

686,258

Meath County Council

470,000

737,499

Monaghan County Council

315,100

315,100

North Tipperary County Council

593,000

1,098,270

Offaly County Council

375,000

375,000

Roscommon County Council

400,000

200,000

Sligo County Council

450,000

498,889

South Tipperary County Council

1,420,000

1,089,481

South Dublin County Council

2,050,000

1,229,868

Waterford County Council

350,000

297,575

Waterford City Council

600,000

426,534

Westmeath County Council

415,000

385,316

Wexford County Council

850,000

1,053,525

Wicklow County Council

905,000

702,440

Total

32,278,100

32,727,022

Departmental Bodies

Catherine Murphy

Question:

164 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the future of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority; if the existing authority or Dublin City Council has responsibility for planning the development of the Poolbeg area; if his attention has been drawn to any meetings that have taken place between the authority and the National Asset Management Agency with regard to developments in the Poolbeg area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3042/12]

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

168 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the future status of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3061/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 168 together.

Since its establishment in 1997, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) has overseen the urban regeneration of the Docklands area into a vibrant city quarter, realising considerable achievements in the delivery of its statutory mandate to secure the social and economic regeneration of the Dublin Docklands area on a sustainable basis, as well as to secure improvements in its physical environment. These achievements include attracting substantial private and public investment, increasing numbers employed in the area, delivering quality commercial space, facilitating thousands of new residential units and ensuring considerable social and community enhancements.

As part of the Government's commitment to securing ongoing savings and efficiencies, the scope for agency reform and rationalisation will continue to receive careful consideration. The future position of the Authority remains under review in that context.

Regarding responsibility for planning in the Docklands area, a developer may choose to either make a planning application to Dublin City Council or to apply to the Authority for a certificate of exemption, pursuant to section 25 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997, for a development in areas in the Docklands that are covered by planning schemes; these are prepared by the Authority to assist in the realisation of the Authority's Master Plan objectives and require the approval of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. As there is no planning scheme in place in respect of the Poolbeg area, planning applications may be made only to Dublin City Council.

Engagements between the DDDA and the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) are a matter, in the first instance, for the Authority itself. As outlined in the DDDA's 2010 Annual Report & Financial Statements, copies of which have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, an agreement was concluded between the DDDA and NAMA in 2011 in relation to the Authority's loan liabilities in respect of the purchase of the ten-hectare former Irish Glass Bottle site at Poolbeg. The effect of the agreement was to extinguish any obligations on the DDDA under guarantees of principal and interest on loans taken over by NAMA in exchange for the transfer to NAMA of certain DDDA properties.

Appointments to State Boards

Catherine Murphy

Question:

165 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he intends to appoint additional board members to An Bord Pleanála; if so, the prospective timelines for such appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3043/12]

The statutory process of filling a number of the current vacancies on the Board is now underway and I expect to make the first of the new appointments shortly. I will be taking into account, when appointing new board members, the balance of skill sets and expertise required at Board level for the effective discharge of An Bord Pleanala's complex and wide ranging functions.

Local Authority Charges

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

166 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person with self-catering accommodation is liable for the non-principal private residence charge; if there are exemptions for those who have been funded by an enterprise board and are registered with Fáilte Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3044/12]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences (NPPR). The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities. The charge is payable by the owners of private rented accommodation, holiday homes, self catering accommodation and other non-principal private residences.

Section 2(d) of the Act provides that a building in respect of which local authority rates are payable and that is wholly used as a dwelling is not a residential property for the purposes of the Act and is not liable for the NPPR charge. There are no specific exemptions in the legislation for persons or property funded by an enterprise board or registered with Fáilte Ireland.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

167 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person with self-catering accommodation is liable for the household charge; if liability or non-liability for paying the non-principal private residence charge affects liability for paying the household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3045/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 set out the legislation underpinning the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences respectively.

Under the legislation, owners of residential property, including self-catering accommodation, are liable for the household charge. Owners of residential property that have a liability to pay the charge on non-principal private residences would have a liability to the household charge, unless otherwise exempt or entitled to a waiver under the legislation.

Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 164.

Waste Management

Robert Dowds

Question:

169 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the fact that persons who have bin waivers in south Dublin will lose their waivers in April, when he is going to make waivers available on a national basis. [3063/12]

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

A public consultation designed to inform the policy development process concluded in September 2011. A large number of responses were received from a broad spectrum of interests. As one might expect, a consensus is not apparent and, on almost all of the relevant issues, a considerable breadth of opinion was expressed including in relation to the issue of waiver schemes. All of the responses received, in addition to a summary document, are available on my Department's website,www.environ.ie. I expect to be in a position to submit final proposals in relation to household waste collection to Government early this year. All policy proposals will be carefully considered by Government and will take account of the full range of issues and perspectives. The position regarding waivers for low income households will be among the issues for consideration in this context.

Local Authority Charges

Robert Dowds

Question:

170 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will be willing to write to each household affected by the household charge asking them to pay the charge, on the basis that taxpayers deserve to be approached directly when the State imposes a new charge. [3064/12]

Significant efforts will be made to ensure that property owners are aware of the household charge and the liability and payment dates. The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and local authorities have commenced a national information campaign to advise people of the household charge and their responsibilities in relation to payment of the charge. A similar and successful advertising and information campaign was undertaken in the context of the €200 charge on non-principal private residences on its introduction in 2009 with further advertising taking place each year since.

It is also intended that a household charge information leaflet will be issued shortly to residential properties in the State. I am confident that those liable to the household charge will be aware of their obligation to discharge their liability for the charge by 31 March 2012 and thereby avoid any late payment fees or late payment interest.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

171 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the Water Services Amendment Bill 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3070/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with regard to the new proposed regulations regarding septic tanks, the position regarding a person required to carry out large scale works if they fail to meet the required regulations; if they will have to apply to the local authority for planning permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3085/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person’s septic tank does not meet the required regulations and they live on a site that is less than 0.5 of an acre, if they have to apply for planning permission and if the local authority say that the area of ground was insufficient to deal with the effluent, if he will clarify the result in a case like this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3086/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

176 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a house owner fails to meet the required standard in the new regulations proposed by him and if remedial works are to be carried out which would involve spending a large sum of money and if the householder has no money and can prove an absolute inability to pay, if he will clarify this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3087/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

177 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will clarify a matter (details supplied) regarding septic tanks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3088/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

180 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a decision will issue on financial assistance being made available to households that will not be in a position to afford the cost of upgrading or replacing their septic tanks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3128/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171, 174 to 177, inclusive, 177 and 180 together.

I consider that the appeals procedures provided for in the Bill are adequate. Persons aggrieved by the requirements of an Advisory Notice issued by a water services authority can appeal that decision and seek a re-inspection by an authorised person of a water services authority and, following a re-inspection may subsequently appeal a decision of the water services authority to confirm the advisory notice to the District Court on the grounds set out in the Bill.

With regard to any remediation works required, I have previously signalled my intention to introduce planning exemptions for works arising from the Bill. Any necessary exemptions will be put in place in advance of the commencement of inspections.

It is not intended to apply new standards, for example as set out in the EPA's 2009 Code of Practice, to older on-site systems as part of the new inspection system. Where an inspection reveals a problem, issues such as existing site size, hydrological and geological conditions etc. will be considered so as to identify the most appropriate and cost-effective remediation works necessary.

My Department will keep under review all possible options to provide financial support to house-holders whose systems are deemed, following inspection, to require substantial remediation or upgrading. Any such support would have to have regard to the overall budgetary situation and to the financial position of individual households.

On 23 November 2011, the European Commission submitted an application to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) seeking the imposition of a lump-sum penalty and daily fines against Ireland for failing to comply with the October 2009 ruling against Ireland. In its submission, the Commission argued that more than enough time had elapsed since the ruling and that the Irish authorities should have achieved compliance already. The Commission requested that the fines, including the daily penalty, should be calculated from the date of the ruling. The deadline for the submission of Ireland's rejoinder in this case is 3 February 2012. The central strand of Ireland's defence will be that the necessary legislative measures have been put in place. I am determined to ensure the necessary measures are in place by the time Ireland submits its rejoinder to the ECJ in order to support the defence being presented to the Commission's application.

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

172 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the Dingle Peninsula, Kerry, considering that Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta has disbanded and it is not under any Leader programme; the way he will address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3077/12]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 362 and 391 of 29 November 2011.

Significant progress is being made; all relevant Rural Development Programme RDP (LEADER) project files have been released by the liquidator and are now with my Department. All project promoters will be contacted shortly. My Department has had discussions with the European Commission and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with regard to the RDP and is working with them to ensure appropriate regulatory compliance in respect of any solution put forward.

My intention is to find a solution that will be efficient and effective and applied at the earliest possible opportunity to all Gaeltacht areas including Kerry and all relevant stakeholders will be informed as soon as an appropriate solution is determined.

Water Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

173 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will make an order to local authorities that when fitting water meters there would be some system put in place which would have the capacity of alerting the house holder if there was a leak in the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3079/12]

The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water. The Programme for Government also committed to the establishment of Irish Water, a State company that will take over the water investment and maintenance programmes of the 34 county and city councils with the key aim of supervising and accelerating the significant investment needed to update the State's water and sewage infrastructure.

On 16 January, my Department commenced a public consultation on these proposed reforms, seeking views from the public on the establishment of Irish Water and the introduction of water charges.

The Government has indicated its intention to commence the installation of water meters in households connected to public water supplies later in 2012. Specifications for the meters and associated equipment will be based on the best technical solutions available and international best practice. The specifications will not be finalised until after the public consultation period.

Questions Nos. 174 to 177, inclusive, answered with Question No. 171.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will clarify the proposals by him to take money at source from householders who are unable to pay the new household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3089/12]

I have no proposals to collect the household charge from homeowners by deduction from earnings. The Question may be referring to the proposals that my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality is developing, in line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, to allow for collection of unpaid court fines by attachment of earnings or deduction from social welfare benefits. These proposals are intended to improve the collection of unpaid fines and to reduce the number of people committed to prison for non-payment of fines, and they are being progressed by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

179 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will prioritise progress on a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3108/12]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Kerry. The Programme includes contracts under construction and to commence to the value of over €92 million in Kerry during the period of the Programme. However, the Kilgarvan Sewerage Scheme was not amongst the priority contracts and schemes selected for inclusion in the current Programme.

The Programme aims to prioritise projects that target environmental compliance issues and support economic and employment growth. A key input to the development of the Programme was the assessment of needs prepared by local authorities, including Kerry County Council, in response to my Department's request to the authorities in 2009 to review and prioritise their proposals for new capital works in their areas. These were subsequently appraised in the Department in the context of the funds available and key criteria that complemented those used by the authorities. Inevitably, through this process, certain projects that had been proposed had to give way to others that were more strategically important at that time. Progress under the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 was reviewed in mid-2011 and through this process, consideration was given to any newly emerging priority contracts and schemes submitted by local authorities for addition to the Programme. No proposal for the Kilgarvan Sewerage Scheme was received from Kerry County Council in response to the review process.

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 171.

Jim Daly

Question:

181 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a contractor has been appointed for the construction of the Bandon main drainage scheme in County Cork; when he expects work to commence; the expected duration of the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3145/12]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Cork. The Programme includes contracts under construction and to commence to the value of some €231 million in the county during the period of the Programme.

Contracts for both a wastewater treatment plant upgrade and network for the Bandon Sewerage Scheme Phase 2 are included as contacts to start during the life of the Programme.

In October 2011 my Department approved the revised Design Brief submitted by Cork County Council for the appointment a Consultant to prepare a Preliminary Report for the upgrade of the Bandon Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The Council has recently completed the Tender Evaluation Process in relation to the network element of the scheme and has sought my Department's approval of the necessary funding to allow for award of the contract. A decision in the matter will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible.

Tax Code

Patrick Deering

Question:

182 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider not including houses that are paying fees to a management company for the proposed property tax. [3161/12]

I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly on the establishment, membership and terms of reference of an inter-Departmental expert group to be tasked with designing a property tax. It will then be a matter for the Government to decide on the structure and modalities of the property tax in due course.

Local Authority Charges

Timmy Dooley

Question:

183 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the percentage of commercial rates that have been collected in 2011 by local authority area and in each local authority area the percentage of rate payers that have paid their full rates for 2011; the amount outstanding in each local authority area at the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3164/12]

Audited information in relation to the collection of commercial rates in 2011 is not yet available in my Department. Local authorities are required to publish their 2011 Annual Financial Statements by 1 July 2012. The audit of the 2011 Annual Financial Statements is scheduled for completion by 31 March 2013.

Pension Provisions

Brendan Ryan

Question:

184 Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on the implementation of the decision taken to approve a revised system of pension entitlements for local government non-officer grade whose pensions are integrated with social welfare and which was to be applied retrospectively to the 1 January 2004; if the scheme has been applied in all local authority areas and retrospective payments made to pensioners prior to the implementation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3165/12]

The calculation and revision of pensions for former local authority employees is a matter for local authorities under the provisions of the Local Government Superannuation Scheme.

My Department issued a circular letter to all local authorities in August 2005 to advise them of the revised method of calculation of pension entitlement for public servants whose pensions are integrated with social welfare benefits. The revised integration system is being fully implemented by local authorities. However, there may be a small number of cases that are still being processed.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Willie Penrose

Question:

185 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will indicate the level of grant aid available for group sewerage schemes; the criteria for qualification for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3172/12]

The rate of grant available for Group Sewerage Schemes under my Department's Rural Water Programme is €2,031.58 per house or 75% of the cost of the scheme, whichever is the lesser.

Responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The selection and approval of individual group scheme proposals for funding and advancement under the programme, within the overall priorities and guidance set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocation provided, is therefore a matter for the water services authorities. Information on the application process and qualifying conditions are available from local authorities.

Local Authority Charges

Michael McCarthy

Question:

186 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason various phases of an estate (details supplied) are obliged to pay the household charge when its final phase was exempted from the fee; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of other estates in the locality in similar unfinished states have been exempted from the charge in their entirety; if there is scope to include the remaining phases of the estate onto the list in view of the reasons outlined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3237/12]

The list of housing developments which have been designated eligible for a waiver from the household charge was extracted from the National Housing Survey 2011, having regard to the categorisation of estates by local authorities under the Unfinished Housing Developments Public Safety Initiative. This list is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012.

My Department's analysis of unfinished housing developments, and the ongoing work being carried out by my Department and the local authority sector on the issues facing the residents of such developments, refer to the relevant planning reference of each development. Any households resident in such a development, prescribed as an unfinished housing estate for the purposes of the Act, are covered by the waiver.

Community Development

Dara Calleary

Question:

187 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when Leader funds will be paid to an organisation (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason for the delay in this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3239/12]

There are 35 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver Axes 3 & 4 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations.

All funding requests are subject to a risk assessment process to determine whether or not they will be subject to a control procedure. The programme is required by EU regulation to conduct controls on a certain percentage of the expenditure incurred under the RDP; these controls are conducted when a request for the drawdown of funds is received (pre-payment controls) and subsequent to the payment of the RDP grant aid (post-payment controls).

Bonniconlon Community Centre Ltd has already received an RDP grant payment of €56,150.43 in October 2011 as part of the phased payment process allowable under the RDP. Mayo North East Leader Partnership, on behalf of Bonniconlon Community Centre Ltd, requested a second drawdown of funds for €105,419.54 on 10 November 2011. This request was subsequently chosen through the risk assessment process for a pre-payment control check. As part of this check the file was examined and my Department has requested clarification on a number of issues and is awaiting response to its queries.

This process is part of the overall management of the RDP and is required by EU regulation. Mayo North East LEADER Partnership and Bonniconlon Community Centre Ltd will be advised of the results of this process once it is complete.

Water Services

Tom Fleming

Question:

188 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his policy regarding lead piping for public water supply; and if he is satisfied that these pipes are non-health hazardous. [3252/12]

The European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007 designate water services authorities (the 34 county and city councils) as the authorities which are primarily responsible for public water distribution systems including the maintenance of pipes under their control and ownership. The Regulations stipulate that all appropriate measures must be taken to reduce the concentration of lead in water intended for human consumption as much as possible during the period needed to achieve compliance with the parametric value for lead. The current limit for lead in drinking water is 25ug/l and this value reduces to 10ug/l from 25 December 2013.

The 2007 Regulations provide that the EPA is the supervisory authority for drinking water supplied by water services authorities. Guidance Notes published by the EPA in April 2009 advises water services authorities to develop and implement a planned annual programme for the replacement of lead communication and service pipes causing or likely to cause exceedances in the 2013 lead limit, using a risk-based approach.

My Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, provides funding for works by water services authorities for water conservation. Local authorities can seek funding for the replacement of lead water distribution mains under this programme and, in certain circumstances, the Department also allows for the funding of certain works that encroach onto private property from the public side in the decommissioning of common backyard services for water conservation purposes.

Question No. 189 answered with Question No. 160.

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

190 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of civil servants from his Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3822/12]

My Department has two civil servants working in the offices of the Irish Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels, an Environment Counsellor (Principal Officer level post) and an Environment Attaché (Assistant Principal Officer level post). The staff are seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs for the duration of their assignment. Their functions include:

Managing the overall work programme of the Environment Unit in the Permanent Representation;

Servicing the meetings of the Environment Working Group and other Council groups in the environment area and arranging attendance, where appropriate, by Department officials at such meetings;

Preparing briefing on national positions for COREPER meetings and providing necessary briefing and support throughout co-decision procedures with the European Parliament;

Briefing and assisting Ministers at meetings of the Council of Environment Ministers;

Servicing, as necessary, meetings convened by the Commission;

Maintaining an overall view of developments at EU level on matters of concern to the Department, assessing the significance of the various matters and transmitting information and reports to the Department in regard to them;

Advising and assisting in the assessment of Commission proposals and in the development of negotiating positions in relation to them;

Developing contact and liaising with the European Parliament and its Environment Committee in the context of ongoing negotiations;

Enhancing contact and liaison with the Commission and within the Permanent Representation, as appropriate, in relation to matters relevant to any of the Department's functions,

Co-ordinating the preparation of briefing material, as required, for Irish MEPs.

Departmental Funding

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

191 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will restore funding to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3080/12]

As I informed the Deputy in response to a previous question on the issue, it was decided that funding to People with Disabilities in Ireland (PwDI) had to cease at the end of 2011. On the basis of a value for money review, it was clearly established that the vast majority of the money allocated to PwDI was being spent disproportionately. The largest proportion of PwDI's annual budget has been spent over the last number of years on the operation of its office headquarters and on administration rather than on the creation of projects which would directly benefit people with disabilities. This was an untenable situation that could not be allowed to continue as people with disabilities were benefiting very little from the allocation in real terms. However, there is no reason why the local PwDI networks around the country should not continue to be active as volunteer bodies and continue their work with people with disabilities.

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

The Government must ensure that in 2012, and continuing thereafter, funding is allocated for maximum provision of services for people with disabilities, having regard to overall resource constraints which affect all sectors at this time.

Proposed Legislation

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

192 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding proposals to set up an insolvency service for debt settlement; if this service will be independent of the Government and the banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3228/12]

In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, the Personal Insolvency Bill is in the course of being urgently developed in my Department to provide for a new framework for settlement and enforcement of debt and for personal insolvency. It is intended that the Heads of the Bill, which are expected to be finalised in the near future, will be forwarded to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for its consideration. The issue of the establishment of an independent Insolvency Service will be addressed in the Heads of the Bill. The commitment under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland is to publish the Personal Insolvency Bill in Quarter 1 of 2012.

Garda Strength

Ciara Conway

Question:

193 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in each of the years between 2007 and 2011, the number of full-time gardaí who were stationed in areas (details supplied); the number of gardaí based in these areas that are likely to retire in 2012; the number of these gardaí who will not be replaced once they have retired in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3004/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána assigned to each Garda District in the Waterford Garda Division in the years referred to by the Deputy and as at the latest date for which figures are readily available, is set out in the following table.

District

31/12/07

31/12/08

31/12/09

31/12/10

31/12/11

Dungarvan*

62

61

66

67

61

Tramore

47

50

53

51

47

Waterford*

169

179

190

184

182

*2007 and 2008 figures take account of boundary changes

I am further informed that the number of Gardaí who have applied to retire on a voluntary basis from the Waterford Division during 2012 is 7 (2 Sergeants and 5 Gardaí). The allocation of all resources, including personnel, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner in consultation with his senior management. Garda Management closely monitors the allocation of resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

Notwithstanding this, there is no getting away from the reality that public expenditure and public service numbers have to be reduced in the context of the agreement with the EU and the IMF. I am determined that this will be accompanied by real and substantive reform, reform which will make the delivery of public services more efficient and cost-effective. Our Programme for National Recovery recognises that a key objective of this reform is the protection of frontline services, and I regard that as a priority for the Garda Síochána.

Departmental Properties

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

194 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of residential units, originally intended for occupation by members of the Defence Forces, Garda Síochána or Prison Service that are currently subject to overholding, that is, that are occupied by former members or by the widowed spouses or other family members of former personnel; the number of overheld units located within military barracks and other institutions; the way liability for the household charge is to be determined on any overholding situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3005/12]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the number of official accommodation properties occupied by former members of An Garda Síochána is 31. There are no such properties within the Irish Prison Service. I am further advised that accommodation which forms part of the State portfolio of properties is exempt from the household charge.

Peace Commissioners

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

195 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 645 of 11 January 2012, the qualifications and criteria required to obtain the position of peace commissioner; the duties and functions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3030/12]

The Office of Peace Commissioner is an honorary appointment under section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 for which there is no remuneration or compensation by way of fees or expenses for their services. An application for appointment may be submitted by a person who is interested in obtaining an appointment, or a third party may submit a nomination in respect of a person considered suitable for appointment. Nominations are generally received from public representatives. A local Garda Superintendent can also request an appointment in a particular area in the public interest.

There is no qualifying examination involved but appointees are required to be of good character and they are usually well established in the local community. Persons who are members of professions or employed in occupations which engage in legal work or related activities and members of the clergy are, as a matter of practice, not appointed because of their occupation. Civil servants are usually only appointed where the performance of their official duties requires an appointment (i.e. ex-officio). Persons convicted of serious offences are considered unsuitable for appointment.

At present, the powers and duties of a Peace Commissioner are mainly:

the taking of statutory declarations;

witnessing signatures on documents, if that is required by various authorities;

signing certificates and orders under various Acts; and

signing search warrants for An Garda Síochána.

Garda Stations

Denis Naughten

Question:

196 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the closure of a Garda station (details supplied); if an evaluation of the impact on the local community has been completed; if he will reconsider this decision; if he will ensure that a community garda is appointed to the area serviced by the station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3094/12]

In reaching a decision on the closure of Garda stations, the Commissioner reviewed all aspects of the Garda Síochána's policing model, including the deployment of personnel, the utilisation of modern technologies and the operation of Garda stations, both in terms of opening hours and possible closures. In addition, all Divisional Officers were asked to assess the level of activity in each Garda Station in their area. In the case of the Garda Station in Tarmonbarry, the decision formally recognises the closure of the station which, while still listed as a Garda station, has already been non-operational for some time.

Tarmonbarry is in the Boyle District in Roscommon /Longford Garda Division and the personnel strength of that District, on the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 35. It is intended, where possible, that the resources currently available in Tarmonbarry Garda Station will remain in the Boyle Garda District, subject at all times to the operational requirements as determined by the Commissioner. It must be stressed that the key objective of the station closures is to promote the more efficient and effective deployment of resources rather than secure modest cash savings. In this context the Commissioner has concluded that Garda resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the frontline if these particular stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained.

The Garda Commissioner has reiterated the commitment of An Garda Síochána to providing a professional and effective service to the community. Each Divisional Officer with responsibility for a Division that will be affected by this decision has been tasked with developing a comprehensive consultation strategy together with a tailored implementation plan that will meet the particular needs of their Division. They will consult with the various stakeholders within their respective Divisions during this process. The priority will remain, that an effective and professional policing service is provided to every part of the community, both rural and urban.

Airport Security

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

197 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the costs of policing arrangements at Shannon Airport in 2011; and if he will provide the breakdown for salaries and allowances, overtime, travel and subsistence expenses, and other expenditure. [3105/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the cost of policing arrangements at Shannon Airport for 2011 is €994,052. A detailed breakdown of the figures is set out in the following table:

Subhead description

2011

Salaries and Allowances

657,576

Overtime

315,633

Travel and Subsistence Expenses

16,833

Other non-pay expenditure

4,010

Total

994,052

Security Industry

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

198 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application to the Private Security Authority for a licence in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason for the delay in processing applications; if successful, the length of time they will have to wait for the licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3111/12]

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

199 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application to the Private Security Authority for a licence in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason for the delay in processing applications; and if successful, the length of time they will have to wait for the licence. [3112/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 199 together.

The Private Security Authority (PSA) is the regulatory body with responsibility for the regulation of the security industry in Ireland. The Authority is an independent body under the aegis of my Department and so the processing of licence applications is a matter solely for the PSA. The Authority has however informed me that the average processing times for applications, such as those referred to by the Deputy, is currently approximately 6 weeks. This arises mainly from the need to arrange for the vetting of all such applicants, which, the Deputy will appreciate, is an integral part of the licensing system.

Citizenship Applications

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

200 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the current fees in place for those wishing to apply for citizenship who are married to Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3150/12]

The fees payable under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 were most recently reviewed by me in late 2011. In November 2011, I signed into law Statutory Instrument 569/11, which left certification of naturalisation fees unchanged at €950 and introduced an application fee of €175 for all applications for naturalisation.

Managing and dealing with incomplete applications consumes scarce processing resources and the application fee is designed to recoup some of the costs associated with the application process. The application fee is also intended to help cover costs associated with the processing of unsuccessful applications that often consume more processing time and resources than successful applications, but which heretofore attracted no fee.

I might point out to the Deputy that the current certification fees, which have not changed since August 2008, do not recoup the full cost of processing. In the circumstances, I have no plans at present to review the fees payable by spouses of Irish citizens who wish to apply for Irish citizenship.http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/Citizenship Application Forms.

Prisoner Transfers

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

201 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide clarification regarding the status of the proposed transfer of a prisoner (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3152/12]

Having considered the matter, I wish to inform the Deputy that I am not prepared to approve a transfer at this time. The situation will be kept under review.

Citizenship Applications

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

202 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13 will have their application for Irish citizenship processed. [3159/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in August, 2011. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Court Staff

Willie Penrose

Question:

203 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality whether a person who was appointed a peace commissioner some years ago and who has mislaid or lost the warrant of appointment, which is necessary for production in terms of their position in regard to various warrants, affidavits and so on, can have a replacement warrant issued to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3171/12]

Peace Commissioners are appointed under section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. On the date of their appointment, Peace Commissioners are issued with a Warrant of Appointment which is signed and sealed by the Minister for Justice and Equality. As such Warrants are considered to be a unique document, it is not the practice to issue copies or replace those which have been lost or otherwise mislaid.

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current and likely future residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3190/12]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the name of the person detailed in the Deputy's question is not showing an exact match in INIS records. However, a person of similar name with matching reference number has permission to remain in the State on the basis of her marriage to an Irish national until 14 April 2012. This permission may be renewed by the person attending with her Irish spouse at her local registration office shortly prior to the expiry date of her current immigration permission.

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

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3191/12]

Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 30th April, 2010, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current position in regard to the determination of naturalisation entitlement in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; when their national passport and travel documents will be returned to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3192/12]

The person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State in 1999 under the arrangements then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish born children. This permission has been renewed on a regular basis and is currently valid until 21 May, 2012. I have been informed by the Garda National Immigration bureau (GNIB) that the person concerned was in possession of three valid Angolan passports when he went to register for renewal in September, 2011. Two of the Angolan passports were forwarded to the Angolan Embassy by GNIB and have been retained by them to carry out enquiries. The third passport was returned to the person concerned. I should add that a request for a name change on behalf of the person concerned, is being considered in INIS at present.

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

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding, and procedure to date, in the determination of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3193/12]

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

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding, and progress and sequence of events to date, in the determination of residency and naturalisation status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3194/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to parliamentary Question No. 247 of 15 December, 2011 which is set out below. The position is unchanged since then.

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was granted permission to remain in the State in 2002 under the arrangements then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish born children. The permission has been renewed on a regular basis and is currently valid until 22 April, 2012. An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to was received in the Citizenship Division of INIS in June 2006. On examination of the application submitted, it was determined that the person in question did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 21 October, 2006.

Section 15 of that Act provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must -

be of full age

be of good character

have had a period of one year’s continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years

have, before a judge of the District Court in open court, in a citizenship ceremony or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows—

(i) made a declaration, in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, and

(ii) undertaken to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include -

periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State

periods granted for the purposes of study

periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act 1996.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the prescribed statutory requirements. To date no new application has been received.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current procedures to date, and expectation in, the determination of residency and naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3195/12]

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 29th September, 2008, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before the a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision, and the consequences of the decision, will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned. The Deputy should note that as the person concerned has not established a right of legal residency in the State, the issue of an application for citizenship does not arise at this time.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if and when naturalisation will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3196/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received in October 2009 from the person referred to by the Deputy. The application is at an advanced stage of processing and will be finalised as expeditiously as possible. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if and when procedures to determine naturalisation will be concluded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3197/12]

Officials in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) inform me that they can find no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question.

Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must -

be of full age

be of good character

have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years

have, before a judge of the District Court in open court, in a citizenship ceremony or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows—

(i) made a declaration, in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, and

(ii) undertaken to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include—

periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State

periods granted for the purposes of study periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.

Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, waive some or all of the statutory conditions in certain circumstances i.e. where an applicant is of Irish descent or of Irish associations; where an applicant is a person who is a refugee within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; or where an applicant is a Stateless person within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless persons.

A foreign national who is married to, or is the Civil Partner of, an Irish citizen for at least three years may apply for naturalisation under section 15A of the Irish Naturalisation and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, where they have been continuously resident in the island of Ireland for the year immediately prior to the date of their application and for two out of the four years prior to that year. The marriage or civil partnership must be subsisting and recognised under Irish law. It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

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

Deportation Orders

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the procedures and sequence of events to date in the determination of entitlement to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3198/12]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy has no application pending for residency. The person concerned is the subject of a Deportation Order, signed on 23 November 2011, following a comprehensive and thorough examination of his asylum claim and his application for subsidiary protection, and a detailed examination of the representations he submitted for consideration under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current position and sequence of events to date in the determination of entitlement to naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3199/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in November, 2008. The required information has been compiled for this case and the application is at an advanced stage of processing. It will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3200/12]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of Thursday, 20th October, 2011 — copied as follows. The position is unchanged since then.

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 25th February, 2010, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

Deportation Orders

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3201/12]

The first named person concerned had a Deportation Order made against him, following the refusal of his asylum application and his application for Subsidiary Protection and the subsequent consideration of his case under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). He lodged judicial review proceedings in the High Court, challenging the decision to make a Deportation Order against him. These proceedings were ‘settled' with the consequence that the first named person concerned was afforded the opportunity to submit, within a specified period, fresh representations pursuant to Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). Such representations have been submitted and will be considered, along with all other information on file, before a final decision is taken in this case. Once a decision has been made, this decision, and the consequences of the decision, will be conveyed in writing to the first named person concerned.

In relation to the second named person concerned, she, too, is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the second named person concerned was notified, by letter dated 21st May, 2010, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

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

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in regard to the determination of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3202/12]

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 31st August, 2006, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. He was subsequently notified of his entitlement to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

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

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in regard to determination of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3203/12]

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

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

Residency Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3204/12]

The person concerned has had her permission to remain in the State renewed for a further two year period, to 7th June, 2012. This decision was conveyed in writing to the person concerned by letter dated 21st July, 2010. This communication advised the person concerned of the conditions attaching to her permission to remain and of the requirement that she attend at her local Garda Registration Office to have the registration process completed. Given that the person concerned does not appear to have completed the registration process to date, it is recommended that she should attend at her local Garda Registration Office without further delay so that the registration formalities can be completed.

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

Coroners Service

John Deasy

Question:

219 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the Government agency or Department responsible for the retention and archiving of post mortem reports and coroners reports; the regulation in law for the retention of such records by that Government agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3224/12]

Under the Coroners Act, 1962, coroners are independent office holders with responsibility under the law for the medicolegal investigation of the circumstances of sudden, unexplained, violent and unnatural deaths. Theyare required under the Coroners Act 1962 (section 29) to retain relevant records of an inquest, including post-mortem examination reports, and to transfer the records to the County Registrar on vacating office.

EU Agencies

Dara Calleary

Question:

220 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will explain the operations of an organisation (details supplied); the financial costs and legal obligations associated with this network here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3241/12]

FRONTEX (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) is the European Union agency responsible for border security cooperation. While ultimate responsibility for the control of the external borders of the European Union lies with the Member States the Agency strengthens border security by ensuring the proper coordination of Member States' actions in the implementing of EU relating to the management of the external borders. FRONTEX is headquartered in Warsawand became operational for the first time in 2005. The Agency was established on the basis of Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004 which was subsequently amended by Regulation (EC) 1168/2011.

While Ireland is excluded from full participation in FRONTEX, because the legal base of the Regulation falls outside those provisions of the Schengen acquis in which Ireland has applied to participate, we have continued to build up a close relationship with the Agency since its inception. On that basis Ireland agrees an annual programme of work with the Agency and made a financial contribution (€250,000) to the Agency in 2011 and in previous years. Ireland participates, as appropriate, in a range of operations (air border and joint return) and the risk analysis network of the Agency. Ireland benefits significantly from cooperation with FRONTEX in terms of the interception of illegal migrants on route to Ireland and, in particular, joint return operations which means that the cost to the State of deportation operations is much lower than it would be if my Department was to organise such operations on its own. By way of illustration, of the 25 aircraft chartered for deportation flights since June 2009, 22 of these were arranged through FRONTEX and operated in conjunction with immigration authorities in other EU Member States.

Deportation Orders

Dara Calleary

Question:

221 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of other occasions in the past five years when deportation flights were returned; the number of deportees involved and their subsequent situations; the cost of each flight returned to the company involved and to the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3242/12]

Other than the flight which returned in July 2011 which was dealt with in my reply to PQ 1241/12 (Order Number 647), there was one other occasion where a deportation flight was returned to Ireland with the deportees on board. This occurred on 15th December 2010 when a flight travelling to Lagos, Nigeria via Athens, Greece, could not continue due to the aircraft developing a technical fault at Athens airport.

The flight was organised in conjunction with our European partners in the FRONTEX network where individual Member States co-operate with each other in returning immigrants to their country of origin. In addition to the 35 persons being returned from Ireland, there were 64 other persons from the following countries, UK, Austria, Hungary, Norway, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Greece and Germany due to return to Nigeria on this flight.

On arrival in Athens airport where the persons being returned from Greece and Austria were boarded, the plane developed an unforeseen technical fault while it was on the ground. After consideration of the limited options available (which also involved consultation with the representatives of other countries who were returning deportees) the flight was abandoned and all persons on board were returned to the countries where they had originated.

Twenty two persons from the Irish contingent on board were subsequently removed from the State, seven continue to evade their deportation and are liable for arrest, detention and removal if they are encountered by members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau. In general, the experience has been that persons evading their deportation have already left the jurisdiction. Six persons were subsequently granted permission to remain in the country. The status of the other 64 persons who were being removed from the 10 other EU Member States is not known.

The full cost of the flight —€372,960 — was borne by the company chartered to provide aircraft and ancillary services for deportations. There was no charge to my Department in that respect. Approximately €8,300 was incurred by my Department in ancillary costs relating to this flight such as securing documentation for the returnees and sending an advance party of Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) members to Lagos to ensure that the landing permit and all other requirements were obtained in advance.

As I indicated in my earlier reply, enforced deportation is a hugely difficult and complex task involving the acquisition of landing permits, travel documents, permission for over flights, and so on. As the Deputy will be aware, aircraft, irrespective of whether they are being used for normal commercial activities or flights such as this, do occasionally develop technical faults. That is a fact of life and in itself is not a sound policy reason for the non-enforcement of immigration law — either in this jurisdiction or others. It should be noted that the flight in question was the first such instance in over 50 flights in which a technical aircraft fault forced the return of an aircraft.

Dara Calleary

Question:

222 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the 20 persons who were not subsequently deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3243/12]

In reply to the Deputy's Question, of the 20 persons returned to Ireland, one has been removed to Nigeria, 14 persons are still due for deportation; however nine of these are currently evading deportation. They are liable for arrest, detention and removal if encountered by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. However, in general, the experience has been that persons evading their deportation have already left the jurisdiction. Arrangements are being made to deport the remaining five persons as soon as possible.

Of the remaining five persons, one person has had their Deportation Order revoked. The remaining four persons are all part of the same family; a mother and three children. The youngest child had not previously claimed asylum and on returning to Ireland, an application for asylum was made on behalf of the child by its mother. Accordingly, an undertaking not to deport the family unit has been given until an outcome has been reached on the youngest child's asylum claim.

Pension Provisions

Tom Fleming

Question:

223 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will investigate the delay in a decision regarding the granting of pension to the estate of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3249/12]

Payment of the gratuity will be made to the estate of the person in question on receipt of grant of probate or letters of administration. Payment of a spouse's pension to the person's spouse will be made on receipt of documentation recently requested by my Department in correspondence with the spouse's legal representatives in this case.

Defence Forces Property

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

224 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the number of residential units, originally intended for occupation by members of the Defence Forces, Garda Síochána or Prison Service that are currently subject to overholding, that is, that are occupied by former members or by the widowed spouses or other family members of former personnel; the number of overheld units located within military barracks and other institutions; the way liability for the household charge is to be determined on any overholding situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3006/12]

There are 48 married quarters currently being occupied by overholders throughout the country — 34 in the Curragh Camp, 11 in Cathal Brugha Barracks Rathmines, 2 in Dublin 7 and 1 in Fort Templebreedy, Co Cork. 10 of the properties at Cathal Brugha Barracks are in the process of being sold to the current occupants. The number of quarters with overholders located within military barracks is 34 all of which are in the Curragh Camp. The charge for married quarters ranges from €36.90 to €70.67 per week for enlisted personnel and €411.22 to € 616.85 per month for officers. Overholders, if they are in receipt of a pension or gratuity pay an additional 10% on these charges which is deducted at source. There are some cases where there is no pension or gratuity and as a result it is not possible to deduct at source the relevant charge. In February 1997 the then Minister for Defence set out policy on married quarters on the basis that they were largely an anachronism and that they should be discontinued in a managed and orderly way. At that time there were 500 married quarters of which 380 were occupied.

In the intervening period over 150 quarters located outside of barracks have been sold to occupants while many more have been demolished or converted to other uses. As part of the process of discontinuing the use of married quarters my Department will, in the near future, be addressing the remaining overholding issue. This will see a small number of people being granted continued occupancy of the properties for the remainder of their lives. In the other cases the Department will be beginning the process of seeking vacant possession of the properties. The first phase of this will involve those concerned being, yet again, made aware of their responsibility to vacate the quarters and advised of the need for them to make alternative arrangements. The Department will provide supporting material to those applying for Local Authority housing.

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act an owner of a residential property is liable to the household charge. Under section 2 (2) (b) of the Act, a building vested in a Minister of the Government is not a residential property for the purposes of the Act and is not liable to the household charge.

Defence Forces Operations

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

225 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence the costs to the Defence Forces for personnel on duty at Shannon Airport in 2011; and other related costs associated with Shannon Airport. [3106/12]

The total cost of the assistance provided by the Defence Forces to An Garda Síochána at Shannon Airport during 2011 was €259,739. This figure comprises the cost of Security Duty Allowances, rations and fuel.

Army Barracks

Dara Calleary

Question:

226 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding negotiations between him and the local authorities in County Longford regarding Connolly Barracks; if a figure has been agreed for the sale of the barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3244/12]

Discussions are ongoing between my Department and Longford County Council in relation to the disposal of the former Connolly Barracks, Longford. As these discussions are confidential to the parties concerned the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this stage.

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

227 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the number of civil servants from his Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3820/12]

The number of civil servants from the Department of Defence assigned to the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels is five: one Principal Officer, two Assistant Principal Officers, one Executive Officer and one Clerical Officer. Their work involves participation in the development and monitoring of the Common Security and Defence Policy, the European Defence Agency and Partnership for Peace (PfP). An additional officer at Higher Executive Officer level, whose work includes participation in the development and monitoring of PfP, is assigned to the Embassy of Ireland in Brussels. The role played by these officials is important in ensuring Ireland's needs and concerns in the nature of defence policy are addressed at European level, mainly via the Ambassador to the Political and Security Committee and by their representation at Political Military Group meetings and the Steering Board of the European Defence Agency. Other Committees on which Ireland is represented in this regard are the European Security and Defence College, Athena Special Committee and the European Union Satellite Centre.

Grant Payments

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

228 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding payment in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3069/12]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in June 2009 and received payments for the first two years of the contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulation which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments have been finalised. During the course of the administrative check, an area discrepancy was discovered between the Single Payment Scheme application for 2011 and the REPs 4 Agri-Environmental Plan of the person named. This issue has now been resolved and payment will issue shortly.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

229 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a payment in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3072/12]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st November 2010. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, had to be completed before any payment could issue. During these checks a query arose in respect of land parcels declared which will require digitisation of the areas concerned. This is being dealt with by my Department at present and once the digitisation process is completed, the application will be processed with a view to making payment at the earliest opportunity.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

230 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3082/12]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st November 2010 and full payment has issued in respect of 2010.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, had to be completed before any payment could issue in respect of 2011. These administrative checks, including checks on the Capital Investments elements of the applicant's plan are currently being carried out and once successfully completed payments in respect of 2011 will commence.

Tom Fleming

Question:

231 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a REP scheme 4 payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3130/12]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in February 2008 and received payments for the first three years of the contract.

REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and accordingly is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. The administrative checks in respect of 2011 payments have been finalised. During the administrative check, an area discrepancy was discovered between the Single Payment Scheme application for 2011 and the REPS 4 Agri-Environmental Plan of the person named. My Department is investigating the issue with a view to an early resolution and payment in respect of 2011.

Tom Fleming

Question:

232 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a REP scheme 4 payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3131/12]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in January 2008 and received payments for the first three years of the contract.

REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and accordingly is subject to EU Regulation which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. The administrative checks in respect of 2011 payments have been finalised. During the administrative check an area discrepancy was discovered between the Single Payment Scheme application for 2011 and the REPS 4 Agri-Environmental Plan of the person named. My Department is investigating the issue with a view to an early resolution and payment in respect of 2011.

Departmental Agencies

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

233 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to parliamentary Question No. 721 of 11 January 2012, if he or his Department consulted the Standards in Public Office Commission in relation to the matter raised by this Deputy; if they were consulted on the reply they gave his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3176/12]

As outlined in my answer to the Deputy's previous question, it does not appear at this point that there is any conflict of interest issue arising in this matter. I am not in a position to comment any further at this time.

Departmental Staff

Catherine Murphy

Question:

234 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of civil servants from his Department who are based in the European Commission working in the relevant permanent representative offices; their titles and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3818/12]

Five Civil Servants from my Department are currently assigned to the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels. Details are outlined below. The role of office is to represent Ireland's interests in the Agriculture and Fisheries sectors at EU Institutional level; the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. In addition the Agricultural Counsellor and the Attachés liaise with their counterparts from other Member States on issues of mutual interest.

Name

Title

Mr Dermot Ryan

Agricultural Counsellor

Mr Brian Kilgallon

Agriculture Attaché

Mr Martin Crowley

Fisheries Attaché

Mr JP Mulherin

Agriculture Attaché

Ms Elaine Croke

Executive Officer

Adoption Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

235 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there are any plans to allow civil partners adopt and to be considered as joint adoptive parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3178/12]

Under the provisions of the Adoption Act, 2010, the only persons who can jointly adopt are married couples. There are currently no proposals to change the legislation in this regard.

Health Service Staff

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

236 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in relation to the proposed relocation of the Ballymun social work department to Park House on the North Circular Road, the assessment that has taken place regarding the impact on the clients; the social workers’ capacity to meet their statutory obligations; the consultation that has taken place with the clients and social workers; the way the concerns of the social workers in relation to the move have been addressed; the way this move can be justified when it is actively departing from the principles of Children First, the National Children’s Strategy and the very essence of the new Child and Family Support Agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3187/12]

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy with the most up-to-date information.

Foreign Adoptions

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

237 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding Irish citizens adopting children from Florida, USA; the progress that was made during the most recent visit by Irish officials to Florida to hold meetings on the issue; when it is likely that Irish citizens will be able to undertake adoptions from the State of Florida; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3140/12]

Following a request to the US Central Authority a delegation from the AAI travelled to Washington on 17th November 2011 to meet with representatives of the State Department (the Central Authority for the USA under the Hague Convention) to discuss certain issues which have arisen concerning adoptions from Florida. The AAI inform me that these discussions are ongoing and will be addressed in the context of an administrative arrangement, or equivalent arrangements, under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

238 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the countries and locations to which Irish citizens can currently apply to adopt children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3141/12]

With effect from 1 November 2010, intercountry adoptions can be effected with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention or with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement. 57 countries have ratified the Hague Convention and Ireland currently has no bilateral agreements in respect of intercountry adoption. As the Hague Convention is designed to ensure a minimum set of standards in intercountry adoption, the Adoption Authority of Ireland have indicated that their first priority is to reach agreements on arrangements with other Hague countries. The AAI are currently developing administrative arrangements with a number of countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention, including the USA, Mexico and Vietnam.

Under the provisions of section 73 of the Adoption Act, 2010, "the Authority, with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non-contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State.” The Authority and my officials held exploratory meetings with Russian authorities in December in relation to preliminary discussions around the potential for a bilateral on intercountry adoption with that State. In addition, I have recently given the AAI approval for the commencement of the process of examining the feasibility of a bilateral agreement with Ethiopia. The assessment of non-Hague countries and the possibility of entering discussions on a bilateral is complex and resource intensive. I have to have regard to the resources available to the AAI and to my Department, and to the work priorities of both.

Children in Care

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

239 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 538 of 15 November 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [3179/12]

I have been advised by the HSE that the Office of the National Director, Children and Family Services does not routinely collect data regarding discharges from care. However the HSE is currently looking at collecting this information with effect from January 2012.

I have requested that the HSE provide me with information on how many children were discharged from the care of the State on reaching the age of 18 years in 2010 and 2011 and how many children under the age of 18 were discharged from the care of the State in 2010 and 2011.

I will furnish a copy of this information to the Deputy on receipt of same.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

240 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 33 of 15 December 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [3180/12]

I have asked the Health Service Executive to update the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

241 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 46 of 15 December 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [3181/12]

I have asked the Health Service Executive to update the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Health Service Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

242 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 286 of 15 December 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [3182/12]

I have asked the Health Service Executive to update the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Child Care Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

243 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 287 of 15 December 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [3183/12]

I have asked the Health Service Executive to update the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Michael McCarthy

Question:

244 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has requested a report from the Irish embassy in Addis Ababa as per her response in Dáil Éireann on 1 December 2011 in relation to the issue of establishing a bilateral agreement with Ethiopia to facilitate inter-country adoptions; when she expects the report to be forthcoming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3238/12]

Officials from my Department have been in contact with the Embassy in Ethiopia requesting an update to the detailed assessment of intercountry adoption procedures, which was provided by the Embassy in June 2010. This update is expected shortly.

In addition, I have given the AAI approval for the commencement of the process of examining the feasibility of a bilateral agreement with Ethiopia. The AAI , with the assistance of the Irish embassy in Addis Ababa, are seeking an expert legal narrative and description of the current Ethiopian adoption law. This will be examined by the AAI to test for compatibility and compliance with the Adoption Act 2010.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

245 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 360 of 15 December 2011, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [3184/12]

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

Medical Cards

Arthur Spring

Question:

246 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry may expect to have their medical card issued in view of the fact that they submitted their renewal application in the same envelope as their spouse’s application and, upon calling the medical card processing unit, were informed that their application has not been received, even though their spouse’s application has been processed. [2982/12]

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

Health Services

Michael McGrath

Question:

247 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding home help hours in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [2984/12]

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

Departmental Properties

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

248 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Health the proposed future use by the Health Service Executive of Chamber House, Tallaght, Dublin 24. [2996/12]

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

Nursing Home Reviews

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

249 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the review in relation to a nursing home (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [2998/12]

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

Hospital Services

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

250 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the proposed transfer of the Coombe Maternity Hospital, Dublin, to Tallaght Hospital, Dublin. [2999/12]

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

Departmental Funding

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

251 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of the future funding of Fettercairn Health Care Project, Tallaght, Dublin 24. [3000/12]

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

Thomas Pringle

Question:

252 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that funding for Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal, is not cut further in 2012 and will at least provide the same level of service in 2012 as in 2011. [3008/12]

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

Health Services

Timmy Dooley

Question:

253 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health his plans to reopen the diabetes eye clinic at Ennis, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3009/12]

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

Hospital Accommodation

Paudie Coffey

Question:

254 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Health the progress that has been made regarding a prioritised proposal of the development of a 20-bed inpatient palliative care unit on the grounds of Waterford Regional Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3010/12]

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

Hospitals Building Programme

Paudie Coffey

Question:

255 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a list in tabular form of capital investment made by him in all regional hospitals and care facilities on a county basis, broken down for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3011/12]

The management and delivery of the health capital programme is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Service Staff

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

256 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health when the clinical nurse specialist and the senior speech and language therapist, as sanctioned by the Health Service Executive as part of its stroke service plan 2011, will be appointed to Letterkenny General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3021/12]

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

Care of the Elderly

Sandra McLellan

Question:

257 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the progress made on the points agreed by his special adviser on his behalf at a meeting with representatives from St.Patrick’s Hospital and St. Francis Welfare Home, Fermoy, on Wednesday, 5 October 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3023/12]

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

Medical Cards

Ciara Conway

Question:

258 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) in County Waterford has not received a medical card despite having applied several months ago; when this person can expect to hear back regarding their medical card application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3031/12]

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

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

259 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health the percentage of medical card applications made in 2011 that were processed within the 15-day period targeted by the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3054/12]

I have requested an update from the HSE on the information requested by the Deputy. I will forward this data to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, the most recent information available to me is that the HSE currently processes and issues approximately 15,000 medical cards each week and that over 85% of complete applications are processed within 15 working days.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

260 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the total number of medical card applications and renewals in progress in each county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3055/12]

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

Billy Kelleher

Question:

261 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the total number of outstanding general practitioner card applications and renewals in each county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3056/12]

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

Billy Kelleher

Question:

262 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the average waiting time for a medical card in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3057/12]

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

Billy Kelleher

Question:

263 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the average waiting time from the time an application for a medical card is first made to the time it is granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3058/12]

The Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) of the Health Service Executive has stated that completed medical card applications are processed within 15 working days. Delays occur where applications are submitted without the supporting documentation necessary to complete the processing of the application. The PCRS currently processes and issues approximately 15,000 medical cards each week. Over 85% of complete applications are processed within 15 working days and PCRS are working to achieve the goal of processing all complete applications within 15 working days.

Tom Fleming

Question:

264 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a medical card decision will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3059/12]

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

Health Services

Terence Flanagan

Question:

265 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the roll out of primary care centres; the address of the primary care centres on the north side of Dublin; his plans to open new primary care centres on the north side of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3060/12]

The delivery of health services is a service matter. Therefore your question on the roll out and addresses of primary care centres on the northside of Dublin has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

At the request of my Department, the HSE is carrying out an assessment of current Primary Care Centre provision which is at an advanced stage and will be submitted to my Department shortly. 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 2012-2016. 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 2012-2016 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.

Medical Cards

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

266 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health when a medical card will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3073/12]

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

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

267 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3074/12]

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

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

268 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3076/12]

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

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

269 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will consider that Crohn’s disease be put on the long-term illness scheme list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3090/12]

There are no plans to extend the list of conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme.

Under the Drug Payment Scheme no individual or family pays more than €132 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultation.

Health Services

Jack Wall

Question:

270 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if the following will be considered in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3095/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Minister for Health James Reilly TD announced the allocation of €1m in additional funding to address the needs of children with autism this year, with a further €1m following over each of the next two years —€3m in total. This funding, which will be reflected in the HSE's Service Plan for 2012, will be focussed on addressing waiting times for specialist therapy services for children who have been diagnosed with autism and on developing Early Intervention Teams.

While the additional funding is being allocated to address existing waiting lists and ensure that children with autism receive the supports they require to achieve their full potential, it is not possible to say at this stage how long any individual child will spend on waiting lists for assessment or intervention.

As the Deputy's question relates in part to service matters, I have referred the Deputy's question to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply.

Michael McNamara

Question:

271 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health the taxi costs for transporting all patients in County Clare to and from Ennis and Limerick hospitals, for hospital treatments and appointments over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3097/12]

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

Medical Cards

Tom Fleming

Question:

272 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3113/12]

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

Hospital Services

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

273 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Health the provisions being considered and being made for the ongoing adequate care of the approximately 50 long-term mental illness patients who currently attend the psychiatric day-care facilities at Ballina Day Hospital; under which auspices the Health Service Executive staff currently service group homes and make other house calls in Ballina in the event the long-term residential beds in that unit are closed and staff re-deployed as is being proposed by HSE West; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3114/12]

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

Medical Cards

Tom Fleming

Question:

274 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3116/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

275 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3117/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

276 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3121/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

277 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3122/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

278 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3123/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

279 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3124/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

280 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3125/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

281 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3129/12]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

282 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3135/12]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

283 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card renewal application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3137/12]

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

Health Service Allowances

Dara Calleary

Question:

284 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health the reason behind the decision to cut the disabled sheltered attendance allowance by €20 per week with effect from 13 January 2012. [3139/12]

The decision to reduce the top up payment made to people with a disability attending rehabilitative training was implemented by the Health Service Executive (HSE) without informing the Department of Health. The reduction from €31.80 per week to €20 per week, from the 1 January 2012, was communicated to the HSE Local Managers in advance of the Minister approving the National Service Plan for 2012. is not acceptable to me.

I acknowledge that this proposed measure sought to bring consistency to the top up bonus paid to people attending the HSE rehabilitative training scheme with similar payments paid in other State training schemes.

Any reduction in payments to individuals requires adequate advance notice to enable the recipients and indeed, service providers, to take the reduction into account in planning their support needs and other arrangements.

It should also be noted that people with a disability attending Rehabilitative Training are usually in receipt of a State payment such as the Disability Allowance.

Accordingly, the HSE has agreed to my request to review its decision.

Primary Care Strategy

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

285 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health if there are plans to increase financial support and support services for those suffering from Crohn’s disease and other serious illnesses while the majority of funding is allocated to diabetes type 2; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3169/12]

The Programme for Government provides for significant strengthening of primary care services to deliver universal primary care with the removal of cost as a barrier to access for patients. This commitment will be achieved on a phased basis to allow for the recruitment of additional doctors, nurses and other primary care professionals.

Access to primary 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 primary care will be extended to all in the next phase and universal access to care without fees will occur in the final phase. Primary legislation is required to give effect to these commitments. The Health Service Executive National Service Plan 2012 states that the HSE intends to commence a national roll out of chronic disease management for diabetes during 2012 and that it will also progress preparations for the roll out of similar initiatives in relation to other chronic diseases, including stroke, asthma and heart failure.

Any future decisions regarding other chronic diseases will be taken in the context of Universal Primary Care.

Health Service Funding

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

286 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health if he will grant the funding necessary to the Jack and Jill Foundation to enable it to expand the services it provides to children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3177/12]

As is the case with all charities, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is not in a position to provide additional funding to the Jack and Jill Foundation to enable the expansion of its services. However the HSE is working with the Jack and Jill Foundation to identify and prioritise the needs of each child on a case-by-case basis to ensure that no child is hospitalised for want of adequate home support, provided by either the Foundation or the HSE.

The Health Service Executive's National Service Plan for 2012, has been drawn up against the backdrop of significant funding challenges. The allocation for disability services will reduce in 2012 by 3.7% as a consequence of the impact of the efficiency, procurement and targeted pay reduction savings. However, the level of service reduction will be less than the level of budget reduction as a result of efficiencies that will be delivered. The aim of the HSE will be to tailor such reductions in a way which minimises the impact on service users and their families, as much as possible.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Terence Flanagan

Question:

287 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding waiting times (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3185/12]

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

Hospital Services

Gerald Nash

Question:

288 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health his plans for the future of St. Mary’s Hospital, Castleblayney, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3186/12]

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3189/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Gerald Nash

Question:

290 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health if he will provide information in respect of the numbers of Health Service Executive employees who have applied for the retirement scheme for the public service which will take effect at the end of February 2012; if he will provide a breakdown in terms of the numbers of employees and their specific grades based on the HSE regions in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3221/12]

A breakdown by grade and region of the staff cohort who have indicated that they will retire in the months of January and February 2012 has been provided by the HSE and is presented in the following table. It should be noted that this data is subject to change in the event of additional applications being received or existing applications being withdrawn. The breakdown provided is also subject to change as the individual applications are validated and processed.

Grade at Retirement

HSE DML Total

HSE DNE Total

HSE South Total

HSE West Total

Total

Ambulance Officer

1

1

Area Medical Officer

1

4

2

7

Area Medical Officer — Senior

3

1

4

Associate Specialist

1

1

Attendant, Multi-Task

13

4

26

35

79

Attendant/Aide

21

13

8

6

48

Biochemist

1

1

Boilerman

1

1

2

C.S.S.D. Operative

3

2

1

6

Care Assistant (Intellectual Disability Services)

7

11

3

21

42

Caretaker

2

2

Casualty Officer

1

1

Catering Officer Grade I

1

1

2

Catering Officer, Grade II

1

2

3

Catering/Cleaner/Assistant

4

8

4

11

27

Chargehand

1

1

Chef I

3

1

4

Chef II

1

1

2

3

7

Chef, Senior

1

1

2

Chief Executive Officer

1

1

2

Child Care Manager

1

1

Cleaner

1

2

3

Clerical Officer

12

18

18

24

73

Clerk of Works

1

1

Clinical Nurse Instructor/Teacher

1

1

Clinical Nurse Manager 1

6

3

14

21

44

Clinical Nurse Manager 1 (Mental Health)

2

3

5

Clinical Nurse Manager 2

30

29

30

28

117

Clinical Nurse Manager 2 — Night

1

1

4

6

Clinical Nurse Manager 2 — Theatre

2

2

Clinical Nurse Manager 2 (Mental Health)

16

12

9

13

50

clinical nurse manager 3

6

3

2

4

15

Clinical Nurse Manager 3 — Night

1

2

3

Clinical Nurse Manager 3 — Theatre

1

1

Clinical Nurse Manager 3 (Mental Health)

1

1

2

Clinical Nurse Specialist (General)

1

1

7

4

13

Clinical Nurse Specialist (Mental Health)

2

1

1

4

8

Community Welfare Officer

1

1

1

3

Consultant Anaesthetist

1

3

1

5

Consultant Chemical Pathologist

1

1

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

1

1

Consultant Dermatologist

1

1

Consultant General Adult Psychiatrist

2

2

1

5

Consultant General Paediatrician

1

2

3

Consultant General Physician

1

1

2

4

Consultant General Surgeon

1

4

1

1

7

Consultant in Emergency Medicine

1

1

Consultant Learning Disability Psychiatry Child

1

1

Consultant Medical Oncologist

1

1

Consultant Nephrologist & General Physician

1

1

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

1

1

1

1

4

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

1

1

2

Consultant Paediatric Surgeon

1

1

Consultant Psychiatrist in the Psychiatry of Old Age

1

1

Consultant Psychiatrist of Learning Disability (adult)

1

1

Consultant Radiologist

3

1

4

Consultant Unclassified

1

2

3

Consultant Urologist

1

1

Counsellor

3

3

Counsellor Therapist (Adult Counselling Services)

2

2

Craftsman’s Mate

2

1

3

6

Dental Nurse

2

1

1

2

6

Dental Surgeon, General

1

2

3

Dental Surgeon, Principal

1

1

Dental Surgeon, Senior

1

1

1

1

4

Dental Surgery Assistant (without qualification)

2

3

5

Dietician Manager

1

1

Dietician, Senior

1

1

Director of Nursing/ Midwifery Education Centre

1

1

Director of Nursing & Midwifery

1

1

2

Director of Nursing (Mental Health), Assistant

4

1

4

2

11

Director of Nursing 1

1

1

1

3

Director of Nursing 1, Assistant

7

2

2

6

17

Director of Nursing 2

2

2

Director of Nursing 2, Assistant

5

1

1

3

10

Director of Nursing 3

1

1

2

Director of Nursing 4

3

1

1

5

Director of Nursing 4, Assistant

2

1

1

1

5

Director of Nursing 5

1

2

3

Director of Nursing, Deputy

3

3

Director of Public Health Nursing

1

1

3

2

7

Director of Public Health Nursing, Assistant

2

5

8

2

17

Domestic

11

13

22

12

58

Domestic Supervisor

1

1

2

Driver

1

1

2

4

Driver (Doctor-on-call)

1

1

Driver (Patients/Clients on Public Roads)

1

1

Driver, Minibus

1

2

3

E.C.G. Technician

1

1

Electrician

1

1

Emergency Medical Controller

1

1

2

Emergency Medical Technician (Ambulance Attendant)

2

2

Emergency Medical Technician (Ambulance Driver)

4

5

9

Emergency Medical Technician, Leading

1

1

Environmental Health Officer

1

2

3

Environmental Health Officer, Principal

2

2

4

Family Support Worker

1

2

4

7

Functional Officer

1

1

Gardener/Groundsman

1

1

Gardener/Groundsman Head

1

1

General Assistant

1

1

2

General Manager

2

General Operative

2

1

2

5

Grade IV

9

5

4

10

29

Grade V

10

3

1

2

17

Grade VI

5

2

2

9

Grade VII

4

5

3

6

20

Grade VIII

4

2

8

Health Care Assistants

9

6

9

13

37

Home Help

2

3

23

39

67

Home Help Co-Ordinator

1

2

3

Hostel Supervisor

5

5

House Officer, Senior

2

2

Housekeeper

1

1

Housekeeper, Assistant

2

2

Instructor

2

2

2

4

10

Laboratory Manager

1

1

1

3

Labourer

1

1

Laundry Worker

4

1

5

Linen Room/Laundry Supervisor

1

1

Local Health Office Manager — PCCC (HSE)

2

2

Maintenance Craftsman/Technician

1

2

1

4

8

Maintenance Foreman

2

1

5

8

Maintenance Foreman, Assistant

1

1

Maintenance Manager

2

2

Maintenance Officer

1

1

Medical Laboratory Aide

1

1

Medical Officer

1

1

4

6

Medical Officer, Senior

1

1

Medical Scientist

5

2

3

6

16

Medical Scientist, Chief

2

3

2

4

11

Medical Scientist, Senior

4

2

6

6

18

Medical Scientist, Specialist

1

1

Miscellaneous Childcare, Support Services

1

1

Nurse Tutor

1

1

Nurse Tutor (Psychiatric)

1

1

Nurse, Mental Health Community

1

1

Nurses Aide

1

1

Nursing/ Midwifery Clinical Placement Co-ordinator

1

1

Occupational Health Physician

1

1

Occupational Therapist Manager

1

1

2

Occupational Therapist, Senior

3

2

2

7

Occupational Therapy Assistant

1

1

Orthoptist, Senior

1

2

3

Painter

2

1

3

Pathology Technician, Senior

1

1

Pharmaceutical Technician, Senior

1

1

Pharmacist

1

1

Pharmacist, Senior

1

1

2

Pharmacy Assistant

1

1

Phlebotomist

1

2

3

Phlebotomist, Senior

1

1

PHYSIOTHERAPIST

1

1

Physiotherapist, Senior

2

1

1

4

Physiotherapist-in-charge (Grade III)

1

1

Plumber

2

2

Porter

5

3

5

2

15

Porter, Head

1

1

Porter, Theatre

1

2

3

Project Worker

1

1

Psychologist, Clinical

1

1

1

3

Psychologist, Principal Clinical

3

1

1

5

Psychologist, Senior Clinical

2

5

7

Public Health Nurse

20

9

14

21

64

Public Health, Specialist

1

3

Radiation Therapist, Clinical Specialist

1

1

Radiographer

1

1

2

4

Radiographer, Clinical Specialist

1

2

3

Radiographer, Senior

3

4

Radiography Aide

1

1

Radiography Service Manager, I

2

1

4

Radiography Service manager, II

1

1

2

Registrar

1

1

S.E.N. (General)

3

2

5

Seamstress/Tailor

1

2

3

Security Guard

2

2

Service Function Officer

1

1

Social Care Leader

2

4

3

7

16

Social Care Manager

1

1

1

3

Social Care Worker

4

4

6

2

16

Social Work Practitioner, Senior

1

2

2

5

Social Worker

2

4

5

2

13

Social Worker (Non-professionally qualified)

1

1

2

Social Worker, Medical

1

1

Social Worker, Principal

4

3

3

10

Social Worker, Psychiatric Senior

1

1

2

Social Worker, Senior Medical

1

1

Social Worker, Team Leader

5

1

1

3

10

Speech and Language Therapist

1

1

Speech and Language Therapist Manager

1

1

1

3

Speech and Language Therapist, Clinical Specialist

1

1

Speech and Language Therapist, Senior

1

1

Staff Midwife

1

13

14

Staff Midwife, Senior

4

5

3

12

Staff Nurse — General

27

16

49

120

212

Staff Nurse — Intellectual Disability

2

1

5

8

Staff Nurse General (Community)

1

2

1

3

7

Staff Nurse Senior, Mental Health (Nursing Bank)

1

1

Staff Nurse, Community Mental Health

2

1

3

Staff Nurse, Dual Qualified (General)

3

11

1

15

Staff Nurse, Dual Qualified (Intellectual Disability)

1

1

Staff Nurse, Dual Qualified (Mental Health)

1

1

Staff Nurse, Mental Health

3

5

15

50

73

Staff Nurse, Senior (Dual Qualified)

12

12

21

10

55

Staff Nurse, Senior (Dual-Qualified Mental Health)

2

1

3

1

7

Staff Nurse, Senior (General)

34

27

67

27

155

Staff Nurse, Senior (Intellectual Disability)

3

2

5

Staff Nurse, Senior (Mental Health)

6

13

12

21

52

Storeperson

1

1

Stores Porter/Assistant/Attendant

1

1

Supplies Officer Grade A

1

1

Supplies Officer Grade B

1

1

1

3

Supplies Officer Grade C

2

2

Supplies Officer Grade D

2

2

Teacher

1

1

Technical Services Manager

1

1

Technical Services Officer, Senior Asst.

1

1

Telephonist

3

1

4

Therapist

1

1

To Be Determined

1

2

1

4

Ward Clerk

1

1

Workshop Manager

1

1

Workshop Supervisor/Instructor

1

1

Workshop Supervisor/Instructor, Senior

1

3

3

7

Total

450

357

534

722

2,077

Medical Aids and Appliances

Tom Fleming

Question:

291 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the criteria used by the Health Service Executive regarding applicants for medical appliances; the current waiting time for priority one category applicants is 14 months; if he is satisfied that this is acceptable; and the policy regarding severely handicapped exceptional cases in this priority one category, who are urgently in need of specialised appliances such as second skin and so on. [3246/12]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Tom Fleming

Question:

292 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the current waiting list for rheumatology services in County Kerry; and if he will urgently proceed with putting in place an upgraded service to facilitate Kerry patients [3247/12]

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

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery

The management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the HSE and the individual hospitals concerned. I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's question to the Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Staff

Tom Fleming

Question:

293 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take with the Health Service Executive to ensure that rheumatologist consultant approved by the HSE in the 2010 priority programme for Kerry General Hospital scheduled for appointment this year will be advertised by the HSE immediately. [3248/12]

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

Medical Cards

Tom Fleming

Question:

294 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health since the formation of the primary care reimbursement service for medical card administration, the number of new medical card applications nationally that have been received; if he will provide a breakdown of the number of applicants aged under 70 and over 70; the number of medical card renewals applied for and statistics regarding grants and refusals and the breakdown of full medical card and general practitioner visit cards granted; the average time to process each category of medical card; and if he is satisfied that the new centralised system is working satisfactorily. [3254/12]

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

Sports Capital Programme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

295 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if funding available is to a club (details supplied) to assist them with premises, equipment and general set up costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3084/12]

Under the Sports Capital Programme the Department provides funding at local, regional and national level to sporting clubs and organisations, voluntary and community organisations, local authorities and, in certain circumstances, schools/colleges towards the provision of sporting facilities and the purchase of sporting equipment. It will be open to any organisation with a suitable project to apply for funding under the next round of the Programme subject to the terms and conditions that will apply. Officials in my Department are currently making the necessary arrangements with a view to launching a new round of the Sports Capital Programme early this year. Any group considering forming a boxing club should contact the Irish Amateur Boxing Association in relation to affiliation.

Rural Transport Services

Paudie Coffey

Question:

296 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the Leap card will be rolled out to rural bus routes; if private bus operators have been allowed to sign up to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3015/12]

Responsibility to develop, procure, implement, operate and maintain the integrated ticketing system in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) became the function of the National Transport Authority (NTA) with effect from 30 September 2010 in accordance with section 58 of the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) Act 2008. In addition, section 63 of the DTA Act 2008 extends the Authority's remit in relation to integrated ticketing to the rest of the State.

The first phase of the Integrated Ticketing scheme was launched on 12 December 2011 on the services of Dublin Bus, LUAS, and Irish Rail DART & Commuter rail within the GDA. Project activity is now moving to Phase 2 of the Scheme which will involve a progressive release of functionality and expansion to additional operators. This next phase of the Leap Card scheme, which will be launched during the course of 2012, involves many private bus operators who operate scheduled services within, or into, the GDA, as well as all eastern region services of Bus Éireann.

Pilot testing of the Leap Card is underway on the Bettystown service of private bus operator, Matthews Coaches, and the NTA report that the trials have been progressing well. The NTA hopes to open up the scheme to all Matthews' customers early in 2012 on their Bettystown/Laytown/Dublin services. The outcome of the pilot activity on Matthews Coaches currently underway will provide useful feedback to support the launch of the Leap Card scheme across the remaining public transport operators.

Tourism Promotion

Paudie Coffey

Question:

297 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress of the new medieval museum in Waterford city; if it is still on schedule to open in June 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3017/12]

The question raised is a matter for the project promoter, Waterford City Council. As Fáilte Ireland is providing grant assistance towards this development, it may be in a position to assist with the Deputy's query. Therefore I am referring the matter to Fáilte Ireland for direct response. Please contact my private office if a response is not received within ten working days.

Road Network

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

298 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which public funds have been expended to date on the planning, design, development and construction of on-line motorway service stations; the anticipated expenditure on such projects after the next three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3035/12]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsiblity for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual national roads are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. In particular, the allocation of funding in relation to the construction or maintenance of national road projects, including service area projects, is a matter in the first instance for the NRA in accordance with Section 19 of the Roads Act. In addition under section 54 of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by section 10 of the Roads Act 2007, the NRA has a specific responsibility in relation to agreements to build and operate motorway service areas.

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

Cycle Facilities

Catherine Murphy

Question:

299 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the proposed Sutton to Sandycove cycle track, County Dublin; the budget allocation for the project for 2012; the timeline and project plan he envisages for the concept; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3046/12]

The development of cycle routes similar to that proposed is driven in the first instance by the relevant local authorities around the country. My Department has provided funding to Dublin City Council, at a cost of approxiamately €5.5m, for the recently completed city centre elements of the Dublin Canals Cycle route. The route runs from Portobello to the junction of Upper Sherrif Street and the overall design envisaged a link between the S2S and Canals route on the north side of the River Liffey.

The primary funding source, however, for the provision by local authorities of sustainable transport infrastructure withinh the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) is the National Transport Authority's (NTA) sustainability funding and it is a matter for the NTA to prioritise and fund projects in the GDA from this allocation.

Light Rail Project

Catherine Murphy

Question:

300 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the proposed timetable for the construction of the Luas BDX line from St Stephens Green to Broombridge; the budget allocation for the project in 2012; when he expects the line to be in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3047/12]

The Railway Order application for BXD was submitted to An Bord Pleanala in June 2010 and a decision is awaited. While both the National Transport Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency have made some appropriate preparatory arrangements, key decisions and actions which will determine the construction start must await the outcome of the planning process.

Funding is, however, provided in my Department's capital allocations over the next five years to allow for the main construction element of Luas BXD to start in 2015. Moreover a wide variety of essential pre-construction works (design development work, geotechnical (borehole) surveys, basement/cellar infilling contracts, utility diversions, heritage works contracts, etc) will be undertaken in the prior years and there is sufficient funding in the allocations to progress these works. For 2012 the NTA have a provisional allocation of €8m set aside to commence some of these preparatory works, subject to the outcome of the planning process.

Assuming an early start in 2015 for the main works, the new line will open by the end of 2017. Other sources of appropriate funding is being examined to see if an earlier start could be facilitated.

Sports Funding

Tom Fleming

Question:

301 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount it will cost the taxpayer to host the 2012 Irish Open in Royal Portrush, County Derry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3052/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the promotion of golf tourism is an operational matter for the tourism agencies. In this context, I am advised that discussions are ongoing between the relevant stakeholders regarding the financial arrangements for the 2012 Irish Open. Any contribution which may be made by the tourism agencies will be provided in return for a defined set of benefits which assist in the promotion of Ireland as a destination for golf tourism.

Road Network

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

302 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will reconsider the decision to discontinue the money for local roads improvement scheme as it will hurt every county in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3081/12]

The current expenditure for regional and local roads will be reduced significantly over the next few years. Cuts of the magnitude proposed necessitated that some very good and worthwhile projects be curtailed.

In making adjustments to the regional and local roads budget the primary aim has been, as far as is possible, to protect previous investment in the road network and use the available funding to maintain and restore public roads, including those in rural areas.

To that end, it was necessary to discontinue grants under the Local Improvements Scheme achieving a saving of €5 million. While the importance of this scheme to rural communities and in assisting local development projects on non-public accommodation roads is acknowledged, the maintenance and improvement of these roads is, in the first instance a matter for the relevant landowner.

Given that the priority in using scarce resources in the current difficult economic climate is to maintain public roads it is not possible to assist with any works on non-public roads and therefore this scheme has been suspended and not abolished. If and when the financial position of the State improves, it will be possible to re-open this scheme.

Public Transport

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

303 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3091/12]

The provision of public service obligation services by the CIÉ companies is subject to contract between the companies and the National Transport Authority (NTA). In 2012 the total Exchequer funding allocated to the NTA in respect of these services is €242.32m. The amount to be allocated to Bus Éireann by the NTA is €36.883m.

Notwithstanding the NTA's statutory responsibilities, Government recognises that there is a need for the CIE companies to respond to the challenge of reduced PSO subvention funding, reduced fares income arising from reductions in passenger numbers and increased costs, such as fuel costs, which are outside their control. As a general principle it is my belief that efficiencies in operational costs should, in the first instance, be examined over fare increases and service reductions. While a recovery in passenger numbers could increase company revenues, all concerned in my Department and the NTA must focus on identifying key public transport priorities in our cities and across the country. In turn, the PSO public transport service providers will have to achieve greater efficiency and cost effectiveness in the years ahead based on a realistic assessment of the scope and level of contracted services.

State Airports

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

304 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of US troops that passed through Shannon Airport in 2011; the location from which they came; and what their destinations were. [3102/12]

My Department deals with requests to carry munitions of war or dangerous goods on civilian aircraft under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders, 1973 and 1989.

If weapons are being carried on board, the operator is obliged to seek an exemption from the prohibition on their carriage under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous goods) Order 1973. Applications for these flights identify the airports immediately preceding and following the aircraft's arrival in Shannon. The vast majority of requests for these flights is from American civil airlines and involves flights to or from the United States. The main sources/destinations were Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan.

My Department does not collate information with regard to the number of military troops on board civilian aircraft.

However, on the basis of information collected by the Dublin Airport Authority, I understand the number of troops that have passed through Shannon Airport in 2011 was under 250,000.

Air Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

305 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of civilian aircraft that requested permission to overfly or land in Ireland in 2011 while carrying munitions; the number that were granted permission; and the number of them that landed at Shannon Airport. [3103/12]

The number of applications from civilian aircraft to overfly or land in Ireland in 2011 while carrying munitions was 1393. The number of permits issued was 1382. Approximately 86% of these flights landed at Shannon Airport.

State Airports

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

306 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expected use of Shannon Airport by the US military in 2012. [3104/12]

My Department deals with requests to carry munitions of war or dangerous goods on civilian aircraft under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders, 1973 and 1989. The majority of these flights land at Shannon Airport.

The landing of military aircraft in the State is a matter for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952 foreign military aircraft are not permitted to fly over or land in the State save on the express invitation or with the express permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Individual permission must be sought in the case of each US military flight, including those at Shannon Airport.

It is not possible to anticipate in advance how many such requests will be submitted in 2012 nor the expected use of Shannon Airport by the US military in 2012.

Driving Tests

Patrick Deering

Question:

307 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the qualifications required to become a driving tester or examiner; and if it is normal that a driver should go for their retest with the same tester and on both occasions be accompanied by the same inspector. [3162/12]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006), driver testing is a matter for the Road Safety Authority, and I have referred the Deputy's question to them for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.

Road Network

Dara Calleary

Question:

308 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when building work will start on the N17 Gort to Tuam upgrade, in view of the fact that sanction has been provided for M7 Newlands Cross and M11 Arklow to Rathnew, the only other priority projects in the revised public capital programme; if he will confirm that the N17 project will proceed through public private partnership; if there is a contingency plan to fund the project from the Exchequer in the event that a PPP is not feasible; his views that the N17 upgrade is vital to the economic development of the western and north western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3240/12]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. However, the planning, design, construction and maintenance of individual national road projects, including Public Private Partnerships, are matters for the the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993-2007. The assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is also a matter for the NRA under these Acts. In line with the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework 2012-16, the intention is to pursue the N17/N18 Gort-Tuam as a PPP with a view to the project going ahead within the framework period subject to securing PPP finance. Direct Exchequer funding of the project is not under consideration at present, given current financial constraints. This project has a positive cost benefit ratio and will support future economic development in the West and North-Western region.