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 20, inclusive, answered orally.

Defence Forces Review

Mick Wallace

Question:

21 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence if the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces and his Secretary General have submitted proposals to him in relation to the reorganisation of the Defence Forces; when he will publish details of this reorganisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6941/12]

Mick Wallace

Question:

22 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence if he has received a report on the reorganisation of the Defence Forces from the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of his Department; if further barrack closures are inevitable in view of his plan to reduce the number of Army brigades from three to two; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6942/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 22 together.

Arising from the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, the Government decided to revise the strength ceiling of the Permanent Defence Force to 9,500 personnel. This represents a reduction of 500 in the authorised strength ceiling and will contribute to the delivery of sustainable savings over the coming years. In response to this reduced strength ceiling, I initiated a major reorganisation of the Defence Forces, including the Reserve Defence Force. This will encompass a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from the current three to two. A three-brigade organisational structure has been retained since the strength of the PDF was approximately 11,500 in the 1990s. A three-brigade structure is no longer viable due to the reduction in the PDF strength ceiling from 10,000 to 9,500. Accordingly, the reorganisation process is about ensuring organisational structures are fit for purpose. It will prioritise the operational effectiveness of the Permanent Defence Force. Recent barrack closures have further rationalised the barrack infrastructure. I want to confirm, once again, that no further barrack closures are envisaged as part of the reorganisation process. I have asked the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence to bring forward detailed proposals for my consideration. This will include proposals regarding territorial areas of responsibility. This task is a significant undertaking. I understand that this work will take some months to complete. The Deputy will appreciate that in advance of my receipt and subsequent consideration of the proposals, I will not be commenting on potential future organisational matters.

Naval Service Vessels

Pearse Doherty

Question:

23 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Defence the cost of procuring new naval vessels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6835/12]

The contract price for the provision of two new offshore patrol vessels for the Naval Service is €99 million, exclusive of VAT and subject to contract terms and final agreed costs. The cost of providing a weapons system for the ships, similar to the systems on LE Róisín and LE Niamh, will be €7.8 million, exclusive of VAT. The contract for the two ships was placed with Babcock Marine in the UK in October 2010. Payments on the contract are scheduled over a period of eight years, between 2010 and 2017, and are being funded from within the annual Defence budget.

Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 13.

Defence Forces Strength

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

25 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence the number of vacancies within the Defence Forces; the dates on which these will be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6839/12]

The table which I propose to circulate with the official report outlines the number of vacancies in the Permanent Defence Force by rank. The number of vacancies, by rank, is based on the Employment Control Framework of 10,000 all ranks in the Permanent Defence Force versus the strength of 9,438 as at 31 December 2011, the latest date for which figures are available. As the Deputy will be aware a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces will be initiated resulting from the Government decision to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500. This re-organisation, which will prioritise "front line" service delivery, will have an impact on the number of vacancies in each rank. I have asked the Chief of Staff and Secretary General to bring forward detailed re-organisation proposals for my consideration. The effect of the changes cannot be determined until the proposals are considered and decisions made.

Arrangements are currently being made to hold Officer promotion competitions which have already been announced. Meanwhile promotion boards for Non-Commissioned Officer competitions are being put in place. Specific dates on which positions will be filled have yet to be determined.

Strength of the Permanent Defence Force, as at 31 December, 2011 as compared with ECF figures

LT GEN

MAJ GEN

BRIG GEN

COL

LT COL

COMDT

CAPT/LT

SM/ BQMS

CS/ CQMS

SGTS/ CPLS

PTES/ CADETS

TOTAL

Strength at 31 December 2011

1

1

7

35

136

302

821

72

392

2,940

4,731

9,438

ECF

1

2

9

43

152

370

774

96

540

3,250

4,763

10,000

Vacancies by rank

-

-1

-2

-8

-16

-68

+47

-24

-148

-310

-32

-562

Defence Forces Personnel

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

26 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Defence if he will consider changing the regulations governing the Defence Forces to allow qualified other ranks or enlisted personnel, such as those with solicitor qualifications, to use these qualifications within the forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6797/12]

I thank the Deputy for his suggestion. Obviously this is a complex issue in relation to qualifications, terms and conditions of employment and available appointments within the Defence Forces. However, I will have the matter examined and will revert to the Deputy in due course.

Overseas Missions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

27 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the degree to which he has had discussions with his EU or UN colleagues in the context of peacekeeping or peace enforcement in respect of which the Defence Forces could be asked to participate; the most likely areas for such participation in the future; the likely strength of any such deployment; the extent of special training if any required in respect of such events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6940/12]

During each EU Presidency both formal and informal meetings of Defence Ministers are held. Last November I attended the formal Defence Ministers meeting under the auspices of the Foreign Affairs Council. The Operation Commanders from the current EU led missions were also in attendance. Discussions were focused on these current operations and future proposed developments. Also at the meeting, Ministers of Defence received an update on the ongoing work regarding the EU's relationship with other Organisations, which included the United Nations and NATO. Regarding the relationship with the UN, Ministers discussed how to enhance EU support to UN peacekeeping operations.

In this regard, Ireland produced a Food For Thought paper in 2010 on "Enhancing EU/UN Co-operation in crisis management” which was circulated to EU Member States and discussed in various fora. The paper highlights a number of options as to how the EU, as part of its ongoing Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) capability development process, might identify niche or modular capabilities developed for CSDP crisis management operations, which could be made available and fully integrated into UN-led “blue-hat” crisis management operations.

During 2011, the EU's Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD) have further elaborated on Ireland's initiative. Consultations have been ongoing between the EU and the UN regarding possibilities for enhancing EU CSDP support to UN peacekeeping. Following on from this consultation process, the EU has now set out in a paper a number of possible actions which could enhance EU-UN cooperation.

These include:

The EU facilitating coordinated Member States contributions to the UN;

The EU providing a component to a UN operation (civilian or military);

An EU autonomous civilian deployment in support of UN operations;

An EU autonomous military deployment in support of UN operations.

Further analysis of these concepts will be undertaken by the various Committees in the EU.

In relation to rapid response, the EU has the capability to deploy forces at high readiness, broadly based on the Battlegroups concept. The purpose of these Battlegroups is to provide a rapid level of response to developing international crises, allowing the EU to intervene during the critical early stages. To date, no particular location has been identified as suitable for the deployment of a Battlegroup.

Participation in Battlegroups is just one of a number of ways in which Ireland contributes to the EU's CSDP. Ireland has participated in the Nordic Battlegroup, which was on standby until 30 June 2011. In 2010 the Government approved Ireland's participation in the Austro-German Battlegroup, which will be on stand-by for the second six months of 2012. The other members of the Austro-German Battlegroup are Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Within the EU itself, a number of committees, including the Political and Security Committee and the EU Military Committee, keep the issues of troop deployments, including rapid response, under constant review in consultation with all EU Member States.

Departmental Expenditure

Dessie Ellis

Question:

28 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Defence if he provides any funding to ONET for housing ex-members of the Defence Forces who have become homeless; and if he will provide details of same. [6831/12]

The Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women (O.N.E.) is dedicated to looking after the welfare of ex-service personnel of the Irish Defence Forces by way of providing accommodation to homeless, elderly or disabled members in need of such domestic accommodation and shelter and other assistance that may be required. O.N.E. is a limited company with charitable status. O.N.E. has accommodation in Smithfield, Dublin (Brú Na bhFiann with 30 places), Athlone (6 places) and Letterkenny (6 places). Any retired soldier, male or female, may contact the Smithfield centre directly and O.N.E. will assist by directing the person to other facilities within the Health Services, or offer a room if vacant, in Dublin, Athlone or Letterkenny.

My Department provides an annual subvention of €40,000 to O.N.E. is annual subvention is paid in quarterly instalments, subject to the submission by O.N.E of certified accounts. e funding is provided to support the general overheads of the organization and expressly not for the provision of services that are provided to citizens, including members of O.N.E., from other arms of the State. is covers housing, health, social assistance, etc. Dublin City Council continues to support on an ongoing basis the homeless initiative in Smithfield.

Overseas Missions

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

29 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence if he plans to sign any agreement for Irish Defence Forces to participate in an EU battlegroup during 2013. [6832/12]

There are no plans to participate in or sign any agreement in relation to an EU Battlegroup in 2013. In relation to rapid response, the EU has the capability to deploy forces at high readiness, broadly based on the Battlegroups concept. The purpose of these Battlegroups is to provide a rapid level of response to developing international crises, allowing the EU to intervene during the critical early stages. To date, no particular location has been identified as suitable for the deployment of a Battlegroup.

Participation in Battlegroups is just one of a number of ways in which Ireland contributes to the EU's CSDP. Ireland participated in the Nordic Battlegroup, which was on standby until 30 June 2011. In 2010 the then Government approved Ireland's participation in the Austro-German Battlegroup, which will be on stand-by for the second six months of 2012. The other members of the Austro-German Battlegroup are Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Within the EU itself, a number of committees, including the Political and Security Committee and the EU Military Committee, keep the issues of troop deployments, including rapid response, under constant review in consultation with all EU Member States.

Defence Forces Equipment

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

30 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide a breakdown of the way money was spent during each of the years 2009, 2010, and 2011 under the various subheads of the Defence Vote relating to defensive equipment, mechanical transport, aircraft, Naval Service ships and stores, communications and information technology equipment. [6833/12]

Investment in new equipment for the Defence Forces and the on-going support of that equipment, is provided for under various Subheads of the Defence Vote relating to defensive equipment, military transport, aircraft, ships and naval stores, communications and information technology equipment. Details of the expenditure under the various subheads are provided in the table:

Area

2009

2010

2011

€000

€000

€000

Defensive Equipment

33,279

37,412

32,820

Military Transport

15,293

15,812

14,369

Aircraft

19,887

16,780

15,489

Naval/Service Ships and Stores

14,177

37,087

30,542

Communications and Information Technology Equipment

9,681

10,205

11,479

Total

92,317

117,296

104,699

Defence Forces Personnel

Derek Keating

Question:

31 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the personnel support services in the Defence Forces; the number of social workers employed; the outstanding posts that need to be filled; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that for more than 12 months the social work service is awaiting the appointment of a new head social worker; if he is satisfied that this post will be appointed this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6798/12]

The Personnel Support Service (PSS) is a confidential information, education, support and referral service, designed to give Defence Forces personnel access to information and services both from within and outside of the military community. It is a key element of human resource management. There is a PSS office in every major installation in the Defence Forces. The current establishment for the Defence Forces Personnel Support Services is one head Social Worker and one social worker per Brigade/Formation. In addition, each Brigade/Formation has a civilian Defence Forces Social Worker whose tasks are to provide assistance (preventative and curative) and support to service personnel and their families where required.

The military authorities have advised that the previous holder of the post of Head Social Worker retired voluntarily in August 2011 and that his replacement will commence work on 21 March 2012. Given that the PSS is a key element of Human Resource management, an interim arrangement, which involves the previous post holder covering the position on a part time contract basis has been put in place to cover the period until the new Head Social Worker take up their post in March.

With the exception of the Air Corps a social worker is in place in all Brigades/Formations. Cover for the Air Corps is currently being provided by the former Head Social Worker. I am advised that the PSS staff are professional and experienced in dealing with the many issues that arise.

Denis Naughten

Question:

32 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence the number of staff within the engineering corps of the Permanent Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6894/12]

I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force Corps of Engineers was 323 on 31 December 2011, the latest date for which figures are available. The distribution of these personnel is contained in the table:

NO. OF PERS

1 FD ENG COY

77

1 LOGS SP BN

4

1 S BDE — HQ

1

1 S BDE RDF — HQ

1

104 INF BN UNIFIL (OFFICERS)

3

2 E BDE — HQ

1

2 FD ENG COY

66

2 LOGS SP BN

3

31 RES FD ENGR COY

3

4 FD ENGR COY

71

4 LOGS SP BN

2

4 W BDE — HQ

1

54 RES FD ENGR COY

3

62 RES FD ENGR COY

2

ARW

1

CSC

14

D COS (SP) — COE SEC

8

LBC

50

MIL COL

1

AIR CORPS

1

NAVAL SERVICE

1

SSU

1

GENERAL LIST COURSES

8

TOTAL

323

The Corps of Engineers provides engineering and combat support to the Defence Forces in operations at home and abroad. The Corps also provides education and training for operations at home and abroad.

The roles of the Corps of Engineers may be summarised as follows:

To provide Engineer support as part of the Infantry Brigade to defend against armed aggression.

To provide Engineer support in Aid to the Civil Power with emphasis on specialist search.

To provide Engineer support in Aid to the Civil Authorities on the occasion of natural or other disasters, and assistance in connection with the maintenance of essential services.

To provide Engineer support in European Union and United Nations missions.

To maintain and upgrade Army, Air Corps and Naval Service assets, such as buildings, services, lands, ranges.

Departmental Funding

Finian McGrath

Question:

33 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support the funding request for the Justice for Forgotten Group office (details supplied). [7097/12]

Following on the recommendations contained in the report "A Place and a Name" of the late Tánaiste and Victims' Commissioner, John Wilson, the Remembrance Commission was established in 2003 to help address the issue of funding and support for individuals who were affected by the Troubles in this jurisdiction. The Government approved a budget of up to €9 million for this Commission and although it was due to operate until 2006, the Government extended its remit and it formally came to an end on 31 October 2008.

During this period the Remembrance Commission, administered and funded by the Department of Justice and Equality, provided Justice for the Forgottenwith in excess of €1.2 million of funding for their activities. In 2010 a funding award of €7,500 was made under the Reconciliation Fund operated by my Department to the Pat Finucane Centre in the context of their work with Justice for the Forgotten. In total, it is estimated that the group has received almost €2.3 million of State funding since 2000. While the amount allocated to the Reconciliation Fund of my Department has necessarily decreased this year in the context of budgetary restrictions, it remains open to Justice for the Forgotten to apply for assistance towards project work in accordance with the Fund’s stated guidelines. For your information, I have set out these guidelines.

The Department of Justice and Equality, through the Victims of Crime Office, continues to provide support to those victims who require ongoing medical treatment for injuries sustained in bombings and other incidents arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Guidelines for the Reconciliation Fund

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has at its disposal under Subhead F.1. of its budget, a Reconciliation Fund for North-South and Anglo-Irish Co-operation. Its purpose is to assist organisations involved in reconciliation work and efforts to create better understanding between people on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

Applications for assistance are considered under the following criteria:

Reconciliation through education; dialogue and culture;

Development and maintenance of meaningful cross-border links;

Promotion of improved Anglo-Irish relations;

Promotion of cross-community and inter-denominational activities;

Promotion of tolerance and acceptance of cultural diversity;

Academic research aimed at promoting reconciliation;

Contribution to political reconciliation.

2012 FUNDING

There will be two funding rounds for the Reconciliation Fund in 2012, with deadlines as follows:

Round 1: Complete applications must be received by close of business on Monday 30 April 2012. Round 2: Complete applications must be received by close of business on Friday 28 September 2012.

HOW TO APPLY

Assistance is provided on a once-off basis, however, organisations may apply for and receive assistance each year. It may be used for a specific project or as a contribution towards general running costs. Funding is generally not available for capital costs, salaries, events/activities that have already taken place, or travel off the island.

The application form should be completed fully, and returned by email to reconciliation@dfa.ie. A signed hard copy of the application and relevant accompanying documents should also be sent to the following address:

Reconciliation/Anti-Sectarianism Fund Anglo-Irish Division Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 80 St. Stephen's Green Dublin 2.

Please note that applications will only be accepted on the current application form which can be found on the DFAT website.

Applications must be accompanied by the following documentation:

A valid tax clearance certificate issued by the Irish Revenue Commissioners, if the amount requested is €10,000 or more — see below for details;

All outstanding reports and/or organisational accounts due for previous grants received — see below for details;

Letters of support from any partner organisations to the proposed project;

A fully completed bank details form, which can be found on the Department's website.

Applications will not be processed until a complete application form with all relevant attachments is received.

DECISIONS

Decisions are made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on foot of recommendations made by an Interdepartmental Advisory Committee which is drawn from a number of Government Departments. Decisions are reached on the basis of the eligibility criteria outlined above. Other factors taken into account are the level of funding available each year and the number and quality of applications submitted. The Fund aims to ensure that the distribution of funds is as widespread and equitable as possible, based on the merit of individual proposals. The Minister's decision is final.

REPORTING

An organisation which has received assistance from the Reconciliation Fund must send a report and Financial Statement describing how the money has been spent to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade not later than one year after the grant is awarded.

The standard reporting format must be used when submitting reports.

The organisation's annual accounts should be submitted with the report. Where the grant amount exceeded €12,500 these accounts should be externally audited.

The audited financial statements or accounts submitted by the organisation must show the grant as a separate entry, labelled as "Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade — Reconciliation Fund".

Please note that the standard reporting format must be used for all outstanding reports.

TAX CLEARANCE

Applicants for assistance totalling €10,000 or more in a 12-month period must submit a valid Tax Clearance Certificate with their application. An original copy of the Tax Clearance Certificate, which must be issued by the Irish Revenue Commissioners, should be forwarded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade upon application to the Fund.

Most groups resident in the State may apply online for a tax clearance certificate. Groups resident in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain should complete Form TC1 and send it to the Irish Revenue Commissioners at nonrestaxclearance@revenue.ie or fax number:00 353 61 401012. Detailed information is available online at www.revenue.ie.

Please note that the TC1 form is an application form only which should be forwarded directly to the Irish Revenue Commissioners, and not to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Land Annexation

Seamus Kirk

Question:

34 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the O’Neill clan, Spanish branch, lodged a claim with the Irish and British Government in 1921 in regard to clan lands annexed in Ulster prior to the plantation in that area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7102/12]

Foreign Conflicts

Thomas Pringle

Question:

35 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the evidence on which the decision to impose sanctions on Iran was based; if he has sought any independent verification of the evidence presented to the EU to warrant the imposition of the sanctions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7119/12]

The EU, US and Canada have enacted further restrictive measures against Iran in the light of the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on 8 November 2011 on the Iran nuclear issue. In its report, the IAEA expressed serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme and concluded that information available indicated that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. These represent findings of the utmost gravity.

The Government is satisfied, as are Ireland's EU partners, that the IAEA's report is credible and its conclusions must be taken very seriously. The report is based on information drawn from a wide variety of sources and deemed by the IAEA to be "consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organizations involved, and time frames". The IAEA is, of course, the internationally recognised watchdog on this issue, with unrivalled technical expertise and a record of absolute impartiality and independence.

Following the publication of the report, the IAEA's Board of Governors adopted by an impressive margin on 18 November a resolution endorsing the report's findings. This resolution, which was also cosponsored by all the EU member states on the Board, was a further vote of confidence in the content of the report.

It is crucially important that Iran return to the negotiating table to resolve these concerns and to comply with its international obligations. However, regrettably, Iran has made no move to date to do so. Therefore, on 1 December, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed the extension of restrictive measures to a further 180 entities and individuals, including those directly involved in Iran's nuclear activities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions; those owning, controlling or acting on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL); and members of, as well as entities controlled by, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

On 23 January, with still no response by Iran to calls for the resumption of dialogue, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed additional sanctions against Iran, in accordance with the Council conclusions of 1 December. These include measures in the energy sector, including a phased embargo of Iranian crude oil imports to the EU; in the financial sector, including against the Central Bank of Iran; and in the transport sector. Further export restrictions, notably on gold and on sensitive dual-use goods and technology, as well as additional designations of persons and entities, including several controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), were also agreed.

I remind the Iranian authorities that these sanctions can be swiftly reversed if Iran takes concrete steps to address the very serious concerns of the international community and provide assurances as to the peaceful intentions of its nuclear programme. It is my earnest hope that these additional measures will bring Iran back to the negotiating table soon to address comprehensively the military dimension of its nuclear programme.

Thomas Pringle

Question:

36 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will raise with the Chinese Government the killing of Tibetans by the Chinese authorities during 23 and 24 January while China was celebrating its new year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7120/12]

The Government has closely followed the reported violent events in January in areas of Tibetan population in Chinese provinces neighbouring Tibet and is concerned about the situation. The recent protests and self-immolations — and the subsequent loss of life — are deeply regrettable. Ireland together with our EU partners believes that constructive dialogue between the Chinese Government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama is the best way to address differences and tensions in Tibet and to reach a solution that respects Tibetan culture, language, religion and identity. It is important for the long-term peace and stability of the region that the two sides come to an agreement on the future of Tibet. To this end, we continue to encourage an early resumption of dialogue by the parties.

The promotion of human rights is an important dimension of European foreign policy, as enshrined in the Treaty of the European Union. Constructive dialogue remains the EU's preferred channel for working to improve the human rights situation in China. Human rights are discussed as part of regular political dialogue as well as during specific Human Rights dialogues with China which have taken place since 1995.

The Irish Government continues to convey its concerns about the situation in Tibet directly to the Chinese authorities through regular contacts in both Dublin and Beijing. The issue of Tibet is also raised by the European Union in its dialogue with China. President Van Rompuy and President Barroso will travel in February to China for the 14th EU China Summit which will provide an important forum in which to raise our concerns on Tibet.

Visa Applications

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

37 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had any engagement with the Department of Justice and Equality on the matter of student entry visas; if he appreciates the volume of students that could be attracted to undertake higher level programmes here if the visa system was less impenetrable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7155/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, immigration policy is primarily a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality. However I, and my Department, work closely with the Department of Justice, on an ongoing basis, on student visas and other issues. Officials from my Department attend meetings of the interdepartmental consultative group, established by the Department of Justice and Equality, to ensure as far as possible, that the visa regime supports the priorities set out in Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy, the Government’s Trade Strategy to 2015. The Department of Justice and Equality will shortly be updating the Export Trade Council, which I chair, on relevant developments in this area.

Officials from my Department were represented on both the group which developed the international education strategy 2010-2015 and on the committee which developed the revised student immigration regime, which is supportive of high-quality providers in the educational field. My Department is in regular contact with the Department of Education and Skills and continues to support implementation of the international education strategy through representation on the high level group which is chaired by the Department of Education and Skills.

Overseas Development Aid

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

38 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the impact of budgetary reductions on Ireland’s aid programme in Uganda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7158/12]

For 2012, the Government will provide a total of €639 million for ODA, which, on current projections, will represent over 0.5% of GNP. Given our current economic circumstances this allocation represents a real commitment by the Government and people of Ireland to the world's poorest people.

The allocation represents a total reduction of €20 million on the projected outturn for 2011 — a reduction of €10 million in funding for Vote 27 (International Cooperation) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and an estimated fall of €10 million in ODA provided from other sources, notably as a result of an expected lower allocation of Ireland's share of the EU Development Cooperation Budget.

Through the overseas aid programme the Government provides assistance to over ninety countries worldwide. Nine have been designated as Programme Countries for Irish Aid, where we have a commitment to long term strategic assistance. These are Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.

We are now in the process of allocating the overall budget for 2012, and therefore no individual country budgets have yet been agreed. As has been the case in recent years however, the allocations to Ireland's Programme Countries will be prioritised to the extent possible.

In 2011 the budget for Ireland's bilateral aid programme in Uganda stood at approximately €33 million and I expect the allocation to reduce slightly in 2012. Ireland's aid programme will therefore be able to maintain its commitment to the most vulnerable in Ugandan society and continue to deliver results.

This year we will continue to target priority areas such as the provision of health services for those infected with HIV and AIDS, measures to improve access to education, and a programme that is helping to strengthen Governance and Justice Systems for the citizens of Uganda. A mid-term evaluation of the current five year Programme in Uganda will be conducted later this year to ensure that the funding we provide continues to make a real difference on the ground to the most vulnerable people in Uganda.

Banking Sector Regulation

John Paul Phelan

Question:

39 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance the precise mechanism by which banks extend loans and facilities to clients; the process by which banks raise the moneys they loan out; the source of that money; if a bank has typically to first secure the written contract with a would be borrower and then use that promissory note to raise the necessary loans from other institutions or individuals; if it is standard or common practice for banks to sell on the agreements they have put in place with their borrowers in order to raise a line of credit that will in part benefit the borrower. [6982/12]

John Paul Phelan

Question:

43 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance the legal requirements governing financial institutions selling on loans that they have advanced to borrowers; the statues governing the selling of loans and debt here; if a debt is sold on whether it is accurate to say that the original debt has been repaid to the original lender, whereas no direct contact exists between the borrower and the new purchasing owner; if it is lawful for a financial institution to sell on a debt without full prior disclosure to the borrower and potentially changing the conditions of the loan; and if there are any conditions governing the selling-on of loans by foreign financial institutions operating here. [6989/12]

John Paul Phelan

Question:

44 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance when a mortgage is securitised and sold to the market, if it is sold as a security; if so, does it remain a mortgage following the sale; if it is no longer a mortgage, can it ever become a mortgage again; and if it is true that the Irish banks prepare and submit promissory notes of the Central Bank of Ireland as mortgage-backed debt instruments, on what are they based. [6990/12]

John Paul Phelan

Question:

45 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance when a mortgage is logged as an asset, if the bank also opens a liability account for it; the implications of that provision; the purpose of opening the asset book and the liability book for the same transaction; if a bank statement to a borrower is a full and true account of the bank’s affairs with that borrower; if a bank is asked to verify a claim of injury by presenting its accounts when a person does not repay a loan, if those accounts show a loss for the bank in regard to that person; does the bank lodge all account information into one broad client account or does it keep individual account in relation to each client; when a mortgage is taken out by a lender it is logged into the bank’s asset book; what is the specific asset that the bank is logging as theirs; what is the name given to the document that is created to record the sale of a bank asset; and who prepares the documents and what information it contains. [6991/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 43 to 45, inclusive, together.

If a bank makes a mortgage, the bank may, if the mortgage contract allows, use that legal mortgage as security for funding their balance sheet. It does not alter the nature of the relationship between the bank and its customer. There are two possible routes. If the mortgage is securitised in a Residential Mortgage Backed Security (RMBS), the first (legal) charge to the bank from the customer is pledged to the security pool by virtue of an equitable right. The quality of the performance of the mortgage pool is borne by the purchaser of the securitised bond but the primary bank/customer relationship remains intact, subject to the terms of the securitisation itself. The bank remains, unless it is replaced by the terms of the securitisation, the servicing entity facing the customer and, indeed, the customer will not be aware that their mortgage has been funded in this way. RMBS are, generally, eligible collateral under ECB terms. In the situation where the RMBS is sold to the capital markets, the transaction may be ‘off-balance sheet', however, if the bank retains sufficient levels of investment in the RMBS, it will remain an ‘on-balance sheet' transaction and be recorded in the balance sheet. In the case of an RMBS transaction being completed, there is extensive accounting and legal advice provided to ensure compliance with all relevant rules.Mortgages may also be used for funding via the Central Bank of Ireland using Mortgage Backed Promissory Notes. These Notes are short term funding products that are not full securitisations, but once again, the mortgage charge is pledged to the Central Bank for security purposes. At present, these can be funded using Exceptional Liquidity Assistance (ELA) rather than through eurosystem borrowing via the ECB. However, in both cases, the bank/customer relationship remains paramount and intact.

EU-IMF Programme

John Paul Phelan

Question:

40 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance who, or which organisation, gave the European bailout money to Ireland; if these entities are privately owned, publicly owned, or State-owned; the persons who sit on the boards and are shareholders of the organisation in question; and to whom are these organisations answerable. [6983/12]

The drawdowns Ireland received to date from European sources under the EU-IMF Programme for Support, have come from the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSM), the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the bilateral loan agreement with the UK.

The European Financial Stability Facility is a company which was established in 2010 by the countries that share the euro and was incorporated in Luxembourg under Luxembourgish law on June 7 2010. The shareholders are the euro area Member States. The EFSF's objective is to preserve the financial stability of Europe's monetary union by providing temporary financial assistance to Euro Area Member States if needed.

The board of Directors of the EFSF comprises high level representatives from each of the 17 Euro Area Member States. The EFSF framework document as revised provides that a Member's representative to the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG) (or the alternate) shall be nominated to be the representative on the EFSF board. Accordingly, Ireland's representative on the EWG, who is a Second Secretary General in the Department of Finance, is Ireland's EFSF director. EFSF directors do not receive remuneration for this role. The European Commission and the European Central Bank each have observers on the EFSF board.

The European Financial Stability Mechanism was established under Council Regulation (EU) No 407/2010 dated 11 May 2010. The European Commission is empowered to contract borrowings on behalf of the European Union for the purpose of funding loans made under the EFSM (Article 2 of Council Regulation 407/2010). The borrower is the European Union. The Commission is the institution that manages the borrowing on behalf of the EU. The Commission's role in this respect is comparable to a government debt management agency (e.g. NTMA) contracting borrowing on behalf of the country.

In the case of the UK loans, these are provided and managed through the UK Treasury, a department of Government similar to our own Department of Finance.

Financial Measures Programme

John Paul Phelan

Question:

41 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance the specific assessment of how well each of the banks operating in Ireland is complying with solvency and liquidity requirements; and what were the specific criteria assessed in regard to the Irish banks. [6984/12]

The solvency stress test applied by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) in 2011 was used to recapitalise the Irish guaranteed institutions. The stress test scenarios were designed to represent extreme but plausible events, but they were not forecasts. The macroeconomic environment deteriorated in 2011 and as a result, arrears levels and loan loss provisioning has increased. As the realised scenario in 2011 was within the bounds considered for the purposes of recapitalising the banks in 2011, the Central Bank is currently of the view that the banks are adequately capitalised. The CBI is preparing for the 2012 Financial Measures Programme, including the development of an updated solvency stress test. As regards liquidity, the CBI's current liquidity requirements are contained in the published document ‘Requirements for the Management of Liquidity Risk June 2009'. These requirements consist of both qualitative and quantitative requirements for all regulated Credit Institutions. As the Irish banks themselves are regulated entities, they are similar to any other regulated credit institution and are bound by the above referenced document. In addition to these requirements, those Irish banks covered by the Financial Measures Programme have additional liquidity requirements in terms of reporting and metrics including the requirement to achieve a loan to deposit ratio of 122.5% by end 2013.

Consumer Protection

John Paul Phelan

Question:

42 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance if it is reasonable that borrowers should be entitled to see the original contract that exists between the financial institution and themselves; if there is a law or regulation that requires the original documentation to be retained by lenders or is it more typical that the bank saves only the electronic files; and in the event that the original documentation is not available to the borrower, is that borrower entitled to an invoice detailing the precise services rendered. [6986/12]

The Central Bank has advised me that Chapter 11 of their Consumer Protection Code details the records that are to be held by each lender in respect of people classified as ‘consumers' under the Code. The Central Bank would consider it reasonable for a consumer to see these records if the originals cannot be located by the person.

A copy of the Code is available on the Central Bank's website: www.centralbank.ie

Questions Nos. 43 to 45, inclusive, answered with Question No. 39.

Tax Collection

Tom Hayes

Question:

46 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the renegotiation case of a legacy debt issue (details supplied) between the Revenue Commissioners and a Tipperary SME; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7040/12]

I am advised by Revenue that the business concerned has a very significant tax debt. Revenue worked with the business during 2011 to alleviate the impact of cash flow pressures. The company failed persistently to meet the terms of the arrangements entered into with Revenue and in more recent times despite warnings about the consequences of continued non-compliance failed to engage in a meaningful way in resolving the issues. Revenue is not assured as to the basic financial viability of the business concerned and in that context, having particular regard to the level of debt owed, Revenue has taken enforcement action in this particular case. In the circumstances I am advised by Revenue that it is not in a position to enter any further arrangement with the company.

Banking Sector Regulation

Clare Daly

Question:

47 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will, holding ownership of AIB for the Irish people and holding a major shareholding in Bank of Ireland, inform Dáil Éireann of the amount of Government bonds swapped by each institution on 25 January 2012. [7136/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in the institutions in question, the banks are run on a commercial basis and the Government does not interfere in the day-to-day commercial decisions taken by the board and management of the banks. The matter referred to in the Deputy's question is an operational matter for the banks in which I, as Minister, have no role. The information is considered commercially sensitive and is not publicly disclosed.

Consultancy Contracts

Billy Kelleher

Question:

48 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the amount of fees paid by a covered institution to a particular professional firm (details supplied) in each of the years 2010 and 2011; the nature of the arrangement in place between the two organisations at present; the length of time it is envisaged to remain in place; and the number of employees of the professional firm currently allocated to the covered institution. [7224/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in the institute in question, the bank is run on a commercial basis and I do not have a role in the day to day commercial decisions taken by the board and management of the bank, including in respect of the employment of external consultants and advisors. The management and board of the bank detailed in the question are aware of their duties to their shareholders to ensure that all costs incurred by the bank are necessary and reflect the needs to the business. Separately, I am informed by the bank that in line with its normal practice, the bank have not disclosed the fees paid as they deem it to be commercially sensitive to do so in respect of arrangements entered into with individual firms. The firm continues to provide the bank in question with consultancy services and the bank remains committed to managing the cost of, and maximising the value from, this arrangement.

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

49 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the support available to a person (details supplied). [7115/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

72 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a matter in respect of a person (details supplied). [7114/12]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

73 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps being taken to meet the urgent welfare and educational needs of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [7133/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49, 72 and 73 together.

Details of the person to whom the Deputy refers have been brought to the attention of officials in my Department who are liaising with the appropriate state agencies in this regard. The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports. Another specific function of the SENO is to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs. SENOs are a valuable source of support to parents who are actively sourcing a placement for their children.

It is open to parents to contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. The Deputy will also be aware that the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), established under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, is charged with ensuring that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving.

While responsibility for the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) has transferred to my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the two Departments are working together to ensure that the services in the NEWB, including the School Completion Programme, Home School Community Liaison and the Education Welfare Service have a renewed focus to more effectively target and support all children at risk.

School Curriculum

Tom Fleming

Question:

50 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills as a result of successive bank bailouts, with the average amount of money now owed by every man, woman and child in this country exceeding €30,000, the reason our schools do not teach our youth about money management; his plans to introduce compulsory financial education, money management education and personal budgeting in our schools; his views on the development and introduction of mandatory financial education for our youth; his plans to progress same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6950/12]

The Department of Education and Skills participated in the work of the National Steering Group on Financial Education established by the Financial Regulator. The Report of the Group, Improving Financial Capability — a Multi-stakeholder Approach, was published in July 2009. The Group also developed a Financial Competency Framework which sets out a comprehensive set of learning outcomes detailing the knowledge skills and competences a financially competent person should have at different stages of their lives. This can be used as an important resource for those developing educational materials for young people and adults in the field of financial literacy. The learning outcomes cover Levels 1 to 4 of the National Framework of Qualifications. Aspects of financial literacy are included in the curriculum at present in such areas as Mathematics, Home Economics, Economics, Business and Accounting, Enterprise Education and the Mathematical Applications within the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme. The programmes cover computational skills, using appropriate tools to estimate and measure, to compare value for money, to calculate prices, compound interest, profit and loss, discount, VAT, PRSI, income tax, domestic bills and charges, recording and interpreting financial data, converting into other currencies and solving problems. Consumer studies, money and banking, housing finance, credit and insurance are also covered. These areas will be further strengthened to the extent possible in line with ongoing curriculum reform. In addition, Ireland has participated in the EU Dolceta programme designed to provide on- line education resources for financial literacy and consumer education.

Get Smart with Your Money has been developed by the Financial Regulator as a specific resource for use within Transition Year. In addition, the National Adult Literacy Agency working in collaboration with the Educational Building Society, has developed a website www.makingcents.ie to help adults learn more about money and financial matters.

Capitation Grants

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

51 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8 can be considered a special case in terms of the treatment of small schools in view of the particular purpose for which the school was set up, its historic association with the cathedral and the fact that it is a minority faith school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6953/12]

I would like to assure the Deputy that the Government is fully conscious that maintaining a network of schools is important if students from minority denominations are to be enabled attend a school that reflects their denominational ethos, while at the same time ensuring that funding arrangements for those schools are in accordance with the Constitution. In order to inform future policy on the potential extent and nature of Exchequer investment, including funding for teacher posts, in the fee-charging sector in future years I have asked my officials to conduct a specific analysis on tuition fee income available to schools in the sector and its utilisation.

The specific analysis to be conducted by my Department will involve looking at the level of the tuition fee income based on fee rates and pupil numbers. It will take account of Exchequer investment foregone (in teacher allocations and recurrent grants) because the school is charging fees. In this way the additional or discretionary income available to fee charging schools relative to other schools can be assessed. It will then involve some dialogue with schools to confirm the information and each fee charging school will have the opportunity to identify if there are certain individual factors which may limit their freedom to use this discretionary income — e.g., mortgages entered into for capital developments or other verifiable liabilities. This process will apply to all fee charging schools.

Schools Building Projects

Robert Troy

Question:

52 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied); when funding will be made available to progress its construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6964/12]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for a school building project. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, will be considered having regard to available capital funding and the need to prioritise such funding towards major projects required to meet demographic demand. In that regard, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project, referred to by the Deputy, at this time.

University Staff

Michael McNamara

Question:

53 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is the policy of the University of Limerick to require security officers who reach the age of 65 to retire; if so, are they being replaced by retired gardaí or prison officers who are already receiving a State pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6965/12]

Under the Universities Act 1997 universities are autonomous statutory bodies. As provided for in the Act the recruitment and appointment of staff is the responsibility of the university's management authorities.

Schools Building Projects

Robert Troy

Question:

54 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will expedite an RTA application in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath for permanent additional accommodation to facilitate the rising number of pupils and to provide a more suitable learning environment for the pupils who attend the school. [6968/12]

The school to which the Deputy refers has recently submitted an application for capital funding to my Department. The application is being considered and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as this process has been completed.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Niall Collins

Question:

55 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide this Deputy with a schedule (details supplied). [6974/12]

The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive data at individual school level in county order. The most recent information available relates to the 2010-11 school year. Statistical information in respect of the current school year is currently being compiled in my Department and is due for publication in September 2012. The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools are published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedules for the current school year and for the coming school year were published on my Department's website in March and December 2011 respectively. My Department's focus is on implementing the staffing arrangements for the coming school year and I do not propose to divert scarce staffing resources to deal with the individual type queries from the Deputy. My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for 2012-13 school year.

Dessie Ellis

Question:

56 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he is taking to support schools which have transition year programmes to facilitate as many students as possible, in particular a school (details supplied) which is a large school but can only accommodate 48 students in transition year because of cuts to guidance counsellor services and teacher numbers. [6975/12]

I fully acknowledge that the reduction in resources to second level schools will be challenging for schools. However, the change 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 net impact on overall teacher numbers in our schools has been minimised to the greatest extent possible. In the budget announcement for education I made clear that the net impact of the measures relating to second level schools for the school year commencing next September would, after taking account of demographics amount to about 450 posts.

Schools will have autonomy on how best to prioritise available resources to meet their 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.

Similarly, in respect of Transition Year the management authority of each school carries responsibility for making decisions regarding the Transition Year Programme in that school. Guidelines have been issued by my Department to support schools in this process. In some schools, the programme is compulsory for all students. In those that offer it as an option, circumstances may arise where it is necessary to limit the number of students who can avail of it. It is the board of management of each individual school that decides the number of places available to students on programmes such as Transition Year. In cases where restrictions apply, schools should have clear procedures regarding how places are allocated to students.

Schools Building Projects

Seamus Kirk

Question:

57 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills the schools that are being considered for the 2012-13 school buildings programme in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6996/12]

On the 19th December 2011, I announced details of 56 major school building projects to commence construction in 2012 as part of the €430 million education infrastructure plan for 2012 representing the first phase of a €2 billion five-year plan for major school building projects. Information in respect of the plan for 2012 along with all assessed applications for major capital works is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. Following on from this, I will shortly publish a five year plan outlining the school building projects to be constructed in that time. All school building projects, including school projects in County Louth, in the Department’s school building programme are being considered in the context of the plan. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demands will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

58 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the new green field site next to Calvary graveyard in Drogheda, County Louth; the target completion date for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6998/12]

The project, to which the Deputy refers, commenced construction in December 2010 and is expected to be completed by April 2012.

European Globalisation Fund

Pearse Doherty

Question:

59 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 234 and 175 of 11 January 2012, if the European Commission has formally responded to him following the submission of the final report on the Dell EGF programme; if so, the contents of its response; the final agreed contribution from the EGF to the Dell programme; the moneys that will be returned to the European Commission unspent from this programme; if he will provide Dáil Éireann with a copy of his final report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7041/12]

A letter of initial response was received by the Department on 3 February 2012 from the European Commission in relation to the submitted Final Report on the Dell EGF Programme.

The European Commission's letter contains a number of questions on the Final Report for the Irish authorities and initial calculations on the financial contribution to the programme. The substance of these matters is being further discussed between the Department and the Commission and upon completion of these discussions, a final calculation of the financial contribution will be agreed in due course. The European Commission will subsequently issue a debit note detailing the reimbursement figure and relevant details.

The Department is currently considering the issues involved in the European Commission's letter. Given that discussions between the Commission and the Department are ongoing in these matters as part of the decision-making process on both sides, it is not considered appropriate to release either this correspondence or the Final Report at this time.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

60 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a full list of the employers of the 9,089 construction workers in whose name a European Globalisation Fund application was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7042/12]

The listings of the employers of those redundant workers in sub-sectors NACE 41, 43 and 71 of the construction industry in support of whom three EGF applications for co-financing under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) were made by the Department and subsequently approved by the EU budgetary authorities, and which listings were required to be supplied by the Irish authorities as part of the EGF applications process, are publicly available on the EGF area of the European Commission's website http://ec.europa.eu. For ease of reference the specific employer listings weblinks are respectively as follows: NACE 41http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catld=582&langld=en&egfAppsld=69&furtherEgfApps=yes NACE 43http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catld=582&langld=en&egfAppsld=70&furtherEgfApps=yes NACE 71http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catld=582&langld=en&egfAppsld=71&furtherEgfApps=yes

Pearse Doherty

Question:

61 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a copy of the January monthly report prepared by a company (details supplied) on the uptake of personalised services and other relevant statistical information regarding the European Globalisation Fund programme for redundant construction workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7043/12]

WRC Social and Economic Consultants Ltd. are contracted by the Department to provide certain administrative and technical support services to programmes funded by the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) in Ireland. The consultants have prepared a report for the Department which provides certain management information on the implementation of the three ongoing EGF co-financed programmes in support of a specific cohort of almost 9,000 redundant construction workers. The report will be publicly available in the next few days on the Department's dedicated EGF website www.egf.ie. A copy of the report will be issued to the Deputy for his information by the Department.

The WRC report specifically covers the period from the issue of the notification letters outlining additional EGF services on 19 December 2011 and the 27th January 2012. The letters were issued to 8,779 redundant workers who are deemed to be eligible under the relevant EGF programmes and who have a home address in this jurisdiction. Based on data supplied to date by relevant service providers, the Department estimates that at least 4,500 EGF related interventions had been commenced in the areas of guidance, training and third level education for this particular cohort of redundant construction workers prior to the period covered by the WRC report.

Relevant management information on the delivery and uptake of EGF services and interventions will continue to be collated on behalf of the Department over the remaining period of the three EGF construction programmes to 9 June 2012.

Third Level Courses

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

62 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the drop-out rate in first year from all courses in all third level colleges and universities here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7048/12]

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 that follows from the report 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%

Special Educational Needs

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

63 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of resource hours that have been made available to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he has received a request from the school for additional learning support hours; if he will detail the nature of any such request; if he will respond to the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7057/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have now received their resource teaching allocations for the current school year, based on the number of valid applications for resource teaching support received by the NCSE to 25 November, 2011, and taking into account my Departments Employment Control Framework obligations which limits the number of overall resource teaching posts which may be allocated to schools. The NCSE recently published statistical information on SNA allocations on a county by county and school by school basis, including in relation to the school referred to by the Deputy, on its website www.ncse.ie.

Where a pupil meets the criteria for Resource Teaching support, following diagnosis or enrolment to a school which does not have any existing allocation of resource teaching support, the NCSE may make an allocation for such pupils from the small pool of remaining posts which have been reserved for such emergencies or eventualities. Schools fulfilling such criteria may make an application to the NCSE for additional resource teaching hours.

Site Acquisitions

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

64 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress that has been achieved towards the acquisition of a site for a new school or education campus at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7058/12]

My Department has sought the assistance of, and is working closely with, the relevant Local Authority in relation to identifying and acquiring a suitable site for the provision of permanent accommodation for the school referred to by the Deputy. Once a suitable site has been identified and acquired, the proposed building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Schools Building Projects

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

65 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will, as a matter of urgency, progress through the planning process an application for a new school at a location (details supplied) in County Kildare where new modern accommodation is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7059/12]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on Stage 2(b) of Architectural Planning which includes Planning Permission, Fire Certificate and Disability Access Certificate (DAC) and the preparation of tender documents which will then be submitted to my Department for review.

The Department will shortly publish an outline five year programme on the projects to be constructed in that time. The school building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project for the school referred to by the Deputy, will be considered in the context of that programme, taking into account the funding available, the building costs involved and the progression of other major projects required to meet demographic needs.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

66 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the progress made in recent years towards streamlining and modernising primary school provision at a location (detail supplied) in County Kildare; if he acknowledges the value to students and teachers arising from the construction of a comprehensive new education campus; if he will now commit to completing the task by ensuring that the remaining school in the area is extended, upgraded and modernised to meet acceptable, present day standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7060/12]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the process of tendering for appointment of a design team on the school building project to which he refers has recently commenced. The project will entail the extension and refurbishment of the existing school. An advertisement seeking suitably qualified consultants has been published on the Government's public procurement portal (www.etenders.gov.ie) and the school has been informed. Once appointed, the design team will commence architectural planning of the building project.

Departmental Properties

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

67 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the future of the Offaly Vocational Education Committee building in Tullamore. [7086/12]

In relation to the specific merger of Co. Laois VEC and Co. Offaly VEC, I have decided that the headquarters of the Education and Training Board will be in Portlaoise. In arriving at this decision, I considered a range of factors including the need to ensure that the location of a VEC headquarters will, to the greatest extent possible, facilitate staff redeployment under a redeployment scheme within the context of the Croke Park Agreement and the need to operate at lowest cost having regard to the accommodation available in existing locations.

Redeployment of staff from Tullamore to Portlaoise is possible under the Croke Park agreement and I expect that headquarters staff of Co. Offaly VEC will move to the designated headquarters location in Portlaoise as soon as feasible. However I expect that the office in Tullamore 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. The detail in relation to the use or disposal of existing property interests in Tullamore, following the move of staff to the newly designated headquarters in Portlaoise, will be worked through by my Department in conjunction with the VECs involved and the new merged body when established.

I am anxious to ensure that swift progress continues to be made in the work of bringing about a reduction in the number of VECs. In this regard, while my decision in relation to the locations of head offices and sub-offices is final, 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. It 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.

Overseas Students

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

68 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who come to Ireland each year to study English; the number who came from China, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Japan in 2011; the visa requirements such as educational qualifications; the maximum and minimum period of stay permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7090/12]

According to the annual survey of approved language schools carried out by Fáilte Ireland, an estimated 96,250 overseas English language students studied in Ireland in 2010. Figures are not yet available for 2011. The following number of English language students studied in Ireland in 2010 (or 2009, where current figures are not available): Japan: 2,000; South Korea: 3,100; China: 2,098 (2009 figures); Taiwan: 89 (2009 figures).

English is one of the official languages of Singapore, and is the primary language of instruction in the education system, so there is no major market for English language instruction there. Visa regulations are a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality. Student visa requirements for English language students are, however, set out on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service www.inis.gov.ie.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Finian McGrath

Question:

69 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reinstate teachers’ allowances. [7095/12]

Circular 3/2012, issued on 31 January 2012, does not change the rates of allowances currently being paid to serving teachers and non-teaching staff in schools. However, pending the outcome of a public service-wide review by the Department of Public Enterprise and Reform, allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries; i.e. those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. No additions to the common basic pay scale may be paid to new beneficiaries. Examples of such additions include any form of qualification allowance or the supervision and substitution payment paid to teachers, and the secretary to board of management allowance paid to school principals.

Educational Disadvantage

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

70 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify the position with regard to DEIS status for a school (details supplied); if he will ensure that the school, a new school representing the amalgamation of three schools, two of which had DEIS status, is given full DEIS status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7099/12]

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and an integrated School Support Programme (SSP). Prior to the amalgamation of the schools, in the town in question, in September 2011, and as a result of the identification and review processes carried out in 2005/06, 2 of the 3 schools were selected to participate in the School Support Programme (SSP).

The policy of my Department is to continue to provide supports to the newly amalgamated school in respect of the number of eligible pupils from the former DEIS schools. While a key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target resources at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage, the current economic climate and the challenge to meet significant targets on reducing public expenditure and operating within a ceiling on overall teacher numbers, limits opportunities and means that there is no capacity to provide for an extension of full DEIS status to newly amalgamated post-primary schools.

Thomas Pringle

Question:

71 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all DEIS schools in the country are being included in the review initiated by him in response to the budget cuts to them, including band 1 and 2 schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7108/12]

My Department is currently finalising the report on the impact of the withdrawal of posts under older schemes on DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools only for submission to me this week. On receipt of this report, I will then make a decision on the final outcome for the individual schools involved and the staffing schedules for 2012/2013 will then be finalised and published in the coming weeks.

Questions Nos. 72 and 73 answered with Question No. 49.

Higher Education Grants

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

74 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the 2012 applications will be made available for the postgraduate grant; the criteria to qualify for the postgraduate grant; if there are any proposed changes being made to the criteria or the grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7135/12]

As a matter of routine, my Department reviews the student grant scheme each year to prepare policy proposals and to include changes announced under the relevant Budget. A decision on the reckonable income limits under the Student Grant Scheme for 2012/13 academic year will be taken in the context of this review and the Scheme will be published in due course.

Nevertheless, in the context of the necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures announced in Budget 2012, new students entering postgraduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will not be entitled to any maintenance payment under the Student Grant Scheme. Existing postgraduate students will not be affected.

My priority as Minister for Education and Skills is to preserve access to undergraduate higher education courses despite the difficult circumstances in our public finances. As a result, no changes were made to the eligibility criteria for undergraduate students in the recent Budget. It is also worth emphasising that 41% of all undergraduate students currently receive a grant and pay no student contributions.

However, those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.

In access terms, the requirement to pay a fee is considered to be a greater obstacle to entry than lack of maintenance support at postgraduate level. This is why I opted to maintain the fee-payment ahead of maintenance payments for postgraduate students.

In addition, a further limited number of 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. My Department estimates this will help an additional 4,000 postgraduate students. However, there will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. In addition to the student grant scheme, support will continue to be available under the Student Assistance Fund through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. Students may also be eligible for tax relief for their tuition fees. Details in relation to this are available on www.revenue.ie.

While it is regrettable that any changes need to be made to student support, I believe this approach will continue to provide resources for a relatively wide number of post-graduate students and allow us to maintain the high level of supports provided to undergraduate students.

Schools Building Projects

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

75 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding for major capital works in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7137/12]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers applied to my Department for large scale capital funding for a school building project. In accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects, the project for this school has been assigned a Band 2 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website at www.education.ie.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, will be considered having regard to available capital funding and the need to prioritise such funding towards major projects required to meet demographic demand. In that regard, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project, referred to by the Deputy, at this time.

Special Educational Needs

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

76 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position in relation to the provision of a primary level school place for a student (details supplied) in County Kildare who has attended a preschool ASD unit attached to their local primary school; if a suitable place will be provided for this student within the local area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7153/12]

I wish to clarify for the Deputy that the policy of my Department is to secure the maximum possible level of inclusion of students with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, in order to ensure that as many children as possible can be educated with their peers within their own community. My Department therefore provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs in order to ensure that, wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.

Children with special educational needs may be enrolled in a mainstream school and attend all mainstream classes and receive additional teaching support through the learning support and/or resource teacher. Or they may enrol in a mainstream school and attend a special class, or they may enrol in a special school.

The enrolment of a child in a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB will try to help parents to find a school placement if their child has been unable to secure a school placement to date. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

In addition, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) can assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs.

Parents may contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs and to seek assistance in identifying placement options, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Third Level Courses

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

77 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has had any contact with the Iranian Government’s education department, or if his attention has been drawn to any contact between third level institutions here and universities in Iran in respect of the possibility of developing third level courses to meet the growing demand of Iranian students to study in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7154/12]

I have had contacts with Ministerial and official-level delegations from a range of countries which send students to Ireland, including Iran, which Enterprise Ireland records as sending around 80 students to Ireland each year.

I am also aware that there are ongoing contacts between a number of Irish higher education institutions and their counterparts in Iran.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

78 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has had any engagement with the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Justice and Equality on the matter of student entry visas; if he appreciates the volume of students that could be attracted to undertake higher level programmes here if the visa system was less impenetrable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7157/12]

While student immigration is primarily a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Government has a co-ordinated policy and approach to improving Ireland's competitiveness as a centre for international education, through implementation of the international education strategy 2010-2015 and the new student immigration regime.

My Department is in constant contact with both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Justice and Equality in this regard. Officials from both Departments were represented on the group which developed the international education strategy 2010-2015. My Department was represented on the committee which developed the revised student immigration regime, which is supportive of high-quality operators.

Both Departments are also represented on the high level group on international education, which is chaired by my Department and which brings together representatives from the relevant Government Departments, State agencies and the education sector in order to implement co-ordinated national approaches to internationalisation.

School Staffing

Michael Moynihan

Question:

79 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the possible loss of a teacher in a school (details supplied) in County Cork for the year 2012-13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7180/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools are published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedules for the current school year and for the coming school year were published on my Department's website in March and December 2011 respectively. My Department's focus is on implementing the staffing arrangements for the coming school year and I do not propose to divert scarce staffing resources to deal with the individual type queries from the Deputy. My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for 2012/13 school year.

Pension Provisions

Patrick Deering

Question:

80 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the formula used in determining politicians' pensions; and when and by whom this formula was drawn up. [7150/12]

The superannuation benefits of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas are provided under 2 separate pension schemes — one provides benefits in respect of membership of the Oireachtas only (i.e. in respect of service as a TD and/or Senator); the other provides benefits in respect of service as an Officeholder (e.g. Minister, Minister of State, etc.). The basic terms of the schemes are as follows.

Oireachtas scheme

The original pension benefits in respect of membership of the Oireachtas are derived from the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) Act 1938. The terms have been amended over the years, most notably in 1992 which led to the current pension provisions for Members, known as the New Scheme. The vast majority of the current members of the Oireachtas are members of this scheme. The scheme provides for termination and pension payments subject to certain conditions.

A former Member who has served for a continuous period of at least 6 months up to the time s/he leaves the Oireachtas is entitled to termination payments, details of which are available from the ‘One-Stop-Shop' in Leinster House.

A former Member who has at least 2 years' reckonable service will be entitled to a pension and lump sum from age 50 at the earliest, although the option exists to take a reduced pension from an earlier age. Under the scheme, maximum superannuation benefits are accrued after 7,300 days (20 years) service. The pension is effectively calculated on the basis of 1/40th of salary per year of service (max. pension = half annual salary). The lump sum payable is 3 times the annual pension (max. lump sum = 1.5 times annual salary). The pension and lump sum are payable at age 50 or at a later age should the Member continue his/her membership of the Oireachtas beyond that age. However, pension and lump sum are not payable to ‘new entrant' members of the Oireachtas as defined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 until age 65 (i.e. for those who are newly elected since 1 April 2004).

Officeholders’ Scheme

The original superannuation benefits of Ministers, Ministers of State and other Officeholders derive from the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act 1938. The provisions of the Act were expanded and modified over many years by a number of amending Acts, most notably the Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act 1992, the provisions of which came into force on 12 January 1993.

The offices which qualify for pension benefits fall into 2 categories, viz.,

(a) the offices of Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister, Attorney General and Ceann Comhairle (these are designated as "Ministerial offices" for pension purposes);

(b) the offices of Minister of State, Leas Cheann Comhairle, Cathaoirleach, Leas-Chathaoirleach and Leader of Seanad Éireann (these are designated as "Secretarial offices" for pension purposes).

Among the qualifying terms of the Officeholders' Scheme is a minimum of 2 years' service in a qualifying office. Also, pensions are payable from age 50. However, pensions for ‘new entrant' Members of the Oireachtas as defined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 are not payable until age 65. Pensions are not payable to former Officeholders while still a member of the Oireachtas. There is no lump sum under the scheme.

The 1992 Act also introduced a new scheme of severance allowances for persons ceasing to hold Office on or after 12 January 1993. Entitlement to a severance allowance commences on the day after the individual ceases to hold Office, and the allowance is payable for a period equal to the period during which the person has been continuously in Office (i.e. without any break in service) prior to such cesser, subject to a limit of 2 years. A severance allowance and an Officeholder's pension may not be paid simultaneously.

It should be noted in relation to both the Oireachtas Members' and Officeholder's schemes that the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) Bill, which is before the Dáil at present, will introduce a new Single Public Service Pension Scheme with a minimum pension age of 66, rising in due course to 67 and 68. This will apply to all new Members of the Oireachtas, including Ministers, as defined in the Bill.

Patrick Deering

Question:

81 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way senior civil servants gratuity is determined; and if they pay AVCs. [7151/12]

The superannuation benefits of civil servants are paid in accordance with the relevant superannuation legislation and circulars. Included in these benefits is the provision of a lump sum on retirement. Retirement lump sum is calculated on the basis of 3/80ths of final pay for each year of service, subject to a maximum of 1 ½ times pay. As the Deputy will be aware, in furtherance of the long-term affordability of public service pensions, the Government, by way of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011 (which is currently before the Dáil), is proposing to introduce a new “Single Public Service Pension Scheme” for future new recruits to the public service. The new scheme will have a “career-average” design, pension increases will be linked to CPI and a higher pension age will apply (linked, in future, to the State pension age). The lump sum payment will be accrued at a rate of 3.75% of the scheme member’s pay over the course of a career, subject to a maximum of one and one-half times pay. The new arrangement is expected to yield considerable long-term savings to the Exchequer in terms of the cost of public service pensions.

As regards Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs), they are private arrangements between an employee and a private insurance company. They are available to civil or public servants. The Deputy might note that there are also Public Service schemes to allow public servants to purchase notional added years to increase their pension benefits on retirement.

Garda Stations

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

82 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for the disused Garda station in Geashill, County Offaly. [7159/12]

A formal decision to close Geashill Garda Station was recently announced by the Minister for Justice. The Office of Public Works will now examine other potential State uses for the property. If no such use is identified arrangements will probably be made to dispose of the property on the open market. If any viable local proposals concerning the station are made from the community or from the local authority, I will consider this.

Departmental Expenditure

Thomas Pringle

Question:

83 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a list of the Ministers that have certified expenditure under the Secret Service vote; and the amount incurred by each Minister’s Department for the years 2010 and 2011. [7109/12]

Given the nature of expenditure under this Vote, it is not the practice to provide detailed information as to how the annual allocation has been, or will be, spent.

The Appropriation Account of the Vote for the Secret Service is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General in accordance with Section 3 of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act, 1993. The C&AG is furnished with certificates from the responsible Ministers which support the expenditure shown in the Account. On the basis of these certificates, the C&AG expresses an opinion in the annual published Appropriation Accounts that the Account properly presents the expenditure of the Secret Service Vote for the particular year concerned. This arrangement has been accepted by the Committee of Public Accounts of the Dáil.

As indicated in the Appropriation Accounts for 2010, expenditure under the Secret Service Vote in 2010 was €580,000. The corresponding figure for 2011 was €568,000.

Departmental Agencies

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the State and semi-State agencies and commercial companies including those in the communications sector that allow employees to be employed as contractors; his views that the use of the contractor status may facilitate tax evasion; his plans to reform this arrangement in public agencies and companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7162/12]

In regard to awarding contracts for public works, supplies or services, State bodies are required to ensure that winning tenderers can provide a certificate of tax clearance issued by the Revenue Commissioners before a contract is awarded.

The issue of whether an employee or contractor is hired is a matter for the particular agency or commercial company.

Work Permits

Catherine Byrne

Question:

85 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline the requirements for Romanian nationals to obtain a work permit here; if there are any exemptions; if there are plans to remove this requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6980/12]

Romanian Nationals are eligible to apply for all Employment Permits based on the eligibility criteria effective on 1 January 2007. Applications are considered under the Employment Permits Act 2006. Full details on the employment permit requirements for Romanian nationals, including exemptions, can be found on my Department's website at http://www.djei.ie/labour/ workpermits/bulgariaromania.htm. The Treaties that govern Romanian accession to the EU provide for a 7-year transition period before their nationals have full access to the labour markets of Member States. This transition period ends on 1 January 2014. The Treaties also require that from 1 January 2012, Member States grant full access to their labour markets unless they are confronted with a serious disturbance in their labour market or the threat thereof. A comprehensive analysis of the labour market situation concluded that the Irish labour market was experiencing a serious labour market disturbance such that it could be exacerbated by an immediate opening of the market to full access. Accordingly, the Government announced on 16 December 2011 that the current restrictions on access to the Irish labour market by Romanian nationals are to continue in place until the end of 2013.

Proposed Legislation

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

86 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the provisions that will be in the companies Bill to reduce the administrative burden and audit rules on community and voluntary groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7139/12]

Community or voluntary groups may be incorporated as companies, but this may not always be the case, as some may choose to avail of other legal forms. Such groups which have charitable status are governed by the Charities Act 2009, under the aegis of the Minister for Justice and Equality and are answerable to their stakeholders, shareholders and funders.

Community or voluntary organisations which incorporate as companies might conceivably choose different company types. For those that have chosen to be private companies limited by shares, the Companies Bill will introduce a number of tangible benefits which will operate to reduce the administrative burden.

The new default company type under the Bill, the private company limited by shares, or "cls" for short, will offer a number of attractive practical benefits which will make it easier to start, to use, and to run such a company. For example, such a company will only be required to have a minimum of one director, as opposed to two under the current law. The complex legal doctrine of ultra vires , which has applied to all companies up to now, will not apply to the new cls. Neither will a cls be required to draft a long document containing its Articles of Association which conventionally govern the internal operation of companies — these will now be included in the Bill as applicable “default” provisions (although a company may vary any of the vast majority of these default provisions if it has circumstances which make it appropriate to do so), and consequently the current requirement for lengthy, complex documents at the time of incorporation of a new company can be replaced by a single-document, and possibly single-page, Constitution under the proposed new law.

The cls will also be permitted to hold its AGM by written procedure, rather than being compelled to gather all of the members in the same room at the same time once a year.

The Bill also introduces the new concept of the Summary Approval Procedure, which will allow companies to undertake certain transactions which previously were either prohibited or required Court approval, by the new method of a special resolution combined with an appropriate declaration by the directors, subject to safeguards to prevent improper use.

However, I understand that many community or voluntary groups which have formed themselves as companies have done so as companies limited by guarantee (CLG). Due to their public membership structure they cannot avail of an audit exemption under the current law.

The Company Law Review Group (CLRG) 2009 Report examined the issue of extending audit exemption to companies limited by guarantee. It made the following recommendations:

"(i) Subject in each case to consultation with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the charities regulator, the audit exemption regime contained in Part III of the 1999 (No. 2) Act be extended to such class or classes of CLG which are charitable organisations (within the meaning of the Charities Act 2009) so as to bring them into alignment with charitable organisations that are not companies, provided that 10% of the members with voting rights should be able to require an audit.

(ii) The audit exemption regime contained in Part III of the 1999 (No. 2) Act be extended to all CLGs which are not charitable organisations, subject to a veto right, by any one member of the company, and further subject to the requirement that audit exemption in respect of the following year, shall be an item on the agenda of the annual general meeting."

It is my intention that provisions giving effect to the recommendations of the CLRG in this matter will be included in the Companies Bill, which I aim to publish in the second half of this year. The CLRG recommendations contemplate that any proposals in this context will be subject to consultation with the Department of Justice and Equality, which now has responsibility for charities regulation.

Social Welfare Appeals

James Bannon

Question:

87 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; if they will be issued with a medical card in the interim on health and hardship grounds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7175/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 10 March 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 23 November 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer on 12 January 2012 who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

Decisions on eligibility for Medical Cards are a matter for the Health Service Executive and any application in that regard should be made to that body.

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 Code

Seamus Kirk

Question:

88 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Social Protection if she would consider modifying regulations, to allow for greater consultation with potential employers under the Tús programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7004/12]

Tús is a community work placement initiative aimed at providing up to 5,000 short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year. The initiative is being delivered through the network of local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht areas — referred to as Implementing Bodies (IBs). Work placements are being identified in the not-for-profit, community and voluntary sectors across the country through local advertisement and direct contact with eligible organisations by local development companies. Practically all types of work delivered by the C&V sector can be undertaken by Tús participants, once it does not displace existing employment or other public or private sector employment.

Organisations wishing to offer work placements or wish certain works to be undertaken can contact the local development company in the county in which they are situated setting out the work to be undertaken, the skills required and the length of time it is anticipated to execute the works. Each local development company can provide an easy to navigate applications process. Additionally, the local development company will wish to meet representatives of the applicant organisation and organise an inspection of the works to be undertaken.

Social Welfare Appeals

Dara Calleary

Question:

89 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social welfare appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [7038/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13 January 2012. 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 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

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

90 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the reason a person (details supplied) who has previously been habitually resident here up until the age of 28 years and who moved to live and work in another country for nine years, resumed their permanent residence here, has now been refused social welfare due to the habitual residence condition. [7045/12]

The person concerned applied for Jobseeker's allowance on 4 October 2011. Based on the information supplied by the applicant it was decided that she did not satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition. The deciding officer in this case has decided that the person's centre of interest is not in the State.

If the person is not satisfied with the decision of the deciding officer, more documentary evidence or information that would be relevant to the case can be sent to the Department and the initial decision will be reviewed by a deciding officer.

The decision can also be appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Simon Harris

Question:

91 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent allowance payments to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow were stopped without warning; if she will provide a detailed account of the reason this happened; the person who in her Department authorised the payments to cease; if she will direct the relevant officials in her Department to apologise to the person concerned for the needless anxiety this episode caused should she discover that officials in her Department made a mistake; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7051/12]

The person concerned had her rent supplement payment temporarily suspended due to the transfer of her primary social welfare payments. When the transfer was completed her claim to rent supplement was immediately reassessed. The person concerned was then issued with an exceptional needs payment on 1 February for rent arrears that were owed. The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances.

Gerald Nash

Question:

92 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of home helps who received supplementary welfare allowance payments in 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7055/12]

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme is considered the "safety net” within the overall social welfare system in that it provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. The main purpose of the scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes.

There are no statistics available within the Department on the number of home helps who received SWA payments.

Social Welfare Code

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

93 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a matter (details supplied) regarding employers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7088/12]

Individuals who were previously employers, are generally regarded as self-employed for the purposes of PRSI. Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). Ordinary employees who have access to the full range of social insurance benefits pay Class A PRSI at the rate of 4%. In addition, their employers make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. (For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

Any changes to the PRSI system to extend the full range of social insurance benefits to self-employed persons would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable. I established the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare last year to meet the commitment made in the Programme for Government. The Advisory Group will, inter alia, examine and report on issues involved in providing social insurance cover for self-employed persons in order to establish whether or not such cover is technically feasible and financially sustainable. In addition, the Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, which is due to be completed in mid-2012, will examine this matter.

Self-employed workers may establish eligibility to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker's allowance. They can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year and, in the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. As in the case of a non-self-employed unemployed claimant of jobseeker's allowance, the means of husband/wife, civil partner or co-habitant will be taken into account in deciding on entitlement to a payment.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

94 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection whether a person in receipt of a one-parent family payment who decides to apply for a community employment scheme and is willing to give up the one-parent family payment for the duration of that scheme would retain eligibility for one-parent family payment when the CE scheme finished if all other factors remained unchanged; and whether the person would need to open a fresh one-parent family payment rather than reactivate the previous payment. [7091/12]

The CE scheme enables lone parents to return to the workforce by offering them part-time and temporary placements in work positions based within local communities.Prior to Budget 2012, lone parents who entered CE were entitled to retain their one-parent family payment (OFP). From 16 January, 2012, new participants on CE will not be able to claim a social welfare payment at the same time. As such, from that date onwards, when a lone parent enters CE, their OFP claim will be closed. This will not affect those who are currently in receipt of the OFP and on CE. Upon completion of a CE scheme, lone parents are encouraged to seek permanent part-time and full-time work elsewhere based on the experience and new skills that they have gained from CE. However, if their circumstances remain unchanged and work is unavailable, they can apply for the OFP and, if so, their claim will be treated as a new one.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jack Wall

Question:

95 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against the decision to refuse an application for illness benefit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7103/12]

Payment of illness benefit, to the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that she was capable of work. An appeal was opened and in the context of that appeal her case was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that she was capable of work.

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, following receipt of the grounds of appeal from the person concerned, the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Department have been sought. On receipt of its response the case will be referred 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.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

96 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7104/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 30 September 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.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

97 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made on an appeal regarding domiciliary care allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7121/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer has agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised.

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.

Tom Fleming

Question:

98 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will address the delays in the processing of appeals, by appointing additional staff to the appeals office, thus ensuring that all applications can be processed within a reasonable time frame; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7125/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

100 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the average waiting time for the processing of appeals relating to carer’s allowance, disability allowance, illness benefit, invalidity pension, State pension, job seekers allowance and job seeker’s benefit; the steps she is taking to improve the timeframe involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7131/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 100 together.

A table showing the average processing times in 2011 of appeals for carer's allowance, disability allowance, illness benefit, invalidity pension, state pension, job seekers allowance, and job seekers benefit are given in the attached table.

These processing times are calculated from the registration date of the appeal to the date of its finalisation and include all activities during this period including time spent in the Department for comments by the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal put forward by the appellant and any further investigation, examination or assessment by the Department's Inspectors and Medical Assessors that is deemed necessary. A considerable period of time is added to the process when an oral hearing is required because of the logistics involved in this process.

In an effort to reduce the processing times, the Department appointed 9 additional Appeals Officers during 2011 who augmented the 3 appointments made to the Office in 2010. In addition, a further 10 Appeals Officers, formerly employed by the Community Welfare Services (CWS) of the Health Services Executive joined the Office as part of the integration of the CWS appeals services into the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This brings the total number of Appeals Officers to 39.

I am assured by the Chief Appeals Officer that she is keeping the methods of operation by which the Social Welfare Appeals Office conducts its business under constant review, and that the processes are continuously being enhanced to reduce the backlogs in the Office and, overall, to reduce the processing times for dealing with appeals.

2011 average processing times (weeks) Summary Decisions

2011 average processing times (weeks) Oral Hearings

Carers Allowance

31.3

57.9

Disability Allowance

27.4

55.6

Illness Benefit

38.2

59.8

Invalidity Pension

36.4

58.9

State Pension (Contributory)

24.9

55.3

State Pension (Non-Cont)

20.6

54.6

Jobseeker’s Allow (Means)

18.0

54.8

Jobseeker’s Allowance

23.8

47.9

Jobseeker’s Benefit

15.1

34.0

Social Welfare Benefits

Patrick Nulty

Question:

99 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the way a person in receipt of jobseeker’s payment can transfer their payment to the UK; how long they can receive their payment when a resident in the UK; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7130/12]

A person who is fully unemployed and has been in receipt of jobseeker's benefit in this country for at least 4 weeks, may have their benefit paid to them while residing in the United Kingdom for up to 13 weeks, provided they are seeking employment in that country. Payment is dependent on the customer continuing to satisfy the conditions of the jobseeker's scheme.

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 98.

Social Welfare Code

Noel Grealish

Question:

101 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Social Protection if the new rent supplement rates are in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 which clearly defines the term market rent; if the new rates are a form of rent control; if she will explain the rationale in using too large a geographical area which may distort the market; if she is satisfied that the new rates are not anti-competition, as defined by the Competition Authority; if she has had any contact with the Competition Authority on the new rates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7142/12]

Rent supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. Since 2005, rent supplement expenditure has increased from €369 million to a provisional outturn of €503 million in 2011. The number of persons claiming the allowance increased from almost 60,200 persons in 2005 to over 96,800 as at end 2011, a 61% increase.

As the Department currently funds approximately 40% of the private rented sector it is essential that State support for rents are kept under review, reflect current market conditions and do not distort the market in any way. The new maximum rent limits which came into force on 1 January 2012 are in line with the most up to date market data available. The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that value for money is achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

Staff administering rent supplement have the authority to set levels lower than those provided for in the regulations, in respect of sub-divisions of their functional areas, where this is appropriate. This allows for lower rent levels to apply in certain locations within counties reflecting local market conditions.

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 defines the term market rent in section 24 (1) as the rent which a willing tenant not already in occupation would give and a willing landlord would take for the dwelling, in each case on the basis of vacant possession being given, and having regard to the other terms of the tenancy, and the letting values of dwellings of a similar size, type and character to the dwelling and situated in a comparable area to that in which it is situated. Under the legislative provisions governing rent supplement, the Department's relationship is with the tenant; the tenant makes the application for rent supplement and payment is made to the tenant. Rent supplement is specifically for the benefit of tenants to assist them with their accommodation needs. There is no direct relationship between the landlord and the Department in the administration of the scheme. The Department does not become involved in the choice of accommodation by the tenant and as such the issue of competition does not arise.

Robert Dowds

Question:

102 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider changes to the system of signing on for social welfare payments to avoid customers having to queue up outside social welfare offices, in order to preserve the dignity of those signing on. [7148/12]

The live register has risen to unprecedented levels due to the economic downturn and this has resulted in a major increase in the number of people attending the Department's local offices. In many instances people begin queuing outside offices before they open in the mornings. These queues include people making a claim for the first time and people signing the live register to show that they continue to be unemployed.

In many offices, an appointment system for taking claims is in place and when a person first attends at a local office to claim, they are given details of the supporting documents required together with an appointment to attend to have the claim taken. This system has been particularly effective in reducing queuing in local offices and it has also helped improve processing times where the customer provides supporting documentation at point of claim.

The signing arrangements for people who are already on the live register have been reviewed at a number of offices and additional signing days have been introduced, where necessary. In addition, at some offices, specific signing times have been allocated to claimants to reduce queuing times.

An on-going programme of process improvement initiatives is underway in the Department's local and branch offices. As part of this improvement package, the Department has developed the functionality to capture a client's signature on an electronic signature pad as part of the certification process for fully unemployed clients. This introduces greater flexibility to the process as it means that clients will be able to sign at any counter in the office in future. Offices will be able to respond immediately to queues by opening and closing counters, as required, to deal with the volumes on hand at any particular time rather than being limited to having a set number of counter points open. This will enable offices to reduce queuing times and provide a higher quality of customer service. This process has been trialled in one local office and the functionality will be rolled out, on a phased basis, to other offices during this year.

Employment Support Services

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

103 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the local employment service network throughout the country; if she has provided funding for 2012 for the continuation of this initiative; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7152/12]

Responsibility for the Local Employment Services (LES) transferred from the Department of Education and Skills to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1 January 2012. My Department recognises the valuable role the Local Employment Services play in the activation of unemployed people, particularly those most disadvantaged and distant from the labour market.

My officials have met recently with representatives of the Irish Local Development Network (which includes the Local Employment Services) and have assured them of continued funding for 2012. An interim contract and budget for January-March 2012 has been put in place while overall budgets are being finalised. It is hoped to advise the Local Employment Services shortly of their final 2012 budget allocation.

Social Welfare Code

Robert Dowds

Question:

104 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection the entitlement of unemployed, formerly self-employed persons to sign on the live register for credits if they have been paying PRSI at the S rate. [7170/12]

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory). A total of 14.75% PRSI is payable in respect of ordinary employees under PRSI Class A and provides access to the full range of social insurance benefits. (4% is paid by employees and 10.75% by their employers where weekly earnings are €356 or more. For employees earning less than €356 per week, the rate of employer's PRSI is 4.25%).

PRSI credited contributions are an integral part of the social insurance system. For the most part they are linked to employees having an underlying entitlement to a social welfare payment while temporarily detached from the labour force or having entitlement to statutory leave. The primary purpose of PRSI credits is to secure social insurance welfare benefits of employees by covering gaps in insurance where they are not in a position to pay PRSI such as during periods of unemployment, illness, etc. The class at which a contributor paid his or her last PRSI contribution determines entitlement to credited contributions.

PRSI credits are awarded in respect of employees provided they have an underlying entitlement to a social welfare payment while temporarily detached from the labour force. Credits are not awarded in respect of formerly self-employed persons who had been paying PRSI at the Class S rate. Self-employed individuals who wish to preserve the continuity of their social insurance record for pension purposes, do have the opportunity to do so by becoming a voluntary contributor.

Social Welfare Appeals

James Bannon

Question:

105 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason an appeal for carer’s allowance has been refused in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7177/12]

The person concerned was refused carer's allowance in respect of a second care recipient on the grounds that the Department's Medical Assessor expressed the opinion that the care recipient mentioned above is not so disabled as to require full-time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. She was notified of this decision, the reason for it and of her right of review or appeal.

Additional medical evidence was received, and forwarded to the Department's Medical Assessor for consideration. However, this information did not alter the opinion of the Medical Assessor and the decision remained unchanged. On the 21 January 2012, she was notified accordingly and of her right of appeal within 21 days. There is no record of an appeal having been received to date.

Social Welfare Benefits

James Bannon

Question:

106 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for an invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7179/12]

Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions. This department received a claim for invalidity pension for the person concerned. The medical evidence provided by the claimant in support of her claim was examined by a medical assessor who was of the opinion that the person concerned is not eligible for invalidity pension as she does not satisfy the medical criteria. The application for invalidity pension was, accordingly, disallowed by a deciding officer. She was notified of this decision and the reason for it. The person concerned subsequently submitted further medical evidence in support of her claim. This evidence has been forwarded to a different medical assessor for evaluation and a decision will issue to the person concerned once the review is completed.

Energy Conservation

Tom Hayes

Question:

107 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he expects funding to be allocated to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland warmer homes scheme for the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7022/12]

Better Energy: Warmer Homes delivers a range of energy efficiency measures to households that are vulnerable to energy poverty with a total of 20,388 being addressed in 2011. The scheme is managed on behalf of my Department by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and delivered through a range of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), augmented by a panel of private contractors in order to ensure national coverage. Funding of €17.146 million has been allocated to the SEAI to administer the delivery of Better Energy: Warmer Homes in 2012.

The SEAI is currently in the process of contract renewal with the network of CBOs. Contracts with 20 CBOs were issued last week, and the SEAI is working towards finalising contract arrangements with the final eight. Contracts will run from the 1 February 2012 to 1 December 2012.

In addition, an Invitation to Tender will shortly be published by the SEAI to establish a new panel of private contractors to augment this network. The public procurement process through the Official Journal of the European Union will take a number of weeks to conclude and a panel should be in place by early in Quarter Two.

Telecommunications Services

Andrew Doyle

Question:

108 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the report of the work of the task force on the upgrade of broadband services will be available; if the report is not yet available, if he will indicate the progress of the task force to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7050/12]

The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, which I convened last summer, is finalising its deliberations. The initiative has proven to be a very useful forum for detailed discussions with certain industry stakeholders on their views regarding the optimal policy required to facilitate investment in next generation broadband infrastructure.

The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations shortly. I intend to consider the findings and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce as quickly as possible and to make a submission to Government in this regard. It is my objective to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Inland Fisheries

Thomas Pringle

Question:

109 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent of the Gweebarra river system in County Donegal under the direct control of Inland Fisheries Ireland; and the agreements it has in place with landowners to lease fishing rights on the river. [7106/12]

I can advise the Deputy that the Gweebarra Rod Fishery is mainly State owned with a small portion in private ownership. Prior to 2007 access to both public and private parts of the Fishery was unregulated. Neither the state agencies concerned nor the private riparian owners took steps to limit access to their portion of the Fishery nor required a permit fee to be discharged by visitors. A person angling for salmon on the Gweebarra required only the statutory licence required to fish for salmon on any of the waters.

As part of its general statutory functions to protect, improve and promote fisheries within its region the then Northern Regional Fisheries Board (NRFB) decided to consult with the stakeholders on the Gweebarra to see whether agreement could be reached in relation to the preservation and development of the Fishery. The NRFB, in March 2007, reached agreement with the local Gweebarra Fishing Club which agreement runs in perpetuity. There are some 30 reputed riparian owners and agreement was reached with most of these in the same timeframe. This agreement runs for a period of 10 years.

Thus Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) have direct management responsibility for the vast majority of the river, only a small number of short stretches of the river located above Doochary village are not directly under IFI management. The main elements of the Agreement with the local Fishing Club were—

That the fishery was to be protected, improved, developed and managed in accordance with the principles of "catchment management".

That fishing was to be conducted in a sustainable manner under an agreed rod management plan as detailed in the Agreement.

That full membership of the Club was to be granted to all Applicants of good character residing within the catchment, all existing members of the Club at the date of the Agreement and riparian landowners who had entered into Agreements with IFI.

That the Club was entitled to admit others as associate members (for the same fee and with the same access rights as full members, the only difference being that they could not vote on decisions affecting the fishery).

That there would be an annual permit fee payable to IFI for each member of the Club.

That visitors would be accommodated on payment of a daily fee.

That the fishery would be divided up into beats or sections and the Rod Management Plan involved a limited number of anglers to be accommodated on each beat at any one time.

These new arrangements commenced in 2007 and essentially the previously unregulated position pertaining on the Gweebarra came to an end at that point. The Board commenced management of the Fishery and expended a sum of approximately €160,000 on improvement works on the Fishery.

Thomas Pringle

Question:

110 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost to date to prosecute three local anglers (details supplied) on the Gweebara river; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7107/12]

Prosecutions taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) against the three named Anglers for allegedly fishing on the Gweebarra River system are currently adjourned before the District Court. The costs of these prosecutions are unlikely to be significant or out of the norm for routine Fishery prosecutions in the District Court.

In my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of today's date, I have set out the background to the agreement by IFI and its predecessor body, the Northern Regional Fisheries Board, with the local fishing club and riparian owners to protect, improve and promote the fishery on the Gweebarra river which has resulted in an investment of €160,000 on improvement works on the fishery. Following the adjourned District Court Cases, High Court Civil Proceedings were instituted by the former Northern Regional Fisheries Board (now Inland Fisheries Ireland) against three named Anglers. This arises from the need to protect a State asset and the responsibility of IFI to preserve and protect this and other Fisheries in which similar agreements may be reached. While there were efforts to mediate a resolution, these were not successful.

IFI have informed me that clarity in relation to the High Court costs cannot be stated with confidence until hearing dates are set and indeed will depend on the progression of the case. However, it is clear that notwithstanding efforts to mediate a resolution, costs will already have been incurred given there was the initial interlocutory hearing and extensive discovery being sought by the Defendants.

Telecommunications Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

111 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the rural broadband scheme; when applicants will be contacted by his Department or a service provider; the estimated timeframe for the provision of broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7146/12]

The Application Phase of the Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) closed on 29 July 2011. The Department received 5,000 applications and of these, approximately 3,700 qualified under the terms of the scheme. The Verification Phase of the Scheme has now commenced. In this phase of the Scheme, the details of applicants have been passed to Internet service providers to assess whether a service can be offered to them without intervention from the State. A total of 32 companies are participating in this part of the Scheme.

My Department will be writing to all applicants by the end of this month to let them know the position in relation to their application and asking applicants to give their written permission to enable the companies to contact them directly with a written offer. It is expected that the companies involved will then write with offers to those applicants who give their consent. I expect that a significant number of applicants may be served by commercial operators as part of this phase of the scheme. If any applicants remain unserved after this phase a service will have to be procured by my Department which will be rolled out later this year.

Job Creation

Seamus Kirk

Question:

112 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the estimated number of jobs created both on a full-time and casual basis under the Leader rural development initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7003/12]

Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme (RDP), for which my Department has responsibility, continues to facilitate access to significant financial resources for rural communities. The main objectives of the RDP are to improve the quality of life in rural areas and facilitate the diversification of the rural economy. The RDP is designed to address directly many of the challenges facing rural communities including the need to increase economic activity and stimulate job creation; improve access to basic services for rural dwellers and encourage rural tourism based on sustainable development of natural resources. The programme is inclusive in its approach to arriving at solutions to such challenges using a "bottom up method" where local communities provide local solutions.

Interventions funded under this part of the RDP provide support for the development of rural areas in the broadest possible sense. RDP funding helps to develop vibrant rural communities as well as broaden and increase economic activity to support job creation. In this context many projects can take time to develop and any outputs and impacts of the support take time to emerge. However, Axes 3 and 4 of the RDP have supported the creation of 1,246 jobs to end December 2011. The programme monitoring system collects the data in the form of full time equivalents (FTE) and does not routinely collect casual employment numbers separately. The programme has, to date, assisted 3,329 enterprises in rural areas and supported 847 tourism actions. Many of these interventions have job creation potential and I am confident that, given the time required, they will directly support further job creation in their own local areas.

Departmental Funding

Michael Moynihan

Question:

113 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a resolution will be found with regard to the food projects issue under the Leader Programme; and the progress he has made on the matter. [7207/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 340 of 17 January 2012 which sets out the position in this matter. Any decision regarding the funding of the types of project referred to will have to be made in the context of the overall budgetary situation.

Appointments to State Boards

Catherine Murphy

Question:

114 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason he recently decided not to renew the terms of the members of An Bord Pleanála who have served two previous terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6951/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

115 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason he recently decided to renew the terms of the members of An Bord Pleanála who have served one term by a period of two years only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6952/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 115 together.

Under section 106 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000-2010, it is my prerogative, as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to appoint members to the board of An Bord Pleanála. On the expiration of the terms of a number of Board members recently I decided not to reappoint members who had already served multiple terms and to appoint for a further term those members who had served only one previous term. In so doing I believe that I am providing for an appropriate balance between change and continuity at Board level at a time when significant new functions are being taken on.

When appointing new Board members I will be taking account of the balance of skill sets and expertise required for the effective discharge of An Bord Pleanála's complex and wide ranging functions.

Local Authority Services

Robert Dowds

Question:

116 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the responsibilities of local authorities in terms of the management, regulation and control of burial grounds; the powers of each local authority in this regard; and the legislation in which these responsibilities and powers are prescribed. [7025/12]

The main legislative provisions dealing with the provision, management, regulation and control of burial grounds by Local Authorities are contained, in the first instance, in Part III of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878 as amended in Part VI of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1948 and more recently, the Local Government Act, 1994, and also in the Rules & Regulations for the Regulation of Burial Grounds 1888 and amendments thereto.

The following are the main provisions involved:

Section 160 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878 deems each sanitary authority (Local Authority) to be the burial board for its administrative area.

Sections 172-174 of the Act empower burial boards to provide new burial grounds and extensions to existing ones.

Under Section 175 of the Act, a burial board may acquire land for cemeteries or an existing cemetery by agreement or may contract with a cemetery company for burials.

Section 177 places responsibility on the burial board for the care and maintenance of burial grounds provided by them.

Sections 179 and 180 enable burial boards to make arrangements for facilitating the conveyance of bodies to burial grounds and for the provision of places for the reception of bodies until interment.

Section 185 confers on the burial board the power to serve notice requiring a burial ground to be put in good order within a specified time limit of not less than 6 months. If the notice is not complied with, the burial board can carry out the necessary works. Section 185 of 1878 Act does not apply to burial grounds attached to a church which is still in use or in a private demesne.

Section 186 allows the burial board to fence burial grounds and put them in good order where the owner cannot be ascertained or a notice under Section 185 cannot be served.

Under Section 187 a burial board may undertake management of a burial ground at the owner's request and is thereupon deemed to be the owner until the owner repays the expenses incurred.

Under Section 188 fees and payments in respect of interments in any burial ground provided by the burial board may be set, revised or altered by the burial board as they see fit.

Section 191 requires a Register of Burials to be kept by the burial board for each burial ground.

Section 196 requires burial boards to maintain any churchyard or burial ground which is not vested in any other person or persons and in which discontinuance of burials has been required by order.

Section 44 of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1948 as amended by the Local Government Act, 1994 defines a burial ground.

Section 46 of that same Act, as amended by the 1994 Act, enables the burial board to grant exhumation licences.

Peter Mathews

Question:

117 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Derelict Sites Act empowers local authorities to compulsory acquire derelict sites, carry out the necessary work themselves and then charge the owners for the cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7033/12]

Section 11 (5) of the Derelict Sites Act 1990 authorises a local authority that has served a notice on an owner or occupier of a site, and the terms of the notice have not been complied with, to enter the site and carry out such steps as they consider reasonable and necessary to give effect to the terms of the notice and to recover the expense incurred from the person on whom the notice was served. The expenses may be recovered in any court of competent jurisdiction. Section 14 of the act authorises a local authority to acquire either by agreement or compulsorily a derelict site in their functional area.

Environmental Policy

Catherine Murphy

Question:

118 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure that Wicklow County Council complies with the order made by his predecessor on 21 April 2008 directing the county council to make a special amenity area order for the Great Sugar Loaf and the Little Sugar Loaf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7049/12]

Wicklow County Council has raised certain issues with my Department in regard to the scope of the order, including in regard to the inclusion of private dwellings, working farms and a golf course. These matters are now the subject of consultation with the Council.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Willie Penrose

Question:

119 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there are grant schemes available for the installation of group sewerage schemes, in rural areas; if he will set out the details thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7100/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No 185 of 19 January 2012 which sets out the position.

Water Quality

Thomas Pringle

Question:

120 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he expects to publish the standards of compliance for septic tanks that will be required to comply with the Water Services Bill 2011. [7110/12]

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 sets out the duties for owners of domestic wastewater treatment systems including septic tanks. The Act requires an owner of such a system to ensure that it does not constitute, or is not likely to constitute, a risk to human health or the environment and, in particular, that it does not create a risk to water, air or soil, or to plants and animals, create a nuisance through noise or odours, or adversely affect the countryside or places of special interest.

I intend to carry out a public consultation on draft performance standards for domestic wastewater treatment systems which are being finalised by my Department in consultation with the EPA. These standards will also include the minimum requirements for the maintenance and de-sludging of treatment systems. Full details of the draft standards and the consultation process will be publicised in the coming weeks.

Local Authority Charges

Nicky McFadden

Question:

121 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person (details supplied) is exempt from paying the household charge in view of the fact that the property is uninhabitable. [7117/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge.

The Act places the household charge under the care and management of the local authorities, and application in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. Interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts. The definition of "residential property" in section 2(1) is relevant when considering whether a residential property that is not used or lived in is liable to the household charge.

There are a number of indicators as to what makes a house suitable for occupation for the purposes of determining liability to the household charge. The indicators include the structure of the house, whether or not it has a roof, whether or not it is so affected by dampness as to render it unsuitable for habitation, and whether or not it has sanitary facilities, including a water closet and water supply. A property that is not suitable for occupation should not be regarded as a residential property within the meaning of the Act.

The Act places the onus on an owner of a residential property to assess his or her liability to the household charge on the liability date (1 January 2012) and, if liable, to declare that liability and to pay the charge in respect of that property by the due date.

Water Services

Clare Daly

Question:

122 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government noting that the recommended design figure for water usage is 180 litres per head per day, EPA 1999, that the allocation per house allowed when a commercial user shares a meter with a domestic user is 225 cubic metres annually, DOELG Circular WSP5/06, equivalent to 154 litres per head per day for a four person household and that the current average water use in the State is approximately 150 litres per head per day, Commercial Survey Ideal Standard March 2010, if he will confirm that his proposed prior to charging daily allowance will be at least equivalent to the domestic house allowance provided for in DOELG Circular WSP5/06. [7123/12]

The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a fair funding model to deliver clean and reliable water. The Memorandum of Understanding with the EU, the IMF and the ECB also contains commitments for the reform of water services delivery and operation and the introduction of domestic water charges. To meet these commitments, the Government intends initiating a universal water metering programme in advance of the introduction of water charges. This will facilitate moving to a charging system for domestic water users that is based on use above a free allowance as provided for in the Programme for Government. No decision has been taken on the level of free allowance to be provided to households or the method for its calculation. The reforms also propose that economic regulation of the water sector will be assigned to the Commission for Energy Regulation. My Department will be consulting with the Regulator on the approach to the free allowance in advance of the introduction of water charges.

On 16 January 2012, I commenced a public consultation on the Government's proposals for reform of water services delivery in Ireland, including metering and water charges, seeking views from the public on the establishment of a public water utility and the introduction of water charges. The details of the consultation process can be found on my Department's website and submissions can be made to my Department until 24 February 2012.

Robert Troy

Question:

123 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for the new water monitoring board; the date on which it will be established; the way it will be structured; if it will be independent of him and independent when setting price; the persons who will make up the membership of the board; and if there will be any recruitment or will the embargo cover this board. [7145/12]

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

The first phase of work on the independent assessment has been completed, and a position paper setting out proposed reforms in the water sector has been published as part of a public consultation which will conclude on 24 February 2012. The proposed reforms comprehend:

the establishment of a new public utility, Irish Water to take over the responsibility for the delivery of water services from local authorities;

the introduction of water charges based on metered usage, with the procurement for the metering programme to commence later in 2012; and

the introduction of independent economic regulation of the water sector under the Commission for Energy Regulation.

The main role of the Regulator will be to protect the interests of customers. The regulator will be responsible for determining the cost of water services, ensuring that efficiencies are delivered so that the cost of providing the service to the consumer is kept to a minimum. The Regulator will ensure there is a framework where water charges are fair and clear in their implementation and that policies are in place to address affordability issues. The legislation to establish the regulator will determine the powers to be assigned to the regulator and the approach to be taken to regulation.

The phase 1 report was also published as part of the public consultation. This report set outs an outline transition plan for the establishment of Irish Water which would involve the appointment of an interim board and Project Management Office in 2012. Irish Water would be established under its own statute by mid 2013 at which point ownership of assets would transfer from local authorities to Irish Water. Local authorities would be agents of Irish Water for a period with Irish Water taking over their operations on a phased basis from January 2015. The full transfer of operations would be completed by end 2017.

Phase two of the independent assessment will set out a more detailed implementation plan and it is expected that this plan will be completed in April 2012 following on from the consultation process. Necessary legislation for all the components of the water reform plan, including the establishment of Irish Water, will be brought forward after this date, taking account of the finalised transition plan.

Co-operative Sector

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

124 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the fact that the UN is leading an initiative for the International Year of Co-Operatives in 2012, if he is planning any measures to encourage the development of the cooperative sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7161/12]

My Department's involvement with the co-operative sector relates to the provision of funding under the Capital Assistance Scheme to certain Approved Housing Bodies, registered as co-operatives, for the provision of housing for low income families and persons with specific categories of housing need.

My Department also contributes towards the administrative costs of the National Association of Building Co-operatives (NABCo), the national umbrella organisation for housing co-operatives, which provides training, research and advice in the area of co-operative housing.

Household Charge

Michael McGrath

Question:

125 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 149 of 26 January 2012, if he will clarify a matter (details supplied). [7216/12]

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, launched by my Department in October 2011, local authorities provided details of all unfinished housing developments in their areas. Unfinished housing developments were divided into four categories as follows:

Category one, where the development is still being actively completed by the developer, or where no serious public safety issues exist;

Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;

Category three, where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and

Category four, where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.

Other relevant factors for the purposes of the categorisation process include, inter alia:

the state of completion of roads, footpaths, public lighting facilities, piped water and sewerage facilities and open spaces or similar amenities within the development;

the extent to which the development complies with the terms of applicable planning permission;

the extent to which it complies with the provisions of the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007;

the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 as they pertain to dangerous places and dangerous structures within the meaning of the Act;

the extent to which facilities within the development have been taken in charge by the local authority concerned and

where there is an agreement regarding the maintenance of such facilities, the extent to which this agreement has been complied with.

In some cases a local authority may have found that conditions in respect of a certain phase of a development were relatively good and that, for example, no serious public safety issues could be identified. This phase of the development may have been categorised under category 1 or 2. Conversely, safety issues may have been identified in another phase of the same overall development, or development in that second phase may have been abandoned altogether, implying a category 3 or 4 identification for that phase.

This categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge.

Only households in developments in categories three and four are eligible for the waiver from payment of the household charge. This list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 and forms the complete and final list of such developments for this year. The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 does not provide for an appeals facility in this regard. A revised list of estates will be prescribed for 2013 after which time the waiver for unfinished housing developments will end. Throughout this period it is anticipated that the numbers of categories 3 and 4 developments will decrease as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.

Local Government Audit Service

John McGuinness

Question:

126 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of value for money and or special reports carried out by the local government audit division in each of the past five years; the plans if any, for such reports and subject matter to be carried out in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7225/12]

The Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1997 established, on a statutory basis, a Value for Money (VFM) Unit in Local Government Audit Service. The Unit carries out VFM studies on local authority operations, with a view to identifying best practice and recommending ways of improving existing procedures, practices and systems and, thereby, promoting efficiency and cost effectiveness. VFM audits are being carried out by local government auditors in addition to their normal regulatory audits of local authorities.

The table below details the number of value for money and/or special reports carried out by the Value for Money Unit in the Local Government Audit Service in each of the past five years.

Year

No.

2011

4

2010

3

2009

1

2008

0

2007

1

The VFM Unit plans for the following reports to be carried out in 2012:

1. VFM National Report -Absenteeism in local authorities.

2. VFM Progress Reports.

Follow-up reports on the progress, by local authorities, on implementation of the recommendations contained in three VFM National Reports are currently being carried out by the VFM Unit. The reports in question concern social and affordable housing, development contributions, and management and maintenance of vacant dwellings in local authorities.

3. Spot-Checks of Capital Projects

Spot-checks of capital projects, funded by my Department and undertaken by local authorities which were either in progress or completed during 2010 and/or 2011 are being carried out by the Unit at present. The spot-check of capital projects is to ensure compliance with guidelines issued by the Department of Finance for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure proposals in the public sector.

The work of the VFM unit is subject to oversight by a Committee comprising senior officials of my Department and local authorities and chaired by the independent Director of the Local Government Audit Service.

Defence Forces Staff

Sean Fleming

Question:

127 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide a breakdown of numbers and grades of members of the gardaí who have applied to the public service early retirement scheme; and if he will supply a breakdown of the stations to which these retirees are currently attached. [7035/12]

Public servants, including Gardaí, who retire on or before 29th February 2012 will receive pension benefits based on their salary scales applicable on 31st December 2009 and they, like others presently in receipt of public service pensions, will pay a Public Service Pension Reduction (P.S.P.R.) on their pensions thereafter. This reduction is a scaled percentage of their actual pension. Public servants, including Gardaí, who retire after 29th February will receive pension benefits based on their then current salary scales (as already affected by the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009)but they will not pay the Public Service Pension Reduction on their pensions. Members of An Garda Síochána who are over 50 years of age and do not have 30 years service may also avail of a cost neutral early retirement (C.N.E.R.) scheme. Their pension and lumps sums are actuarially reduced depending on their length of service and age at the time of retirement. I have been informed by the Commissioner that since 1 January 2010, 3 members have availed of this scheme, details of which are in the table below. Almost all Gardaí take voluntary retirement i.e. they leave before the compulsory retirement age of 60 years of age — in 2010 there were 353 voluntary retirements, 9 compulsory retirements and 1 CNER, and in 2011 there 428 voluntary retirements, 8 compulsory retirements and 2 CNER's.

Cost Neutral Early Retirements — 01.01.10-29.02.12 (as at 06.02.12)

Rank

Station

Year of Retirement

1 Garda

Charlestown

2011

1 Sergeant

Clara

2011

1 Sergeant

Garda HQ

2010

Visa Applications

James Bannon

Question:

128 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when an application for a visa will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7178/12]

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Dublin on the 20 September 2011. Whilst a preliminary assessment of the application has been completed, the application referred to is awaiting a comprehensive examination.

It is the case that applicants are advised to make their application at least eight weeks in advance of the proposed date of travel. It should however be borne in mind that the time-frame of eight weeks acts as a guideline only. The actual time-frame for decision is ultimately dependent on a number of factors, including the individual circumstances of the case, the number of applications on hand and the resources available to process them. I can advise that each visa application is considered on its individual merits, the onus as always resting with the applicant to establish to the satisfaction of the Visa Officer as to why the visa sought should be granted. The applicant will be notified of the decision as soon as one is made.

Queries in relation to general immigration matters 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.

Defence Forces Strength

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

129 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an assurance that a number of senior promotion ranks in An Garda Síochána that have been approved but not filled will be filled as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6956/12]

As the Deputy may be aware, yesterday I secured Cabinet approval for the appointment of 2 Assistant Garda Commissioners, 8 Chief Superintendents and 23 Superintendents, a total of 33 appointments to senior Garda ranks. All of the consequential vacancies at Sergeant and Inspector ranks will also be filled. I was very glad to secure the agreement of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and the Cabinet as a whole for such a significant number of appointments. In seeking these promotions, I was conscious of the need to enable the Garda Commissioner to fill key positions in the senior ranks, and to maintain both the investigative and also the management and supervisory capacity of the Force. With clarity now emerging on the final number of retirements expected by the end of this month, I will be discussing with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the case for filling outstanding vacancies in the senior ranks.

Asylum Applications

Robert Dowds

Question:

130 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the immigration status in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and when a decision will issue. [7034/12]

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 4 December 2009, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

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

State Cars

Patrick Deering

Question:

131 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the redundant State cars will be sold; the way the sale will be handled; and where they will be advertised. [7036/12]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that very active steps are being taken for the disposal of Office Holder cars which are surplus to requirements through a public auction. A tender competition to retain the services of a vehicle auctioneer is expected to be finalised in the near future and when the auctioneer has been selected the necessary arrangements for the auction will be made.

Garda Transport

Patrick Deering

Question:

132 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the plans he has to replace Garda cars as they are taken out of service due to high milage and or poor condition, on a local and national basis (details supplied). [7037/12]

The provision and allocation of Garda resources, including transport, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that provision has been made in the Garda Vote for 2012 to acquire new Garda vehicles which will be deployed in accordance with An Garda Síochána's identified policing requirements across Garda Divisions and the availability of financial resources.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that a full and comprehensive policing service is being delivered to the area referred to by the Deputy. They have also confirmed that the relevant policing arrangements will be kept under on-going review to ensure that optimum use is made of Garda resources.

Garda Investigations

Finian McGrath

Question:

133 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality with regard to the Garda investigation into fraud at the National Education Welfare Board and a file sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2011, if he will confirm that this file relates to the same Garda investigation that commenced in 2006; his views on the length of time that has passed since the Garda was advised of the fraud in 2006; the reason the Garda waited until 2010 to seek a statement from the then Finance Manager of the NEWB who resigned in 2005 and in 2011 to interview other staff of the board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7053/12]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again in this regard.

Finian McGrath

Question:

134 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm that the Garda received a complaint regarding possible internet browsing of child pornography at the National Education Welfare Board by the NEWB and a company (details supplied) in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7054/12]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again in this regard.

Citizenship Applications

Willie Penrose

Question:

135 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when an application for naturalisation will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7089/12]

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 January, 2012.

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.

Registration of Title

Arthur Spring

Question:

136 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the application for registration and transfer of legal ownership of commonage (details supplied) to all persons listed on the trust deed document associated with the land was not processed by the Property Registration Authority, in view of the long-term possession of the land by all of the applicants who are listed on the trust document and considering that ownership of commonages have been transferred to shareholders of commonages held by trust documents in other situations. [7093/12]

I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November 2006. The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions. The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round. I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the PRA for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Citizenship Applications

Patrick Deering

Question:

137 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive a decision on their application for naturalisation. [7149/12]

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 February, 2010. The application is at an advanced stage of processing. The person concerned will be informed of my decision on his application in due course.

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.

Visa Applications

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

138 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has had any engagement with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the matter of student entry visas; if he appreciates the volume of students that could be attracted to undertake higher level programmes here if the visa system was less impenetrable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7156/12]

The Deputy may be interested to learn that 5,412 applications were processed for Irish student visas in 2011. 4,741 of these applications were granted which represents an approval rate of 87.6%. Furthermore the statistics for the total number of non-EEA nationals resident in Ireland on 31 December 2011 on a student permission stood at almost 31,400. In light of these very positive statistics it is difficult to understand how the visa and student migration systems could be described as impenetrable. Indeed, dealing specifically with visas for Irish accredited degree programmes, these are already fast-tracked, reflecting the governments international education strategy.

As regards engagement by my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the matter of student visas, there is regular engagement between all State agencies and education providers on the internationalisation of the Irish Education Services. Indeed this engagement has been in progress for some time. The New Immigration Regime for Full Time Non-EEA student was published by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in September 2010 and came into operation in January 2011. The New Regime implemented the recommendations of the Interdepartmental Committee on non-EEA Student Migration which was comprised of representatives of INIS and, as they were in 2010, the Department of Education and Skills, The Department of Foreign Affairs , the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Finance he Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of the Taoiseach.

The new student arrangements were developed in tandem with the internationalisation of education strategy which aims to increase the number of foreign national students engaged in Irish higher education by 50% and in English Language training by 25% by the year 2015. Both initiatives are complementary to each other. As part of the development process of this new strategy the High Level Group was established in late 2009 and comprises representatives of the relevant Government Departments (including Justice and Foreign Affairs) and State Agencies as well as the university, institute of technology and English language sectors.

Residential Institutions

Robert Dowds

Question:

139 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the consideration being given to issues relating to the former Bethany Home and the appropriateness and practicality of such issues being addressed in a satisfactory manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7171/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the Government has charged an inter-departmental committee with clarifying any State interaction with the Magdalen institutions and producing a narrative detailing such interaction. There are presently no plans to expand its brief beyond those institutions. While I cannot be any more specific at this time, I can assure him however that consideration continues to be given to issues related to the former Bethany Home and the appropriateness and practicality of such issues being addressed in a satisfactory manner.

Defence Forces Reserve

Robert Troy

Question:

140 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence if the State will provide the Reserve Defence Forces personnel in Mullingar, County Westmeath, with a training location or if he intends to dispense with their services going forward. [6966/12]

My Department is in the process of securing alternative accommodation for the Reserve Unit based in Mullingar. To this end, an advertisement is being placed in local newspapers inviting tenders for the provision of such accommodation on a rental basis.

Army Barracks

Robert Troy

Question:

141 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made in finding an alternative use for Columb Barracks, Mullingar, County Westmeath; if he has had consultations with any interested groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6967/12]

When the Government took the decision to close a number of Military Barracks, I asked my Department to enter into discussions with other Government Departments, Local Authorities, State Agencies and community groups regarding the possible purchase of the properties to benefit the local community as a whole but with particular emphasis on job creation measures. In this regard officials from my Department have met with officials from Westmeath County Council regarding Columb Barracks, Mullingar. My Department has also been in contact with a third level institution from abroad who has expressed a potential interest in establishing a college in Ireland. I can assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to dispose of the barracks so as to maximise the benefits to the local community.

Question No. 142 withdrawn.

Naval Service Operations

Thomas Pringle

Question:

143 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence the number of boardings and inspections of Dutch factory fishing vessels that have been carried out by the Naval Service during the mackerel fishing season off the south and west coast in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7112/12]

Details of boardings and inspections of Dutch factory fishing vessels that have been carried out by the Naval Service during the mackerel fishing season off the south and west coast in each of the past five years are set out in the following table:

Year

Boardings/Inspections

2011

28

2010

9

2009

8

2008

12

2007

1

Defence Forces Training

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which military training for the Army, Navy and Air Corps is kept up to date and in accordance with modern practice and international standards for such armies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7187/12]

Training and Education are vital activities in all Military organisations. Training enables Defence Forces personnel to achieve their required standard of operational effectiveness. Over the past decade the Defence Forces have undertaken more challenging roles, in particular on overseas service and have also introduced new highly technical equipment. External Education both at Universities and Institutes at home and abroad, fulfils Defence Forces requirements by providing education and expertise, which cannot be delivered within the organisation and which ensures that Defence Forces personnel attain the required level of academic and professional qualifications. The Defence Forces conducts training and education under three broad categories namely skills training, career training and education and collective training. Skills training is the medium through which the Defence Forces ensures that its personnel have the requisite individual, specialist, and crew skills to permit the development of organisational capabilities. Career training provides the organisation with the necessary pool of leaders and commanders at all levels from Section Commander to Brigade Commander. Collective Training operationalises individual, crew, specialist and career training by moulding Sub-Units, Units and Formations into integrated and coherent combat forces thereby providing the Defence Forces with the capabilities required to fulfil its roles and missions both at home and overseas.

Training is at the core of all things military. I am satisfied with the ongoing actions to keep military training techniques up to date in all respects and Defence Forces training plans structured to provide the capabilities needed to execute the roles assigned by Government.

Training and Education is under constant review within the Defence Forces. This is to ensure that the Defence Forces provide an effective highly trained force capable of fulfilling all roles assigned by Government, while also utilising the most efficient and economic use of resources.

Defence Forces Equipment

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the degree to which the sea-going vessel of the Naval Service continue to be upgraded, replaced and or modernised on an ongoing basis with a view to matching the highest possible international standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7188/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which investment in modern technology and equipment including IT continues in the Naval Service; the extent to which such requirements are likely to be met in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7191/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 148 together.

A strategy for the replacement of Naval Service Offshore Patrol Vessels is currently in train. A contract was signed in October, 2010 with Babcock Marine in the United Kingdom for the provision of two new offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV's). The contract price for the two ships is €99 million exclusive of VAT and subject to contract terms and final agreed costs. In addition, the cost of providing a weapons system for the ships, similar to the systems on LE Roisin and LE Niamh, will be €7.8 million, exclusive of VAT. Payments on the contract are scheduled over a period of eight years, 2010 to 2017 and are being funded from within the annual Defence budget. The first ship will be delivered in 2014 and the second a year later.

The acquisition of these modern new vessels, combined with a continuous process of refurbishment and repair on the other vessels in the fleet, will ensure that the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a satisfactory level and that the most up to date equipment, including modern technology and IT equipment, is available to Naval Service personnel.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which Air Corps aircraft and equipment continues to be modernised in line with best international practice with a view to ensuring maximum efficiency and liability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7189/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which investment in modern technology and equipment including IT continues in the Air Corps; the extent to which such requirements are likely to be met in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7190/12]

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

I am satisfied that the equipment, aircraft and technology available to the Air Corps are of a high standard. Air Corps aircraft are subject to a strict maintenance regime in accordance with best aviation practice.

There are no plans for the acquisition of new aircraft for the Air Corps at the present time but this has to be taken in the context of the significant expenditure on the Air Corps fleet in recent years. The provision for the Air Corps in 2012 mainly relates to the maintenance and Power by the Hour contracts set up to keep the Air Corps fleet fully operational.

Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 145.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he expects to be in a position to ensure adequate investment in emergency services provided by the Defence Forces in the future, notwithstanding the ongoing economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7192/12]

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces will continue to have the necessary resources to fulfil all the roles assigned to them by Government including the provision of assistance to the Civil Authorities in any emergency situations that might arise. Whilst the Defence Forces are not a Principal Response Agency, as defined in the Framework for Major Emergency Management, they will continue to provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a severe weather emergency in an Aid to the Civil Authority (ATCA) role under the multi-agency Framework.

Requests for Aid to the Civil Authorities are met within the normal Defence Forces means and capabilities, and the Department of Defence does not purchase specialised equipment for the Defence Forces with the sole purpose of rendering Aid to the Civil Authorities. However, certain vehicles and equipment held by the Defence Forces to meet their current operational requirements can also be used to provide assistance to the Civil Authorities, as was done, for instance, during the severe weather situations in recent years.

The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces, including equipment that can also be used for rendering aid to the Civil Authorities, is a matter that is kept under continuous review. The budgetary situation will dictate the level of funding available for new equipment and upgrades in that period and decisions will be made accordingly. The priority this year and in the coming years is on maintaining the capabilities for the Defence Forces to deliver effective services across all of the roles assigned by Government including the continuance of the practice of rendering aid to the Civil Authorities, as and when required.

Defence Forces Strength

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of positions, at all ranks, currently vacant or waiting to be filled in the Army, Navy and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7193/12]

The table that follows outlines the number of vacancies in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. The number of vacancies, by rank, is based on the Employment Control Framework of 10,000 all ranks in the Permanent Defence Force versus the strength of 9,438 as at 31 December 2011, the latest date for which figures are available. As the Deputy will be aware a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces will be initiated resulting from the Government decision to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500. This re-organisation, which will prioritise "front line" service delivery, will have an impact on the number of vacancies in each rank. I have asked the Chief of Staff and Secretary General to bring forward detailed re-organisation proposals for my consideration. The effect of the changes cannot be determined until the proposals are considered and decisions made.

Arrangements are currently being made to hold Officer promotion competitions which have already been announced. Meanwhile promotion boards for Non-Commissioned Officer competitions are being put in place.

LT GEN

MAJ GEN

BRIG GEN

COL

LT COL

COMDT

CAPT

LT

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

PTES CADETS

TOTAL

ARMY

0

2

2

8

16

44

13

+88

5

11

34

62

179

72

10

370

AIR CORPS

0

+1

0

0

0

11

3

13

2

1

21

5

10

9

21

95

NAVAL SERVICE

0

0

0

0

0

13

18

+6

2

3

22

4

40

0

1

97

TOTAL

1

2

8

16

68

34

+81

9

15

77

71

229

81

32

562

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the Defence Forces, Army, Navy and Air Corps; the strength of the Reserve; the degree to which the numbers have fluctuated in each of the past five years to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7194/12]

I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength of the Defence Forces, Army, Navy and Air Corps was 7650, 997 and 791 respectively, giving a total of 9438 on 31 December 2011, the latest date for which figures are available. The strength of the Army and Naval Service Reserves on the same date was 4995 and 225 respectively, giving a total of 5220. The strength of the Defence Forces, Army, Navy and Air Corps and the strength of the Reserve at 31 December in each of the years 2007-2011 is contained in the following tables:

Defence Forces, Army, Navy and Air Corps

Year

Army Strength

Naval Service Strength

Air Corps Strength

Total Strength

2007

8,512

1,077

845

10,434

2008

8,507

1,070

832

10,409

2009

8,070

1,031

805

9,906

2010

7,752

1,032

766

9,550

2011

7,650

997

791

9,438

Reserve

Year

Strength

2007

8,408

2008

7,671

2009

6,644

2010

6,083

2011

5,220

It is the Government's intention that the Defence Forces retain the capacity to operate effectively across all of the assigned roles to them. It was against this backdrop, and having regard to restricted financial allocations, that the Government decided to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel. This recognises the significant modernisation that has been achieved to date.

In response to this revised strength ceiling of 9,500, there will be a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces encompassing a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from three to two. I have asked the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence to bring forward detailed proposals for my consideration.

Although Defence resourcing has further reduced for 2012, the allocation for paid training for the Reserve Defence Force in 2012 will be maintained at 2011 and 2010 levels. In addition to training for existing members of the Reserve, this will provide for training of approximately 400 new recruits to the Reserve Defence Force during 2012.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the FCA; the extent to which ongoing training and equipment remains available to the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7195/12]

As of 31 December 2011, the strength of the Army Reserve was 4,995 and the strength of the Naval Service Reserve was 225, a combined total of 5,220. The Reserve Defence Force Implementation Plan has provided the framework for the development of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve since its launch in 2004. Under the plan Reserve equipment was improved and new training syllabi were developed. A Value for Money Review of the Reserve is ongoing and recommendations regarding the future development of the Reserve will be brought forward in due course.

The reduced resource envelope available to Defence has necessarily impacted the Reserve. The level of paid training has reduced accordingly. However, a provision of 30,000 paid training days is allocated for 2012. This is the same as in 2010 and 2011. This, in tandem with unpaid training undertaken by members of the Reserve, is sufficient to ensure ongoing training for active members of the Reserve.

Defence Forces Personnel

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the total number of women at all ranks in the Defence Forces including the Reserve and FCA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7196/12]

The number of female personnel serving in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) on 31 December 2011, the latest date for which figures are available, was 565, of which 467 were serving in the Army, 30 in the Air Corps and 68 in the Naval Service. In terms of ranks, the breakdown of female personnel serving in the PDF on 31 December 2011 was 145 Officers, 186 Non Commissioned Officers, 229 Privates and 5 Cadets. The percentage of female personnel serving in the PDF on 31 December 2011 was 5.99% of the overall strength of the Force on that date. With regard to the Reserve Defence Force (RDF), the number of female personnel serving on 31 December 2011, the latest date for which figures are available, was 1,120, of which 1,059 were serving in the Army Reserve and 61 in the Naval Reserve. In terms of ranks, the breakdown of female personnel serving in the RDF on 31 December 2011 was 51 Officers, 252 Non Commissioned Officers and 817 Privates. The percentage of female personnel serving in the RDF on 31 December 2011 was 21.46% of the overall strength of the Force on that date.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. Unlike many other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions as regards the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. All promotions and career courses in the Defence Forces are open to both genders on merit.

Departmental Bodies

Clare Daly

Question:

154 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has received a revised proposal from Bord na gCon in regard to assisting in the management of greyhound racing in China; if he will confirm that animal welfare will be prioritised in any submission received from Bord na gCon in regard to assisting in the management of greyhound racing in China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7215/12]

My Department does not currently have a proposal from Bord na gCon (BNG) seeking consent to expand into greyhound racing in China. A revised proposal received from BNG gave rise to a number of queries by my Department and was not progressed.

Food Imports

Seamus Kirk

Question:

155 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the value and volume of potato chips and other potato-related imports in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6999/12]

Seamus Kirk

Question:

156 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there is any import substitution initiative for potato chips products being considered by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7000/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

Imports of potatoes and potato products into Ireland for the years 2008-2010 are presented in the table below. In relation to fresh potatoes, the major imports are in respect of new season and baby potatoes and in the last few years a number of Irish growers have started to produce baby potatoes.

My Department recognises the major challenge in tackling these levels of imports. We have been engaged in discussions with various parties including other State Agencies, growers and manufacturers to make progress in reducing these levels. I am satisfied that the major focus of our efforts should be on fresh potatoes and chips, where the major volumes of imports occur.

I am currently examining the report of the group established to oversee the implementation of the horticultural recommendations in the Harvest 2020 Report. My colleague the Minister of State with responsibility for horticulture, Mr. Shane Mc Entee is ensuring the maximum contribution of horticulture to the Irish economy.

Imports

Jan-Dec 2008

Jan-Dec 2009

Jan-Dec 2010

Descriptions

€000

Tonnes

€000

Tonnes

€000

Tonnes

Potatoes, fresh or chilled (not including sweet potatoes)

25,848

52,212

22,840

58,021

27,433

66,326

Flour and meal of potatoes

2,033

1,330

1,610

1,485

4,143

6,537

Flakes, granules and pellets of potatoes

354

401

305

338

1,765

801

Potatoes prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid, frozen

41,682

52,949

41,576

49,717

39,255

54,961

Potatoes prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid, not frozen

46,192

15,399

46,069

15,272

44,705

12,326

Grand Total

116,109

122,291

112,400

124,833

117,301

140,951

Seamus Kirk

Question:

157 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the value of fresh fruit and vegetables imports in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7001/12]

Imports of fresh fruit and vegetables into Ireland for the years 2008-2010 are presented in the table below.

My Department continues to encourage the production of fruit and vegetables in Ireland and in the Budget I announced the provision of €3.25 million of grant aid for the commercial horticultural sector for 2012. In addition, my Department administers the EU Producer Organisation Scheme.

I am currently examining the report of the group established to oversee the implementation of the horticultural recommendations in the Harvest 2020 Report. My colleague the Minister of State with responsibility for horticulture, Mr. Shane Mc Entee is ensuring the maximum contribution of horticulture to the Irish economy.

Imports of fruit and vegetables into Ireland 2008-2010

2008

2009

2010

Product1

Value €m

Tonnage 000s

Value €m

Tonnage 000s

Value €m

Tonnage 000s

Apples

54,547

65,413

48,914

58,871

47,934

53,271

Strawberries

22,074

5,725

20,833

5,836

18,421

4,138

Total other Fruit

439,256

375,031

364,110

345,563

389,782

354,890

Potatoes

116,109

122,291

112,400

124,833

117,087

140,549

Carrots

13,082

19,072

16,849

25,283

14,451

23,474

Cabbage

18,935

19,629

20,736

20,932

22,356

21,952

Tomatoes

56,419

55,094

53,037

51,627

54,179

48,571

Onions

29,328

57,523

20,489

41,286

26,157

44,738

Total other Vegetables

164,328

132,215

193,091

150,402

219,677

162,909

Total Fruit and Vegetable Imports

914,078

851,993

850,459

824,633

910,044

854,492

1includes fresh/dried

Horticulture Sector

Seamus Kirk

Question:

158 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of persons employed on a full-time basis and part-time basis in the mushroom industry in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7002/12]

The Department's and Bord Bia's best estimate of those employed in the Irish mushroom industry including growing, marketing and mushroom compost manufacture is the equivalent of over 2,500 full time jobs. Almost 90% of those employed are involved in production of the crop. As the mushroom industry has become more concentrated, and with fewer growers involved in production, the numbers of part-time workers has declined over the years.

The output from the mushroom industry showed a marginal increase in 2011. Irish mushroom exports increased by 2% in 2011 arising from better consumer demand in the UK. This was partly due to the EU/Industry co-funded 3-year mushroom promotion campaign on the UK market, which started in 2011. The medium term prospect for the industry continues to be positive but is still very much influenced by the Sterling-Euro exchange rate.

Aquaculture Development

Brendan Griffin

Question:

159 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding licensed fish farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7024/12]

There are 39 aquaculture marine based finfish licences in Ireland.

All stocks of salmon and trout on every farm are inspected by the Marine Institute on 14 occasions throughout the year when stock are present. Sea lice inspections take place monthly, with two inspections taking place each month during March, April and May. One inspection is carried out for the December-January period. Notices to carry out sea lice treatment are issued when observed levels of infestation reach a specified treatment trigger level. These levels are set at a low level by international standards.

During the Dec 2011-Jan 2012 period elevated sea lice levels were recorded at 4 sites.

In these cases notices to carry out lice treatments have been issued to the operators and the sites in question are subject to follow up inspections by the Marine Institute to assess the efficacy of the treatments applied.

The lice monitoring and control programme in place in Ireland is comprehensive and transparent with all farms inspected 14 times per annum by independent inspectors from the Marine Institute, acting on behalf of my Department. The results are circulated to all interested parties monthly and published annually. The Irish monitoring and control programme is unique in that it is completely independent of industry and the full results are published. It is comprehensive in that all farms and all sites are inspected. The monitoring and control programme in Ireland is more advanced than that in any other jurisdiction and has been acknowledged by the Environment Directorate (DG Environment) of the EU Commission as representing international best practice.

Grant Payments

Paul Connaughton

Question:

160 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway did not receive their full single farm payment and considering they were not given the opportunity of an appeal which seems to be very unfair, if he will further examine this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7028/12]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme /Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 16th May 2011. This application was selected for a ground eligibility/cross compliance inspection. During the course of this inspection discrepancies were found that resulted in a claimed area of 27.37ha being reduced to 25.37ha. If the total area found is not sufficient to support the number of entitlements held penalties will be applied per the Terms and Conditions of the scheme. In this case the number entitlements held by the person named is 34.22. As the difference between the area declared and the area found is more than 3%, under EU Regulations, the difference between the area found and the area claimed is doubled and deducted from the area found. As a result the area put forward for payment under the Single Payment Scheme was 21.37ha.

The person named was informed of this decision by formal notice on 13 January 2012 and of his right to seek a review. He was also informed of his right to appeal the outcome of any such review to the Independent Agriculture Appeals Office. To date there is no record of such a request being made but this question will be taken as such a request and the review will be considered. The person named will be informed of the outcome as soon as it is available.

Payment under the Single Payment Scheme was made on 19 January 2012 with payment under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme made on 14 January 2012, in respect of the reduced area.

Departmental Schemes

Thomas Pringle

Question:

161 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that will face a reduction in their payments under the disadvantaged area scheme as a result of the changes announced in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7111/12]

It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions. The Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission's response is expected shortly.

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

The savings will be achieved without the need to reduce the existing rates of aid and, in addition, there will also be no reduction in the maximum area payable — 34 hectares. The proposed changes are designed to ensure that the payments under the Scheme are focused on those farmers who (i) are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, (ii) make a significant contribution to the maintenance of a viable rural community and (iii) contribute to the enhancement of the environment.

In view of the above, it will be appreciated that, given the range of variables, it is not possible to be definitive as to the effect the changes will have on farmers in any given county. You should, of course, also be mindful of the need to obtain the agreement of the EU Commission to the implementation of the proposals.

Food Safety

Noel Grealish

Question:

162 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the obligation he has, with reference to the farm-to-fork traceability requirements, regarding the movement of animals within the State without passports; the consequence of such movement of animals without proper documentation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7113/12]

Regulation (EC) No. 178 of 2002, which sets out the general principles and requirements of EU food law, stipulates among other things, that food business operators at all stages of production, processing and distribution within the businesses under their control must ensure that foods satisfy the requirements of food law and that these requirements are met. On traceability, the regulations require that the operator must have systems in place to be able to identify any person from whom they have been supplied with a food. They must also have a system in place to identify the other businesses to which their product has been supplied.

There are a number of Statutory Instruments (S.I.s) covering the identification and traceability requirements of animals in this State.

S.I. No. 77 of 2009 (European Communities (Identification of Bovines) Regulations 2009), sets out the legal obligation to tag a bovine animal. The Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) Database that records the registration and movement of all bovine animals is programmed in such a manner that any bovine without a passport that is presented for sale or slaughter will not be accepted. S.I. No. 357 of 2011 (European Communities (Equine) Regulations 2011 requires that a person shall not have in his or her possession an equine animal unless it is identified before 31st December in the year of birth or within six months following the date of its birth, whichever date occurs later.

Additional information on the requirements and practices for identification of individual species is set out below:

Checks on sheep identity at meat plants are mostly visual, although some use is made of scanners. (S.I. No. 309 of 2011 European Communities (Sheep Identification) Regulations 2011 and S.I. No. 281 of 2011 Diseases of Animals Act 1966 (National Sheep Identification System) Order 2001).

The National Pig Identification and Tracing System (NPITS) records all movements of pigs to factories. Identity checks on pigs at meat plants are usually done by visual examination of the slap mark on the skin of the animals, and identification is by herd basis rather than by individual pig. (S.I. No. 341 of 2002 Diseases of Animals Act 1966 (National Pig Identification and Tracing System) Order 2002).

In the case of poultry, it is not a requirement to individually identify every bird, or to health mark the carcass. However, there remains a general requirement for the FBO and Department staff to be satisfied as to the origin of the flock before allowing slaughter of birds for human consumption. (S.I. No. 432 of 2009 European Communities (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2009).

The penalties imposed for not adhering to these obligations are stipulated in the S.I.s listed.

Grant Payments

James Bannon

Question:

163 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has not been paid under the suckler welfare scheme in respect of nine animals which were, in keeping with their normal practice, introduced to a creep feeder as early as August, to which they had access until troughs were introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7176/12]

The person named registered twenty beef breed animals under the 2009 Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme. Following the completion of the validation process ten of the animals were deemed eligible and payment was issued to the applicant. The applicant was informed by my Department that the other ten animals were rejected for payment as meal was not provided to nine of them for the required four weeks before weaning and seven were not disbudded within the three week period, as specified in the Terms and Conditions of Suckler Welfare Scheme. A request for a review of this decision was received from the person named on 25 January 2012. Following the initial examination of the application, it was necessary to seek further information from the applicant. My Department will consider the application further on receipt of the requested information.

Animal Diseases

Michael Creed

Question:

164 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason he has not considered depopulation in view of the health circumstances of a herd (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7182/12]

There have been a number of TB breakdowns in the herd in question since December 2010, the most recent in January 2012 when 3 reactors were disclosed. With regard to depopulation, the policy of my Department in relation to TB is to depopulate herds only as a last resort. Experience has shown that depopulation, which is extremely costly, is rarely necessary and that, in most cases, the herd can be cleared of the disease through a combination of tuberculin testing and blood testing (Gamma Interferon). I accept that it is obviously worrying and frustrating for the herdowner in question to have his herd restricted. However, since more than 10% of his herd has been removed in the most recent breakdown, he is in principle eligible for payments under the Income Supplement scheme which is designed to alleviate income difficulties due to restrictions placed on herds arising from an outbreak of TB. The situation is being monitored and full depopulation will be reviewed following receipt of the Gamma Interferon Blood test result and the report on the forthcoming tuberculin reactor retest.

Grant Payments

Michael Creed

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of installation aid and early retirement scheme applications that were received in his Department after 14 October 2008; if he will provide a breakdown of the locations from which these applications were received; the number of these applications that subsequently required additional information and documentation; the number of these applications that were approved for payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7183/12]

A total of 139 applications were received under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme following the suspension of the Scheme for new applications on 14 October 2008. It is not possible at this stage to determine the locations where these applications were received. Two cases were subsequently processed following successful appeals to the Agriculture Appeals Office. This has resulted in one payment under the Scheme, whilst the second application is still under consideration.

With regard to the Early Retirement Scheme, it is not possible to provide this information in the required time. I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Forestry Sector

Michael McNamara

Question:

166 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he will put in place to ensure funding for the establishment of agroforestry systems, which have the potential to boost the economy and create hundreds of jobs and training opportunities as well as being good for the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7184/12]

Agroforestry affords farmers considerable scope to integrate the growing of trees, for commercial, amenity and/or environmental reasons, with crop or livestock production on the same unit of land.

The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 identified agroforestry as providing considerable potential on many Irish farms to plant trees in ways which contribute actively to a better environment, and which complement existing farming practice .

However, agroforestry is not widely practised in Ireland and there has been little demand for the introduction of an "agroforestry scheme". This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that agroforestry projects are not eligible to forest premiums under the current Rural Development Regulation (Council Regulation 1698/2005).

While there appears to be an increasing interest in agroforestry among some farmers, there are no immediate plans to introduce a specific agroforestry scheme at this time. However, agroforestry is one of a number of forestry measures that my Department is currently examining in the context of the recent draft EU proposal for a Regulation to support rural development under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) 2014 to 2020. Discussions on the draft Regulation are continuing at EU level.

Direct Payment Schemes

Michael Moynihan

Question:

167 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when is he going to introduce an agri-environment options 3 scheme. [7203/12]

Despite the financial pressures facing my Department I have made provision in 2012 for €243 million under agri-environment schemes. I am also considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS on an amended basis or limited scale in 2012. This decision will be taken in the context of my Department's expenditure ceiling for 2013 as agreed by the Government, and in particular, on how a new scheme might be funded within the reduced funding and resulting pressures on the Vote. I will make an announcement on this matter in due course.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

168 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress he has made in the implementation of the €150 per hectare Natura payment which was promised to farmers in agri-environment options scheme 1 and AEOS 2. [7204/12]

When AEOS was launched, the intention had been to increase the rate for designated land from the €75 per hectare which was originally announced, to €150 per hectare and my Department had been in discussion with the Commission with a view to obtaining approval for this proposal. However, given the current financial constraints and the overall funding limits which have been introduced in the National Recovery Plan and in order to ensure that as many applicants as possible could be accepted into AEOS II, I decided that the rate for designated land would remain at €75 per hectare.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

169 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine since the TAMS was reopened at the end of 2011, the number of farmers that have applied under each scheme so far. [7205/12]

The numbers of applications received by my Department under the TAMS since their reopening in December 2011 are as follows:

Scheme

Number

Dairy Equipment

975

Rainwater Harvesting

11

Sheep Fencing/Handling

70

Sow Welfare

5

Total

1,061

In the case of the Bioenergy Scheme 2012 which was launched on 8 December 2011, the closing date for receipt of applications was 27 January 2012 and 61 applications had been received by that date.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

170 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the allocations under each tranche for the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme and for all schemes between now and the end of 2013. [7206/12]

Subject to the availability of funding, the proposed tranches for the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) up to the end of 2013 are as follows:

Dairy Equipment Scheme

Tranche No.

Date

Amount (€m)

1

31 January 2012

4.425

2

30 April 2012

4.425

3

31 July 2012

4.425

4

31 October 2012

4.425

5

31 January 2013

4.425

6

31 May 2013

4.425

7

31 August 2013

4.425

8

31 December 2013

4.425

Total

35.400

Rainwater Harvesting Scheme

Tranche No.

Date

Amount (€m)

1

31 March 2012

0.996

2

30 June 2012

0.996

3

30 September 2012

0.996

4

31 December 2012

0.996

5

31 March 2013

0.996

6

30 June 2013

0.996

7

30 September 2013

0.996

8

31 December 2013

1.000

Total

7.972

Sheep Fencing/Handling Scheme

Tranche No.

Date

Amount (€m)

1

29 February 2012

0.721

2

31 May 2012

0.721

3

31 August 2012

0.721

4

30 November 2012

0.721

5

31 March 2013

0.721

6

30 June 2013

0.721

7

30 September 2013

0.721

8

31 December 2013

0.721

Total

5.768

Sow Welfare Scheme

Tranche No.

Date

Amount (€m)

1

31 March 2012

5.380

2

30 June 2012

5.380

Total

10.760

Bioenergy Scheme

The Bioenergy Scheme 2012 was launched on 8 December 2011 with an allocation of €1.6 million. The allocation of funds for the Bioenergy Scheme in 2013 will be a matter for consideration in the context of the 2013 Estimates process.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Michael Moynihan

Question:

171 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the changes that he has made to the disadvantaged areas scheme for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7208/12]

Michael Moynihan

Question:

172 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that will be affected by the changes in the criteria for the disadvantaged areas in 2012. [7209/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together.

It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland's total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of in excess of 100,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions. The Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland's Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission's response is expected shortly.

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

The savings will be achieved without the need to reduce the existing rates of aid and, in addition, there will also be no reduction in the maximum area payable — 34 hectares. The proposed changes are designed to ensure that the payments under the Scheme are focused on those farmers who (i) are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, (ii) make a significant contribution to the maintenance of a viable rural community and (iii) contribute to the enhancement of the environment.

In view of the above, it will be appreciated that, given the range of variables, it is not possible to be definitive as to the effect the changes will have on farmers in any given county. You should, of course, also be mindful of the need to obtain the agreement of the EU Commission to the implementation of the proposals.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Michael Moynihan

Question:

173 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his proposals to reduce the compliance costs under the REPS 4 scheme as a result of the decision to reduce payments by 10% in 2012. [7210/12]

I remain committed to supporting farmers who choose to farm to environmentally friendly practices and to ensuring that these farmers are rewarded for their efforts. However, given the state of the public finances I had no option but to announce a 10% cut in the rate of payment to existing REPS applicants. This cut, which will apply to 2012 payments onwards is subject to the approval of the Commission. It is not proposed to alter the scheme conditions as a consequence of this proposed cut and compliance with the existing conditions of the scheme will remain in place for participating farmers.

Grant Payments

Michael Moynihan

Question:

174 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers who were inspected under the single farm payment in 2011; and of that number, the number of them that are still awaiting their single farm payment. [7211/12]

In the context of delivering the Single Payment Scheme, my Department is required to carry out inspections on a number of farms covering land eligibility and cross-compliance.

A minimum of 5% of Single Payment Scheme applicants are required to be inspected under the eligibility rule. These checks are carried out to verify that the actual area claimed in the Single Payment Scheme application form corresponds to the area held by the farmer and to ensure there are no overlapping or duplicate claims. Up to two-thirds of these inspections are carried out without a farm visit and using the technique of "remote sensing".

The rate of on-farm inspection required for cross-compliance is 1% of those farmers to whom the Statutory Management Requirements and Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) apply. Under the relevant regulations 3% of producers must be inspected under the Bovine Animal Identification and Registration requirements together with 3% of sheep/goat producers covering 5% of the National flock.

It is a regulatory requirement that eligibility inspections must be finalised before any payments can issue in a given year. On the other hand, Cross Compliance inspections take place throughout the calendar year and can be carried out after the payment has been made. Insofar as possible the Department tries to integrate some of the eligibility and cross-compliance inspections. Some 11,900 farmers were inspected under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme. While all eligibility inspections were carried out before payments commenced a total of 75 farmers who were subject to inspection are still awaiting payment.

The main reason for the delay in payment is the need to have digitising amendments made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. Over 90% of cases that were subject to land eligibility inspections in 2011 had to have their maps re-digitised.

All outstanding cases are being processed and it is anticipated the payment will issue in these cases shortly.

Departmental Schemes

Michael Moynihan

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of a stimulus for the agricultural sector, his plans for the reintroduction of the young farmers’ installation aid. [7212/12]

The Young Farmers' Installation Scheme was closed to new applicants on 14 October 2008 and I have no plans to reopen the Scheme at this time. An allocation of €150,000 has been provided in this year's Estimates to meet the remaining commitments under both the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme and the preceding equivalent schemes.

Grant Payments

Michael Moynihan

Question:

176 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that have been paid agri environmental options scheme 1 and AEOS 2 on a county basis. [7213/12]

The table that follows details the number of applicants who have received a payment under the Agri Environment Options Scheme 1 for (i) the 2010 Scheme year and (ii) the 2011 Scheme year on a county by county basis. A further 529 applicants have either withdrawn or been rejected from the scheme following initial approval into the scheme (not available on a county by county basis).

County

Applicants Paid 2010

Applications Paid 2011

Carlow

86

40

Cavan

189

83

Clare

318

150

Cork

371

150

Donegal

543

259

Dublin

11

4

Galway

664

304

Kerry

255

132

Kildare

70

25

Kilkenny

231

75

Laois

138

39

Leitrim

353

153

Limerick

213

70

Longford

85

35

Louth

45

19

Mayo

698

317

Meath

149

56

Monaghan

214

86

Offaly

111

49

Roscommon

337

159

Sligo

254

128

Tipperary

320

134

Waterford

110

31

Westmeath

215

102

Wexford

127

56

Wicklow

81

27

Total

6,188

2,683

Checks are ongoing and my Department is dealing with applications on which queries and issues arose in the course of the administrative checking process. Further payments are issuing on an ongoing basis as these queries are resolved.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check of all applications, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. This process is under way with a view to commencing payments as soon as possible. In the event of any queries arising from these checks, my Department will be in direct contact with the applicants to have them resolved.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

177 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when will all agri environment options scheme payments be made. [7214/12]

Under EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. This administration check has been completed in relation to Agri Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) 1 and my Department is now dealing with the discrepancies that have arisen on individual files following this check. I have given the highest priority to the processing and payment of outstanding AEOS payments and to the elimination of all unnecessary delays.

Under AEOS 1, payments in respect of the 2010 Scheme year commenced in August 2010 and are continuing to issue to outstanding applicants on an ongoing basis as outstanding queries are resolved, while payments in respect of the 2011 year have also commenced.

In relation to AEOS 2, this checking process is under way with a view to commencing payments as soon as possible. In the event of any queries arising from these checks, my Department will be in direct contact with the applicants to have them resolved.

Proposed Legislation

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

178 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reasons she will not introduce legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. [7046/12]

The Adoption Act already provides that an individual habitually resident in the State, or a couple married to each other, each of whom is habitually resident in the State, may apply to the Health Service Executive for an assessment of eligibility and suitability to adopt. It is currently not possible for two unmarried persons to jointly adopt a child in Ireland.

At present there are no legislative proposals in relation to this matter.

Children in Care

Robert Dowds

Question:

179 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount spent on sending children in care abroad, either for treatment and or for residential services, per year in the past three years for which figures are available. [7168/12]

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.

Robert Dowds

Question:

180 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the percentage of children in care who were assessed for after care service needs before they turned 18 years in each of the three most recent years for which figures are available. [7169/12]

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.

Health Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

181 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if additional staffing will be allocated to the community nursing unit of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6957/12]

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

Hospital Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

182 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of vacancies by grade currently at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; if these vacancies will be filled as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6958/12]

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

Medical Cards

Billy Kelleher

Question:

183 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an over 70s medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6960/12]

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

Health Services

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

184 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Health the level of State support and resources available to sufferers of Lupus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6971/12]

The diagnosis and management of Lupus takes place in a number of healthcare settings. Patients with Lupus are generally under the care of a rheumatologist and other specialists as necessary, such as dermatologists. Any person may be referred to their local hospital by their GP.

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.

Under the provisions of the Health Act 1970, medical cards are provided to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. The assessment for a medical card is based on the means of the applicant and his/her dependants.

At my request the HSE recently set up a clinical panel to assist in the processing of applications for discretionary medical cards where there are difficult personal circumstances. This should be of particular benefit to persons whose income is in excess of the standard income guidelines.

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

185 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Health if he has considered introducing a national campaign to provide information regarding Lupus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6972/12]

There are no plans at present for a national campaign to provide information regarding Lupus; however the HSE can commit to making arrangements to meet the Lupus patient group to discuss their suggestions on this matter — if that would be helpful. The National Advocacy Unit would be happy to facilitate such a meeting and they will listen to the concerns of patients with Lupus and ensure the feedback is considered by the HSE. The National Advocacy Unit can be contacted at www.yourserviceyoursay.ie or 045 880400.

Departmental Expenditure

Heather Humphreys

Question:

186 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health the cost savings he hopes to achieve as part of the new health service plan in the area of administration; the way this figure compares to savings he hopes to achieve on front-line services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6973/12]

The HSE National Service Plan 2012 sets out the health and personal social services that will be delivered by the HSE within its current budget of €13.317bn and identifies a cost reduction target in 2012 of €750m. The Service Plan reflects the Programme for Government commitments for health and the savings targets set out in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014.

The scale of the financial challenge facing the HSE means that there will be an inevitable and unavoidable reduction in services but it will not be a "straight line reduction". In developing the Plan, my Department and the HSE undertook a rigorous examination of budget allocations across the care programme areas, with the explicit aim of reducing the impact on frontline services and identifying where efficiencies will be driven. This process involved re-prioritising funding to protect areas of greatest need and meet Programme for Government commitments.

The pay and pension provisions in the Plan are based on about 3,000 WTE exits and I intend to review the Service Plan in March in the light of the numbers actually retiring. As part of my Department's Comprehensive Expenditure Review, I proposed to commission a systematic and robust review of the number and deployment of management and administration staff at corporate, regional, ISA and local health office levels to establish the scope which exists for further savings in administration, in order to protect front-line services. This exercise will best be conducted when the full impact of retirements up to February 2012 is known.

The HSE is currently finalising detailed service plans at regional level and these regional plans will take account of the effect of the reduction in both staff numbers and budgets, as well as the service areas identified for priority development under the National Service Plan. Contingency plans are being developed to address the impact of the retirements. These will include measures under the Public Service Agreement to achieve increased flexibility in relation to work practices and rosters, redeployment and other changes to achieve more efficient delivery of services. Some management structures and services will be amalgamated and streamlined, cross-cover arrangements will be put in place wherever possible and where clinical management numbers have been reduced.

It is clear that 2012 will be a very challenging year for the health services. The Service Plan commits the HSE to minimising the impact on services by fast tracking new, innovative and more efficient ways of using reduced resources. It reflects the need to move to new models of care across all service areas which will treat patients at the lowest level of complexity and provide quality services at the least possible cost. It also includes a commitment to addressing staffing levels, skill mix and staff attendance patterns/rosters within the context of the Public Service Agreement. The Plan will be implemented in the context of the significant new governance structures for the health services which I recently announced.

Health Services

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

187 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 540 of 8 November 2011, if he will provide the details of the services offered to a person (details supplied); if these would be as beneficial as the services offered by the clinic in England of which the Health Service Executive is aware; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6979/12]

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

Hospitals Building Programme

Tom Fleming

Question:

188 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health the date on which Tralee Community Hospital, County Kerry, will open; the number of staff who will be employed in the hospital; where he proposes to take these employees from; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6981/12]

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

Medical Cards

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

189 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Health when a decision will be made on a medical card application in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Mayo. [7021/12]

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

Under new procedures, a Medical Card will remain valid, irrespective of the expiry date shown on the card, once the Medical Card holder is genuinely engaging with the HSE review process. Eligibility can be confirmed by any Doctor or Pharmacist, or the Medical Card holder online at www.medicalcard.ie or through the GP practice systems.

Services for People with Disabilities

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

190 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health the extent of respite service reductions for autistic children attending a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; if the decision will be reversed in view of the importance of respite to such families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7032/12]

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

Mental Health Services

Dan Neville

Question:

191 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health about the working relationship proposal between the primary care teams, as outlined, and the multidisciplinary community mental health teams. [7098/12]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to introducing a better and more efficient health system, a single-tier health service that will deliver equal access to care based on need, not income. The development of primary care services must be an essential component of the health service reform process. In a developed primary care system, up to 95 per cent of people's day-to-day health and social care needs can be met in the primary care setting.

Fully developed Primary Care Teams would give people direct access to integrated multidisciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others. There are currently 425 Primary Care Teams in place, albeit at varying stages of development. The HSE has committed in its Service Plan to having 489 operational teams in place by the end of this year.

It is hoped that Primary Care Teams will be supported by a wider range of professionals, including pharmacists, dieticians, psychologists and chiropodists who will form a Health and Social Care Network. The vast majority of specialist based services could be organised at this level, including Community Mental Health Community Teams. Guiding the development of our mental health services is A Vision for Change, which is predicated on the existence of a robust primary care system. When an individual experiences a mental health problem, their first formal attempt to seek help is usually to contact their General Practitioner or other member of a Primary Care Team. This contact can be the key to a timely and successful resolution of their mental health problem.

Chapter Seven of "A Vision for Change” makes recommendations in respect of the provision of mental health care in a primary care setting. A key aim is to develop a flexible model of collaborative working between primary care and mental health services which enhances GPs’ skills in identifying and treating mental illness and emphasises the development of close linkages between the two services.

Through the "Shared Care Model”and the “Team based approach to Mental Health in Primary Care”, the primary care setting can provide sufficient access to appropriate care for people with short-term mental health difficulties and can also balance the need to ensure that needs of people with severe and enduring mental health problems are not overlooked.

The Shared Care model allows for the appropriate provision of mental health care at primary care level, along with access to advice, routine and crisis referral to the local CMHT, with a single point of access for referral. It may also be possible to create links with the mental health professionals in community services in order to provide this primary care level of mental health input. This currently happens to some extent with services for children and it is recommended that this be extended to cover work with adults in primary care. The shared care model can be seen to offer the ‘best of both worlds' with the opportunity to provide good-quality holistic care. It is envisaged that a shared care model would lead to a pooling of expertise and enhanced creativity in problem-solving.

Health Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

192 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will urgently review a matter in respect of a person (details supplied). [7116/12]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Finian McGrath

Question:

193 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an operation in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [7126/12]

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.

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

Medical Cards

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

194 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been waiting since August 2011 to receive a renewed medical card and a medical card in respect of the person’s spouse despite being in recovery for cancer, regularly have to attend a GP and doctor and having twice through registered post sent additional information to the PCRS as requested. [7129/12]

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

Anne Ferris

Question:

195 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Health if a medical cardholder may continue to use a medical card while a review of the person’s renewal application is being considered in view of the long delays in the medical card section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7138/12]

Under new procedures, a Medical Card will remain valid, irrespective of the expiry date shown on the card, once the Medical Card holder is genuinely engaging with the HSE review process. Eligibility can be confirmed by any Doctor or Pharmacist, or the Medical Card holder online at www.medicalcard.ie or through the GP practice systems.

Hospital Staff

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

196 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health when diabetes nurse specialist posts planned for University College Hospital, Galway are likely to be filled by the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7141/12]

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

Medical Cards

Billy Timmins

Question:

197 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7147/12]

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

Heather Humphreys

Question:

198 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan may expect to receive a decision on a medical card application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7160/12]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Catherine Byrne

Question:

199 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the way the nursing home support scheme is being funded; the amount that has been allocated to operate this fund; the number of applications that have been received to date; the number of applications that have been successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7165/12]

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme is funded from a dedicated subhead for long-term residential care (subhead B12) in the HSE Vote. Subhead B12 is the budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme albeit that transitional arrangements must also be facilitated from within the subhead, i.e. people in contract beds, people who choose to remain on subvention and people paying in-patient charges in public nursing homes. In 2011, there was €963m available for long-term residential care. Subhead B12 in the published Estimates for Public Services 2012 contains a total provision of €1,049,710 for long-term residential care. However, this figure includes an amount for ancillary costs associated with long-term residential care for older people.

The HSE received 9,323 applications for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme in 2011. In the same period, 10,671 applications (some of which would have been received in 2010) were processed to conclusion. This figure includes approximately 2,700 applications which were withdrawn by the applicant. There were just over 3,100 applications in progress at end-December. However, it should be noted that a significant volume of applications are submitted without the necessary supporting documentation. This can create delays which are outside of the HSE's control.

Mental Health Services

Robert Dowds

Question:

200 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health if it is the case that no after-hours work or agency staffing has been authorised to support mental health services since the beginning of the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7166/12]

The expenditure reductions necessary in 2012 will challenge all areas of the health system to provide continuity of services that are both appropriate and safe for patients. Like other care areas, efficiency and other savings will be required from the Mental Health Service. In this context, the HSE is seeking to reduce dependency on both overtime and agency staffing right across the health service. While some of these costs are still necessary, decisions on allowing these are based on need and within available resources at each area level.

Health Service Reform

Robert Dowds

Question:

201 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health which of the seven new directorates which he intends to establish as part of reforming the health service will be responsible for public nursing homes. [7167/12]

The Minister for Health will be bringing legislation forward involving significant changes in the governance of the HSE. The legislation will abolish the Board of the HSE and will replace the Board structure with a Directorate structure. In tandem with the proposed legal structures, new administrative arrangements will be put in place within the HSE which will reflect the need for greater operational management focus on the delivery of key services, including HSE residential services for older people.

The legislation to give effect to these changes will be given a clear priority by the Government in 2012. Following that legislation, the positioning of all services will be determined by the Minister.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

202 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite an urgent application for the fair deal scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [7185/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

203 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if he will provide the breakdown, by profession and-or responsibility, of the total expected departure of all health service employees by the end of the current month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7217/12]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

208 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the detail of his dynamic contingency plan to address the imminent crisis that will present following the signalled departure of up to 3,700 employees across the health service. [7222/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 208 together.

The Government has determined that, in line with its commitment to reduce the size of the public service, health sector employment numbers must be reduced to approximately 102,000 in 2012. The cumulative impact of staff reductions from this year and previous years represents a significant challenge for the health system in delivering services. The priority is to reform how health services are delivered in order to ensure a more productive and cost effective health system.

The most recent information available from the HSE indicates that, over the period from September 2011 to end-February 2012, some 3,800 health service staff will have retired from the health service. Of this total, approximately 2,200 persons (54%) have already retired during the five-month period to the end of January 2012, while the remainder have indicated that they will leave by the end of February 2012. It should be noted that these figures refer to the number of individuals rather than wholetime equivalents (WTE). It should also be noted that this data is subject to change in the event of additional applications being received or existing applications being withdrawn.

Contingency planning is being undertaken as part of the annual National Service Planning process. All factors, including budgets, staffing levels and other emerging issues, including the impact of "Grace Period" retirements are being factored into the regional plans which the HSE is currently finalising. I also intend to review the HSE Service Plan once the full impact of staff leaving at the end of the 29 February "grace period" is known.

The scale of retirements to take place by 29th February 2012 will prove challenging for the health services. The HSE is seeking to mitigate the impact of these retirements through the implementation of the National Clinical Programmes, targeted investment and recruitment as set out in the National Service Plan and in utilising the provisions of the Public Service Agreement (PSA) to bring about greater flexibilities. The measures under the PSA include flexibilities in work practices and rosters, redeployment and other changes to achieve more efficient delivery of services.

The following table sets out the latest data from HSE broken down by grade:

Retirements by Grade as at 1st Feb 2012

Grade at Retirement

Total

Advanced Nurse Practitioner (General)

1

Ambulance Officer

2

Area Medical Officer

11

Area Medical Officer — Senior

6

Associate Specialist

1

Attendant, Multi-Task

161

Attendant/Aide

93

Biochemist

1

Biochemist, Principal

1

Boilerman

7

C.S.S.D. Operative

11

Cardiac Catheterisation Tech., Senior

1

Care Assistant (Intellectual Disability Services)

82

Care Group Specialist

1

Caretaker

12

Casualty Officer

1

Catering Officer Grade I

2

Catering Officer, Grade II

4

Catering Supervisor

2

Catering/Cleaner/Assistant

40

Chaplain

5

Chargehand

3

Chef I

10

Chef II

8

Chef, Senior

2

Chief Executive Officer

2

Child Care Manager

9

Chiropodist/ Podiatrist

1

Cleaner

6

Clerical Officer

131

Clerk of Works

1

Clinical Nurse Instructor/Teacher

2

Clinical Nurse Manager 1

78

Clinical Nurse Manager 1 (Mental Health)

10

Clinical Nurse Manager 2

196

Clinical Nurse Manager 2 — Night

6

Clinical Nurse Manager 2 — Theatre

2

Clinical Nurse Manager 2 (Mental Health)

89

Clinical Nurse Manager 3

29

Clinical Nurse Manager 3 — Night

6

Clinical Nurse Manager 3 — Theatre

1

Clinical Nurse Manager 3 (Mental Health)

4

Clinical Nurse Specialist (General)

22

Clinical Nurse Specialist (Mental Health)

11

Clinical Photographer, Senior

1

Community Welfare Officer

13

Community Welfare Officer, Supt.

3

Consultant Anaesthetist

14

Consultant Cardiologist

1

Consultant Chemical Pathologist

2

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

1

Consultant General Adult Psychiatrist

11

Consultant General Paediatrician

4

Consultant General Physician

6

Consultant General Surgeon

14

Consultant Histopathologist

1

Consultant in Emergency Medicine

1

Consultant Learning Disability Psychiatry Child

3

Consultant Medical Oncologist

1

Consultant Nephrologist and General Physician

1

Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

4

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

4

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

1

Consultant Paediatric Surgeon

1

Consultant Physician in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics

1

Consultant Psychiatrist in the Psychiatry of Old Age

2

Consultant Psychiatrist of Learning Disability (adult)

4

Consultant Radiologist

8

Consultant Unclassified

6

Consultant Urologist

2

Cook, Trainee

1

Counsellor

5

Counsellor / Therapist (National Counselling Services)

1

Counsellor Therapist (Adult Counselling Services)

2

Craftsman’s Mate

13

Dental Nurse

9

Dental Surgeon, General

7

Dental Surgeon, Principal

2

Dental Surgeon, Senior

4

Dental Surgeon, Senior Administrative

1

Dental Surgery Assistant (without qualification)

12

Dietician Manager

3

Dietician Manager-In-Charge III

1

Dietician, Senior

2

Director of Nursing/ Midwifery Education Centre

1

Director of Care

1

Director of Nursing and Midwifery

1

Director of Nursing (Mental Health)

1

Director of Nursing (Mental Health), Assistant

20

Director of Nursing 1

9

Director of Nursing 1, Assistant

22

Director of Nursing 2

2

Director of Nursing 2, Assistant

14

Director of Nursing 3

3

Director of Nursing 4

7

Director of Nursing 4, Assistant

5

Director of Nursing 5

4

Director of Nursing, Deputy

3

Director of Public Health Nursing

9

Director of Public Health Nursing, Assistant

23

Domestic

115

Domestic Supervisor

2

Driver

18

Driver (Doctor-on-call)

2

Driver (Patients/Clients on Public Roads)

4

Driver, Minibus

6

E.C.G. Technician

1

Electrician

5

Emergency Medical Controller

3

Emergency Medical Controller — Team Leader

1

Emergency Medical Technician (Ambulance Attendant)

7

Emergency Medical Technician (Ambulance Driver)

17

Emergency Medical Technician, Leading

3

Engineer/Engineering Officer

1

Environmental Health Officer

2

Environmental Health Officer, Principal

5

Family Support Worker

12

Functional Officer

3

Gardener/Groundsman

2

Gardener/Groundsman Head

1

General Assistant

4

General Manager

5

General Operative

12

Grade IV

70

Grade V

28

Grade VI

26

Grade VII

25

Grade VIII

20

Health Care Assistants

60

Health Promotion Officer

1

Home Help

192

Home Help Co-Ordinator

3

Hostel Supervisor

8

House Officer, Senior

2

Household Services Manager

1

Housekeeper

3

Housekeeper, Assistant

5

Instructor

18

Laboratory Manager

3

Labourer

1

Laundry Worker

8

Linen Room/Laundry Supervisor

1

Local Health Office Manager — PCCC (HSE)

2

Maintenance Craftsman/Technician

13

Maintenance Foreman

10

Maintenance Foreman, Assistant

1

Maintenance Manager

3

Maintenance Officer

2

Medical Laboratory Aide

1

Medical Officer

11

Medical Officer, Principal

1

Medical Officer, Senior

2

Medical Scientist

27

Medical Scientist, Chief

17

Medical Scientist, Senior

26

Medical Scientist, Specialist

1

Miscellaneous Childcare, Support Services

1

National Director, Assistant (PCCC/NHO/Pop Health)

1

National Planning Specialist

1

Neurophysiological Measurement Technician, Senior

1

Nurse Tutor

1

Nurse Tutor (Psychiatric)

2

Nurse, Mental Health Community

1

Nursery Nurse

3

Nurses Aide

1

Nursing/Midwifery Clinical Placement Co-ordinator

1

Occupational Health Physician

1

Occupational Therapist

1

Occupational Therapist Manager

3

Occupational Therapist, Senior

12

Occupational Therapy Assistant

1

Orthoptist, Senior

3

Other Patient and Client Care Unclassified

1

Painter

3

Pathology Technician, Senior

2

Pensioners

12

Pharmaceutical Technician

1

Pharmaceutical Technician, Senior

1

Pharmacist

1

Pharmacist, Chief II

1

Pharmacist, Senior

3

Pharmacy Assistant

1

Phlebotomist

7

Phlebotomist, Senior

1

Physiotherapist

1

Physiotherapist Manager

2

Physiotherapist, Senior

6

Physiotherapist-in-charge (Grade III)

1

Physiotherapy Assistant

1

Play Therapist, Senior

1

Plumber

3

Porter

35

Porter, Head

3

Porter, Theatre

7

Programme Manager

2

Project Manager

1

Project Worker

3

Psychologist, Clinical

4

Psychologist, Principal Clinical

6

Psychologist, Senior Clinical

11

Public Health Nurse

101

Public Health, Specialist

3

Radiation Therapist, Clinical Specialist

2

Radiographer

6

Radiographer, Clinical Specialist

3

Radiographer, Senior

6

Radiography Aide

1

Radiography Service Manager, I

5

Radiography Service manager, II

2

Registrar

3

Registrar, Senior

1

Respiratory Technician, Senior

1

S.E.N. (General)

8

S.E.N. (Psychiatric)

1

Seamstress/Tailor

5

Security Guard

2

Service Function Officer

1

Social Care Leader

25

Social Care Manager

3

Social Care Worker

37

Social Work Practitioner, Senior

9

Social Worker

20

Social Worker (Non-professionally qualified)

3

Social Worker, Medical

3

Social Worker, Principal

18

Social Worker, Psychiatric Senior

3

Social Worker, Senior Medical

2

Social Worker, Team Leader

13

Speech and Language Therapist

1

Speech and Language Therapist Manager

4

Speech and Language Therapist, Clinical Specialist

1

Speech and Language Therapist, Senior

2

Staff Midwife

19

Staff Midwife, Senior

18

Staff Nurse — General

369

Staff Nurse — Intellectual Disability

8

Staff Nurse General (Community)

12

Staff Nurse Senior, Mental Health (Nursing Bank)

1

Staff Nurse, Community Mental Health

8

Staff Nurse, Dual Qualified (General)

34

Staff Nurse, Dual Qualified (Intellectual Disability)

2

Staff Nurse, Dual Qualified (Mental Health)

3

Staff Nurse, Mental Health

113

Staff Nurse, Senior (Dual Qualified)

91

Staff Nurse, Senior (Dual-Qualified Mental Health)

Hospital Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

204 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the number of health service employees at Monaghan General Hospital who have advised of their intention to retire by the end of this month; the number by profession and-or responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7218/12]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

205 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the number of health service employees at Cavan General Hospital who have advised of their intention to retire by the end of this month; the number by profession and-or responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7219/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

206 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the number of health service employees by profession and or responsibility, across the primary, community and continuing care services covering County Monaghan who have advised their intention to retire by the end of this month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7220/12]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

207 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the number of health service employees by profession and or responsibility, across the primary, community and continuing care services covering County Cavan who have advised their intention to retire by the end of this month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7221/12]

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

Question No. 208 answered with Question No. 203.

Hospital Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

209 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the way he proposes to replace the departing midwives at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, County Limerick; if all retiring midwives will be replaced as per his comments on 2 February 2012 suggest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7223/12]

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

Health Services

Tom Fleming

Question:

210 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [7228/12]

As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to examine the case and to reply directly to the Deputy in the matter.

Tourism Industry

Seamus Kirk

Question:

211 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider a heritage trail from Connacht to Cooley based on the Táin Bó Cúailgne saga; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6997/12]

I believe that there is significant potential in projects like this to take advantage of the substantial international market for such trails/walkways/cycleways. The recently opened Mayo Greenway is a prime example of such.

With regard to this specific project, given its size and scale I would envisage that a number of state bodies could be involved including possibly local authorities, the Office of Public Works and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

However in relation to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and its agencies, Fáilte Ireland has the operational responsibility for the development of tourism product. Accordingly, I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Sports Capital Programme

Patrick Nulty

Question:

212 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if sports capital funding will be available in 2012; when this money will be available; the way interested organisations seeking this funding may lodge an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6961/12]

I recently announced that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will be advertising two new rounds of the Sports Capital Programme between now and 2016.

I am currently making the necessary arrangements to launch a new programme. When the terms and conditions have been finalised, full details will appear on my Department's website and in the national press. It will be open to any organisation to submit an application under the terms and conditions that will apply at the launch of the new programme.

Taxi Regulations

Robert Troy

Question:

213 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if taxi licence transfers are still governed by the three-year age of vehicle rule or whether the nine-year rule covers all transfers, as well as new applicants. [6969/12]

The regulation of the taxi industry, including issues relating to regulations about the transferability of small public service vehicles (SPSVs), is a matter in the first instance for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003. I have arranged for your question to be forwarded to the NTA for a direct response. If you do not receive a response within ten working days, please notify my private office.

The position in regard to the current transferability arrangements for taxi vehicle licences was examined during the recent review of the taxi industry that I chaired. The Taxi Regulation Review Report which was published last month, proposes the introduction of a prohibition on the transferability of taxi vehicle licences such that after 1st October 2012 all taxi vehicle licences will be unique to the person to whom the licence has been issued and cannot be transferred or sold to another individual. The full text of the Taxi Regulation Review Report can be accessed on my Department's website.

Road Traffic Offences

Sean Fleming

Question:

214 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether it is fair that the holder of a professional driver’s licence who has not been using his or her vehicle in a professional capacity for a number of years is subject to the lower blood alcohol content limit of 20 mg. [6976/12]

Section 3(1) of the Road Traffic Act 2010 (as amended) provides for the definition of ‘specified person' within the context of the Act. The definition of a specified person includes those drivers who hold licences to drive vehicles in the categories C, C1, D, D1, EB, EC, EC1, ED, ED1 and W. These types of vehicles are usually associated with people who are required to drive on a professional basis. A driver with such a licence, who is driving or attempting to drive a vehicle that falls into these specified categories, will be tested at the lower BAC limit of 20 milligrammes.

In addition, Section 3(1) also defines someone as a specified person if they hold a licence to drive a small public service vehicle granted under section 34 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 or section 82 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. A person who holds such a licence and is driving or attempting to drive such a vehicle in the course of his or her business will also be tested at the BAC limit of 20 milligrammes.

Section 3(2) provides that such licence holders will be treated as specified drivers unless they can show to the contrary that they were not driving a vehicle from the categories specified above or, in the case of small PSVs, that the vehicle was not being used for business purposes at the time of the alleged offence.

I believe these provisions are fair and appropriate and I have no plans to change them.

Road Network

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

215 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the details of the roads projects submitted by Donegal County Council for funding under the specific improvement grants programme for 2012 and the priority order indicated by the council for each road project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6977/12]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

216 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the details of the roads projects in County Donegal granted funding by him under the specific improvement grants programme for 2012; if the approved funding was allocated in accordance with the priority listing allocated to projects by Donegal County Council in its application; if not his reason for not following the council’s requested priority listing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6978/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 216 together.

The initial applications submitted by Donegal County Council to the National Roads Authority (NRA) for funding under the Specific Improvement Grants in 2012, in order of priority, along with the allocation provided in 2012 is outlined in the following table:

Priority

Project

Amount Requested

Amount Allocated

1

R263 Killybegs Industry Road

€200,000

€200,000

2

Kerrykeel — Eelburn

€140,000

€0

3

R245 Woodlands

€290,100

€290,100

4

Tir Chonaill Bridge

€100,000

€100,000

5

Mulantiboyle Bridge

€350,000

€350,000

6

R259 Crolly — Carrickfin

€250,000

€250,000

7

St. Johnston — Tullyowen Road

€300,000

€300,000

Further projects were subsequently submitted by the Council after the specified deadline, however, they were below the threshold for funding under the Specific Improvement Grants Scheme and were therefore not considered for funding.

The only project which did not receive funding in 2012 was the Kerrykeel-Eelburn Project. Donegal County Council received funding of €20,000 for this scheme in 2011 to finish out a section of this road. The NRA understood that this grant would then complete this project. The application submitted for funding in 2012 for Kerrykeel-Eelburn was for additional land acquisition together with road construction. As the application was less than the minimum threshold of €250,000 for a Specific Grant scheme, the NRA did not include it in its list of recommended Specific Grant schemes for Donegal County Council.

Tourism Promotion

Seamus Kirk

Question:

217 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if a tourism potential analysis has been undertaken in regards to the Viking discovery along the mid-Louth coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6995/12]

Responsibility for the development of tourism in individual regions rests with the State tourism agencies. Accordingly, I have referred the Deputy's question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Pension Provisions

Finian McGrath

Question:

218 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding a pension. [7096/12]

Pension entitlements for members, deferred members and pensioners of the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme are a matter for the Trustees of the scheme to address. I understand the relevant parties are in discussions on this matter, which are being facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission. However, I have no function in this regard and my Department is not a party to these discussions.

Road Network

Thomas Pringle

Question:

219 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will reinstate the local improvement scheme funding for local authorities to assist persons upgrade access lanes to their houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7105/12]

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. Given that priority it is not possible to assist with any works on non-public roads.

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.

However, the 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. In the interim, it is open to local authorities to continue to operate the scheme or a similar scheme from their own resources and I am sure they will do so if they consider it to be a good use of limited resources.

Rail Network

Tom Fleming

Question:

220 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will investigate the procurement system by Iarnród Éireann whereby many contractors who are approved by the company for tendering for work on the rail lines are prohibited from quoting for contracts and jobs due to a new policy of only advertising and accepting tenders from contractors who provide the full package of machinery required. [7226/12]

Procurement procedures in Iarnród Éireann are a matter for the company itself and ultimately for the board of Iarnród Éireann. However, CIÉ companies are required to adhere to national and EU procurement rules and to their own internal procurement policies and procedures. The code of practice for the governance of State bodies also stresses the importance of good practice in procurement and states that procedures must be in place in all State bodies to ensure compliance with procurement policy and guidelines.

I have referred the specific issue raised in the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please inform my private office if there is no reply within ten working days.