Written Answers

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

Alternative Energy Projects

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

12 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that the Government will reach its renewable electricity targets for 2020 and if he believes that the recent decision on curtailment by the Single Electricity Market Committee in relation to curtailment will have any effect on this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12852/12]

The Government fully endorses the importance of the contribution of wind energy to energy security and environmental sustainability. Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland has a legally binding renewable energy target of 16% by 2020. The National Renewable Energy Action Plan sets out the strategies for meeting the overall target through delivering 40% in the electricity sector, 10% in the transport sector and 12% in the heat sector.

The latest projections from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) are that approximately 4,000 MW of renewable generation capacity will be required to achieve the electricity target, taking into account also delivery of national energy efficiency targets. At present, there are approximately 1,900 MW of renewable generation built and fully operational. It is necessary to double the amount of renewable generation on the system in order to meet the 2020 target. I am confident that Ireland can meet its 2020 target. However, given the scale of the necessary build-out required, any factor that potentially compromises the level or pace of wind energy development is a matter of serious concern.

Under the existing arrangements, renewable projects currently receive payments from the wholesale electricity market in respect of both "constraints" and "curtailments". Constraints arise where a transmission or distribution line is down for maintenance or due to some local fault. All generation that uses the line must be "constrained" until such time as the line is operational again. Curtailment typically arises where there is high wind at times of low system demand such as the middle of the night. In this scenario wind projects have to be curtailed, that is turned down or off, because the system cannot handle, and does not need, the amount of generation at that particular time.

The Single Electricity Market (SEM) Committee, comprising the energy Regulators North and South and two Independent Members, is statutorily responsible for the regulation and oversight of the single electricity market. The SEM Committee has been considering for some considerable time the future treatment of constraint and curtailment. Following a period of consultation the SEM Committee published its decision on 21 December last in relation to both constraint and curtailment. The terms of the Curtailment Decision took most industry stakeholders by surprise. In the case of constraints, the Committee decided that wind projects with "firm access" (that is fully connected to the system) will receive the market compensation. Projects without firm access as yet will be constrained down first and will not receive market compensation. I understand that this aspect of the decision has not been widely disputed by the industry and was expected.

However despite proposing in consultation that the Committee was minded to apply the curtailment rules pro rata to both existing and new build projects, the Committee's Decision of 21 December decided that grandfathering rights would also apply in the curtailment scenario. New projects until such time as they achieve firm grid access will be curtailed first and will not receive market compensation. By way of background, it should be noted that most wind farms connect to the grid system a few years in advance of a firm connection date. The grandfathering decision, as it stands, would clearly favour existing generation units deemed to have what is termed "firm connection" status. But it places the entire burden of curtailed output on new wind farms pending fully firm connection status.

Modelling done by industry indicates that non-firm wind farms could be affected by being turned down to a significant degree, such that the financial viability of the projects would be threatened. The industry's view is that the decision could slow down new projects by years, putting achievement of the national 2020 target in jeopardy. My Department has asked for a formal analysis of the impact of this decision from the Commission for Energy Regulation and also separately from EirGrid as the Market Operator and Transmission System Operator. The SEAI is providing its own assessment of this decision.

Over the last 2 months my Department has met the Irish Wind Energy Association and individual companies to hear their concerns at first hand. I welcome the fact that the SEM Committee invited industry representative associations to present their concerns and analysis to the members on 23 February. Given the adverse reaction of most of the industry to the decision of the Committee, it was important that industry were given the opportunity to set out their position and bring additional information to the SEM Committee. I am advised that the SEM Committee is now reflecting on those presentations by industry and an outcome to their deliberations is expected over the coming weeks.

Broadcasting Services

Dara Calleary

Question:

13 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he expects to receive the recommendations of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland investigation into the Fr. Kevin Reynolds case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12857/12]

As you are aware, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is an independent regulator responsible for the oversight of compliance in relation to broadcast content. The Compliance Committee monitors and enforces compliance by broadcasters with various aspects of the relevant legislation relating to fairness, impartiality and enforcement of standards.

On foot of a decision by Government, I requested that the Compliance Committee of the BAI use its powers under Section 53 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to investigate whether RTÉ had met its statutory responsibilities around objectivity, fairness and impartiality in respect of the programme "Prime Time Investigates — Mission to Prey" broadcast by RTÉ on 23rd May 2011. I should emphasise that the scope, terms of reference and timeline for the investigation are matters for the BAI, pursuant to Section 53 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. Neither I, nor this Department, have a role in this process. I do, however, expect the report on this matter to be completed before the end of this month.

As this statutory investigation is ongoing, I believe it would be inappropriate for me to make further comment on this issue and that the Investigating Officer should be allowed to complete her work and make appropriate recommendations.

Radio Spectrum

Denis Naughten

Question:

14 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the release of part of the wireless spectrum to attract research investment here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12630/12]

The management of Ireland's radio spectrum is the statutory responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). ComReg also has a mandate to promote innovation and since 2005 ComReg has made radio spectrum available for research and innovation purposes under its specially designed wireless test & trial licensing programme called "Test and Trial Ireland". This ComReg initiative allows for the testing and/or trialling of wireless communications devices in Ireland. I understand that the scheme has been designed in conjunction with the electronic communications industry to support the needs of the wireless research and development community in Ireland.

To date ComReg has issued over 170 licences to national and international companies and organisations who wish to use radio spectrum to test and trial new products and services. They include mobile phone companies, broadcasting organisations, universities, medical companies and broadband companies, among others. A list of companies and organisations thathave availed of the Test and Trial licences may be found on one of ComReg's websites www.testandtrial.ie.

Alternative Energy Projects

Clare Daly

Question:

15 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the plans that are in place to deliver jobs in the area of wind and ocean energy; and the timescale for same. [12635/12]

Derek Keating

Question:

20 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an estimate for job creation impact of onshore wind farms; and if he will provide an estimate of the number of jobs created by each megawatt of wind brought into the network. [12631/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 20 together.

At the end of December 2011, EirGrid reported that there are 1605MegaWatts of onshore wind and 25MegaWatts of offshore wind connected to the grid along with 237MegaWatts of hydro power and 46MegaWatts of smaller renewable sources. This translates to approximately 18% of national electricity consumption now being met from renewable energy sources. Wave and tidal electricity is still at the research, development and deployment stage globally.

The latest estimate by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is that 4,000MegaWatts of renewable generation needs to be in place to meet Ireland's 2020 target of 40% renewable electricity. On this basis some 200MegaWatts per annum of new onshore wind projects needs to be connected to the grid between now and 2020 in order to meet the target.

It is difficult to provide an accurate estimate of the job creation impact of onshore wind projects. Environmental impact assessments need to be undertaken where appropriate. Planning permissions and other relevant licenses and permits need to be obtained. Sites need to be prepared for installation, grid connections need to be constructed and foundations laid and finally turbines need to be ordered and transported to the site for installation. All of these activities create employment opportunities. The number of new wind projects connected in individual years has varied significantly. There will, also, always be a level of ongoing operation and maintenance of wind farms following connection to the grid. Most employment opportunities relating to wind farm development in Ireland are at the pre-installation, installation and commissioning stage.

Ireland does not currently have a manufacturing base for large scale commercial sized turbines. Developers assess the turbines available on the international market and make individual commercial choices. International studies that assess the employment opportunities relating to wind energy usually focus on jobs relating to manufacturing of turbines, cables and other capital equipment. It is not always appropriate to apply these to the Irish situation in terms of arriving at an accurate assessment of jobs created in Ireland by reference to MegaWatts.

The European Wind Energy Association published a report entitled "Wind At Work" in 2009. This report estimated the direct employment from wind energy in companies in certain European countries in 2007 and put the figure for Ireland at 1,500. For Ireland, the report noted that apart from wind farm developers, Ireland has a variety of companies specialising in engineering, legal services, insurance and finance. The report concluded that 15.1 jobs are created in the EU for every MegaWatt installed, and that wind turbine and component manufacturing jobs would be a significant proportion of that. The Irish Wind Energy Association itself published a study in 2010 entitled "Jobs and Investment in Irish Wind Energy". This study estimates that the wind energy sector in Ireland can support 1.5 jobs per MegaWatts installed on the island.

I have engaged with my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in order to ensure that our Departments and agencies including SEAI, IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) work together, in exploring how Ireland can maximise job creation opportunities in the renewable energy sector. The recent ‘Action Plan for Jobs' strategy highlights that Ireland has a number of strengths which it can leverage to create employment and growth opportunities both for indigenous companies and for foreign investment in Ireland. These include:

Excellent renewable energy resources, which raise the prospect of Ireland ultimately becoming an exporter of clean energy to Europe;

A strong R&D base including in the area of ICT which is highly relevant to a number of green economy opportunities;

Strengths as a location to test and develop new technologies — both in terms of existing test — bed sites and taking advantage of Ireland's small size where new technologies can be tested for application to larger markets.

Under the auspices of the British Irish Council and in the EU context also, the Government is committed to progressing the opportunity for renewable energy trading and the potential development of an indigenous renewable energy export sector. In the short to medium term, opportunities may exist to engage in renewable energy trade relating to onshore and offshore wind. Subject to technological developments and commercialisation there may also be significant potential to develop wave energy for export in the medium to longer term. The development of a renewable energy export sector could boost job opportunities in Ireland in the renewable energy sector by creating the conditions for economies of scale for potential manufacturers.

Natural Gas Grid

Denis Naughten

Question:

16 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the Western Development Commission paper, Why Invest in Gas, which outlines the clear benefit of extending the natural gas distribution network to the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12629/12]

I hope to meet the Western Development Commission in the very near future to discuss their Report into the benefits of national gas infrastructure for the North West. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is the statutory, independent body, charged with the assessment and licensing of prospective operators seeking to develop and operate a gas distribution system within the State. I have no direct statutory function in relation to the connection of towns to the gas network.

The CER, in 2006, approved a network connections policy which enabled reassessment of the feasibility of connecting certain towns to the gas network. In order for any town to be connected to the gas network, certain economic criteria need to be satisfied as a prerequisite. The policy allows for the appraisal of a town either on its own or as part of a regional group of towns. The policy framework provides that, over a certain period, the costs of connecting a town, or group of towns, to the network are recouped through the actual economic consumption of gas and the associated tariffs. Uneconomic projects would increase costs for all energy consumers.

Under the CER's policy framework, Bord Gáis Networks, and latterly Gaslink carried out a comprehensive review of towns not connected to the national gas network. Gaslink published its New Towns Analysis Phase 3 report in 2010. The study included a review of the feasibility of connecting 11 towns in the West and North West region which are the focus of the Western Development Commission paper, “Why Invest in Gas”. However, the Gaslink review found that none of the towns qualified for connection on economic grounds.

Gaslink will continue to regularly review the towns which did not qualify for connection under the 2010 Study as well as other towns. The key factor which would qualify a town or group of towns in any future review would be a significant increase in demand for natural gas, usually as a result of the addition of a new large industrial or commercial facility.

Telecommunications Services

Michael Moynihan

Question:

17 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of additional resources that will be made available to fund the recommendations of the next generation broadband task force when it reports. [12884/12]

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. The Programme for Government commits to widespread availability of high speed broadband. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, which I convened last summer, has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services.

The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government. The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations very shortly. It is my intention to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce submit the Report to Government and to publish it immediately thereafter. I anticipate that the Report of the Taskforce and the commitment in the Programme for Government will provide the basis for an optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Accordingly, following publication of the Taskforce report, I intend to consult with other stakeholders before moving quickly to publish a National Next Generation Broadband Plan. The Plan will set out the Government's intentions with regard to any investment or actions required to facilitate the roll-out of Next Generation Broadband. The level of any State intervention required, in the form of financial resources or fiscal incentives will not become clear until after: (i) the Government decides what interventions, if any, are appropriate; (ii) due consideration is given to the various options; and (iii) the preferred options are identified.

Offshore Exploration

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

18 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that under the existing licensing regime there is no obligation on Providence Resources, in the case of the so-called Dalkey Island project, or any other oil or gas exploration project in the event of going into production of either gas or oil to supply the Irish State. [12847/12]

Thomas Pringle

Question:

21 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that under the existing licensing regime there is no obligation on Providence Resources, in the case of the so-called Dalkey Island project, or any other oil or gas exploration project in the event of going into production of either gas or oil to supply the Irish State. [12892/12]

John Halligan

Question:

24 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that under the existing licensing regime there is no obligation on Providence Resources, in the case of the so-called Dalkey Island project, or any other oil or gas exploration project in the event of going into production of either gas or oil to supply the Irish State. [12894/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 21 and 24 together.

Standard Exploration Licence 2/11 was granted last year to a consortium comprising Providence Resources Plc and Star Energy Oil and Gas Ltd over an area of approximately 380 square kilometres in the Kish Bank Basin off the coast of Dalkey, County Dublin. The exploration licence is for a six year period with an obligation to drill an exploration well during the first three years. Exploration activity under this licence is at an early stage and it is far too early to anticipate a discovery that might lead to a petroleum production project.

While there is no legal obligation on exploration companies to sell oil or gas discovered in the Irish offshore into the Irish market, this is consistent with international practice. A combination of practical factors and market forces would dictate that where a local demand exists, a commercial discovery of natural gas, that is to be processed onshore, will be landed and sold locally to ensure maximum recovery of gas from the gas field and to avoid attracting the cost of transport tariffs. It is also worth noting that the Interconnectors between Scotland and Ireland are not currently engineered for reverse flow. In relation to a possible future oil discovery, the factors which will influence the development alternatives and a decision on where to land the oil will include the size of the discovery, the nature of the oil and where it could be refined.

Electricity Transmission Network

Sean Conlan

Question:

19 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason an economic evaluation for the North-South interconnector has not been carried out or published; his views that the taxpayer is badly served by the absence of such an evaluation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12760/12]

Sean Conlan

Question:

29 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the net present value of the proposed North-South interconnector; the reason it has not been published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12761/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 29 together.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is statutorily responsible for overseeing electricity network expenditure and in that regard, ensuring cost effectiveness and efficiency of the investment programmes of EirGrid as well as ESB Networks. The cost of investment in the networks is remunerated through charges on all electricity consumers, in line with the regulatory model worldwide, and is not a charge on the taxpayer. The CER examines in detail the capital investment plans of EirGrid in the context of revenue determinations and monitors the plans on an ongoing basis. The latest transmission capital spend review undertaken by the CER was for the period 2011 to 2015 and the outcome of that review is publicly available on the CER's website.

The powers and responsibilities of EirGrid, as the independent transmission system operator are set out in the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, and a number of statutory instruments including (SI) No. 445 of 2000 and (SI) No. 60 of 2005. Under (SI) No. 445 of 2000, EirGrid has the statutory obligation to "develop a safe, secure, reliable, economical and efficient electricity transmission system with a view to ensuring that all reasonable demands for electricity are met and having due regard for the environment". Moreover, under (SI) No. 60 of 2005, EirGrid has the duty "to plan the long term ability of the transmission system to meet reasonable demands for the transmission of electricity".

The North-South transmission line is vital infrastructure for the island. The lack of sufficient interconnection between the North and South is preventing the full benefits of the all-island market being realised for consumers. The continued absence of the transmission line is costing the economies and consumers, North and South, up to €30 million every year, since without it, the electricity system is more inefficient from an operational perspective.

The case for the transmission line was assessed in detail by the Regulators North and South in 2004. Their assessment included a range of technical and economic studies including NPV analysis. The results of this assessment are included in their ‘Joint Report on the Case for a Second North South Interconnector'. This published report includes reference to specific cost savings in the range of €2.3m to €18.9m per annum. There is also a range of benefits, which formed part of the Regulators' criteria in their decision making. These included security of supply, renewable facilitation and increased competitiveness in the all island electricity market. These benefits are significant and strategic criteria which form part of the overall economic and technical case for the transmission line.

Completion of the North South project will further consolidate the all-island electricity market established in 2007, providing for the seamless transfer of electricity across the island, delivering greater competition, reducing the need for further investment in thermal generation and ensuring the availability of low cost generation to the market.

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 15.
Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 18.

Telecommunications Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

22 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is considering any new measures to address the ongoing difficulties and high costs being imposed on Irish mobile telephone users because of mobile termination charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12632/12]

The regulation of the wholesale mobile voice call termination market is a matter for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). I am anxious to ensure that mobile termination rates (MTRs) charged by Irish service providers are in line with those charged elsewhere in Europe and that Irish citizens and businesses benefit from the lowest call costs possible.

The Irish average mobile termination charge has reduced from 8.03 cent per minute as of 1 July 2010 to approximately 4.3 cent per minute as of 31 December 2011, representing a 46% cumulative reduction over that period. The current mobile termination charge of approximately 4.3 cent per minute is in line with the European average. Mobile termination charges will see further reductions from 30 June 2012. ComReg has commenced a consultation process to determine future mobile termination charges in Ireland and a final decision is due in 2012. This will determine mobile termination charges from January 2013.

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

23 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the geographic gaps in which small and medium enterprises cannot properly access broadband; and if he will identify the way that this will affect these SMEs’ ability to engage with cloud computing. [11313/12]

Ireland's telecommunications market has been open to competition since 1999 and since then has developed into a well-regulated market supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Despite the current economic difficulties, significant private sector investment continues to be made in the provision of broadband products and services.

The State is not a provider of services, except in instances of clear market failure such as in the cases of both the National and Rural Broadband Schemes. Such interventions are always subject to EU State Aid clearance to ensure no unacceptable level of market distortion takes place. Between these private and public investments, at least a basic broadband service is now available right throughout the country including to SMEs. Details of broadband services available on a county-by-county basis can be found on ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie. The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission’s “Digital Agenda for Europe” target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. It will also be a key enabler for SMEs who wish to engage with cloud computing, or to expand their business by transacting online. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce which I convened last summer has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland.

I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally. The Taskforce will conclude its deliberations shortly. It is my intention to consider the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Taskforce and to move quickly thereafter to put in place the optimal policy environment for the delivery of high speed broadband.

Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 18.

Sale of State Assets

Thomas Pringle

Question:

25 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will explain in the context of the proposed sale of parts of the ESB under the troika agreement, the way he defines strategic and non-strategic parts of the company and specifically his definition of power generation as non-strategic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12893/12]

John Halligan

Question:

30 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will explain in the context of the proposed sale of parts of the ESB under the troika agreement, the way he defines strategic and non-strategic parts of the company and specifically his definition of power generation as non-strategic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12895/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 30 together.

The Government has announced the programme of State asset disposals which will involve the sale of assets up to a value of €3 billion involving an orderly process of disposals over time and which also ensures that value is secured and fire-sales avoided on the basis that one third of the proceeds raised will be retained for re-investment on job creation initiatives in the economy.

Following detailed analysis which identified a range of complex regulatory and legislative issues the Government has decided not to proceed with a sale of a minority stake in ESB as previously signalled. The Government has decided that alternative asset disposal options will now be pursued, to include the sale of Bord Gáis Éireann's Energy business (but not including BGE's gas transmission or distribution systems or the two gas interconnectors, which will remain in State ownership); and some of ESB's non-strategic power generation capacity. The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the retention of ESB as a vertically integrated utility of strategic importance in State ownership. The disposal of some of ESB power plants will be designed to materially improve the competitive dynamics of the single electricity market.

A Group comprising my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and with the assistance of NewERA, is working to identify, by end-March, any remaining policy, regulatory, legislative and financial issues that may need to be addressed prior to disposal of BGE Energy and some of ESB power plants. In that context it is for my Department to identify, for my consideration, non-strategic power generation capacity in the ESB portfolio, in consultation with the Commission for Energy Regulation, NewERA and ESB.

Hydraulic Fracturing

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

26 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he intends developing a comprehensive national policy in relation to hydraulic fracturing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12853/12]

There is potential for Ireland to enjoy both economic and energy security benefits from its indigenous oil and gas resources. These benefits will only be realised through effective exploration. Ireland has a policy of actively encouraging investment by relevant companies in exploration for oil and gas, both offshore and onshore. Where exploration or production takes place, it is subject to a robust regulatory framework, with a clear objective of ensuring that all exploration and production activities are carried out in a safe manner and do not harm the environment.

I am very conscious that there are people who have concerns, which have been strongly expressed that use of the technology known as hydraulic fracturing in exploration and production activities, could have a negative impact on the environment. The principal concerns that have been expressed relate to the production phase of a project and environmental considerations arising from the large number of production wells that would be hydraulically fractured. In February of last year, my Department granted onshore Licensing Options to three companies over parts of the Lough Allen and Clare Basin respectively. The Licensing Options are preliminary authorisations and are different to exploration licences. The Options are for a two year period from 1 March 2011. During this period, the companies will evaluate the natural gas potential of the acreage largely based on studies of existing data. Exploration drilling is not permitted under these authorisations.

While it is too early to say if any of the three existing onshore licensing options will progress to the exploration phase, let alone to a production phase, I would like to set out in summary terms, for the information of the House, the regulatory framework that would apply in Ireland in the case of a shale gas production project.

The framework that would apply is the framework that is already in use in the case of a range of major strategic infrastructure projects. Under that framework a developer would require consents from An Bord Pleanála, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. All of these consent authorities have a statutory obligation to consider the potential environmental impact of any proposed petroleum production project. All of these processes are subject to EU environmental Directives, including the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

A safety permit would also be required from the Commission for Energy Regulation prior to the commencement of any licensed activities or the operation of any associated infrastructure pursuant to the requirements of the Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Act 2010. The policy approach is, therefore, one of encouraging investment in exploration, while ensuring all exploration and production activities are carried out in a safe manner and without harming the environment.

Energy Conservation

John Browne

Question:

27 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consider introducing a grant aid scheme for the upgrading of glazing in domestic and commercial buildings, which would generate energy efficiency and create jobs. [12628/12]

The Better Energy programme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), on behalf of my Department. The Better Energy: Homes scheme provides support to homeowners towards the installation of attic and wall insulation, and heating system upgrades including solar thermal with the works being undertaken by privately appointed contractors. Window replacement works are not currently eligible for support. The measures were selected for inclusion in Better Energy: Homes as they were deemed most likely to deliver significant energy savings to homeowners, at least relative cost, and would thereby optimise the use of Exchequer funds while at the same time maximising the opportunities for homeowner participation.

Under the Better Energy: Workplaces grant scheme operated by the SEAI on behalf of my Department, commercial and public sector organisations may include the upgrade of windows in an application for funding. However, it should be noted that this scheme is a highly competitive one and that not all eligible projects will necessarily qualify for support.

As part of the Better Energy programme, 2012 will see the involvement of energy suppliers in meeting their energy savings targets agreed as part of their Voluntary Agreements with the SEAI. A range of energy efficiency measures currently qualify for energy credits towards those targets including insulation and heating upgrades as well as high performance windows. I am further informed by the SEAI that high performance glazing replacement in existing window frames will shortly qualify for credits. The availability of credits for specific measures will stimulate energy suppliers to promote the uptake of these measures more widely, as a means of achieving their targets.

I am advised that grants for window replacement are available to those over 60 under the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme, operated by local authorities on behalf of my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This means-tested scheme provides grants to assist older people living in poor housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out to their homes. Eligible works include structural repairs or improvements, re-wiring, repairs to or replacement of windows and doors, provision of water supply and sanitary facilities, provision of heating, cleaning and painting.

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

28 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way the standard, quality and speed of broadband here now compare with the best available throughout Europe or worldwide; the way investment in the infrastructure has kept pace with that in other jurisdictions; if he has identified any particular aspects in respect of which issues need to be addressed by the service providers in order to ensure the availability of state of the art technology in the sector in this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12849/12]

There has been significant growth in the take up of broadband services and contracted speeds in Ireland in recent years. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has reported that between Q3 2007 and Q3 2011 the number of broadband subscribers has more than doubled from 793,000 to more than 1.6 million.

It is also the case that, at the end of September 2011, 73.2% of domestic customers and 88.8% of business subscribers were contracted for services using speeds between 2Mbps-10Mbps compared to 52.5% and 30.3% respectively at end 2007, when ComReg commenced reporting in the current format. Many subscribers are also migrating to higher speed products with 19.8% of residential subscribers using speeds in excess of 10Mbps, according to ComReg's latest Quarterly Report (Q3 2011), compared to 0.2% at end 2007.

International comparisons of broadband services are complex to measure and interpret. In many instances, surveys measure an average of retail broadband speeds published on service providers' websites only. These comparisons do not take account of higher speeds which are available in some countries (including Ireland) over leased lines to users of very high speeds and bandwidth. The international comparisons only consider retail services that are advertised. Big bandwidth leased line services are not advertised as retail services in Ireland.

It is also the case that the comparisons are not weighted to take account of the number and variety of speed options advertised. Furthermore, broadband services that are advertised as part of a bundled package may not be included in such comparisons. Commonly used high speed broadband services, available in Ireland, such as triple play products, may not be included in some international comparisons.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce which I convened last summer has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government in this regard.

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

Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 19.
Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 25.

Energy Conservation

Catherine Murphy

Question:

31 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if, in view of the proposed sale of commercial sections of Bord Gáis Éireann, he will outline the impact that this will have on the forthcoming pay as you save home retrofitting finance model; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12633/12]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to roll out a Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) retrofit scheme after 2013, to replace the Exchequer funding currently being provided to the Better Energy Programme. The PAYS concept is an innovative financing mechanism that would allow consumers to finance upgrades using the money that they would have spent on their energy bill. Such a scheme can also be used to stimulate investments in energy efficiency in non-domestic buildings and premises. My Department has established a project team to undertake the necessary technical and financial analysis of a PAYS model in the Irish context which will inform my proposals to the Government.

There are considerable complexities involved in the development of the PAYS scheme, which is requiring comprehensive consultation with all energy suppliers, including Bord Gáis Éireann (BGÉ). I do not envisage that the prospective disposal of BGÉ‘s Energy business, announced as part of the Government's State Assets Programme will have any impact on the PAYS model. All energy suppliers whether State or privately owned will be involved in the scheme.

Energy Resources

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

32 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to reduce energy costs and support renewable energy. [11330/12]

I have no statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated sector. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. The electricity retail market is fully deregulated as of April 2011. As a result, business and domestic customers can avail of the competitive offerings from a number of electricity supply companies.

The CER is engaged in progressive deregulation of the gas retail market. The only remaining regulated segment of the gas market is that of residential customers supplied by Bord Gáis Energy. Gas customers can avail of competitive offerings from other suppliers. Competition helps to put downward pressure on energy prices. The Government remains concerned to ensure that additional actions are taken, where feasible, to mitigate energy costs for business and domestic customers in the interests of competitiveness, employment and for the economy as a whole.

Ireland's energy prices are currently in line with, or below, European averages. This is confirmed by Eurostat figures for the first half of 2011 which shows electricity prices moving towards convergence with the EU average. Electricity prices in Ireland were below the EU average for all medium to large business customers for the first half of 2011, ranging from 10% to 17% below. During the same period, prices for business gas consumers remained below the EU average for most consumption levels ranging from 4% to 25% below. I am committed to continuing to work with the enterprise community, the energy sector, and the energy regulator to ensure that the costs of energy for business are as competitive as possible through all measures at our disposal.

In terms of supporting renewable energy, Ireland is legally obliged under Directive 2009/28/EC to increase consumption of renewables to 16% by 2020. The National Renewable Energy Action Plan sets out the planned trajectory for achieving the target across the electricity, heat and transport sectors with 40% needed in electricity, 10% in transport and 12% in heat to meet Ireland's overall 16% commitment.

Renewable energy is being supported by a variety of policy initiatives. Renewable electricity is now the largest contributor to renewable energy consumption and is expected to contribute most to our 2020 target. The largest contribution in the electricity sector is expected to be made through generation from wind technologies, followed by biomass technologies.

For the support of commercial renewable generation, my Department administers a renewable energy support mechanism known as the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT). The terms and conditions of REFIT are available on the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website. A new REFIT scheme for biomass technologies (REFIT 3) was opened in February by my Department and a further new REFIT scheme for onshore wind, small hydro and landfill gas (REFIT 2) is due to be opened later this month.

Wind generation will provide the bulk of Ireland's renewable energy in 2020. To meet the RES-E target, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has estimated that 4000MW of renewable generation needs to be connected to the electricity grid. At end 2011, EirGrid data shows that there was 1900MW of installed renewable generation, including 1630MW of wind. The Government is proactively engaged in discussions with the UK, under the British Irish Council, on developing the cooperation mechanisms under Directive 2009/28/EC for renewable trading purposes. Ireland's significant offshore renewable energy potential offers undoubted opportunities for renewable export. The prospect also of realising onshore wind projects of scale for export markets is also being actively explained.

In the transport sector, the biofuels obligation introduced in 2010 under the Energy (Biofuel Obligation and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010 requires transport fuel suppliers to provide a specified amount of their sales in the form of biofuels. The obligation currently stands at 4% by volume which is equivalent to 3% in energy terms. The biofuel obligation will incrementally increase on a sustainable basis to 2020, to meet the RES-T target of 10% in 2020.

Due to the cost of transporting heat, heat is generally consumed at the point of generation to maximise efficiency. The new biomass REFIT for electricity exported to the grid provides for up to 310MW of new biomass generation to be constructed. This will stimulate the production of renewable heat by improving the financial viability of many more potential sites.

Consular Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

33 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the role he sees for Irish embassies in promoting Irish heritage and culture; the efforts he has made to ensure this potential is realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12488/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, my colleague the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for the international promotion of Irish culture under the Arts Act 2003. This is primarily accomplished through Culture Ireland which operates under the aegis of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. My Department works closely with Culture Ireland, both at headquarters level and through the Embassy network, to promote our culture. This close working relationship is reflected in the fact that a senior official of my Department serves in an ex officio capacity on the board of Culture Ireland.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also manages a grant-in-aid for cultural relations with other countries. This allows for modest funding to be provided for cultural activity by the Embassy network. Every effort is made to leverage further promotional benefits from such spending, complementary to the activity of Culture Ireland. This was done very effectively in relation to the Imagine Ireland initiative in the United States during 2011, which saw a celebration of Irish arts, with 1,200 artists participating in five hundred events in over forty of the US States. Imagine Ireland featured very close co-operation between Culture Ireland, my Department and our Embassy and Consulates General in the United States. In total last year, we funded 258 cultural projects across the globe involving 58 of our missions from the Embassy network through the grant-in-aid.

During the past year, a new travelling exhibition on the life and works of W.B. Yeats, based on the National Library's original exhibition, was also financed from my Department's cultural grant-in-aid. This Yeats exhibition has been produced in eight languages (English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish) and with the active engagement of our Embassy network it has already toured more than 50 cities in 14 countries. My Department and Culture Ireland both support financially the programme of the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. The Centre is managed by the Fondation Irlandaise, a Franco-Irish organisation, and the Ambassador of Ireland to France is actively involved in its activities.

I would add, finally, that Culture Ireland is the Irish member of the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) and, in a further reflection of the close co-operation between that agency and my Department, the relevant Embassy or Consulate represents Culture Ireland when appropriate at EUNIC meetings overseas.

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

34 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13114/12]

My Department does not have any offices in Co. Kerry.

Tax Collection

Willie O'Dea

Question:

35 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance his policy on tackling the hidden economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13168/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their tax compliance programmes are under constant review to ensure that they are focussed on the areas of greatest risk, including risks from the shadow/hidden economy. Revenue tackles the problem of the shadow/hidden economy through its range of compliance and audit interventions including through targeted special projects. Case interventions are undertaken based on Revenue's assessment of compliance risks, the level of those risks and other relevant information available.

Revenue is using a wide range of methodologies to identify those operating in the shadow/hidden economy and is deploying the full range of compliance interventions. Activities can include covert surveillance, cold calls to businesses and venues as well as pre-arranged aspect queries on specific items. There is no doubt that shadow/hidden economy activity creates distortions in the economy and competitive disadvantages for compliant businesses. For these reasons, Revenue focuses on deterring shadow/hidden economy activity and non-compliance through its audit and investigation programmes based on risk analysis, use of Revenue powers and their intelligence and information systems. Last year Revenue carried out 11,066 audits resulting in a yield of €440.46 million.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their approach to the shadow economy is underpinned by close consultation and cooperation with the Department of Social Protection. The primary objective of these activities is to uncover either non-declaration or under-declaration of income and/or fraudulent DSP claims. The Deputy will be aware of the continuing strengthening of legislation to provide for a robust framework within which the Revenue Commissioners may tackle tax and duty evasion. Finance Bill 2012, currently before the Oireachtas, contains provisions in relation to:

The making of returns of transactions by merchant acquirers, and other payment settlement entities, to the Revenue Commissioners (from 2010);

The more effective investigation of white-collar crime.

The Bill also contains a comprehensive package of measures in relation to Excise (Oils) including, requirement for separate licences for auto-fuel traders and marked fuel traders, requirement to have a separate licence for every premises or place at which the fuel concerned is dealt in, and a requirement that a licence must be clearly displayed at the premises or place.

Regulations were also introduced in 2011 providing for the supply of details to the Revenue Commissioners of payments made by Government Departments and State Bodies. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this data is matched to the Revenue records of the various recipients, and is used to profile risk. Similar matching is also carried out using other third party data received by the Revenue Commissioners. Revenue has a prioritised focus on those sectors that traditionally have been susceptible to shadow activity such as cash businesses.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in order to inform the approaches they are taking and help determine where resources may best be deployed, they have engaged on a series of meetings with trade and representative bodies. Increasingly they are finding that bodies and individuals are prepared to share insights and specific information with Revenue with regard to shadow economy activity in times of recession. Revenue is deepening their engagement with the representative bodies and has set up regional shadow economy liaison groups.

Fiscal Policy

Willie O'Dea

Question:

36 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance his policy on improving consumer confidence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13169/12]

The Government considers that the best means to improve consumer confidence is to restore sustainability to the public finances, repair the banking system and return the economy to sustainable growth. Effectively addressing these three areas will result in increased employment, investment and consumer spending and will be key in driving this country forward.

Looking more specifically at what the Government is doing to restore sustainability to the public finances, we have met all our fiscal targets to date and are on track to meet future targets under the Programme of External Financial Assistance. Furthermore, the Deputy will be aware that in the Medium-Term Fiscal Statement, the Government set out the required fiscal adjustment path over the medium term. This will provide Irish citizens with greater certainty regarding the magnitude of future budgetary adjustment measures and, in doing so, will help to improve confidence among households.

In terms of repairing the banking sector, the Irish banking system has been recapitalised to a very high level and has undergone significant restructuring to make it fit for purpose. The Government has imposed lending targets on AIB and Bank of Ireland for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Progress on these lending targets is monitored by the Credit Review Office (CRO) and by my Department. Additionally, the CRO ensures that the pillar banks do not refuse credit to viable businesses, both by its existence and by offering the right to a review of refusals.

With regard to returning the economy to sustainable growth, we have seen significant improvements in our competitiveness. In terms of the labour market, we have targeted our limited firepower in more labour-intensive sectors, with measures contained in the Jobs Initiative and the recent Action Plan on Jobs. Indeed, figures published this morning show the first quarterly increase in employment in four years in the final quarter of last year. While the increase was relatively small, at least we are moving in the right direction.

While consumer confidence is important, I think that it is crucial that we do not ignore investor confidence, a large part of which reflects our international reputation. The Deputy will be aware that the IDA recently announced that a record number of new investments were won last year. Indeed, the FDI pipeline looks positive. We have also taken a number of steps at a more micro-level to support job creation and return confidence to entrepreneurs including the extension of three year corporation tax exemption for new start up companies and enhancing the R&D tax credit. Overall, I think we have seen that Government policies, both domestic and at EU level, are helping to improve confidence among consumers and investors.

EU Treaties

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

37 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance with regard to Article 5 of the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism, which makes the granting of financial assistance in the framework of new programmes under the ESM conditional upon ratification of the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, if Irish representatives at the negotiations of the ESM treaty and the stability treaty sought to influence this article in any way; if he supported or opposed its inclusion; the justification for this position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13191/12]

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, which was signed by all Euro Area Member States on 2 February, subject to ratification, provides "that the granting of financial assistance in the framework of new programmes under the ESM will be conditional, as of 1 March 2013, on the ratification of the TSCG by the ESM Member concerned" and on implementation of the balanced budget rule as specified in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union within the agreed timeline (one year after entry into force of the latter). This reflects the outcome of discussions in which Ireland participated actively and constructively. In this context, I would point out that the existence of the ESM as a safety net is in Europe's interest and in Ireland's interest. We do not expect to need recourse to ESM assistance — our programme is working and we are on course to return to market funding as envisaged by the end of the programme period in 2013. However, the existence of the ESM is important in supporting market confidence.

The linkage between the ESM and the ratification of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary was accepted in the context of the acceleration into force of the ESM by July 2012. It was of particular importance to a number of partners. It is entirely logical and reasonable that a country receiving the support of its partners under the ESM should be prepared to run sensible budgetary policies as required under the new Treaty.

I have clarified that the linkage of both the ESM Treaty and the Intergovernmental Treaty refers to new applications for assistance under the ESM and will not affect the transfer to the ESM of undisbursed amounts under the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) for Ireland and other programme countries. The funding approved under the existing Programme of Financial Support for Ireland is not therefore conditional on Ireland ratifying the fiscal compact but, as is currently the case, on Ireland successfully implementing our programme. Primary legislation will be required to enable Ireland to ratify the ESM Treaty and implement it.

Tax Reliefs

Gerry Adams

Question:

38 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if a person who agreed a purchase price for a house in November 2008, paid a deposit on the purchase of a house on 5 December 2008, drew down a mortgage on the property in March 2009 which is now in serious negative equity and struggling to pay their mortgage is entitled to the increased rate of mortgage interest relief as announced in budget 2012 for the benefit of householders in serious negative equity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12911/12]

The position is as I stated in my Budget day speech, that the Government has now fulfilled its commitment contained in the programme for Government to increase the rate of mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first-time buyers who took out their first mortgage in the period 2004 to 2008. I have sought to be as flexible as possible within the constraints pertaining. Under the current tax legislation mortgage interest relief is granted from the date the first mortgage interest payment is made. The legislation is being amended for this particular measure to also include mortgage draw-down as a qualifying event for the rate increase. This means that a mortgage holder will qualify for the increased rate if they made their first mortgage interest payment in the period 2004 to 2008 or if they drew down their mortgage in that period.

Therefore, an individual who paid a deposit on the purchase of a house in December 2008 but drew down their mortgage in 2009 will not qualify for the increased relief. However, they should be able to claim relief at the non-increased rates which depend on whether they are first time buyers or not. Full details of the scheme are available at www.revenue.ie.

Banking Sector Regulation

Gerry Adams

Question:

39 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 31 of 22 February 2012, if he will explain the reason in his response he stated that neither his Department nor the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, was given notice of the retention agreement between a company and the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC, before the agreement was signed, yet in response to Parliamentary Question No. 55 of 29 February 2012, he stated his Department was informed of the bank’s intention to engage the company on 1 November 2011; if he will explain the way his Department was informed of IBRC’s intention to engage with the company on 1 November 2011 if neither his Department nor the NTMA was given notice of the engagement between the company and IBRC before they had already signed a retention agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12997/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

41 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will detail the exact date the retention agreement between the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC, and a company (details supplied) was signed; if he will detail the precise date on which his Department or the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, was given notice of this agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13067/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 41 together.

As the Deputy is aware the day-to-day operation of the bank is a matter for the Board of the bank. PQ 31 of 22 February 2012 was interpreted to inquire about the Minister's involvement in the approval of the engagement referred to in the question. In reply, it was indicated that no notice requiring the Minister's approval was received as in the particular circumstances this was not required. This is not to say that the Department, through ongoing communication with IBRC, were not aware of considerations by the bank to engage the company referred to in the question. In order to clarify the situation for the Deputy I asked my Department to review the documentation to provide greater clarity on the order of events leading up to the bank's engagement with the advisors referred to in the question.

Firstly, the Board of the bank was advised, by management in September 2011 of the proposed engagement of the company referred to. It was further noted in the Board papers that it was not proposed to engage in a formal procurement process given the sensitivity of the engagement. This approach is provided for in the bank's own procurement policy. These papers became available to my Department immediately in advance of the Board meeting on 27 October. These papers are provided for information only, and are not, in normal course, regarded as requiring action.

At a meeting with my Department on 1 November 2011 the Bank, as part of on-going communications, noted that it intended to appoint the advisors referred to in the question by end week for a period of five weeks subject to appropriate conflict and confidentiality protection. There was no request for Ministerial consent under the Relationship Framework as the bank deemed the appointment to be ordinary course of business. Based on a review of minutes and also on information received informally, my Department issued a letter to the Bank's chairman on 18 November 2011 seeking assurances in relation to conflict protection with regard to the proposed engagement.

In a meeting with the Chairman on 24 November it was indicated that the Bank were close to appointing the company referred to and that under the terms of the engagement. It was also indicated that the Company would not be precluded from bidding in the event that it was decided to take the assets to market. The Bank also indicated that any subsequent competition disposal process would be the subject of a competition.

In response to the 18 November 2011 letter from my Department, the bank's Chairman, in a letter dated 30 November, provided confirmation that FTI had been retained to carry out an independent assessment of the advisor's compliance framework and to validate the Bank's reliance on the integrity of the advisor's Chinese wall structures. The Chairman further noted that the appointment of the advisors for a 3 month engagement was imminent and also that the Bank had made it clear to the advisors that any strategy choices arising from the Advisory work would be the subject of an open and transparent process.

We were subsequently informed that the agreement between IBRC and the company referred to was signed by the bank on the 2 December 2011. There was no, and nor was there a requirement for, formal notification to the Department that this agreement had been signed. A weekly conference call was subsequently initiated with the first conference call taking place on the 16 December 2011.

It is clear that the Deputy has concerns in relation to the appointment by IBRC of this company. I have sought here to clarify the timeline and information available to my Department. If the Deputy has further information or requires further clarification I would be happy to address the matter.

Sovereign Debt

Sean Fleming

Question:

40 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out in tabular form for each year from 1970 the percentage growth in GDP for the year; the overall Government debt at the end of the year and the total Government debt as a percentage of GDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13053/12]

The information which the Deputy requests is set out in the table. In regards to Government debt, the General Government debt is the standard measurement of gross indebtedness used for comparative purposes within the EU and, as such, is often expressed as a percentage of GDP. Historical figures for the General Government debt back to 1970 are not available as the harmonised methodology for calculating the General Government debt was only agreed in the mid-1990s.

The Deputy has asked for total Government debt as a percentage of GDP, but he may be interested to know that historical figures for the National Debt, which is a narrower measurement than General Government debt, excluding, amongst other things, local government borrowing, are available in the Budget and Economic Statistics on my Department's website.

Nominal GDP (€m)

Real GDP Growth

General Govt Debt (€m)

GG Debt as % of GDP

1970

2,220

1971

2,538

4.6%

1972

3,084

6.9%

1973

3,724

5.6%

1974

4,138

2.6%

1975

5,203

1.4%

1976

6,409

3.3%

1977

7,801

6.3%

1978

9,220

7.2%

1979

10,922

4.2%

1980

12,961

2.9%

1981

15,727

2.5%

1982

18,657

1.5%

1983

20,564

-0.7%

1984

22,774

3.2%

1985

24,739

1.9%

1986

26,352

0.4%

1987

28,163

3.6%

1988

30,085

3.0%

1989

33,373

5.6%

1990

36,184

7.7%

1991

37,649

1.6%

1992

40,100

3.6%

1993

43,189

2.3%

1994

46,421

5.9%

1995

52,541

9.6%

Break in the series*

1995

53,692

43,597

81%

1996

59,370

7.6%

43,162

73%

1997

68,624

10.9%

43,694

64%

1998

79,333

7.8%

42,081

53%

1999

91,391

9.9%

43,853

48%

2000

105,854

9.3%

39,659

37%

2001

118,122

4.8%

41,576

35%

2002

131,336

5.9%

41,912

32%

2003

140,981

4.2%

43,322

31%

2004

150,560

4.5%

44,255

29%

2005

163,462

5.3%

44,393

27%

2006

178,297

5.3%

44,059

25%

2007

189,933

5.2%

47,159

25%

2008

179,990

-3.0%

79,602

44%

2009

160,596

-7.0%

104,648

65%

2010

155,992

-0.4%

144,269

92%

*GDP prior to 1995 calculated without FISIM (source: CSO).

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 39.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

42 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009 appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13565/12]

In response to the Deputy's question since 1 January 2009 the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) was established in December 2009. The Chief Executive Officer of NAMA Mr. Brendan McDonagh is an ex officio member of the Board. In addition, since 1 January 2009, Mr. Mike Aynsley was appointed as Chief Executive Officer and a board member of the Irish Bank Resolution Company (formerly known as Anglo).

FÁS Training Programmes

Pat Breen

Question:

43 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12900/12]

I am informed that a FÁS Training Adviser has been in contact with the person in question very recently with a view to placing him with an approved employer through the Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme (RAPS).

Languages Programme

Brendan Griffin

Question:

44 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if EU funding is available for the teaching of minority languages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13055/12]

The EU has a positive policy towards regional and minority languages, enshrined in Article 22 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states. "The Union respects cultural, religious and linguistic diversity". While there have been projects to support minority languages, I am not aware of any EU funding for teaching of minority languages in primary and post-primary schools.

FÁS Training Programmes

Dara Calleary

Question:

45 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of the economic circumstances that prevail, an apprentice plumber (details supplied) in County Mayo, can proceed to level 6 in the person’s studies despite having not yet completed level 3 as a result of the economic circumstances that prevail. [13177/12]

I am informed that the person in question must complete Phase 3 before FÁS will progress him on to Phase 6 of his apprenticeship. I understand that following correspondence from FÁS, the person in question has confirmed his interest in participating in the Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme 2012, with a view to completing Phase 3 and Phase 5 with a host employer. FÁS will now forward his name to employers who are willing to participate in the scheme.

School Staffing

Martin Heydon

Question:

46 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the arrangements in place to replace the up to 2,000 teachers that retired in February 2012; his plans to recruit additional teachers to fill these posts; if he will outline the advertisement and recruitment process and timeline for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12902/12]

Vacancies created in the teaching profession by teachers who retired up to February 29th 2012 will be filled. Students and pupils will not be left without teachers to teach them as a result of retirements. Furthermore, the turnover in teaching staff will provide many newly qualified teachers with opportunities to gain employment.

The filling of vacancies in individual schools will be addressed by Boards of Management at school level. I am also seeking to reduce the impact of these retirements on students preparing for the State examinations. I am allowing schools to re-employ teachers who retired between 1 December 2011 and 29 February 2012, and who had been teaching classes due to sit State exams in 2012, until the end of the school year. In the case of teachers who are not teaching exam classes, replacements can be employed until the end of the school year, subject to the numbers framework.

The Government has prioritised, as best as possible, the filling of front-line posts in the Education sector within the constraints of the Employment Control Framework. For example, schools are permitted to fill teaching vacancies that arise within their approved staffing allocations. I am confident that the large pool of qualified and registered teachers will be in a position to continue to provide high quality education to students.

School Accommodation

Brendan Smith

Question:

47 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount that has been spent each year over the past five years by his Department on the rental of prefabs for the purpose of using them as classrooms; and if he will provide a breakdown for each county. [12938/12]

The amount spent on renting temporary accommodation at primary and post-primary level, including — but not limited to — prefabricated accommodation from 2008 to 2011 is outlined on a county by county basis in the table. In 2007 €35.5m was spent on rented accommodation and a breakdown by county is not readily available for that year.

Rental Costs 2008 to 2011

County

Year

2008

2009

2010

2011

Carlow

€564,579

€551,476

€457,867

€451,559

Cavan

€1,007,874

€637,088

€491,151

€473,625

Clare

€1,438,764

€1,109,777

€669,258

€766,587

Cork

€6,870,032

€5,423,122

€4,267,734

€4,359,436

Donegal

€2,208,454

€1,489,610

€1,004,260

€1,276,444

Dublin

€10,447,602

€8,848,582

€6,543,443

€5,741,021

Galway

€3,396,154

€2,411,225

€2,226,377

€2,512,891

Kerry

€922,581

€586,922

€385,253

€472,166

Kildare

€3,457,349

€2,539,227

€1,307,591

€1,119,027

Kilkenny

€493,852

€388,580

€205,452

€246,582

Laois

€1,524,799

€671,842

€480,767

€556,210

Leitrim

€252,380

€258,886

€230,245

€205,676

Limerick

€1,220,508

€916,867

€1,049,482

€1,088,831

Longford

€714,725

€377,688

€151,332

€289,932

Louth

€2,732,568

€1,339,737

€1,414,671

€1,278,854

Mayo

€1,265,628

€934,526

€754,378

€571,071

Meath

€4,721,775

€3,595,116

€2,146,033

€2,067,207

Monaghan

€346,741

€419,135

€228,378

€272,721

Offaly

€950,124

€603,463

€714,265

€527,999

Roscommon

€172,393

€298,082

€168,337

€166,960

Sligo

€534,361

€308,014

€290,454

€372,339

Tipperary

€893,824

€724,791

€642,232

€557,054

Waterford

€1,671,991

€1,105,806

€879,080

€678,790

Westmeath

€1,123,898

€669,465

€519,824

€447,694

Wexford

€1,877,464

€1,469,516

€1,125,035

€1,221,432

Wicklow

€1,897,420

€1,252,417

€956,402

€1,241,267

Totals

€52,707,840

€38,930,959

€29,309,300

€28,963,378

Mattie McGrath

Question:

48 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of money that has been spent on refurbishment and extension works for small schools, four teachers and less, per year, per county, per size of school for the past ten years; his views that forcing the amalgamation or closure of such schools would be a waste of taxpayers’ money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12946/12]

The expenditure information on refurbishment and extension works is not readily available within my Department and it would require a very substantial amount of administrative time to identify and extract the full range of details sought. The level of resources required to compile the information sought would not be warranted. Should the Deputy require information on a particular school I would be glad to provide it.

However, I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the Patron of a school, subject to the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills. My Department's role is to facilitate any such proposal or discussions between the relevant parties. The initiative for an amalgamation may come from a variety of sources, such as parents, staff, Board of Management and Patron. I have said on several occasions that any decisions to amalgamate schools will be voluntary and follow decisions taken at a local level. The financial consequences associated with amalgamations would also have to take into account the continuing requirement to manage expenditure within the context of overall educational policy and the level of budgetary provision available at the time.

It is worth noting that there are 3,200 primary schools across Ireland. Approximately, one third of those schools has less than 86 pupils and, as a result, has far lower average class sizes. For example, a two teacher school with 32 pupils has an average class size of 1 teacher for 16 pupils. In contrast, a typical 10 teacher school with 272 pupils has an average class size of 27.2 pupils. In that regard, the existing staffing schedule acts as a disincentive for small schools to consider amalgamations. At a time of great strain in our public finances, we have to ensure that the very valuable but limited resources available for the education system are used in the best way possible.

School Curriculum

Billy Timmins

Question:

49 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a submission regarding the teaching of mathematics (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12954/12]

As I outlined to this House previously, the issues raised in the correspondence in question are many and varied. They relate to the teaching of Maths and the qualifications of Maths teachers. The correspondent makes some interesting points and statements, many of which, however, I would not support. I do not propose in this statement to address each of these considerations. Rather, I will provide an overview of just some recent developments aimed at improving mathematics education in Ireland, particularly at second-level.

Prior to the OECD's PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) study steps were already being taken by my Department to improve the educational outcomes of our students in Maths. The proportion of Mathematics teachers without a major qualification represents a challenge to the system, however, this is also a feature of education systems in other jurisdictions. For example, the Project Maths Implementation Group report of June 2010 states that Finland, Canada and Australia, (which ranked 2nd, 6th and 8th respectively in mathematics out of 57 countries in the 2006 OECD PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment)) have 32%, 75% and 28% respectively of students taught by certified teachers without mathematics as a major qualification.

Last September proposals were announced by Minister Sherlock to introduce a course for teachers of Mathematics who may not have a qualification in the subject to up skill to the recognised levels. The tendering competition is now over and the assessment process is at an advanced stage. Arising out of this competitive process, I hope that there will be a contract and course/s in place in time for the forthcoming school year. The course/s will aim to provide teachers with suitable mathematical content knowledge along with appropriate pedagogical strategies in line with the Project Maths initiative.

The provision of the training programme addresses the following recommendation of the Report of the Project Maths Implementation Support Group: "The Department of Education and Skills should work towards ensuring that all post primary students at all levels are taught mathematics solely by teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics by 2018. Post graduate courses for existing teachers should be provided on a scale and level commensurate with this objective." It will provide unqualified maths teachers with the opportunity to up skill their knowledge of mathematics and study the strategies best suited to the new Project Maths syllabuses. Providing for high quality teaching and learning of mathematics is of key strategic importance to the State.

Project Maths itself is a major programme of reform in mathematics in second level schools, which is designed to encourage better understanding of mathematics, to reinforce its practical relevance to everyday life, and to ensure better continuity between primary and second level, and junior and senior cycle. It began in 24 project schools in September 2008 and was introduced in all schools in September 2010. The curriculum will be phased in over a number of years covering the following five strands of mathematics:

Phase 1: Strand 1 — statistics and probability; Strand 2 — geometry and trigonometry.

Phase 2: Strand 3 — number; Strand 4 — algebra.

Phase 3: Strand 5 — functions.

In tandem with the roll-out a comprehensive programme of professional development is being provided for teachers of mathematics. Support is provided on a rolling basis as each strand of the curriculum is implemented, and will continue until at least 2013.

In addition, schools have been asked to attend to the following measures which are supportive of enhanced mathematics learning:

to make every effort to ensure that students have access to a mathematics class every day, particularly in junior cycle;

that Transition Year, where available, should be used to provide innovative learning opportunities and increased mathematics teaching hours to develop core transferable skills;

that every effort should be made to deploy teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics to mathematics teaching, which is particularly important in the formative years of junior cycle;

to provide optimum support and encouragement to as many students as possible who have taken higher-level mathematics in junior cycle to continue to study the subject at higher level in senior cycle.

An additional 25 bonus CAO points will be available from 2012 to candidates who score Grade D3 or higher in Higher Level Mathematics in the Leaving Certificate examination. These arrangements have been agreed by higher education institutions for a four year trial period from 2012 to 2015 inclusive, with a review in 2014.

In relation to appropriate mathematics qualifications, the Teaching Council is currently working on a process of consultation about the undergraduate degree requirements for all post-primary subjects, including Mathematics. The Deputy's correspondent may have taken this opportunity to engage with the Council on this matter which he has obviously considered in detail. My Department has also passed his correspondence on to the Council in the past. The Teaching Council will consider all feedback prior to finalising the criteria. It is anticipated that the effect of the combined efforts of my Department, the Teaching Council, maths teachers and other stakeholders will result in better educational outcomes in Maths for our students.

School Staffing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

50 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown by school of teachers who have successfully applied for early retirement; the dates from which these teachers will be leaving their respective schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12957/12]

As outlined to the Deputy in previous replies, the work of calculating pension benefit entitlements and enabling the smooth transition to pension of the large number of teachers who have retired at this time is the priority for officials in the Pension Unit of my Department and this work will continue for the next number of weeks. While the 29 February 2012 has passed the final number of teachers in Primary, Secondary, Community and Comprehensive schools who have actually retired will not be available until all the retirement applications have been fully processed.

The number of teachers who applied to retire in the period 1 January to 29 February 2012 is 1,166. Information received from the Vocational Education Sector indicates that 220 teachers have applied to retire in that sector during that period. It is important to note that schools may fill vacancies arising from retirements.

As you are aware a circular was issued by my Department, in July, 2011 requesting School Boards of Management to inform all staff in their schools (who are members of an occupation pension scheme) who intended to retire on or before 29 February 2012 that they were required to give 3 calendar months' notice of their date of retirement. The circular also stated that a notification may not be withdrawn on or after the date indicated as the last day of service. Some teachers availed of the option to withdraw their applications up to and including the 29 February, 2012. It was pointed out in that circular that failure to give the required notice could result in a delay in payment of pension benefits and in some cases teachers have not given the required notice.

When the work of processing pension benefits for those retiring has been addressed work will commence on compiling detailed statistical data on the number of teachers who retired and to publish this information on my Department's website.

Billy Timmins

Question:

51 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding cutbacks in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12968/12]

There is no increase in the staffing schedule general average of 28:1 for the allocation of classroom teachers at primary level. However, there is a phased increase in the pupil threshold for the allocation of classroom teachers in small primary schools. As part of the Budget decisions announced, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. The schools concerned are those with four or less classroom teachers. The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible. If amalgamations take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.

This Government recognises that small schools are an important part of the social fabric of rural communities. They will continue to be a feature of our education landscape. However, this does not mean that small schools can stand still or never have their staffing levels changed to something that is more affordable and sustainable for these difficult and challenging times. The teachers in small schools cannot be immune from the requirement that is being asked of all public servants to deliver our public services on a reduced level of resources.

My Department has expanded the existing appeals process so that it is accessible to the small schools that are losing a classroom post as a result of the budget measure. They will not lose their classroom post if any of them are projecting increased enrolments in September 2012 that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term. The detailed arrangements are set out in the Department's Staffing Circular that is now published on my Department's website. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeals Board is 23 March, 2012.

Telecommunications Services

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

52 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects the tender process for primary school access to broadband to be completed; when he expects that schools with unreliable connections under the current tender will be able to apply for new connections under the new tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12978/12]

The evaluation of broadband tenders is underway and I expect that it will be complete by the end of this month. New contracts for the supply of services will be awarded shortly thereafter. My Department's aim is to optimise the quality of connectivity for all schools. Schools do not need to apply for new connections. Decisions concerning connections are made on the basis the most economically advantageous solution for each school as per procurement rules. Early indications are that there should be a significant reduction in those schools reliant on slower connections.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Brendan Griffin

Question:

53 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter regarding allowances (details supplied); if he plans to alter this plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12981/12]

In his address to Dáil Éireann on December 5th 2011 the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced that Public Service bodies will have to achieve a reduction of 5% in the cost of allowances and premium payments in 2012. In order to achieve the necessary reduction, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is conducting a review of allowances and premium payments across the Public Service.

Pending the outcome of this review, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has advised my Department that delegated sanction for the payment of allowances to new beneficiaries is withdrawn with effect from 1st February 2012. The only exception to the prohibition on the awarding of new allowances is Principal and Deputy Principal Allowances. I understand that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will advise of the outcome of the review shortly. I am not in a position to comment further in relation to teacher allowances until then.

Third Level Fees

Brendan Griffin

Question:

54 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for third level fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12982/12]

The reality of the economic situation and the public expenditure corrections which must be made in the coming years present challenges across all areas of public expenditure, including higher education. Moreover, the projected growth in demand for higher education over the next two decades creates further challenges for funding. Careful planning and consideration of available evidence will allow us to develop policy options so that the system can meet those challenges in the difficult years ahead.

At my request the Higher Education Authority (HEA) completed an initial study late last year on sustainability of the current funding system for higher education. The HEA report outlines the scale of recent reductions in funding and growth in student numbers, and provides some evidence on the possible impacts of this on quality of provision. However, the HEA has emphasised that the report is preliminary only and that substantial additional work now needs to be undertaken before comprehensive proposals as to how we can sustainably fund higher education into the future can be developed. The HEA is continuing its work in this area and further advice is expected later this year.

Child Protection Guidelines

Brendan Griffin

Question:

55 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will explain a matter relating to child protection (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13007/12]

My Department has recently published updated "Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools". These procedures are based on the recently published "Children First — National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011" and apply to all primary and post-primary schools, irrespective of size. The new procedures incorporate significant improvements to the previous school guidelines and are intended to better ensure consistent and uniform implementation of Children First across all schools. The improvements include a new template child protection policy, a requirement that all primary schools fully implement the Stay Safe programme and also put in place improved oversight arrangements at Board of Management level.

School Staffing

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

56 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is an appeals mechanism for a school (details supplied) in order to appeal a potential loss of a mainstream school teacher in September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13033/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is 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 relevant appointment and retention figures for mainstream staffing for the coming school year have been published on the Department's website.

However, the staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of other budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. The reform of the allocation process is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools so there will inevitably be some schools that will lose posts and some schools that will gain posts. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule Staffing Circular 0007/2012 that is now published on my Department's website. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012.

Higher Education Grants

Catherine Byrne

Question:

57 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the financial supports available to postgraduate students for the academic year 2012-13; the way financial supports can be accessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13049/12]

The Deputy will be aware that, 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 maintenance payments under the Student Grant Scheme. 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.

Existing postgraduate students will not be affected. 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 that this will help an additional 4,000 postgraduate students. There will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year.

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. 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.

In relation to the way that these financial supports may be accessed, all new student grant applications from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will be dealt with by the new single grant awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (a division of City of Dublin VEC). Students will be able to access the online application facility through www.studentfinance.ie to have their eligibility for a grant assessed. In the case of the renewal of applications for existing grant-holders, students should continue to apply to their local authority or Vocational Education Committee in the area where they live.

In addition to the above means-tested supports, this year my Department is providing some €38 million to support research activities across a range of programmes, including schemes managed by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET). These schemes specifically focus on providing funding support to postgraduate students and early-career post doctoral fellows. It is anticipated that the Councils will make over 300 new postgraduate awards this year, which is an increase on the previous year. These awards include funding for tuition fees and an annual stipend of €16,000. Funding is also available from other research funding agencies, including Science Foundation Ireland. Additionally, places are being made available free-of-charge on postgraduate courses across the country to unemployed people under my Department's Springboard initiative.

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

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

58 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13112/12]

My Department has one office in Tralee, Co. Kerry which accommodates psychologists and school inspectors. There are no plans to close this office or reduce the number of staff.

Departmental Agencies

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

59 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of organisations and agencies financed by the Government, but acting independently of it, that are supporting our education system; the cost to the State of these agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13144/12]

With regard to my Department, funding is provided to a wide range of bodies that support our education system across all sectors. These bodies include: Schools (both first and second level); Vocational Educational Committees; Higher Level Institutions (Universities, Institutes of Technology and Teacher Training Colleges); Teacher Education Centres; and agencies under the aegis of the Department (list attached for the Deputy's information). In addition funding is also provided for a range of activities such as Adult Literacy Schemes and Community Education Programmes.

The degree of autonomy conferred on these agencies, organisations etc is dependent on how the legislation underpinning their establishment and functions is framed. If the Deputy is interested in a particular agency or organisation my Department officials will arrange for the provision of further information.

Bodies under aegis of Department of Education and Skills (March 2012)

An Chomhairle um Oideachais Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG)

Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse (CICA)

Education Finance Board (EFB)

FÁS

Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC)

Grangegorman Development Authority (GDA)

Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC)

Higher Education Authority (HEA)

Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET)

Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Léargas Ltd — The Exchange Bureau

National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE)

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)

National Council for Special Education (NCSE)

National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI)

Residential Institutions Review Board (RIRB)

Residential Institutions Review Committee RIRC)

Skillnets Ltd

State Examinations Commission

The Teaching Council

School Staffing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

60 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will list the total number of teaching posts due to be removed from a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; if he will provide an explanation for the loss of these posts; when these posts will be removed from the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13151/12]

Colm Keaveney

Question:

62 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Skills the expected savings from the decoupling of learning support and learning resources from primary schools; the way these savings were calculated; if proper account was taken of extra costs involved in having support and resource teachers travelling to and from schools and for the loss in productivity from the time expended on such travel; if account was taken of the loss of personal knowledge of pupils that may result; if account was taken of the effect on children from having learning support delivered in longer classes over the course for one or two days as opposed to it being provided in shorter periods over five days; the effect it is thought that this will have, if any, and who was consulted on this; if he will provide detail behind all answers particularly on any documents relating to potential outcomes on children envisaged by these changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13187/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 62 together.

The staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012 which is available on my Department's website. This includes the detail of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the GAM (learning support) allocation for all schools. This inevitably involves changes to existing clustering arrangements whereby a teacher is shared between schools. A further change is that schools in any locality are being empowered to cluster and arrange their GAM resources in a manner that best suits their local needs. This should be completed by schools by 16 March.

There are also new and separate arrangements for how resource hours for individual pupils are converted into teaching posts in schools. The requirement for resource hours in a school varies from year to year depending on the number, if any, of its pupils with autism etc. Small schools generally have a lower requirement for resource hours. The new arrangements take account of the later timescale for the allocation of these hours necessitated by individual assessment by the NCSE. All of the changes are designed to enable a more efficient operation of the teacher redeployment and recruitment and to reduce the impact of travel time between schools where teachers are shared.

My Department will be working with schools and the relevant education partners to ensure that the new arrangements operate as efficiently as possible. As the process proceeds this work can take account of any appropriate local arrangements that might be made to further optimise travel arrangements. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in Primary Circular 0007/2012.

The existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to cater enable limited phasing arrangements for schools where the combination of budget and reform measures impact on a particularly adverse manner on a school's overall allocation. Schools that are due to lose 3 or more posts as a result of a combination of the budget and reform measures will be able to apply to the Staffing Appeals Board with a view to seeking to have a portion of the loss in posts deferred to the 2013/14 school year. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and it's decision is final.

The final staffing position for all schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed for mainstream classroom teachers and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Disadvantaged Status

Billy Timmins

Question:

61 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13179/12]

The School to which the Deputy refers was not included as part of the Report on the net impact, in terms of posts, of Budget measures on these DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 urban primary schools, that still had additional posts allocated under disadvantage schemes pre-dating DEIS, which was published on 21 February 2012, as it is a DEIS rural primary school. Of the 328 DEIS Rural primary schools, 16 of these schools with legacy posts will lose one teaching post each, including the school referred to by the Deputy. It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of DEIS Rural Primary Schools have not been affected by this decision. A letter has issued from my Department to the school referred to by the Deputy in relation to the withdrawal of posts from previous disadvantage schemes.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 60.

School Staffing

Dara Calleary

Question:

63 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of net teaching posts including existing, legacy and new teaching posts that will be lost in County Donegal primary schools for 2012-13 school year; and if he will outline the detail of each school that will lose posts. [13196/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is 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 2012/13 school year were published on my Department's website in February, 2012.

The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. It is open to any Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0007/2012. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed for mainstream classroom teachers and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Disadvantaged Status

Dara Calleary

Question:

64 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason that he will only review the impacts of the legacy posts due to be removed from DEIS Band 1 and DEIS Band 2 schools as announced in budget 2012 and the reason this review did not look at rural DEIS schools or DEIS post-primary schools. [13197/12]

Due to conflicting numbers of posts being reported as potentially lost to DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 urban primary schools it was necessary to obtain clarity with regard to the net effect of a range of factors on teacher allocations in these schools; for example, increasing and decreasing enrolments, the reforms to the existing teacher allocations process and up to date enrolments, all of which contribute to determining the staffing requirement for these schools for 2012/13 school year. The Report on the net impact, in terms of posts, of Budget measures on these DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 urban primary schools, that still had additional posts allocated under disadvantage schemes pre-dating DEIS, was published on 21 February 2012.

Of the 328 DEIS Rural primary schools, 16 of these schools with legacy posts will lose one teaching post each. It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of DEIS Rural Primary Schools have not been affected by this decision. Of the 195 post primary DEIS schools, 163 of these schools will lose 136 posts. However, all DEIS post-primary schools will be targeted for additional support through an improved staffing schedule of 18.25:1 This is a 0.75 point improvement compared to the existing standard 19:1 that applies in post-primary schools that do not charge fees (or compared to the 21:1 ratio that will apply in fee-charging schools).

School Staffing

Dara Calleary

Question:

65 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the criteria to be adopted by the independent primary staffing appeals board for appeals which are being made by small schools to appeal a loss of posts to one, two, three and four-teacher schools. [13198/12]

My Department has expanded the existing appeals process so that it is accessible to the 73 small schools that are losing a classroom post as a result of the budget measure. It is worth noting that there are almost 1,200 small schools with 86 pupils or less and no small school will be forced to close as a result of this decision. Such schools will not lose their classroom post if they are projecting increased enrolments in September 2012 that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term. The detailed arrangements are set out in the Department's Staffing Circular 0007/2012 including the relevant thresholds to retain a classroom teaching post at Appendix A.

The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. Schools must submit to my Department by 16 March, 2012 a redeployment form for any teacher surplus to requirements who is eligible to be placed on the redeployment panel. I can assure the Deputy that it is intended that the Appeal Board meeting will take place prior to the release of the main redeployment panel in mid to late April, 2012 thus allowing for any impact of the Board's decision on redeployment panels to be effected. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Schools Refurbishment

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

66 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if officials in his Department will accede to a request from the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare to discuss essential works on the school building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13236/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme to carry out various improvement works to their school building. As the scope of works for which funding is sought is outside the terms of the scheme it cannot be considered for funding. The school authority has been informed of this decision.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

67 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13563/12]

I can confirm to the Deputy that in the case of both the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) that members of the respective Councils were appointed to the position of CEO since 1st January 2009.

In respect of the NCSE the current CEO, Ms. Teresa Griffin, was appointed in March 2011 following her success in a public open competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service in accordance with the code of practice for public sector appointments. Ms. Griffin was a member of the Council immediately prior to her appointment as CEO due to her then position as Principal Officer in the Special Education Division of my Department. Ms. Griffin was not involved in her role as a member of the Council in the CEO selection or appointment process.

With regard to FETAC the current CEO, Dr. Padraig Walsh, was appointed to this position in June 2011. The Deputy should note that Dr. Walsh became CEO of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) and CEO Designate of the yet to be established amalgamated qualifications and quality assurance body, to be known as the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland (QQAAI), in October 2010. One of the conditions of his appointment as CEO Designate was that he would also become CEO of FETAC and/or the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) should a vacancy arise in either of those positions in advance of the amalgamation.

When Dr Walsh became CEO of HETAC in February 2011, following the resignation of the incumbent, and, in accordance with the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, 1999, he therefore also became an ex-officio member of the board of FETAC from that time. Therefore Dr Walsh was a member of the Board of FETAC for a period before being appointed CEO of that body. However, this arose because of the forward planning and strategic arrangements put in place in advance of the amalgamation of the existing qualifications and quality assurance bodies.

Public Procurement

Arthur Spring

Question:

68 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of contracts of public works that have been awarded to companies registered outside of Ireland since 2008; if he will provide a list of the countries in which these companies are registered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12987/12]

Information on contract placement is currently available for the years 2008-2010 and relates to above-EU threshold contracts only and is contained in the tabular statement. The EU Works threshold for 2008/2009 was €5,150,000 and for 2010 was €4,845,000. Data in respect of 2011 will not be available until the third quarter 2012 as this data is collated a year in arrears.

The Deputy should be aware that the figures contained in the table relate to the number of contracts placed which were above the EU Threshold for the year in question and must not be interpreted as indicative statistics for the overall procurement spend. It must also be borne in mind that these statistics relate only to above threshold procurements where contract award notices were published and where the nationality of the winning tenderer was disclosed.

2008

Works Contracts

Irish Suppliers

Foreign Suppliers

Total

Central Government

10

0

10

Local Authorities

108

0

108

Utilities

42

5

47

Total

160

5

165

1 USA Company

4 UK Companies

2009

Works Contracts

Irish Suppliers

Foreign Suppliers

Total

Central Government

5

0

5

Local Authorities

72

2

74

Utilities

12

0

12

Total

89

2

91

1 UK Company

1 Spanish Company

2010

Works Contracts

Irish Suppliers

Foreign Suppliers

Total

Central Government

12

0

12

Local Authorities

64

1

65

Utilities

11

1

12

Total

87

2

89

1 UK Company

1 Northern Irish Company

Arthur Spring

Question:

69 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will confirm that all authorities responsible for awarding public works contracts are aware of the requirement for all main contractors to submit a certificate of compliance for pay and conditions of employment with each interim valuation; whether all authorities are requesting and receiving such certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13001/12]

The public works contracts were developed and implemented on a phased basis from 19 February 2007 (Department of Finance Circular 33/06 refers); and applicable to all projects since 13 February 2008 (Department of Finance Circular 04/08). They must be applied to employer designed and "design and build" public works projects in Ireland that are procured directly by a Government Department, bodies under its aegis, including local authorities or other relevant bodies that provide public services (e.g. schools, voluntary hospitals, etc.).

A public works contract contains provision under the Payment and Conditions of Employment clause, which includes measures such as the certificate of compliance to ensure those employed on public works sites are paid in accordance with the Registered Employment Agreement for the Construction Sector. Supporting guidance notes have also been developed for use with these contracts. Both the contracts and guidance notes form part of the Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF), which was developed to deal with all aspects of the management of capital projects. The CWMF is a web-based facility maintained by my Department and consists of a suite of best practice guidance, standard contracts and generic template documents. Department of Finance Circular 06/10 made it mandatory for contracting authorities to comply with all aspects of the CWMF.

From November 2006, centralised training programmes on the new Construction Contracts were provided by the Department of Finance for key public sector practitioners and private sector construction professionals who are engaged by contracting authorities on public sector projects to ensure that the new contract conditions are used appropriately across the public sector.

The clause on Pay and Conditions of Employment which includes the provision of the certificate of compliance to which the Deputy refers is referenced in three Department of Finance Circulars; 33/06, 04/08 and 06/10. Guidance note GN 3.1 — Implementation Process available on my Department's construction procurement website: www.constructionprocurement.gov.ie also provides guidance for contracting authorities on the contract administration stage of a public works project and the manner in which the certificate of compliance is to be used is set out under the section titled “Interim Payments”. The standard Rates of Pay and Conditions of Employment Certificate (model form MF 1.13) is available on the same website. Under the clause titled “Payment” in the public works contracts, a contracting authority may not make a payment to a contractor unless the contractor’s payment application is accompanied by a copy of MF 1.13 signed by the contractor.

Public Investment Projects

Willie O'Dea

Question:

70 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his policy on investing in infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13163/12]

I have set out the Government's capital investment priorities for the next five years in Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016, which we published on 10 November 2011.

Public Procurement

Willie O'Dea

Question:

71 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his policy on public procurement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13164/12]

Public procurement is the acquisition, whether under formal contract or not, of works, supplies and services by public bodies. Public procurement policy is aimed at ensuring that all public sector purchasing is carried out in a manner that is legal, transparent, and secures optimal value for money for the taxpayer.

The changed economic environment has meant that it is necessary to do "better for less", providing real value-for-money for the Irish taxpayer by maximising efficiency and eliminating waste. In order to achieve these objectives my Department has developed a Public Service Reform implementation plan. This Plan outlines the priority actions and timelines for reform in a broad range of areas including procurement, as well as setting out how implementation should be driven and monitored.

The main components of procurement reform are:

A revised Policy Framework is being developed to build on the reforms that have already taken place in procurement. The reform plan will focus on achieving value for money through further harnessing the State's purchasing power in relation to commonly used supplies and services.

The reform plan includes specific measures to ensure that:

these aggregated procurement arrangements are utilised across the public service;

public bodies have appropriately trained staff to implement the reforms and to ensure the State is getting value for money; and

that greater emphasis will be placed on analysing what the State purchases in order to assess other possible savings can be made through more efficient procurement methods.

The National Procurement Service will play an important role in public procurement reform through ambitiously expanding the use of aggregated procurement for commonly used products and services. They will achieve this by:

working with bodies throughout the public service to increase the procurement capacity of staff throughout the public service;

informing public bodies of the savings that can be made through the use of existing centralised frameworks where they are available; and

drawing up a plan that will see more aggregated procurement of commonly used products and services.

These reforms will achieve better value for taxpayer's money through reform of public procurement arrangements leading to increased use of common/centralised procurement frameworks, increased professionalism in procurement and innovative use of technology.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

72 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form the total years of service of each of the Secretaries General in that specific position of the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform since the 1 January 1995 to date; the pension arrangements made for each of the persons involved; the number of added years granted to their overall service or to their periods of office as Secretaries General; the special pension arrangements for their retirements; any public appointments post their retirement; and any individual departmental or State agency consultancies awarded to Secretaries General post their retirement. [12936/12]

It has not been possible to collate the information in the time available. The relevant data will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Proposed Legislation

Brendan Smith

Question:

73 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the likely timescale for the enactment of the Construction Contracts Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12937/12]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, my colleague Minister of State Mr Brian Hayes has been working with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator's private members' Construction Contracts Bill — which had passed all stages in the Seanad and had moved onto the Dáil order paper — into a robust piece of legislation.

In order to address a number of issues that were raised during the consultation on the Bill a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) was carried out. It found that legislation is desirable to improve payment practices and to allow swift resolution of payment disputes by way of adjudication, allowing projects to be completed without wasting time and money in litigation. The RIA was completed and published last September. The Report is available on my Department's website: www.per.gov.ie/reports. Following the RIA, Minister Hayes brought proposals to progress this legislation to Government last week. These proposals have been agreed by Government and it is expected that the legislation will proceed in the Dáil shortly. It is essential that the solution to this issue needs to be balanced so as to avoid imposing regulatory or cost burdens on parties in dispute, the State or others.

Departmental Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

74 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form a list of the Secretaries General who have retired since 2000 to the end of February 2012; the Department from which they retired; their age on retirement; the number of added years they received on retirement; and the amount of the special severance gratuity payment received on retirement, lump sum received and annual pension payment made. [12951/12]

It has not been possible to collate the information in the time available. The relevant data will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Public Sector Pay

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

75 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form the total monthly pay bill and the total monthly pension bill for public sector workers each month from January 2011 to February 2012. [12990/12]

The estimated gross monthly pay and pensions bill for 2011, as notified by Departments and Offices, in respect of public service workers is set out in the following table. The figures below exclude pay and pension expenditure by Local Authorities and do not take account of the pension-related deduction on public service remuneration. Monthly returns in respect of the pay and pensions costs incurred in January and February 2012 by Departments are currently being collated.

2011

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

Pay

1,441,280

1,179,131

1,352,772

1,302,095

1,336,141

1,218,901

Pension

261,058

210,316

220,114

215,575

204,270

203,939

Total

1,702,337

1,389,447

1,572,885

1,517,669

1,540,411

1,422,840

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Total Year

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

1,346,138

1,207,863

1,371,495

1,255,210

1,242,065

1,368,478

15,621,569

213,014

231,239

346,019

233,256

240,272

320,844

2,899,914

1,559,152

1,439,102

1,717,514

1,488,466

1,482,337

1,689,323

18,521,484

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

76 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he plans to put in place a prohibition on former members of boards of statutory companies seeking employment with the organisation on whose boards they served, with the exception of worker directors; if he will advise on any existing policy which provides guidance on such matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12992/12]

I have no plans to put in place a prohibition of former members of boards of statutory companies applying for positions with the organisation on whose boards they served. The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies provides for the preparation of Codes of Business Conduct for Directors and Employees. It suggests that the Code should recommend that the acceptance of further employment where the potential for conflict of interest arises should be avoided during a reasonable period of time after the exercise of a function in the State body has ceased. Clearly, this is intended to cover a move to another organisation rather than employment within the same organisation.

Of course, great care should always be taken to ensure no conflict of interest arises in relation to any appointment to a State Body. On a slightly separate note, the Programme for Government contains a commitment relating to potential conflict of interest to "amend the rules to ensure that no senior public servant (including political appointees) or Minister can work in the private sector in any area involving a potential conflict of interest with their former area of public employment, until at least two years have elapsed after they have left public office”.

This commitment is being progressed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as part of its work to introduce a legislative framework for the regulation of lobbyists. A consultation process began before Christmas 2011 in respect of the regulation of lobbying and the issue of conflict of interest was included in this process. The closing date for submissions was 29 February 2012 and more than 50 were received which are currently being reviewed by the Department and will be published on the Department's website next week.

Gerald Nash

Question:

77 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12995/12]

In the period in question no such appointments were made to bodies under the aegis of my Department.

National Monuments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

78 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a member of staff will engage with locals in relation to an Office of Public Works site (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13019/12]

Substantial conservation works will begin, subject to Ministerial consent, at Ballymalis Castle in June 2012. The structure will be scaffolded to allow removal of inappropriate concrete repairs that had been carried out in the early 20th century. This will be a long term project and there will be no public access to the castle for the duration of the project. The issue of internal works to provide public access will be reviewed following completion of external conservation works. The Heritage Services of the Office of Public Works are happy to consider a written submission in relation to a viewing platform proposal.

Sale of State Assets

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

79 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the proposal to sell off the national lottery; if he will outline the conditions under which the lotto would be sold off; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13047/12]

I announced on 10th November 2011, in the context of unveiling the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Framework 2012-2016, that the Government has decided to review a number of options regarding the future of the National Lottery. My Department is currently examining the various options with respect to the next Lottery licence and I expect to be in a position to revert to Government shortly.

The Government's intention is to seek a large upfront payment to the State as part of the arrangements for the new licence, with some of the payment to be used to help fund the building of the proposed new National Children's Hospital. Any new arrangements for the National Lottery will involve the continued provision of significant annual revenues from the Lottery for good causes. However, in advance of a final decision by Government, it would be premature for me to speculate at this stage on possible terms for the next licence.

Public Sector Reform

Sean Fleming

Question:

80 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the proposals for the next phase of downsizing of the public service; the discussions that have taken place on this issue; the targets in terms of downsizing to be achieved for the remainder of 2012 and the targets for 2013 in terms of the gross numbers of staff leaving, additional employment and the net reduction in public sector numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13052/12]

As the Deputy is aware from my reply to PQ number 8485/12 last month policy decisions have not yet been taken with regard to numbers targets for 2013 and 2014. However, as published in thePublic Service Reform Plan, the Government's Public Service numbers target is 282,500 by end-2015.

The Public Service Reform Plan published on the 17 November last sets out the Government's target of bringing public service staffing numbers to 282,500 by end-2015. In moving towards this objective, the end-2011 provisional outturn was 296,900, and the Employment Control Framework (ECF) for 2012 set a ceiling of 294,400 on numbers by the end of this year. This will allow scope for some targeted recruitment (of the order of 3,000) so as to address needs in key areas of front-line services (particularly in the Health and Education Sectors) and other strategic requirements. ECF ceilings for 2013 and 2014 have not yet been decided upon.

Following the expiry in recent days of the grace period for retirements, my Department will now be reviewing the aggregate staffing numbers situation and we will be then deciding on the appropriate path and measures for the period 2012 to 2015 so as to ensure achievement of the Government's end 2015 target of 282,500.

As the Deputy will also be aware the Government has established Strategic Workforce Planning groups in the Education, Health Civil Service, Local Authorities, Defence and Justice Sectors. These Workforce Planning Groups will ensure that sectoral employers are developing plans to deal with the operational and strategic consequences arising from staffing reductions. These sectoral groups are liaising with the central Strategic Workforce Planning Forum under my Department.

I am confident that given the number of departures in 2011, together with estimated retirement numbers for 2012 we are on track to meet our target for 2012 of 294,400. This will allow scope to recruit staff where necessary to maintain essential services, mainly in the Health and Education sectors.

Public Procurement

Pearse Doherty

Question:

81 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will list all public contracts awarded to and currently being undertaken by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13189/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is not recorded centrally for public contracts. Contracting authorities are currently only obliged to publish contract award notices on eTenders and the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) for those contracts whose values exceed the EU thresholds. The current EU threshold for public works contracts is above €5 million; and for supplies and services above €130,000/€200,000 (Government Departments and Offices/Local and Regional Authorities and public bodies outside the Utilities sector). The majority of public contracts awarded fall below these thresholds and data on the companies to which they have been awarded are generally held only by the contracting authority concerned. In some cases contract award notices are published for contracts below these levels, although this is not obligatory. The National Procurement Service who administers the eTenders website www.etenders.ie has advised my Department that there is no evidence that any contracts have been awarded to the companies which are the subject of the Deputy’s question.

Employment Rights

Arthur Spring

Question:

82 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of inspections that were carried out by the National Employment Rights Authority on Irish based contractors who were awarded public works contracts each year since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12965/12]

Arthur Spring

Question:

83 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of inspections carried out by the National Employment Rights Authority on contractors registered outside of Ireland and who were awarded public works contracts in this country each year since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12966/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 83 together.

The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) case management system facilitates the capturing of details in respect of employers inspected in various sectors, including construction and electrical. It does not capture details in respect of individual employers which may, as part of their overall business, have been engaged in public contract work. The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) carries out inspections, on a risk management basis, on receipt of a complaint or as part of its ongoing proactive inspection programme.

Contractors working in the construction sector come within the terms of the Registered Employment Agreement for the Construction Industry, where they are building or civil engineering undertakings, the principal business of which is one or a combination of any of the activities set out in the agreement. Contractors may also come within the terms of the Registered Employment Agreement for the Electrical Contracting Industry where the main activity of the business is the performance of electrical work on a contract or sub-contract basis for a third party. The table provides details of inspections carried out under both Agreements for the period 2008 to date.

Legislation

Cases

Compliance Level %

Unpaid Wages Recovered

2008

CONSTRUCTION

297

38%

710,475

ELECTRICAL

34

53%

133,351

TOTAL

331

40%

843,826

2009

CONSTRUCTION

395

45%

252,357

ELECTRICAL

15

27%

28,004

TOTAL

410

44%

280,361

2010

CONSTRUCTION

407

56%

213,297

ELECTRICAL

40

60%

51,946

TOTAL

447

56%

265,243

2011

CONSTRUCTION

399

58%

269,910

ELECTRICAL

54

52%

21,596

TOTAL

453

58%

291,506

2012 to date

CONSTRUCTION

56

64%

14,538

ELECTRICAL

10

50%

2,570

TOTAL

66

62%

17,108

NERA aims to achieve voluntary compliance. However, some employers either refuse or fail to rectify the breaches identified and/or pay money due to their employees. These employers may be referred for prosecution.

Work Permits

Robert Troy

Question:

84 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will grant a person (details supplied) an Irish work permit. [13036/12]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006. The Employment Permits Section informs me that it has no record of a permit being applied for in respect of the named individual.

I wish to advise the Deputy that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or;

positions requiring specialist or scarce skills, expertise or qualifications which cannot be filled elsewise.

The Department of Justice and Equality determines the immigration status of persons within the State. This status will determine the bearer's right to access the labour market and to apply for an employment permit. Further information and the conditions that apply to the obtaining of new employment permits in respect of foreign nationals can be found on my Department's website at www.djei.ie.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

85 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of work permits for nationals from Bulgaria and Romania sought by and secured by companies (details supplied) in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12985/12]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits and all applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006. The Employment Permits Section informs me that it has no record of permits being applied for or issued in respect of the named companies.

Job Creation

Willie O'Dea

Question:

86 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13154/12]

As I have pointed out on many occasions, the Government does not create jobs — entrepreneurs and successful businesses do. However, the Government has a key role to play in providing the environment where businesses can start-up, expand and create jobs.

The Action Plan for Jobs, which was launched on 13th February, aims to transform the operating environment for business in order to support enterprise growth and job creation. The Government will achieve this objective by systematically removing obstacles to competitiveness, putting downward pressure on business costs, promoting innovation and trade, supporting new and existing businesses to develop and expand, and by deepening the impact of foreign direct investment in Ireland. The Government has also identified, in the Action Plan, a number of key sectors where Ireland can gain competitive advantage in global markets.

The Action Plan for Jobs has set a target of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016, with the longer term objective of having 2 million people at work by 2020. Of the net 100,000 jobs to be created over the next five years, 20,000 are projected to be generated directly in manufacturing, while 30,000 will be created in international traded services. An additional 50,000 jobs will be generated indirectly through spin-offs and support activities. While the Government will play the primary role in implementing the Action Plan for Jobs, we will work in partnership with the enterprise sector and the wider community to deliver the Plan's objectives.

Employment Support Services

Willie O'Dea

Question:

87 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on tackling long-term unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13156/12]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

99 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on addressing youth unemployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13174/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 99 together.

The Quarterly National Household Survey for the fourth quarter of 2011 shows that 60% of those who are unemployed have been out of work for 12 months or more. Unemployment amongst people under 25 years of age is running at approximately 30%. The Government has recognised that these levels of unemployment could become a structural problem for our society unless the situation is addressed quickly.

There are two major elements to the Government's response to unemployment — the Action Plan for Jobs and "Pathways to Work". The Action Plan includes a total of 270 specific measures to be delivered across the whole of Government. Pathways to Work will be delivered by the Departments of Social Protection and Education and Skills, and the relevant bodies under their aegis.

The goal of the Action Plan for Jobs is to support the creation of new jobs in the economy, while the aim of Pathways to Work is to help to ensure that as many of those jobs as possible are filled by people from the Live Register. Both documents are fundamentally linked and recognise the need to reform our policies and our structures to secure long-term and lasting results for our enterprise base and for job-seekers.

The Action Plan for Jobs has set a target of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016, with the longer term objective of having 2 million people at work by 2020. Pathways to Work has five major strands, covering:

more regular and ongoing engagement with people who are unemployed,

greater targeting of activation places and opportunities,

incentivising the take-up of opportunities,

incentivising employers to provide more jobs for people who are unemployed, and

reforming institutions to deliver better services to people who are unemployed.

The public employment services will be reformed through the creation of the new National Employment and Entitlements Service which will provide better targeted services to both job seekers and employers. The new service will include the provision of recruitment and job-matching services for employers to facilitate the hiring of workers from the Live Register.

Under Pathways to Work, the Department of Social Protection is committed to supporting over 85,000 beneficiaries in job placement, work experience and back to education schemes in 2012. The Department of Education and Skills will also provide over 457,000 training and education places, including provision for Early School Leavers. The provision of services to address long term youth unemployment will be continued as part of the Government's activation measures for the unemployed.

Economic Competitiveness

Willie O'Dea

Question:

88 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on reducing costs for businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13157/12]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

93 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on reducing red tape for businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13166/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 93 together.

International benchmarking statistics reveal that Ireland imposes a relatively low burden of regulation on business. The Forfás Competitiveness Scoreboard 2011 states that Ireland's regulatory environment is one of the least restrictive in the OECD in relation to product market regulation, the time taken to comply with tax payments is one of the lowest in the OECD across all categories and Ireland's employment framework is less rigid than the OECD average.

The work to reduce administrative burdens and costs on business in Ireland is being progressed on two fronts. The High Level Group on Business Regulation works to fast-track simplifications to specific red tape issues identified by business; and an inter-departmental group of officials from all Departments, having regulation affecting business, drives the measurement and reduction of administrative burdens in a systematic manner, based on the internationally recognised Standard Cost Model. To date, the High Level Group has progressed a range of administrative burden issues brought to its attention by business and continues to drive progress on further issues. The Group continues to work with business interests to identify new opportunities for simplification.

Good progress has been made by my Department and its Agencies in reducing administrative burdens with a reduction of over 23% having already been achieved. This amounts to an annual saving of over €198 million. Details of all the initiatives making up this total are available on my Department's website.

My Department also co-ordinates the cross-government measurement and reduction of administrative burdens, towards the 25% target to be reached by the end of this year. A project to measure the burden imposed by regulation under the responsibility of seven Departments and Revenue was initiated in September 2011. I expect results from the first cluster of Departments by the end of the first quarter this year and from the second cluster by the end of quarter two.

When the measurements are complete, we will know the administrative burden arising for business as a result of regulation under the responsibility of each of these Departments, as well as how much these burdens have been reduced since the base year, which is 2008. Each Department must then draft a Simplification Plan setting out how they will achieve the remaining reductions to reach the 25% target. The first cluster of Departments should report to Government with Simplification Plans by the end of quarter two, and the second cluster by end quarter three.

Credit Availability

Willie O'Dea

Question:

89 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on improving access to credit for businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13158/12]

A key priority of the Programme for Government is to ensure that an adequate supply of credit is available to fund small and medium sized businesses. The Government's restructuring of the main pillar banks last year was designed to ensure a better flow of credit to viable businesses. In addition the Government has four distinct measures it is delivering to supplement the more traditional sources of credit for business. These are: a Microfinance fund for business start-ups, a Partial Loan Guarantee for SMEs struggling to access credit, a Development Capital fund for businesses primed for rapid growth and the Innovation Fund for Ireland which provides investment funds for innovative, high tech start-ups.

Work is well advanced in my Department to realise our commitments in terms of the Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme and Microfinance Loan Scheme. An Operator for the Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme has been selected through a public tendering process and will be contracted by my Department to act as the agent for the practical oversight, management and operation of the Scheme. Primary legislation to underpin the Scheme is being urgently progressed with the Attorney General's Office, and a Credit Guarantee Bill will be published during this Spring session. The Guarantee Scheme will go live as soon as possible following enactment of the legislation in Quarter 2 2012.

I am currently finalising the delivery structures for the Microfinance Loan Fund to provide loans to the microenterprise sector. This Fund is designed to stimulate lending to sustainable microenterprises and is targeted at start-up, newly established, or growing micro enterprises across all industry sectors, employing not more than 10 people. It will provide loans of up to €25,000 for commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks. The Government recently approved the allocation of €10 million as seed capital for the Fund. It is anticipated that the Fund will supplement this seed capital by leveraging further funding from private sources, including the banks.

Following establishment of the Microfinance lending facility, application will be made for the EIF guarantee facility. A rigorous due diligence process is required to secure EIF accreditation. Following EIF approval of the guarantee facility, and subject to completion of all administrative and corporate governance requirements, it is anticipated that the Loan Fund will become operational in Quarter 3 2012.

The Development Capital Scheme as outlined in the Action Plan for Jobs has been developed to complement the existing range of financial supports offered by Enterprise Ireland (EI). It is proposed that the Scheme will be launched and marketed by end Q1 2012. The exchequer funding requirement for this scheme is €50m over 10 years. The scheme will be demand led and will target the cohort of companies that are growth focused. It will be open to all firms in that cohort regardless of their location in Ireland.

Innovation Fund Ireland is a key pillar of building our smart economy and investments through the Fund facilitate job creation in innovative export focused sectors as well as proving a return to the exchequer over time. The Fund has up to €250 million available to make commitments. Over the lifetime of the funds, it is envisaged that the State will make a return on its investment.

The first round of commitments out of the €125m of Enterprise Ireland managed funds are expected to be to be formalised in the near term with commitments of approximately €60m. I issued a statement on October 5th indicating my intention to issue a second call for expressions of interest for the balance of the fund of €65m, when the first of the new Irish offices associated with these new investments is established. The operation of the Innovation Fund will continue to be managed by EI in ongoing co-operation with the NPRF.

The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 includes a commitment for the Pillar banks to produce quarterly reports for the Department of Finance which incorporate figures for sanctions and drawdowns by SMEs. The data contained in these reports will be reviewed and analysed by the Department of Finance and the CRO, with a sharper focus on the "new money" element, to ensure that the pillar banks are compliant with the terms of the Government recapitalisation as it relates to the provision of credit for SMEs. These targeted measures supplement the initiatives already taken by the Minister for Finance to restructure, re-capitalise, reorganise and deleverage the banking system to ensure a properly functioning banking system and secure an adequate flow of credit into the economy to support economic recovery.

Employment Rights

Willie O'Dea

Question:

90 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on joint labour committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13160/12]

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011 was published on 22 December 2011. The Bill has completed Second Stage in the Dáil and is currently awaiting Committee Stage. The main purpose of the Bill is to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to reform the Joint Labour Committee system. The reform of the legal framework for our statutory wage setting mechanisms is aimed at increasing employers' ability to retain and employ workers, particularly in sectors hard hit by the prevailing economic circumstances, and to facilitate necessary cross-sector adjustment.

In addition, the Bill provides for the more comprehensive measures required to strengthen the legal framework for the Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreement sectoral wage setting mechanisms, under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004, in the light of deficiencies in the original legislation identified in the July 2011 High Court judgment in the John Grace Fried Chicken case.

The fact that the process of making EROs has been found by the High Court to be unconstitutional, together with the identified lack of adequate Oireachtas scrutiny of this process, only underscores some of the main features of the recommendations for reform that were put forward by the Independent Review Report on these statutory wage setting mechanisms — the Duffy/ Walsh report. The commissioning of the independent review of the ERO and REA systems was one of the undertakings given by the last Government in the context of the EU and IMF-supported financial assistance programme for Ireland.

When enacted, this Bill, will implement the programme of reforms to the JLC/REA systems agreed by Government in July 2011. It will radically overhaul the system so as to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions. It will also reinstate a robust system of protection for workers in these sectors in the aftermath of the High Court ruling in the John Grace Fried Chicken case.

The principal measures in the legislation include:

JLCs will have the power to set a basic adult rate and two additional higher rates, based on length of service in the sector or enterprise concerned as well as the standards and skills recognised for the sector concerned.

JLCs will no longer set Sunday premium rates. In order to recognise the special status of Sunday working a statutory Code of Practice will be prepared by the LRC following submissions from employers and trade unions. This Code will provide guidance to both parties in the sectors covering EROs on the compensatory arrangements, including such additional amounts as are reasonable, for Sunday working and on the procedure to apply in the event of disputes concerning the varying entitlements to Sunday working.

Companies will be able to derogate from EROs and REAs in cases of financial difficulty. For this to occur, the Labour Court must satisfy itself that specified criteria have been met. Such derogation will be granted, for a limited period, in cases of proven economic difficulty, following consultation with the employees.

In setting rates, JLCs will have to take into account a series of economic and industrial relations factors.

The burden of compliance and record-keeping requirements for employers in these sectors will be reduced.

Providing for Ministerial involvement in the supervision of JLCs and in the making of orders to vary or revoke EROs.

Providing for use of civil remedies rather than an exclusive reliance on criminal sanctions.

The constitutionality of EROs and REAs will be restored through inclusion of robust principles and policies.

I am also proceeding with a series of complementary reforms to the JLC system which can be implemented without the need for legislative change, including:

Reducing the number of JLCs from 13 to 6;

Standardising benefits such as overtime through a nationally agreed protocol or Code of Practice, through the normal process of consultation with the employers and trade union interests.

From the beginning of this process I have been determined to strike a balance between protecting vulnerable workers and providing reforms that would make the systems more competitive and more flexible so as to allow the creation of jobs in these sectors.

From an employer's perspective, the overall effect of these reforms will be to substantially reduce the burden of record-keeping and compliance. This Bill will make the long-established minimum wage setting mechanisms fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and will eliminate rigidities that are considered to have had a negative impact on competitiveness and jobs in the affected sector.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

91 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on collective bargaining rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13161/12]

It has been the consistent policy of successive Irish Governments to promote collective bargaining through the laws of this country and through the development of an institutional framework supportive of a voluntary system of industrial relations that is premised upon freedom of contract and freedom of association. There is an extensive range of statutory provisions designed to back up the voluntary bargaining process. The freedom of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively are also guaranteed in a number of international instruments which the State has ratified.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to ensure that Irish law on employees' rights to engage in collective bargaining is consistent with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Giving effect to this commitment will require consultation with stakeholders, including employer and worker representatives, and a review of the experience of the operation of the existing legislative framework as put in place under the Industrial Relations Acts of 2001 and 2004 and the consequences of the litigation that has arisen in the course of the operation of these Acts.

I believe that the established dispute settling institutions should continue to play an important role in disputes over trade union recognition. I am certain that satisfactory arrangements can be put in place that are suited to our constitutional, social and economic traditions, as well as our international obligations. I am also convinced that they can be framed so as to ensure continued success in attracting investment into our economy.

National Minimum Wage

Willie O'Dea

Question:

92 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on the minimum wage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13162/12]

Ireland, along with nineteen other countries among the EU's 27 Member States, has national legislation setting a minimum wage. There are large differences in the level of the national minimum wage across countries with the highest minimum wage in euro terms (both hourly and monthly) being more than 10 times higher than the lowest. In January 2012, the gross minimum monthly wage in the EU ranged from €138 (Bulgaria) to €1,801 (Luxembourg).

The current Programme for Government contained a commitment to reverse the €1 per hour reduction in the National Minimum Wage introduced by the previous Government on 1 February 2011. Agreement was reached with the Troika on the reversal. The increase was provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011 and effected by the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (Section 11) (No. 2) Order 2011 on July 1st 2011. The restoration of the National Minimum Wage to €8.65 per hour represents a significant commitment by the Government to protect the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 88.

Public Service Reform

Willie O'Dea

Question:

94 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on private sector involvement in the public sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13167/12]

Last November, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform launched the Public Service Reform Plan, which was based on increasing efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility in the Public Service. There is an onus on the Public Service to ensure that it provides real value for money in the services it provides. One of the key themes of the Reform Plan is to maximise new and innovative service delivery channels. As well as increasing the use of eGovernment and improving service processes generally, this includes the consideration of options for external service delivery and a number of actions in this regard are set out in the Reform Plan. It is clear that developments in this area may present opportunities for private sector organisations and for job creation within those companies.

More generally, in developing and improving the capacity and capability of the Public Service, the input of the private sector will be of value at a time when we are radically changing delivery models. In this context, private sector involvement can help to offer new ideas and innovative approaches to public service delivery, while maintaining a client-centred focus.

Economic Competitiveness

Willie O'Dea

Question:

95 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on tackling labour market costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13170/12]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

96 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on increasing labour market flexibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13171/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 96 together.

Employment policies that promote labour market flexibility together with tax and benefit systems that reward work and provide a pathway to employment, education and training opportunities for those who have lost their jobs are a necessary prerequisite for progress. The measures in the Government's Action Plan on Jobs together with those to support the unemployed to return to the workforce in Pathways to Work are consistent with the European Union’s policy of flexicurity as an integrated strategy for enhancing, at the same time, flexibility and security in the labour market. Measures to combine flexibility and security represent a crucial element of the annual Employment Guidelines and the European Employment Strategy as a whole.

As a result of successfully shifting taxes away from labour, towards areas less detrimental to employment growth, Ireland's tax wedge on income earners is the lowest in the EU 27. This is consistent with the aim of developing a tax system that supports competitiveness, employment and enterprise. According to the latest OECD Taxing Wages report, based on wage and tax levels for 2010, Ireland had the eight lowest tax wedge (29.3%) of the 34 members in the OECD for a single worker on average earnings (€39,555).

Ireland has been able to bring down its unit labour costs substantially from 2008. Unit labour costs measure the average cost of labour per unit of output. Declining unit labour costs mean that productivity has increased faster than earnings — thus indicating an improvement in competitiveness. While the rate of growth in Irish unit labour costs significantly exceeded the OECD and euro area averages between 2005 and 2008, unit labour costs in Ireland have been falling consistently since then. Meanwhile, average OECD and euro area unit labour costs have continued to grow, albeit slowly. Therefore, at an economy wide level, Irish labour wage rates — when adjusted for productivity — are becoming more cost competitive. Unit labour costs are improving faster in the internationally trading manufacturing sector than in more closed sectors of the economy.

In its recent European Economic Forecast for Autumn 2011, the European Commission anticipates that Irish unit labour costs will fall by a cumulative 14.4% over the period 2009 to 2013. This decline reflects a recovery in productivity coupled with a decline in compensation per head. Unit labour costs in the euro area as a whole, by comparison, are forecast to increase by 6.6% over the same period. Therefore, Ireland's relative position will have improved by around 21% vis-à-vis the Euro area since 2009.

Labour costs remain a significant component of overall competitiveness; international benchmark data show that labour costs account for as much as three quarters of location-sensitive costs in manufacturing and that Ireland still has the tenth highest total labour costs in the OECD.

Ireland's labour market flexibilities are acknowledged as a valuable accompaniment of our open economy, high level of human capital and business friendly environment. The quality of Ireland's labour market ranks highly in international comparisons. In the 2011 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Ireland is ranked first in terms of availability of skilled labour and seventh for the flexibility and adaptability of people.

The Action Plan for Jobs identifies the scope for reducing the cost of business and easing new recruitment through a series of initiatives, including:

Simplifying and extending the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme, which exempts employers from liability to pay their share of PRSI for certain employees. The scheme will be extended to cover the first 18 months of employment

The National Internship Scheme provides internship opportunities of 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals in organizations in the private, public and community and voluntary sectors.

The Revenue Job Assist Scheme provides incentives to employers through a double deduction and for employees through additional tax allowances for those unemployed for at least 12 months.

The new incentive scheme to encourage foreign mobile talent (SARP) will allow multinationals and indigenous companies to attract people to create more jobs and facilitate business expansion in Ireland.

High unemployment remains a difficult challenge and requires resolute action through appropriate reforms in the labour market, including measures to reform statutory wage setting mechanisms to ensure that they are responsive to changing economic conditions and the transformation of labour market activation policies along the line outlined in the Government's policy statement Pathways to Work.

Willie O'Dea

Question:

97 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on tackling competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13172/12]

The Government has an ambition to make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business by 2016. To achieve this objective, we must improve our international competitiveness and the competitiveness of companies based here. Competitiveness is determined by a variety of factors, including business costs, increased productivity, the availability of skilled labour, good infrastructure, the quality and intensity of innovation and research, and regulation that supports enterprise growth.

Since 2008, Ireland has regained some of the competitiveness it had lost. However, more must be done to ensure that the improvements we have achieved are structural in nature and sustained in the longer-term. The Government's Action Plan for Jobs, which was published on 13th February, includes a range of initiatives to improve our competitiveness including measures to:

promote investment in innovation and research,

reduce costs for businesses,

align skills with enterprise needs,

prioritise infrastructure investment, and

Reduce costs through sensible regulation.

Details of the specific actions to be taken in each of these areas are available in the Action Plan.

One of the key actions to be undertaken by my Department and Forfás this year is to identify a set of competitiveness indicators where Ireland's international performance can be improved through domestic policy action. In the areas identified, we will quantify the level of improvement necessary to place Ireland amongst the five most competitive economies in the OECD, and we will set out the policy actions required to achieve this goal.

County Enterprise Boards

Willie O'Dea

Question:

98 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on city and county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13173/12]

As Minister with responsibility for Enterprise Policy, I have recently announced in the Action Plan for Jobs that a new "one-stop-shop" micro enterprise support structure will be established through the dissolution of the existing CEB structures and the creation of a new Micro Enterprise and Small Business Unit in Enterprise Ireland. EI will work with the Local Authorities to establish a new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). The LEOs will combine the enterprise support service previously provided by the CEBs and the business support work of the Business Support Units in the Local Authorities, offering an enhanced service because of their seamless access to both EI expertise and the broader business services of the Local Authority.

The aim of the proposal is not simply about abolition or dissolution it is about developing and to enhancing the State services to small business at local level by:

Delivering a one-stop-shop for small business;

Offering a seamless service for small companies to take up the wider range of Enterprise Ireland programmes for companies with rapid growth potential;

Simplifying the structures that small businesses have to deal with;

Enlisting the Local Authorities into a more active role in small business support and local economic development;

Establishing a more integrated network between local and national enterprise support which will ensure high standards, uniformly delivered to benchmarked standards of best practice;, and that small business development is supported by appropriate benchmarking within EI.

Encouraging innovative approaches to support small business.

In conjunction with the dissolution of the CEB legal structure, Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities will be tasked with the practicalities of setting-up and rolling-out a LEO structure. There is clearly a lot of detailed developmental work to be done over the coming months to effect these changes, and to put appropriate new structures in place. I will shortly establish a steering group chaired by my Department, which will move this process forward and address all of the relevant issues. Clearly it is essential that all relevant parties continue to work together to bring about this positive change as a priority and that the continuity of a high level of service to the micro-enterprise sector is preserved in the transition phase.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 87.

Grocery Industry

Willie O'Dea

Question:

100 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on a code of practice for the grocery goods sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13175/12]

The Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to enact legislation to regulate certain practices in the grocery goods sector . I intend to give effect to this commitment by including a specific enabling provision in the legislation currently being prepared by my Department to merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority, which will allow for the introduction of a statutory Code of Practice in the grocery goods sector. It is expected that this legislation will be published later this year.

The Government is committed to ensuring that Ireland continues to have vibrant agri food and retail sectors, particularly given the importance of these sectors to the national economy. The Government considers it important, therefore, that there is balance in the relationship between the various players in the grocery goods sector. The introduction of a Code of Practice is intended to achieve such a balance taking into account the interests of all stakeholders in the grocery goods sector including the interests of the consumer and the need to ensure that there is no impediment to the passing-on of lower prices to consumers.

Alcohol Pricing

Willie O'Dea

Question:

101 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his policy on the below cost selling of alcohol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13176/12]

Since the repeal of the Restrictive Practices legislation, no statutory basis exists for me, as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, to make a minimum pricing order in respect of alcohol or indeed any product. I am aware of concerns raised about the high level of consumption of alcohol and the consequential detrimental effects caused to individuals and to society in general. In that regard, I note the recent publication of the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy. Government will consider, in due course, how best to respond to that report.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

102 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13567/12]

The accompanying details are available in regard to the Deputy's question.

Competition Authority

The Competition Authority consists of a full-time Chairperson and up to four other full-time members who act as an executive board. A serving member of the Competition Authority was appointed as Chairperson of the Authority on a temporary basis with effect from 27th April 2010 until his retirement in September 2011. The current Chairperson, appointed in October 2011 on foot of a Public Appointments Service recruitment and selection process, previously served as a member of the Authority on a temporary basis for a 12 month period from July 2010.

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

The contract of the Chief Executive Officer was renewed in January 2011. In accordance with Section 56(6) of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, the Chief Executive is a member of the Board.

Forfás

Under the Industrial Development Act 1993, the Chief Executive Officer of Forfás is appointed by the Board of Forfás, with the approval of the Minister and holds office on such terms and conditions as the Minister, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, may approve. Ms Jane Williams was appointed Interim Chief Executive of Forfás on 1 September 2009 pending the appointment of a permanent Chief Executive Officer, and served in the position until 6 June 2010. Ms Williams had served on the Board of Forfás until 31 December 2008.

Science Foundation Ireland

The Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is appointed as an ex-officio member of the SFI Board under Section 8 of the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Act of 2003. Accordingly upon his recent appointment as Director General on 16th January 2012 Professor Mark Ferguson became a member of the SFI Board. During late 2010 and throughout 2011, Mr. John Travers (from December 6th 2010 to October 17th 2011) and Dr. Graham Love (from 18th October 2011 to prior to Professor Ferguson's recent appointment) served on the SFI Board in their capacity as Director General of SFI on an interim basis whilst the competition for a permanent Director General was in train.

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority

The Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) was appointed in July 2011. In accordance with section 11 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003, the person holding the office of Chief Executive Officer is, by virtue of that office, a member of the board of directors of IAASA.

Pension Provisions

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

103 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection when she expects to conclude discussions regarding LCR 19293 made on 22 July 2008 regarding the introduction of a pension scheme for community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors. [13056/12]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to questions numbers 99, 89 and 102 on 1st December 2011. The position remains unchanged.

Social Welfare Code

Willie O'Dea

Question:

104 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection her policy on employers paying sick pay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13159/12]

The issue of reforming the current arrangements associated with sick pay is being considered in the context of the need to reform the social welfare system to bring it into line with practices in other countries in this area; the need to address the deficit in the social insurance fund; the need to control welfare spending in line with the commitments this country has entered into with the EU/IMF/ECB troika; and in the wider context of enhancing the health of the workforce and addressing levels of absenteeism in the public and private sectors. Before any decisions can be taken on the possible introduction of a scheme of statutory sick pay, a range of issues need to be examined in detail — including the extent of coverage; the duration of payment; the rate of payment; compensation mechanisms for employers where appropriate; and how to ensure that a scheme of statutory sick pay would be enforced and policed.

Employment Support Services

Nicky McFadden

Question:

105 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the income level of parents is taken into account when deciding on graduate eligibility for the national internship scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12917/12]

The National Internship Scheme provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors. The income level of parents does not impact on eligibility to access the National Internship Scheme; rather the Scheme is targeted at individuals who are currently on the Live Register and have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit or are signing on for credits for at least 3 of the last 6 months.

The eligibility to access the National Internship Scheme is based on the overall objective of labour market policy in ensuring a pathway to appropriate employment, training and education opportunities for those on the Live Register. It is important that as employment opportunities become available they are taken up by those on the Live Register. The structure for achieving this objective is through a reinvigorated National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) which currently provides the framework for engaging with the unemployed.

Given the scale of the unemployment crisis, the key objective of labour market policy and of the NEAP will be to keep those on the Live Register close to the Labour Market and prevent the drift into long-term unemployment. This will ensure that Live Register members availing of activation measures such as the National Internship Scheme will, while retaining social welfare unemployment payments and a top up allowance of €50, get an opportunity to engage in the workplace, get work experience and so be in a position to avail of employment opportunities as the economy improves.

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be confined to those on the Live Register and in receipt of unemployment payments or signing for credits for 3 of the last 6 months. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources on those on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time. My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme including its eligibility criteria on an ongoing basis.

Redundancy Payments

Gerry Adams

Question:

106 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection in respect of her decision, announced in budget 2012, to reduce the employer’s rebate on redundancies from 60% to15%, if she will consider reviewing her position and consider introducing a derogation from the reduced rate for the small and medium enterprise sector. [12918/12]

The purpose of the redundancy payments scheme is to compensate workers, under the Redundancy Payments Acts, for the loss of their jobs by reason of redundancy. Compensation is based on the worker's length of reckonable service and reckonable weekly remuneration, subject to a ceiling of €600.00 per week. All payments are made from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF). There are two types of redundancy payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership or liquidation.

It is the responsibility of the employer to pay statutory redundancy to all their eligible employees. An employer who pays statutory redundancy payments to their employees is then entitled to a rebate from the State. Rebates to employers and lump sums paid directly to employees are paid from the Social Insurance Fund. Significant and increasing amounts have been paid out in redundancy rebates to employers from the SIF in recent years. While the SIF is constituted primarily from employer contributions, the taxpayers' contribution is also significant. One of the factors which influenced the Government's decision to revise the rebate rate was the increasing costs of rebates in recent years.

I am very concerned about the deficit in the Social Insurance Fund. Where the date of dismissal for the purposes of redundancy occurred before 1 January 2012 the Social Insurance Fund refunded employers 60 per cent of the cost of making people redundant. €152.2 million was paid out in rebates to employers in 2006; €167.4 million was paid in 2007; €161.8 million was paid in 2008; €247.9 million in 2009; €373.2 million in 2010 and €188.2 million in 2011. The amounts paid out in lump sums to employees have also increased.

I do not see why this country should continue to borrow money to plug the hole in the Social Insurance Fund in order to fund the cost of making people redundant — often from very profitable companies. As part of the deliberations on Budget 2012, the approach taken in other countries was examined and it was decided that the 60% level of rebate is not sustainable in the current economic climate. While this may cause difficulties for employers it should be noted that redundancy rebate payments to employers are not common in many EU and other jurisdictions. The new arrangements bring Ireland more closely into line with practice in other countries.

Community Employment Schemes

Patrick Nulty

Question:

107 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to prevent the closure of the Blanchardstown Centre for the Unemployed, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12943/12]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

109 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to prevent the closure of the Blanchardstown Centre for the Unemployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12984/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 109 together.

Staff from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) met with the chairperson and supervisors of the Blanchardstown Centre for the Unemployed to discuss the reduction in funding that was announced in the budget. The DSP acknowledges the valuable contribution made by this and other community employment projects. However, due to the current economic circumstances, the Department has had to find significant savings in the budget for 2012.

A financial review of all community employment projects is currently being carried out. It is anticipated that Community Employment projects will see a reduction in the level of grant aid allocated in respect of materials and training in 2012 as funding will be allocated according to the needs of the participants and the project circumstances. The purpose of the review is to establish the level of need and this review should be completed by the end of March 2012.

The project has been advised that the DSP will cover the cost of the project in full during the review period and local management have been given discretion to vary the level of funding in respect of materials up to €1,000 per place where a strong case is made that this is justified. It is also expected that the project will make every effort to reduce costs and in this regard the project undertook to discuss the rents cost with their landlord with a view to agreeing a more favourable rate. The project are also looking elsewhere for alternative premises. When the review is completed and DSP has a clearer indication of the amount that will be allocated to projects for materials, DSP will meet with the project again to further examine their situation.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision to refuse mortgage interest relief in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose total family income derives from carer’s allowance and disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12952/12]

No recent application for mortgage interest supplement has been received from the person concerned. A representative from the department contacted him on 5th March 2012 and advised him of the current eligibility criteria.

Question No. 109 answered with Question No. 107.
Question No. 110 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

111 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal for lone parent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13003/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14th October 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 4th January 2012 and the appeal will, in due course, be assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 112 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

113 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will make additional rural social scheme places available under an organisation (details supplied) in County Kerry for recipients of farm assist, in view of the fact that the structures are already in place, the minor cost involved and the number of persons awaiting places on the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13009/12]

The purpose of the rural social scheme is to provide income support for farmers and fisherpersons who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19½ hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The rural social scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff. I have no plans to increase the number of places available on this scheme. The funds allocated for 2012 amount to €45.66m, which should enable the scheme to continue as in previous years but does not allow for the recruitment of additional participants above the numbers stated above.

Community Employment Schemes

Michael McNamara

Question:

114 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of community employment, CE, schemes in the State which receive a sum in excess of €500 per participant in respect of training and materials; the criteria for determining which CE schemes receive more than €500 per participant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13013/12]

The process of reviewing each Community Employment (CE) scheme is continuing. Returns from the review meetings are now being examined on a regional basis in terms of the funding requirements and what savings can be achieved within the limits set down by the Department. These outcomes will be analysed and will form the basis of the review findings which will be available from the end of March. Due to the widespread consultation and details being provided it is not possible to make any recommendations or decisions until the process is completed.

Due to the variation on the ‘roll over' date for projects/contracts local arrangements have been made to facilitate prior commitments entered into by sponsors. As a result, it is not possible to identify at this stage of the process which projects have been facilitated. This is occurring in the context of the additional flexibility of €1,000 provided by my Department. A series of meetings is taking place at national level with representative bodies in relation to coming up with solutions as to how savings can be gained within the programme and further meetings are planned. The financial review is due to be completed by the end of March 2012 at which stage the full details on the funding arrangements will be available.

There is also a review of Employment Support programmes, which includes Community Employment. Stakeholders are also being consulted as part of this review process. This review will also be completed by the end of March 2012. These reviews and subsequent reports at both the individual CE scheme level and at the macro level will provide good evidence on which to base future policy and ensure the most appropriate support for participants and the services provided to the community and voluntary sector.

Social Welfare Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

115 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the changes that are planned for the calculation of pension entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13027/12]

State pension (transition) (SPT) and State pension (contributory) (SPC) are social insurance payments made when a person reaches 65 and 66 years of age respectively. They are both based on the person's social insurance record (PRSI) from employment or self employment. To qualify a person needs to (a) enter insurable employment by age 55 for State pension (transition) and age 56 for State pension (contributory), (b) have paid 260 full rate social insurance contributions and (c) have a yearly average contributions of at least 10 for State pension (contributory), and at least 24 for State pension (transition). The yearly average determines the weekly rate of payment.

The challenges facing the Irish pension system are significant. There are currently six people of working age for every pensioner and this ratio is expected to decrease to approximately two to one by 2050. In addition, those aged over 65 will account for a greater proportion of the population while the proportion who are of working age is expected to decline. So the task of financing increasing pensions will fall to a diminishing share of the population. People are living longer and healthier lives and growing numbers of people want to work, or may need to work beyond State pension age.

Recognising that the SPC is a very valuable benefit, it is important to ensure that those qualifying have made a sustained contribution to the Social Insurance Fund over a working life thereby ensuring equity in the social welfare system. By aligning the rate of pension paid with the contribution made ensures that those who contribute more during a working life benefit more in retirement than those with lesser contributions. It is important to link payment of pension to contributions paid over a working life as attachment to the workforce remains a key issue for the sustainability of pensions.

In this regard, a number of pension reform measures which will affect how pensions are calculated are due to be implemented this year. For the calculation of SPT and SPC there will be an increase in the minimum paid contribution required from 260 to 520 contributions in April 2012. This change has been provided for in legislation since 1997. A further reform measure was announced in Budget 2012 providing for a change to the rates bands for SPC which is being introduced from September 2012. From then, the rate band of between 20 and 47 yearly average contributions will be replaced with new rate bands of between:-

(i) 40 and 47 yearly average contributions

(ii) 30 and 39 yearly average contribution and

(iii) 20 and 29 yearly average contributions.

Therefore, the rate of SPC paid to new applicants will be appropriate to the average number of contributions paid over a working life. Those who have fewer contributions will receive a lower rate of pension. The maximum rate is unchanged as is the rate for those with yearly average contributions of between 40 and 47. While existing pension recipients are unaffected, the changes proposed will apply to new claimants from September 2012.

Claimants who qualify for a reduced rate of SPC and who have income needs may qualify, depending on their means, for a higher rate of State pension (non-contributory). Details of the new rates bands for SPC are set out below. Customers will be notified of their future entitlements when their claim is processed. In general, applications for SPT should be submitted at least 4-5 months before a person reaches his/her 65th birthday while applications for SPC should be submitted at least 4-5 months before reaching age 66. In advance of this a person can request a copy of their contribution records from the Central Records Section of the Department.

I understand that the person concerned will qualify for a full rate SPC reaching age 66 on 11 November 2012. She would not appear to qualify for SPT as she is self-employed and class PRSI contributions are not reckonable for SPT.

Changes to Rate Bands

New State Pension (Transition) Rates

Yearly Average Contributions

Personal Rate Per Week

48 or over

230.30

40-47

225.80

30-39

207.00

24-29

196.00

New State Pension (Contributory) Rates

Yearly Average Contributions

Personal Rate Per Week €

48 or over

230.30

40-47

225.80

30-39

207.00

20-29

196.00

15-19

150.00

10-14

92.00

Brendan Griffin

Question:

116 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if changes for the calculation of pension entitlements will allow for wives of farmers and recognise their contributions as workers on farms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13028/12]

The challenges facing the Irish pension system are significant. There are currently six people of working age for every pensioner and this ratio is expected to decrease to approximately two to one by 2050. In addition, those aged over 65 will account for a greater proportion of the population while the proportion who are of working age is expected to decline. So the task of financing increasing pensions will fall to a diminishing share of the population. People are living longer and healthier lives and growing numbers of people want to work, or may need to work beyond State pension age.

Recognising that the State pension (contributory) is a very valuable benefit, it is important to ensure that those qualifying have made a sustained contribution to the Social Insurance Fund over a working life thereby ensuring equity in the social welfare system. By aligning the rate of pension paid with the contribution made ensures that those who contribute more during a working life benefit more in retirement than those with lesser contributions. It is important to link payment of pension to contributions paid over a working life as attachment to the workforce remains a key issue for the sustainability of pensions.

In this regard, a number of pension reform measures are due to be implemented this year:

(1) For the calculation of SPT and SPC there will be an increase in the minimum paid contribution required from 260 to 520 contributions in April 2012. This change has been provided for in legislation since 1997.

(2) A further reform measure was announced in Budget 2012 providing for a change to the rates bands for SPC due to be introduced from September 2012. From then, the rate band of between 20 and 47 yearly average contributions will be replaced with new rate bands of between:—

(i) 40 and 47 yearly average contributions,

(ii) 30 and 39 yearly average contribution, and

(iii) 20 and 29 yearly average contributions.

Therefore, the rate of SPC paid to new applicants will be appropriate to the average number of contributions paid over a working life. Those who have fewer contributions will receive a lower rate of pension. The maximum rate is unchanged as is the rate for those with yearly average contributions of between 40 and 47. While existing pension recipients are unaffected, the changes proposed will apply to new claimants from September 2012. Claimants who qualify for a reduced rate of SPC and who have income needs may qualify, depending on their means, for a higher rate of State pension (non-contributory). Details of the new rate bands for SPC are set out below.

With regard to wives of farmers, the issue that generally arises is the insurability of employment where both a farmer and his spouse are working on the farm. In this context, the information leaflet ‘SW124 — Working with your Spouse' produced by this Department, deals with contributions and entitlements in this situation, including seeking retrospective business partnership status; contributions; shortfalls in PRSI and seeking professional advice. If an application for a business partnership is established, the pension entitlement of each of the spouses will be calculated having regard to the changes outlined above.

Changes to Rate Bands

New State Pension (Contributory) Rates

Yearly AverageContributions

Personal RatePer Week

48 or over

230.30

40-47

225.80

30-39

207.00

20-29

196.00

15-19

150.00

10-14

92.00

Social Welfare Appeals

Gerry Adams

Question:

117 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 376 of 21 February 2012 in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Meath, if the relevant departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the deciding officer on the grounds of appeal have been received by the social welfare appeals office; if the applicant will be granted an oral hearing, and when a decision is likely to issue. [13037/12]

Further to my response to Parliamentary Question Ref. No. 9733/12 on 21 February 2012, I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that there is no update to the information given previously. 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.

Employment Support Services

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

118 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the operation of the Tús programme in the Northside Partnership area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13044/12]

Tús, the community work placement initiative introduced during 2011, will provide short-term, quality work opportunities for those who are unemployed for more than a year when fully operational. As of week ending, 2nd March 2012, 2,992 persons were on the payroll with 5,000 to be employed when Tús is fully operational. As of Monday, 5th March 2012, 50 participants and 3 supervisors have been engaged by Northside Partnership out of their assigned quota of 120 participants and 6 supervisors. While half of the local development companies engaged to deliver Tús have achieved full implementation, Northside Partnership based on progress to date, is unlikely to achieve full implementation until mid 2012.

Northside Partnership has identified a number of factors contributing to the delay in placing persons on Tús. These include the willingness of selected participants to co-operate, need for significant activation work with some participants due to the length of time away from a working environment, challenges with language competencies, imbalance in the gender of persons referred, difficulties of matching skills to available work placements and slowness by community and voluntary organisations to offer work placements in the company's operational area.

Tús aims to improve the employability and work readiness of participants by providing them with the opportunities to put work skills into practice and learn new ones enabling progression to work, further education or skill development opportunities. In addition, Tús will boost the participants' motivation and confidence, while simultaneously providing prospective employers with evidence that a participant has the necessary skills and abilities to do the job. A review of Tús will be initiated over the coming months to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the initiative. This review will allow for changes to be made to the initiative where these are considered necessary.

Question No. 119 withdrawn.

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

120 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if her Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13118/12]

I am very conscious of the need to provide efficient and effective customer facing services at a local level for clients of the Department in Kerry and every other part of the country and in this regard the location of the Department's offices are kept under constant review to ensure Departmental services are easily accessible to all clients.

In order to offer a more streamlined, efficient and integrated service to clients, the Department is undergoing a process of intensive planning and organisational change in establishing the new National Employment and Entitlements Service (NEES). The establishment of the NEES brings together the Community Welfare Service (CWS), the Employment Services and Community Employment Programmes of FÁS, the Rural Social Scheme and Community Services Programme from the former Department of Community, Equality and the Gaeltacht and the Redundancy and Insolvency Schemes from the former Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. It is the intention that the NEES will integrate all employment and benefit support services in a single delivery unit. This new service will provide a coherent integrated and more personalised service to clients and will help minimise the duplication that characterised services which were provided separately in the past.

The staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed, having regard to workloads, management priorities and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department. As the Deputy will be aware there is currently a moratorium on recruitment across the civil and public service. I can assure the Deputy that the Department will continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies, including those arising from retirements, by way of redeployment, or transfer from within the Department and other Government Departments, taking account of the Employment Control Framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Question No. 121 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Question:

122 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a decision has been made on an appeal for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13182/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 04th August 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 28th November 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 26 January 2012. 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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the recourse that remains available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been refused rent allowance on the grounds that they did not have care or joint care of their children despite having submitted court evidence to the contrary and who is assessed by the housing authority as being in need of accommodation for himself and one child; if she will indicate the reason no rent allowance at all was made available for the period in question; if the case will be fully examined with a view to clarification as to the circumstances surrounding the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13193/12]

The person concerned had no court approved access to his child prior to the application for rent supplement. Hence, the Department consistently requested that the client reduce his rent to the single limit for Kildare in order to qualify for rent supplement. However, the client has not complied with any of the requests to date. When the person concerned renegotiates the rent to the appropriate limit applicable, the Department will be in a position to assist him.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 353 of 28 February 2012, the level of rent support paid to the person in question and specifically on what grounds according to their household circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13194/12]

The persons concerned are in receipt of payments which are in excess of the prescribed income rates applicable. The income limit appropriate for this couple is €312.80 per week. However, the household is in receipt of an average income of €496.78 per week and is thus entitled to a monthly rent supplement of €62.40.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

125 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13568/12]

The three statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Citizens Information Board, the Pensions Board and the Social Welfare Tribunal. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department but it does not have a Board. Since 1 January 2009, no person who was a member of any of the above Boards within the preceding 12 months has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer, Accounting Officer or similar.

Special Areas of Conservation

Finian McGrath

Question:

126 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to designate as a special area of conservation or special protection area a beach (details supplied) in County Donegal. [12914/12]

There are no plans in my Department currently to designate the area referred to as a special area of conservation or as a special protection area for birds.

EU Programmes

Gerald Nash

Question:

127 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he is concerned at the level of take-up by Irish arts and cultural organisations of European cultural programmes and initiatives; and if he plans to reorganise and reassign responsibility for this matter from the Arts Council. [13004/12]

Gerald Nash

Question:

130 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a fee is paid to the Arts Council for hosting the European cultural contact point; if so, by whom; the amount paid; and if it is advertised by competitive tender. [13137/12]

I propose to answer Parliamentary Questions Nos. 127 and 130 together.

The Culture Programme is the EU support programme for organisations working in the field of culture. There are Cultural Contact Points in each of the participating countries of the EU Culture Programme. Their role is to provide information, advice and technical assistance to anyone in the country interested in applying to the EU for funding under the Culture Programme 2007-2013. The CCP Ireland is based at the Arts Council. The EU makes a contribution of up to €35,000 towards the operation of the CCP. In addition to this, the Arts Council contributes €47,000 which including administrative costs.

Since 2007, Irish cultural organisations have been involved in projects that have received grants in excess of €14.8m from the Culture Programme. The Irish take of these grants is estimated to be in the region of €3m. Recent statistics show that Ireland's participation is improving and organisations are now more likely to look to Europe for funding. Overall, the picture is optimistic for Irish application levels to gain a critical mass in the near future judging by the increased level of interest in the past three years. I have no plans to reassign this responsibility from the Arts Council.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

128 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding sculptures (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13030/12]

I have asked my Department to enquire into this matter.

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

129 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13111/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that my Department, which was established in June 2011 bringing together a range of functions previously carried out by three different Government Departments, has staff based at a number of locations across the country. Accordingly, as my Department continues to review its operational structures, there may be some reallocation of work between locations.

However, within this context, I can assure the Deputy that, following completion of the review by Government of decentralisation projects in February of this year, my Department's offices in Killarney, Co. Kerry, will continue to operate as a major administrative centre and there are no proposals to reduce staffing levels from their current levels of 40 (whole-time equivalents). A small office maintained by my Department in Tralee to deal with Gaeltacht matters is to close, following the recent retirement of the senior officer at that location. Arrangements are being made to service any needs arising over the summer period in relation to the Gaeltacht from my Department's Killarney offices.

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 127.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

131 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13559/12]

I am advised that no such appointments have been made in State bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Motor Fuels

Liam Twomey

Question:

132 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the pathway for mandate increases of biofuel at the forecourt from the existing level of 4.166% — the overall level the mandate must reach is 10% by 2020; if he will outline this pathway in view of the fact that it would enable indigenous manufacturers to plan the extension of their existing processing plants and hopefully create more indigenous employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12941/12]

The Biofuel Obligation Scheme, which commenced on 1 July 2010, set a penetration rate for biofuel in the road transport fuel market of 4% by volume. It is planned that the obligation rate set will be increased in stages so that by 2020 it will be at 10.5%. Currently, I am considering implementing the first increase to the Biofuel Obligation from 2013. In doing so, I will take into account the ability of both the motor fuel industry and our transport fleet to adapt to the change as well as the impact the increase will have on consumers. Any decisions to increase the Obligation in 2013 and subsequent years will be made well in advance of the implementation date to give all stakeholders sufficient time to prepare. There will be full consultation on any such proposals.

Fisheries Protection

Finian McGrath

Question:

133 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the timeframe for the promised review of the by-laws that banned eel fishing in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12913/12]

Following scientific research conducted by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) indicating that the European eel stocks are in a critical state, the EU introduced Council Regulation 1100/2007, the objective of which is to achieve recovery of the stocks to previous high levels. The Regulation required that all Member States prepare a national Eel Management Plan (EMP). Ireland's plan was approved by the European Commission in July, 2009. The Conservation of Eel Fishing By-Law No. C.S 303, 2009, and Conservation of Eel Fishing (Prohibition On Issue Of Licences) By-Law No. 858, 2009 give effect to the National Eel Management Plan and provide for closure of the fishery until June 2012, when the status of stocks will be fully reviewed and reported on to the European Commission.

This review will consider whether the eel fishery could be reopened in any River Basin District in light of the data gathered in the interim and the performance of stocks. The EMP includes a comprehensive programme of monitoring and evaluation of management actions and their implementation. It also includes a programme of scientific eel stock assessment to establish a stock baseline, estimate current silver eel escapement and monitoring the impact of the management actions on the local stocks.

The imperative is to ensure that the vulnerable stocks of eels are protected — currently it would be premature to speculate on the future of the eel fishery and whether it will be open to commercial exploitation. The status of the European Eel in Ireland was recently defined as critically endangered (Ireland Amphibians, Reptiles & Freshwater Fish Red Data List, published in 2011). Scientific analysis estimated that 2007 Eel escapement (adults going to sea) was at 23% of pristine stock and declining. Due to the very long cycle and slow growth in Irish waters it is probable that any recovery of the Irish eel stocks will be over a very long time frame.

Telecommunications Services

Martin Heydon

Question:

134 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps being taken and the timeframe to improve broadband access at a location (details supplied) in County Kildare. [12973/12]

Ireland's telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and thus the delivery of broadband services is a matter, in the first instance, for private sector commercial operators which are licensed and regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis. In the case of one such intervention, namely the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), services are available since October 2010 from the NBS service provider, 3, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in each of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme. The area of Hobartstown, Moone, County Kildare in Belan ED (Ref: 87012), falls outside of the NBS Coverage Area.

The EU State Aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas where existing service providers operate. Accordingly, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion. The mapping exercise undertaken by my Department at the time of designing the NBS in 2008, found that broadband services were available in Belan ED and consequently the ED was excluded from the Scheme.

However, the general area of Moone, County Kildare encompasses two additional EDs, namely Carrigeen ED (Ref: 87021) and Moone ED (Ref: 87068), both of which are in the NBS Coverage Area and residents in these areas can obtain broadband through the Scheme. Should residents in the general area of Moone, County Kildare, wish to check if their premisesis in the NBS Coverage Area, they can do so by contacting 3 by telephone at 1800 944791or by using the Coverage Check facility on 3's website at the following link: http://www.three.ie/contractstore/shop/flow/BroadbandCoverageCheck.aspx.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched last year in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision, due to technical difficulties such as line of sight issues. This Scheme, which is being rolled out this year, is aimed at making a basic broadband service available to those individual un-served premises in rural non-NBS areas who wish to avail of such services. There were 198 applications made to the RBS in respect of premises in County Kildare.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission's "Digital Agenda for Europe" target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, which I convened last summer, has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The 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.

Natural Gas Grid

Brendan Griffin

Question:

135 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will apply ministerial direction to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13016/12]

I refer the Deputy to previous replies to Parliamentary Questions on this matter. The decision on the regulatory treatment of the gas interconnectors is statutorily a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. I have no function in the matter. The CER, as the independent energy regulator has a remit to protect energy consumers, ensure security of supply and support competitiveness. In particular it must ensure that new sources of gas for the Irish market do not result in unwarranted increases in the price of gas to business and domestic consumers.

There have been requests, from Shannon LNG and others, to me as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to issue a policy direction to the CER in accordance with powers of direction as provided under Section 10A of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999. The content of such a policy direction has not been specified by the advocates but it appears the intention is that a Ministerial direction could be used to intervene to influence CER's decision making about the regulatory treatment of the gas interconnectors, in particular with reference to the imposition of a tariff on this project, on the basis that Shannon LNG alleges that the decision is, in their view, set to damage its future business.

The 2002 Act confers specific legislative powers on the CER to regulate and determine the tariffs applicable to the gas transmission system. By law, the CER makes decisions pursuant to these powers independently of the Minister. These laws reflect the policy that determining tariffs is not a matter for the Minister.

Furthermore, Section 10A of the 1999 Act does not provide an adequate legal basis for a direction sought by and for the benefit of a private entity. The section provides that the Minister may only give directions on "general policy" as opposed to a specific direction in respect of the making of a particular decision by the regulator. Section 10A(6)(c) of the 1999 Act explicitly prohibits the Minister from giving a direction in respect of the performance of the functions of the CER “in relation to individual energy undertakings or persons”.

I am satisfied that any general policy direction I might make would have to operate in what I consider to be in the overall public interest and could not be framed so as to either assist or hinder a particular stakeholder or otherwise so as to undermine the regulatory system. In the absence of any change in policy in respect of the regulation of gas tariffs, which I do not contemplate, and because of the limitations set out in the governing legislation surrounding the exercise of this power, I do not envisage making a Ministerial policy direction as sought by and on behalf of the company.

Inland Fisheries

Brendan Griffin

Question:

136 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide information on an inland fisheries-related matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13031/12]

Salmon poaching on the River Laune is an ongoing concern. Efforts at illegal netting are attempted by poachers throughout the year. On average Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) confiscates in excess of 20 nets per year. Illegal netting is predominantly attempted in the lower reaches of the River Laune, an area where access by IFI staff is extremely difficult. Currently patrolling on the River Laune takes place seven days a week both by boat and on foot. Over the last five years there have been five successful prosecutions for illegal fishing activity of which three resulted from the non-payment of On the Spot Fines (OTSF). There have been some 15 OTSFs issued during that period.

Telecommunications Services

Willie Penrose

Question:

137 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a community college (details supplied) in County Westmeath will benefit from the recent announcement by the Government to roll out high-speed broadband to post-primary schools; the timeframe for the installation of broadband in this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13059/12]

All post-primary schools will have a 100Mbps broadband connection installed by the end of 2014 in a project jointly funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) and the Department of Education and Skills (DES). The selection of schools for connection during 2012 was undertaken by a Steering Committee, established to oversee the implementation of the project and containing members from DCENR, DES, HEAnet and the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE). I am pleased to inform you that all post-primary schools in County Westmeath, including Castlepollard Community College, are scheduled to have their enhanced broadband connection installed by October 2012.

Natural Gas Grid

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made to date in the conclusion of the works associated with the Corrib gas field with particular reference to compliance with all health and safety or other statutory regulations, preparatory to making supply available to the national grid; when it is expected such supplies will become available to the domestic and commercial markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13120/12]

Completion of the development works by the developer is the principal factor that will determine the date for first gas. Pending such completion, it is not possible to state a date for when gas from the Corrib gas field will become available.

Following receipt of the relevant statutory permits by the developer, works on the construction of the onshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline commenced in July 2011. Oversight of these works is being undertaken by the appropriate authorities with respect to their respective consents i.e. Mayo County Council is charged with enforcement and compliance with the conditions of An Bord Pleanála's development permission pursuant to the Planning and Development Acts including the conditions with respect to the safety of the project.

With regard to the consents issued on 25 February, 2011 by the former Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources pursuant to the Gas and Petroleum Acts, I would like to advise that these contain a number of conditions specific to the safety and design of the project. My Department has appointed independent consultants to assist in monitoring compliance with these conditions to ensure that the project is constructed in a safe manner. It is estimated that construction of the onshore section of the pipeline, including the construction of a 5km tunnel, will take in the region of three years. First gas cannot therefore reasonably be anticipated before 2014.

Exploration Licences

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of oil, gas or other exploration licences issued on an annual basis from the year 2000 to date in 2012; the number of such licences activated; the numbers that have not so far been activated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13121/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the percentage of oil, gas or other exploration licences issued in the past ten years which have subsequently demonstrated a viable or commercial value or such potential; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13122/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the locations on or offshore that have shown the greatest potential arising from geological surveys or drilling operations; the oil, gas or other mineral indications to date arising from such exploration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13131/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 140 and 149 together.

The numbers of Mineral Prospecting Licences and Petroleum Exploration Licences granted in each year between 2000 and 2012 are set out in the table.

Licences Granted during period 2000-2012

Year

Prospecting Licences (Minerals)

Petroleum Exploration Licences

2000

98

0

2001

44

0

2002

37

0

2003

22

0

2004

26

3

2005

51

7

2006

84

4

2007

143

5

2008

91

5

2009

66

1

2010

93

0

2011

98

2

2012

59

0

(to March 5th 2012)

(to March 5th 2012)

Total

912

27

Eighteen of the twenty-seven petroleum exploration licences granted during the period are still active.

Exploration under the petroleum licences is ongoing and while there have been four new discoveries of oil and gas in the Irish Offshore in the past 12 years, none of these has been declared commercial to date. Three of the discoveries were in the North Celtic Sea Basin and one in the Slyne Basin. Applications for lease undertakings in respect of two of the discoveries in the Celtic Sea are under consideration by the Department at present.

With regard to non-Petroleum minerals, there are 603 mineral Prospecting Licences currently held by 45 companies. Once issued, all licences are active. There are 24 Prospecting Licence applications currently under consideration by the Department.

While no new commercially viable deposits of minerals have been discovered in the past ten years, there have been some encouraging results, particularly in Counties Limerick and Clare. However, it is too early to determine whether these results will lead to identification of commercially viable deposits or to estimate the economic benefits that might accrue. Details of all Mineral Prospecting Licences can be found in the six-monthly report to the Oireachtas, which I am obliged to lay before the Houses under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. This report is also available on the Department's website at www.dcenr.gov.ie.

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that ongoing investment in infrastructure in the telecommunications sector is adequate to meet requirements in the future having particular regard to the experience of the past 15 years and the need to ensure that the service providers are aware of the necessity to bring the standard and quality of services here into line with the best available worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13123/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied regarding the quality and availability of broadband available throughout the country; if any assessment has been done into the future extent of requirements in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13130/12]

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

There has been significant growth in the take up of broadband services and contracted speeds in Ireland in recent years. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has reported that between Q3 2007 and Q3 2011 the number of broadband subscribers has more than doubled from 793,000 to more than 1.6 million.

It is also the case that, at the end of September 2011, 73.2% of domestic customers and 88.8% of business subscribers were contracted for services using speeds between 2Mbps-10Mbps compared to 52.5% and 30.3% respectively at end 2007, when ComReg commenced reporting in the current format. Many subscribers are also migrating to higher speed products with 19.8% of residential subscribers using speeds in excess of 10Mbps, according to ComReg's latest Quarterly Report (Q3 2011), compared to 0.2% at end 2007.

International comparisons of broadband services are complex to measure and interpret. In many instances, surveys measure an average of retail broadband speeds published on service providers' websites only. These comparisons do not take account of higher speeds which are available in some countries (including Ireland) over leased lines to users of very high speeds and bandwidth. The international comparisons only consider retail services that are advertised. Big bandwidth leased line services are not advertised as retail services in Ireland.

It is also the case that the comparisons are not weighted to take account of the number and variety of speeds options advertised. Furthermore, broadband services that are advertised as part of a bundled package may not be included in such comparisons. Some commonly used high speed broadband services, available in Ireland, such as triple play products, may not be included in some international comparisons.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce which I convened last summer has an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce is to discuss and report on policy issues and proposals in relation to the provision of high speed broadband across Ireland. I expect that the Taskforce will help to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband generally and thereby assist in delivering on the commitment in the Programme for Government.

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

Hydraulic Fracturing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he and his Department intend to monitor development and progress of mining or other exploration techniques such as fracking; the extent to which the procedure is practiced globally and with what effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13124/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he has discussed with his EU colleagues the various mining or exploration procedures currently deemed acceptable in respect of oil, gas or other exploration; the results of any studies of the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13125/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

I would like to advise the Deputy in the first instance that in relation to the specific issue of the potential use of hydraulic fracturing technology as part of a gas exploration or extraction project, my Department has not received applications for nor licensed the use of hydraulic fracturing in the Irish onshore at this time. I can advise the Deputy however that the European Commission has issued a Guidance Note confirming that the exploration and exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons has to comply with the requirements of EU legislation. A comprehensive legislative framework on environmental protection and access to hydrocarbon resources is already in place throughout Member States and applies to all hydrocarbons, conventional and unconventional from planning to the aftercare of sites following exploitation.

I would also like to confirm that in October of last year, the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct research and to advise on the environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting natural gas from underground reserves. The EPA is currently funding preliminary background research into the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction and into the regulatory approaches of other countries with a view to helping to establish best environmental practice. This research is in the form of a desk based study being carried out by the University of Aberdeen.

The EPA proposes to commission further, more extensive research on hydraulic fracturing in 2012 and a working group involving representatives from my Department and the EPA has been established to develop the scope for this study. However, the final specification for this research will only be prepared after the EPA, which is an independent statutory body, has considered the output from the study currently underway at the University of Aberdeen. I understand that the EPA expects to receive the report of that study in the coming weeks.

Alternative Energy Projects

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which the national electricity grid now relies on fossil or alternative fuels, wind or other sources of energy; the progress made towards reducing dependence on imported or fossil fuels over the past ten years; the potential in the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13126/12]

The latest figures from EirGrid which cover the period to end December 2011 show that there is now 1630MW of wind connected to the electricity grid along with 237MW of hydro electricity and 46MW of other renewable generation — in total just over 1900MW. The latest official figures from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) are that at the end of 2010, 14.8% of electricity consumption was from renewable sources. There has been a gradual increase in the period since 2003 and the statistics, using a new normalised calculation methodology provided for in Directive 2009/28/EC are as follows:

Year

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

%RES-E

5.22%

6.04%

7.20%

8.68%

9.80%

10.91%

13.5%

14.8%

EirGrid estimates that renewable generation was around 18% of the fuel mix in 2011. Under the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC Ireland has been set a legally binding target for renewable energy as a proportion of all energy consumption that must be achieved by 2020. The National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) sets out that this overall 16% target will be achieved through 40% consumption of renewables in the electricity sector, 10% in the transport sector and 12% in the heat sector.

Renewable electricity is now the largest contributor to renewable energy consumption and is expected to contribute most to our 2020 target. The largest contribution in the electricity sector is expected to be made through generation from wind technologies, followed by biomass technologies. For the support of commercial renewable generation, my Department administers a renewable energy support mechanism known as the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT).

The latest modelling undertaken by the SEAI, (‘Energy Forecasts for Ireland to 2020' [2011]), indicates that capacity of around 4000MW of renewable generation will be required on the system to deliver the 40% renewable electricity target by 2020.

In addition to the 1900MW already connected, there is around 1000MW from Gate 1 and Gate 2 which have contracted with the system operators and are scheduled to be built out and connected. Around 4,000MW of additional renewable capacity is provided for in the Gate 3 process. All Gate 3 offers have now issued, however it is not yet known what the final level of take-up of offers is. This should become clear this year, when constraint reports are issued by EirGrid, following which those in receipt of offers will have a fixed period within which to accept offers.

Mobile Telephony

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the total number of service providers currently engaged in the provision of mobile telephone services in this jurisdiction; the extent to which each such provider has engaged in annual or periodical investment in infrastructure with the objective of increasing capacity and improving quality of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13127/12]

I understand that Vodafone, Telefonica, Eircom/Meteor and Hutchison are the main providers of mobile infrastructure in this jurisdiction. Other Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MCNOs) also provide mobile services. I understand that the Commission for Communications Regulation in its end of year review reported that there was an estimated 5.5 million mobile phone subscriptions registered giving Ireland a mobile phone penetration of 119.5%.

The matter of investment in infrastructure is a commercial matter for the firms concerned. I understand that investment generally by telecommunications operators is ongoing with a view to continuously upgrading and enhancing all telecommunications services available in Ireland.

Electricity Generation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in the event of the sale of any electricity generating capacity, the degree to which it is anticipated that provision can be made to ensure regular and necessary investment in infrastructure in order to avoid any reduction in the ability of any company to provide electricity cost effectively and efficiently in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13128/12]

Generators are regulated through the Commission for Energy Regulation's (CER) regulatory regime, in the main through their licences, and by the mandatory requirements placed on their participation in the Single Electricity Market (SEM). The regulatory regime and the wholesale market rules apply to generators regardless of the ownership of electricity generation. Such a framework ensures efficient and cost effective generation of electricity and provides generators with a transparent and stable regulatory framework which is a key consideration for investors.

The SEM is the wholesale electricity market for the island of Ireland, regulated jointly by the CER, the Utility Regulator. By combining what were two separate jurisdictional electricity markets, the SEM became one of the first of its kind in Europe when it went live on 1st November 2007. The SEM is designed to provide for the least cost source of electricity generation to meet customer demand at any one time across the island, while also maximising long-term sustainability, reliability and generation adequacy.

The SEM includes a centralised all-island gross mandatory pool (or spot) market. In this pool, electricity is bought and sold through a market clearing mechanism whereby generators bid in their marginal cost and receive the System Marginal Price (SMP) for each trading period for their scheduled dispatch quantities, with the result that the cheapest possible generators are run to meet demand across the island. Generators also receive constraint payments for the difference between the market schedule and the system dispatch. Suppliers purchase energy from the pool and pay the SMP for each trading period along with capacity costs and system charges.

Under specific arrangements in the SEM, generators also receive separate payments in the form of capacity payments, which ensures they are paid regulated sums of money for providing available generation capacity to the market. The Capacity Payments Mechanism (CPM) is administered by the SEM Committee, composed of both Regulators and independent membership. The CPM is a key feature of the SEM design in order to encourage the provision of generation capacity. By providing revenue to generators additional to market payments for generation, it provides a separate financial reward for generation capacity and, for this reason, a financial incentive for new entry and investment, which applies irrespective of ownership.

Since its establishment on 1st November 2007, the SEM has delivered a transparent and efficient wholesale electricity market and provided for the dispatch of the cheapest generators across the island to meet demand. This market, including the capacity payments mechanism, has demonstrably new investment in modern thermal generation capacity as well as renewable energy. This has been recognised by the ESRI, which concluded in 2009 that "The [SEM] rules provide for a transparent and efficient operation of the market, encouraging plant availability". It further concluded in 2011 that the SEM "has worked as it was expected to do since 2007 and has provided sufficient certainty for investors to ensure adequate investment".

The SEM will to continue to evolve, with the SEM Committee working to address the key challenges, such as accommodating increased levels of intermittent renewable generation, continuing to ensure adequate investment in generation capacity and the challenge of integration with the European single electricity market over time.

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent if any to which communications technology can be utilised to prevent unwarranted, unwelcomed and uninvited electronic communication resulting in stalking or bullying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13129/12]

While the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Privacy and Electronic Communications) Regulations 2011 address unsolicited communications for direct market purposes, electronic communications resulting in stalking or bullying is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality.

Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 141.
Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 139.

Departmental Schemes

Pearse Doherty

Question:

150 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the delays in processing the warmer homes scheme, which is delivered through Sustainable Energy Ireland to provide insulation works for vulnerable citizens, those on long-term jobseeker’s allowance, the elderly and those with disabilities; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is an undue delay of 12 months or more for an initial assessment to be carried out and a delay of between 12 months and two years for applicants who have been approved and are awaiting completion of the works; if he is satisfied with the current process; his plans to ensure SEI’s administrative process deals with applications in an appropriate timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13135/12]

Better Energy: Warmer Homes delivers a range of energy efficiency measures to households that are vulnerable to energy poverty. The scheme is managed 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.

The SEAI has recently renewed the contracts with 26 of the network of CBOs and hopes to conclude negotiations with the remainder at the earliest possible opportunity. In addition, an Invitation to Tender was recently 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 in May.

The SEAI advises that there is a total of 10,729 homes on the national waiting list as of 29 February 2012. Service delivery plans, within the available 2012 budget, are currently being finalised. Households on the waiting list on 31 December 2011 will be retrofitted according to their position on the waiting list. 65% on the waiting list are on the list six months or less.

There are 423 applications that date back to 2010 (approximately 4% of the overall list). In the majority of cases efforts have been made by the SEAI or the relevant CBO to make contact with the homeowner or to survey the property. The SEAI are in the process of writing to all the remaining homes currently on the list for more than one year with a view to confirming, or otherwise, their interest and eligibility for the scheme and to prioritise those valid and interested householders for delivery.

2012 will mark a shift in emphasis on the Better Energy: Warmer Homes scheme to take account of the Government's Affordable Energy Strategy, which I launched last November. Heretofore, applicants were considered eligible for retrofit measures if they met defined criteria, such as eligibility for the National Fuel Scheme. All successful applicants were placed on a waiting list and addressed in rotation. The focus in 2012 will shift to addressing those households identified as being in extreme energy poverty as a priority; such households typically spend over 20% of their disposable income on energy services. This will ensure that those most in need receive the benefit of energy efficiency measures first.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

151 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which since 1 January 2009 appointed a person to a post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer who was within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13561/12]

I can advise the Deputy that the table beneath details the CEOs appointed to State Bodies under the aegis of my Department since 1 January 2009 who serve as ex officio members of their board.

Body

Appointee

An Post

Mr. Donal Connell

Bord Gáis Éireann

Mr. John Mullins

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Dr. Ciaran Byrne

RTE

Mr. Noel Curran

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Prof. Owen Lewis

Local Authority Rates

Willie O'Dea

Question:

152 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his policy on commercial rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13155/12]

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

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

The Commissioner, in consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, has been reviewing various options for streamlining the valuation process and speeding up the national revaluation programme. In this regard, the Government recently approved the drafting of a Valuation Bill to amend the Valuation Act.

Commercial rates income makes a significant contribution to the current funding requirements of local authorities. Rates provide the means by which local authorities can fund the services essential to communities, and therefore business, across the full range of local activities including roads, water and waste services, fire and emergency, libraries and a range of community, amenity and social activities.

I have asked local authorities to exercise restraint in setting their Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) in the context of the adoption of their 2012 budgets. As of 05 March 2012, 73 of the 88 rating authorities have submitted their adopted Budgets to my Department. Across the 73 authorities, annual rates on valuation declined by an average of 0.35% from 2011 to 2012. I will continue to keep all matters relating to rates under consideration in my Department.

Noise Pollution

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

153 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will investigate a noise problem (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12912/12]

Currently, a person experiencing noise nuisance may contact their local authority, which may initiate proceedings on grounds of noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. This Act also provides for any person, or group of persons, to seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A public information leaflet A Guide to the Noise Regulations, outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance, is available on my Department's website www.environ.ie.

Local Authority Staff

Sandra McLellan

Question:

154 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of local authorities that do not have a full-time arts officer; his plans to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12480/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 136 of 1 February 2012 which sets out the position in this matter.

Planning Issues

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

155 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he can change planning regulations in order that any new development larger than an individual dwelling would require wider publicity, including local publicity, to ensure that local residents are well informed of an application for a large structure in their community. [12962/12]

Planning legislation provides for extensive public notification of proposed development. For example, article 17 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001-2010 requires an applicant to erect a site notice in order to lodge a valid application for planning permission. Article 19 of the Regulations requires that this notice must be placed in a conspicuous position on or near the main entrance from a public road to the land or structure concerned, so as to be easily visible and legible by persons using the public road. Alternatively, if the land or structure does not adjoin a public road, the site notice should be placed so as to be easily visible and legible by persons outside the land or structure.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that although the notice must inform the public of the nature and extent of the application, it is only by examining the planning application lodged with the planning authority that a person will obtain full information on the proposed development. The site notice must contain the date on which the site notice is erected and state that the planning application may be inspected or purchased at the offices of the planning authority and that a submission or observation in relation to the application may be made to the authority in writing, on payment of the prescribed fee, within the 5 weeks beginning on the date of receipt by the planning authority of the application. The applicant must erect the site notice no sooner than 2 weeks before making the application for permission in order to facilitate third party inspection of the application. Where it appears to a planning authority that any notice does not comply with these requirements, they may require the applicant to give further notice and evidence in relation to compliance with such a requirement.

Article 18 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2006 also provides that a notice be published in a newspaper approved for this purpose. Each planning authority must decide which newspapers should be included on their approved list of newspapers in order to ensure that the newspapers used for the purpose of such notices have a sufficiently large circulation in its functional area. The current notification system, which provides for both a newspaper notice and a site notice, is kept under regular review in my Department.

Radon Gas Levels

Tom Fleming

Question:

156 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will investigate the high incidents of radon gas in homes in County Kerry in which more than one in seven have radon levels in excess of the acceptable level and where more than half of the top 20 highest radon levels ever found here were found in homes in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12969/12]

The Government, largely through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII), has worked to assess the extent of the incidence of radon in Ireland, and to increase public awareness of the issue. In 2002 the RPII published the report of the National Radon Survey of radon in homes in Ireland. The results of the national radon survey identified certain parts of the country which are prone to high levels of radon. Approximately one third of the country is classified as a High Radon Area. In Kerry the High Radon Areas are located in the north of the county around Tralee and Castleisland, where high radon levels seem most pronounced and also in the west of the county close to Dingle. A map showing the High Radon Areas is published on the RPII's website.

High radon levels can occur anywhere; however the RPII regards north Kerry as a priority area due to the frequency with which extremely high radon levels have been found in homes there. The RPII has carried out several radon awareness initiatives locally, and a major public awareness effort will be undertaken in north Kerry next week. The Kerry radon week will include of public meetings, press releases, advertising, local/national media interviews, a Facebook page as well as an information leaflet drop to all householders in the area advising them of the radon risk. The Kerry radon week is carried out by the RPII working in collaboration with Kerry County Council and the Health Service Executive.

The Government's approach to radon, which is similar to that of the majority of EU Member States, is to concentrate efforts on increasing public awareness of the risks posed by radon in the home. Householders, particularly those in known high radon areas, have been strongly encouraged by the RPII to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake remediation works where necessary.

Since 1998 the Building Regulations require all new buildings to incorporate radon protection measures at the time of construction. In October 2004 an updated edition of Technical Guidance Document C on Part C of the Building Regulations (Site Preparation and Resistance to Moisture) was published incorporating enhanced radon prevention measures for new buildings commencing on or after 1 April 2005. This guidance document is aimed at ensuring that radon protection measures are carried out more effectively. Copies of the guidance documents are available on my Department's website —www.environ.ie.

If a dwelling is found to have a high radon level, remediation work may be recommended. Technical guidance on radon remediation techniques is available in a booklet issued by my Department, Radon in Buildings — Corrective Options, which is also available on my Department's website. The RPII has also issued guidance, Understanding Radon Remediation — A Householders Guide, which is available on the Institute's website at www.rpii.ie, together with a a list of companies who can provide a radon remediation service and offer specific advice and recommendations. In addition, the RPII can be contacted for radon advice on freephone 1800 300 600.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

157 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 157 of 1 March 2012, if he will explain the criteria for category four categorisation; if he will give a breakdown of the estates in County Kerry in the different categories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12977/12]

John O'Mahony

Question:

158 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason the following unfinished estates (details supplied) are not listed as a qualifying unfinished estate on the website www.householdcharge.ie for the purposes of a waiver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12988/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 158 together.

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published 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.

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. 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 significantly as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative.

Full details on the categorisation of estates, including in Kerry, can be found on my Department's (www.environ.ie) website as part of the National Housing Development Survey 2011.

Water Services

Brendan Griffin

Question:

159 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the anticipated timeframe for the establishment of and beginning of operations by Irish Water; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13024/12]

The Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a new State-owned national water authority 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 undertaking an independent assessment of the establishment of such an authority.

The first phase of work on the independent assessment has been completed. The phase 1 report and a position paper setting out proposed reforms in the water sector was published as part of a public consultation phase which concluded recently. The independent assessment concludes, based on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, international experience and stakeholder soundings, that Irish Water should be created as a public utility in a regulated environment. The initial transition strategy envisages a staged approach involving:

Appointment of an interim board and Project Management Office in 2012 pending the establishment of Irish Water under its own statute by mid 2013;

Irish Water would acquire statutory responsibility for water services in mid 2013, with ownership of assets transferring from local authorities from that date;

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.

The next stage of the consultancy work involves the development of an implementation plan which will address transformation planning in more detail.

Housing Grants

Sean Fleming

Question:

160 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline for both 2010 and 2011 the actual payment to each local authority under the housing adaption grant for older persons with a disability scheme and the housing aid for older persons scheme; the number of applications paid in each case to which the payments to each local authority relate and the amount provided in the estimates of each local authority out of their own funds for their portion in respect of these schemes; if he will provide the estimated allocation for each local authority for 2012; if he will provide the number of applications on hand at the beginning of 2012 for each local authority in relation to each of these schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13048/12]

My Department's involvement with the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability relates primarily to the recoupment of a proportion of local authority expenditure on the payment of individual grants. The grant schemes, introduced in November 2007, are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. It is a matter for each local authority to determine how the funding is apportioned between the various grant measures and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within the allocation.

Local authorities are responsible for the administration of the grant schemes and for ensuring that sufficient own resources funding is made available to support these schemes. Details of the amounts of own resources funding and numbers of grant applications on hand for each of the grant measures in each local authority are not available in my Department. Details of the Exchequer allocations to local authorities for 2012 together with information on the overall numbers of grants paid and the total amount of funding recouped by my Department to local authorities in 2010 and 2011 are set out in the table.

Local Authority

2010 Exchequer Funding

No. of Grants paid

2011 Exchequer Funding

No. of Grants paid

2012 Exchequer allocations

Carlow County Council

€1,442,253

205

€1,491,545

252

€1,079,211

Cavan County Council

€1,309,505

195

€1,176,998

186

€1,300,000

Clare County Council

€2,729,965

443

€2,864,632

510

€1,156,000

Cork County Council

€7,907,231

1,244

€5,542,819

1,108

€5,000,291

Donegal County Council

€2,937,585

674

€747,972

330

€1,958,517

Dún Laogh/Rath Co. Council

€1,543,665

247

€809,571

153

€888,482

Fingal County Council

€2,077,655

298

€1,822,713

262

€1,657,892

Galway County Council

€1,755,390

469

€2,095,830

585

€1,900,000

Kerry County Council

€3,335,277

742

€3,592,666

774

€2,606,292

Kildare County Council

€3,892,484

547

€2,852,228

457

€1,620,000

Kilkenny County Council

€1,525,756

300

€2,107,033

380

€1,494,000

Laois County Council

€1,470,201

309

€936,075

212

€867,862

Leitrim County Council

€1,061,448

186

€537,493

121

€461,044

Limerick County Council

€2,280,186

387

€1,707,454

327

€1,178,764

Longford County Council

€1,108,804

282

€929,556

0

€994,860

Louth County Council

€2,135,268

244

€964,682

151

€949,012

Mayo County Council

€2,923,310

848

€2,278,698

640

€2,060,173

Meath County Council

€1,471,324

202

€1,184,941

134

€797,766

Monaghan County Council

€1,373,165

229

€1,232,863

199

€921,738

North Tipp County Council

€1,630,108

244

€1,313,210

196

€960,000

Offaly County Council

€1,762,852

163

€1,405,541

132

€900,000

Roscommon County Council

€2,195,962

384

€1,509,695

291

€807,401

Sligo County Council

€810,093

158

€810,753

153

€798,147

South Dublin County Council

€2,452,393

390

€1,029,555

220

€2,182,647

South Tipp County Council

€2,477,713

358

€2,764,132

422

€2,489,371

Waterford County Council

€1,559,940

217

€1,147,109

168

€795,813

Westmeath County Council

€1,609,193

321

€1,057,843

224

€790,524

Wexford County Council

€2,684,425

520

€2,219,617

449

€2,053,418

Wicklow County Council

€1,867,337

224

€945,879

144

€763,835

Cork City Council

€2,385,188

403

€2,190,333

487

€1,399,793

Dublin City Council

€9,174,558

1,589

€6,557,159

1,112

€8,503,567

Galway City Council

€381,975

80

€834,870

182

€742,682

Limerick City Council

€2,065,845

374

€1,636,577

369

€1,220,000

Waterford City Council

€793,357

216

€700,321

152

€592,225

Sligo Borough Council

€523,866

115

€322,465

67

€308,675

TOTALS

€78,655,279

13,807

€61,320,829

11,787

€54,200,000

Local Authority Housing

Sean Fleming

Question:

161 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of applications, the number of approvals and the number of loans actually drawn down in respect of the home choice loan scheme on a yearly basis since it was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13054/12]

The table sets out the information sought in respect of activity under the Home Choice Loan.

2009

2010

2011

2012

Total

Applications

44

78

18

2

142

Approvals

4

6

3

0

13

Loans drawn down

4

6

2

0

12

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

162 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13113/12]

My Department's only office in Kerry is the Met Éireann Valentia Meteorological and Geophysical Observatory, at Cahirsiveen. In line with Met Éireann's automation of meteorological observations, some activities at the Observatory will be automated and rationalised during 2012. This will mean a re-organisation of resources at the Observatory resulting in the re-assignment of a small number of staff to other Met Éireann locations.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

163 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the recent tragedy in Athlone, County Westmeath, if remedial actions are planned to ensure the safety of unfinished housing estates; if he will consider asking county and city managers to carry out a safety audit of all unfinished housing estates in their region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13132/12]

As part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011, published 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, 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 terms of the resolution of problems in unfinished housing developments the formulation of Site Resolution Plans (SRP) is a key tool. Such plans enable developers to work with local authorities, financial institutions, NAMA and residents in determining how best to pursue resolution of problematic sites. The process also entails working with stakeholders in identifying the best long-term solution for developments in terms of their configuration, use of vacant buildings and ownership in a way that is in the best interests of residents. As part of the work of the National Coordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments my Department has initiated a pilot project for the resolution of sites using the site resolution plan process. In this context, my Department has issued a working template in order to establish best practice in this area. I intend that the process, which is pivotal to the resolution of problem sites, will be used more extensively in the coming year.

In addition, under the Public Safety Initiative my Department has made allocations totalling some €2.59 million to 21 local authorities from the €5 million funding allocation made available to address immediate safety issues in 2011. The types of works that have been approved to date include the fencing off of unsecured and hazardous areas, capping of pipes, installation of street lighting and other works to secure sites. A provision of €2m has been made for 2012 and my Department will be making further allocations as applications are received from local authorities and assessed.

Waste Management

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

164 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the substantial subsidy given to private waste collectors that collect household waste door to door that comes from the packaging levies that are collected by a company (details supplied) to be then paid out to waste collectors, public and private, depending on the number of households they collect from, and in view of that effective State subsidy, it being collected by law, can the same private waste collectors be required to provide a waiver for households on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13139/12]

Directive 94/62/EC (as amended) on Packaging and Packaging Waste required Ireland to achieve recovery rates of 25% or more for packaging by 30 June 2001, 50% or more by 31 December 2005 and 60% by 31 December 2011. Repak Limited was established in 1997 as a not for profit organisation as the collective industry response to the need to meet Ireland's packaging waste recovery and recycling targets through promoting, co-ordinating and financing the collection and recovery of packaging waste. Repak operates as a packaging compliance scheme on the basis of an approval granted by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Repak members pay a fee based on the nature and quantity of packaging which they place on the market. Repak's membership fees fund subsidies for each tonne of packaging waste recovered from commercial sources (e.g. backdoor waste from factories, shops) and from the post-consumer waste streams (green kerbside bins, civic amenity sites and bottle banks). This subsidy has been a vital incentive for household recycling in particular as it has enabled waste collectors to provide green bins at low or no cost to customers, thereby encouraging recycling and enabling Ireland to meet its EU targets. Repak does not provide subsidies for general household waste collection. As the packaging waste recovery subsidy is funded by industry to meet their requirements under the packaging Directive, it could also not be deemed to represent State aid.

The National Waste Report 2010 reported that Ireland is currently achieving a recovery rate of 74% of packaging waste, substantially exceeding the current EU Directive target of 60%. With regard to household waste, the Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service.

A public consultation designed to inform the policy development process concluded in September 2011. A large number of responses were received from a broad spectrum of interests. A consensus is not apparent and, on almost all of the relevant issues, a considerable breadth of opinion was expressed. All of the responses received, in addition to a summary document, are available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie.

I expect to be in a position to submit final proposals in relation to household waste collection to Government by Easter this year. All policy proposals will be carefully considered by Government and will take account of the full range of issues and perspectives, including the issue of waiver schemes intended to support low income households.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

165 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13564/12]

Ms Laura Burke was appointed Director-General of the Environmental Protection Agency on November 8 2011 and was a member of the Board. Ms Burke continues to be a member of the Board. Mr John O'Connor was appointed Chief Executive of the Housing and Sustainable Communities Ltd on 8 December 2010 and is a board member.

Commercial Rents

Willie O'Dea

Question:

166 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his policy on upward only rent reviews. [13165/12]

The Deputy will recall that the Government announced in December last that it had decided not to proceed with legislation to abolish upward only rent reviews in existing commercial leases, i.e., those entered into prior to 28 February 2010. There was a substantial concern that any legislative scheme involving interference in the contractual relationships of private parties would find it extremely difficult to survive a Constitutional challenge. In addition, at this difficult time in our economic circumstances, the Government was advised that any model proposed would require the payment of compensation to landlords whose rights were infringed in order to ensure that the proposal would be compatible with the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Government was strongly of the view that payment of compensation to landlords in such circumstances could not be justified in the current economic climate.

While legislative intervention in this area may not be practicable, there is nothing to prevent landlords from engaging with their tenants in order to reach agreement on appropriate rent levels and the Government is strongly of the view that such engagement is highly desirable. I would also note that the Minister for Finance, in the context of his budget speech, has outlined the role which NAMA can play in dealing with the problems caused by upward only rent reviews which apply to NAMA properties.

Child Abduction

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

167 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason there has been no follow up with Egyptian authorities in relation to the Irish citizen (details supplied) now four and a half years old who was kidnapped from this jurisdiction two and a half years ago; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this child’s uncle is currently serving the remainder of a six year sentence in Portlaoise Prison for the abduction; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that this child’s father is living openly in Tanta, Egypt, with the child; if he is aware that the child’s father absconded from Ireland while on bail awaiting proceedings on a charge of rape against him; the steps he proposes to take to have the child returned to Ireland to the legal custody of his mother; if extradition proceedings against the persons for outstanding charges against them, including those of rape and kidnapping, are currently being processed. [12907/12]

The Irish Central Authority for Child Abduction within my Department has not received an application in relation to this matter. The Central Authority operates for the purpose of a number of international and EU instruments relating to child abduction. The purpose of these instruments is to facilitate the return of children who have been wrongfully removed from one contracting state where they are habitually resident to another contracting state. As Egypt is not a contracting state to these international instruments, the Central Authority is not in a position to assist. In such situations, the family involved can seek consular assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and I understand that Department has been assisting the family.

The decision to seek the extradition of a person charged with a criminal offence rests with the Director of Public Prosecutions and only arises where the Director has decided that a person should be prosecuted in the first instance. As the Deputy will appreciate, the Director is independent in the exercise of his functions and, as Minister for Justice and Equality, I have no function in deciding whether a person should be charged with an offence or whether a person's extradition should be sought.

Garda Recruitment

Niall Collins

Question:

168 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if An Garda Síochána will be running any recruitment campaign during 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12916/12]

As I stated in my answer to Parliamentary Question number 232 on 15th February 2012, the moratorium on Public Service Recruitment continues to apply to An Garda Síochána and no date has been fixed for future intakes into the Garda College. A decision on when recruitment will re-commence will take into account the rate of retirements in the Garda Síochána and Government targets, set in the context of the agreement with the EU and the IMF, to reduce the numbers of public servants.

In addition to this, what will ultimately determine the sustainable level of Garda numbers, and therefore establish when recruitment will recommence, is the level of budgetary provision that can be made for the Force, and the House will be conscious that difficult decisions will continue to have to be made, right across the public sector, in order to bring our public finances back into balance.

Proposed Legislation

Clare Daly

Question:

169 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the legal services Bill will have an impact on staff working in the complaints department of the Law Society; and if he will confirm that staff who have been doing this job for years will have to apply for their positions in the new legal authority if the legislation is passed. [12956/12]

The new Legal Services Regulatory Authority to be established under the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 will be independent of the legal professions and of the Government in the performance of its functions. This will include new and independent procedures relating to allegations of professional misconduct by either solicitors or barristers. Such complaints will be dealt with under the auspices of the Authority's Complaints Committee and supported, where appropriate, by the work of the new and independent Legal Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal. Under the Bill, members of the public will no longer go to the Law Society or to the Bar Council to make complaints, as happens at the moment, but will instead do so through the Legal Services Regulatory Authority.

The Law Society has recently recognised that it would be "in the best interests of the public and the profession" if complaints about solicitors were no longer to be dealt with by the Society but by the new Regulatory Authority to be established under the Bill. The independence of the new Regulatory Authority and of its attendant complaints procedures is, therefore, fundamental to their success and to the avoidance of any perception that complaints about lawyers are being dealt with by lawyers themselves.

The complaints systems currently operated by the legal professional bodies are to be replaced by new procedures the independence of which will have to be reflected in the relevant recruitment and appointment processes. In closing the Second Stage debate on the Bill, during which the Deputy made some very useful contributions in support of the interests of the public and consumers, I confirmed that I am considering possible Committee Stage amendments to create an appropriately independent procedure for the appointment of members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. Similarly, I expressed the view that staff appointments to the new Authority would be better made by the Authority itself under a public competition carried out by the Public Appointments Service.

While the transition to a new and independent complaints procedure under the Bill will have an impact on staff currently involved in that area it will be open to such staff — who would obviously possess the relevant skills and experience — to offer to apply for positions advertised by the new and independent Legal Services Regulatory Authority.

Deportation Orders

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

170 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which a decision will be given on granting subsidiary protection to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12974/12]

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 31th May, 2011, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in June 2011. There is currently a very high volume of cases on hand, however there will be no avoidable delay in having the case of the person concerned processed to completion. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Asylum Applications

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

171 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who applied for subsidiary protection in this State during each of the past ten years and their countries of origin; the number granted subsidiary protection in this State during each of the past ten years; and their countries of origin. [12975/12]

The available and detailed information sought is being compiled and checked. It will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available. Subsidiary Protection came into effect in Irish law in October 2006, therefore the question of information in respect of it from before that date does not arise.

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

172 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average length of time it takes for a decision to be made on an application for subsidiary protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12976/12]

It is not possible to give an average time frame for processing an application for Subsidiary Protection as each application is given a comprehensive and individual consideration and as such, the circumstances can vary widely. Cases can be complex with applicants coming from over 90 different countries. In effect, consideration of these cases can amount to a reconsideration of earlier applications for refugee status. In addition, some cases take significant periods of time to complete, for example, because of judicial review proceedings made in relation to recommendations of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) or the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT). In such cases work on the subsidiary protection application is suspended until the outcome of any legal proceedings is known.

Citizenship Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position on an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12986/12]

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 April, 2010. 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.

Garda Complaints Procedures

Mattie McGrath

Question:

174 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision will issue on the authorisation of a Garda compensation claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reason for the delay in finalising this claim; if there is any accountability in terms of the length of time it has taken for the consultant psychiatrist to complete their report; his views that this delay is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12991/12]

I can confirm that the applicant's compensation claim was authorised on 28 February 2012. In accordance with the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945, the member can now proceed to make an application for compensation to the High Court. My Department has informed me that the failure of the specialist to provide the necessary medical report in a timely fashion is unusual and is not representative of their experience of administering the scheme.

Garda Transport

Mattie McGrath

Question:

175 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the budget for the purchase of Garda vehicles as opposed to the budget for repairing cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12993/12]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities. I will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

176 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review a matter relating to Garda transport (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13014/12]

Decisions in relation to the operation of Garda vehicles are a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, as required, the decommissioning of Garda cars is carried out to ensure that all operational vehicles fully meet the safety requirements of both Garda personnel and members of the public. This is a function which is undertaken in accordance with strict standards set by the relevant manufacturers. In that context the manufacturers have indicated that patrol cars should be withdrawn from service when the odometer reading reaches 300,000 Kilometres.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

177 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review a matter relating to Garda transport (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13015/12]

The provision and allocation of Garda resources, including transport, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. At Divisional level the deployment of Garda vehicles is undertaken by the Divisional Officer in the light of operational requirements. I am advised by the Garda authorities that the allocation of Garda transport at both District and Divisional level is subject to ongoing review. I am further advised that the Garda authorities are satisfied that the current policing arrangements in place within the relevant sub-district continue to ensure that an effective policing service is being provided to the area referred to by the Deputy.

Additionally, I am advised that provision has been made by the Garda authorities to acquire new Garda vehicles which will be deployed in accordance with An Garda Síochána's identified policing requirements and the availability of financial resources. In that context I understand that the needs of the area referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered.

Garda Investigations

Brendan Griffin

Question:

178 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress that has been made to bring to justice those responsible for the financial ruin of the country through the problems arising from the banking crisis; when the people may expect criminal trials to begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13023/12]

I attach the highest priority to the full investigation of white collar crime and bringing the perpetrators of such crime to justice. Within eight weeks of taking up office, I moved urgently to draft, and seek Government approval to the introduction of, additional legislation. This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Act 2011, was enacted on 2 August. The Act is an important step in delivering on the Government's commitment to tackle white collar crime. Its main purpose is to address delays in the prosecution and investigation of complex white collar crime by improving certain important procedural matters and strengthening Garda investigative powers.

The Act's provisions are based on the experiences of those involved in investigations and prosecutions of white collar crime, and in particular on the experiences of those involved in current investigations into bank fraud and financial irregularities. It provides new procedures and powers which will speed up both current and future investigations, including investigations into offences in the areas of banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud and corruption.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment that rogue bankers and all those who misappropriate or embezzle funds are properly pursued for their crimes and that the full rigours of the law will apply to them. I am determined to see this commitment fulfilled. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank by An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) are ongoing with a full investigation team employed at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

The Garda authorities have indicated that to date two investigation files were submitted by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to the Law Officers in December, 2010. A supplementary file was submitted in May 2011 and a further investigation file was forwarded in October 2011. The files remain under consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and directions are awaited. Following recent developments additional information has been submitted to the Law Officers to allow matters to be considered further.

I can assure the Deputy that this Government will continue to provide the necessary legislative and administrative supports for the investigations and that I attach the highest priority to the full investigation of white collar crime and bringing the perpetrators of such crime to justice. I am being briefed on an ongoing basis on the progress of the investigations and am assured that this investigation remains an absolute priority for An Garda Síochána and that there is sufficient personnel and technical expertise available to assist in the various aspects of this ongoing investigation.

Illegal Immigrants

Brendan Griffin

Question:

179 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an undocumented person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13029/12]

I should say at the outset that it would be inappropriate for me to give legal advice by way of answer to a Parliamentary Question. Moreover, this is further underscored by the fact that the Minister for Justice and Equality is in law responsible for the operation of our immigration legislation.

The situation as presented to the Deputy appears to constitute a clear breach of the law over a sustained period and as such that cannot be ignored. Ireland like all other countries is entitled to uphold its sovereign right to manage its borders to ensure, inter alia, that the State is not, for example, left in a situation where it has to take on financial and/or welfare obligations in respect of persons who have flouted our laws.

I would say by way of general comment that the person in question should immediately contact in writing the Immigration Service of my Department — General Immigration Section, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 — to set out the circumstances of her case, how she entered and remained in the State together with any extenuating factors. Pending an examination of her case, I am not in a position to make any further comment at this stage. However, I would say that, at a minimum, continued disregard of law would most certainly be adverse to her interests.

Courts Service

Denis Naughten

Question:

180 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no staff member available in the Galway district probate office to process applications; the steps which have been taken by the transition team to ensure a continuity of service within the district probate office; if his further attention has been drawn to the hardship that will be caused by the failure to process any new applications; the steps being taken to deal with the applications for probate on hand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13034/12]

Denis Naughten

Question:

181 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of staff and vacant posts in each district probate office; the steps being taken to deal with the backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13035/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.

The Probate Office is an office of the High Court. Management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions under the Courts Service Act 1998. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that there are 14 District Probate Registries located outside Dublin attached to Circuit Court Offices. Staff in these offices are not exclusively assigned to probate work and also have responsibility for other aspects of circuit court work.

I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that the Courts Service, in common with all other public sector organisations, is obliged to ensure that resources are deployed to best effect to ensure continuity of service with reduced budgets and resources. Greater flexibility in the deployment of available resources will be critical in maintaining the delivery of front line court services.

The Court Service has informed me that the impact of vacancies on the provision of services will vary between court offices depending on the numbers retiring and the skill sets available in each office. The Service has put in place contingency plans which are being customised to meet the needs of individual offices, including the Galway Circuit Court Office which the Deputy has raised. These plans include technical skills training to address the skills and knowledge deficit resulting from retirements.

The Courts Service has put in place a series of work force planning measures over the last three years to ensure that available resources are deployed to best effect including the centralising of processes, creation of multi jurisdictional combined court offices, rationalisation of court venues and offices, rationalisation and standardisation of processes and an ongoing review of resource allocation including redeployment to front line services.

The table sets out the overall number of staff and vacancies in each Circuit Court office which has a District Probate Registry. The table also sets out the number of recently retired staff who were involved in work in the District Probate Registries.

Circuit Court Office

Total Number of Staff in each Circuit Court Office*

Number of vacancies in each Circuit Court Office

Number of retirements by 29 February 2012 from officers involved in probate work in each Circuit Court Office

Mayo

10

1

0

Cavan

3

2

1

Tipperary

8

1

1

Cork

28

0

0

Louth

8

1

0

Galway

11

3

1

Kilkenny

5

1

1

Donegal

11

0

0

Limerick

13

1

0

Westmeath

7

0

0

Sligo

7

0

0

Kerry

7

5

1

Waterford**

15

2

0

Wexford

5

1

0

Total

138

23

5

*Number of staff in each circuit court office responsible for all aspects of circuit court work and not exclusively probate work.

**Waterford is now a combined Court Office.

Garda Operations

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

182 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on Garda Operation Raptor; the number of persons arrested and charged to date; the amount of drugs recovered to date; the number of successful convictions secured to date; the cost of the operation to date; if this operation is still active; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13039/12]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that Operation Raptor was established by local Garda management in Waterford, in conjunction with personnel from the Garda National Drugs Unit, to target the illegal sale, supply and distribution of drugs in the Waterford area. As part of the Operation test purchases were conducted between June and December 2011, which have given rise to in excess of forty investigation files being submitted to the Law Officers.

Furthermore, on 29 February 2012, a search and arrest phase of this initiative was undertaken during which twenty searches were carried out, resulting in the arrest of seventeen persons. The persons concerned were brought before Waterford District Court and charged with offences relating to the illegal supply of controlled drugs, principally heroin and cocaine. Pending further court hearings involving these cases, no convictions have as yet been secured. It is anticipated that further arrests will follow as a result of this ongoing policing operation. I am further informed that the monetary value of drugs seized during this initiative would be relatively small, with street deals worth between approximately €20-€80 each being purchased in the course of the operation by undercover officers.

A dedicated budget was not established for this initiative. It would therefore necessitate a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources to calculate the cost of the operation to date. An Garda Síochána remains fully committed to continuing to tackle the illegal supply of drugs at all levels, in keeping with commitments under the National Drugs Strategy. A key feature of this work is the ongoing close co-operation between the Garda National Drugs Unit and local Garda Drugs Units to ensure a co-ordinated and effective approach to drug law enforcement and the protection of our communities.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

183 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons vetted by the Garda central vetting unit for the years 2008 to 2011, inclusive, and to date in 2012; the average waiting time to be vetted in each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13040/12]

There has been a substantial increase in the volume of vetting applications received by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) over recent years. The number of applications processed by the GCVU and the average processing time for the years 2008 to 5 March 2012 are as follows:

Year

No of applications

Average processing time

2008

218,404

4-5 weeks

2009

246,194

6-7 weeks

2010

291,938

12 weeks

2011

315,100

8 weeks

2012

52,773

2 weeks

(to 5 March 2012)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that while the current average processing time at the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) is 2 weeks approximately, seasonal fluctuations and the necessity to seek additional information on particular applications can, however, result in this processing time being exceeded on occasion.

I would remind the Deputy that since I became Minister I have taken a number of measures to ensure that the time it takes for the processing of vetting applications improves significantly. I remain very conscious of the need to keep the time required to obtain a vetting to the minimum possible. Nonetheless registered organisations have been advised to take account of the possible need for additional information to be provided in some cases in their recruitment and selection process.

Garda Recruitment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

184 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will review the moratorium on recruitment to an Garda Síochána which was promised at the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13042/12]

The moratorium on Public Service Recruitment continues to apply to An Garda Síochána and no date has been fixed for future intakes into the Garda College. A decision on when recruitment will re-commence will take into account the rate of retirements in the Garda Síochána and Government targets, set in the context of the agreement with the EU and the IMF, to reduce the numbers of public servants. In addition to this, what will ultimately determine the sustainable level of Garda numbers, and therefore establish when recruitment will recommence, is the level of budgetary provision that can be made for the Force, and the House will be conscious that difficult decisions will continue to have to be made, right across the public sector, in order to bring our public finances back into balance. The situation is being kept under continuing review.

Garda Strength

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

185 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if any mechanism has been put in place to address the significant number of Garda personnel who are retiring under the current public retirement programme and in view of the fact that double the average number of gardaí retired in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13043/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team, is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation. This allocation of resources is constantly monitored in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

While there is no getting away from the reality that public expenditure and public service numbers have to be reduced in the context of the agreement with the EU and the IMF, the Government is committed to maintaining frontline services at the highest level possible. A key factor in achieving this will be the implementation of the new Garda roster which is aimed at more closely matching the availability of Garda personnel with fluctuating policing demands. The number of retirements in the first two months of 2012 was 262. This compares with 436 in 2011, 362 in 2010 and 722 in 2009.

Road Traffic Offences

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

186 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, further to Parliamentary Question No. 505 of 24 January 2012, the reasons statistics are not maintained under section 63 of the Road Traffic Act on drivers who turn up to court without their driving licence and a copy of their driving licence which is now required under law in view of the fact that the law states that the court shall record whether or not the licence or permit and the copy of the licence or permit have been produced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13045/12]

The primary purpose of section 63 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 is to ensure that the driving licence number of individual offenders is recorded to enable the application of appropriate penalty points to the licence on conviction by the court. I am informed that the Courts Service are making arrangements to have the wording on the summonses amended to inform those summoned to court that they must bring not only their driving licence but a copy of the licence to court to facilitate the recording of the driving licence number. In addition, the Service is in the process of introducing new procedures which will enhance its ability to record not only the driving licence number but also to record, as a matter of record, whether the licence is produced or not.

The Courts Service computer system does not support the maintenance of statistical data in relation to whether or not a driving licence is produced. However, with the introduction of enhanced levels of licence recording it should be possible in the future to provide this data.

Garda Equipment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

187 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review his decision to cut funding to An Garda Síochána by €2.7 million for spending on firearms cards, bullets and targets and reduced training allowances for firearms instructors and trainees; his views regarding the impact of this proposed cutback on the ability of An Garda Síochána to address and deter violent gangland criminal operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13046/12]

The specific arrangements made by An Garda Síochána in relation to firearms are, as operational matters, dealt with by the Garda Commissioner. In that context the Commissioner determines the appropriate measures to be put in place, including the number of Garda members to whom firearms are issued, without reference to either myself or my Department.

The Garda authorities have indicated that at present the armed capability of Garda members is provided by District Detective Units supported by National Units. In addition, they have made arrangements to co-ordinate Garda armed response measures throughout the country. These arrangements include special responses to deal with different types of crime. In view of the operational nature of the functions involved it would not be appropriate for me to comment in further detail on how the relevant resources might be deployed. The Garda authorities have also informed me that the armed capability of Garda members is kept under ongoing review.

Garda Investigations

Catherine Byrne

Question:

188 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify ownership of a house (details supplied) which was taken over by the Criminal Assets Bureau in 2007, and which is a huge eyesore in the local community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13050/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on matters relating to investigations or legal proceedings in which the Criminal Assets Bureau may be involved. The Deputy will be aware that the Property Registration Authority, which manages the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds, is the registering body in relation to ownership of property, and matters affecting it, in Ireland.

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

189 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13116/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question Number 195 of 12 January 2012 (copy below), which advised the Deputy that there were no plans involving the transfer of any current functions and related staff from Killarney.

The Deputy will however be aware that the Government has decided that Public Service numbers are to be reduced to 282,500 by 2015, and that there is a moratorium on recruitment and promotion. My Department will play its part in meeting that objective, consequently the numbers of staff assigned to each area of my Department are subject to review on an ongoing basis.

My Department operates a Financial Shared Services Centre in Killarney, County Kerry. It provides payroll, pensions, financial management and other related support services to my Department, and to a number of other client organisations, including the Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Irish Prison Service, the Property Registration Authority and other Government Departments and Agencies. There are no plans involving the transfer of any current functions and related staff from Killarney.

Residency Permits

Paul Connaughton

Question:

190 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review a request from a person (details supplied) to waive the residency requirement for his US-born spouse in view of the fact the couple have been married for five years and live in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13140/12]

The circumstances in which the statutory residency requirement for the purposes of naturalisation can be waived are very limited and prescribed by law. These are as set out in sections 15A and 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

Section 15A provides that a foreign national who is married to, or is the Civil Partner of, an Irish citizen for at least three years may apply for naturalisation if they have been continuously resident in the island of Ireland for the year immediately prior to the date of their application and for two out of the four years prior to that year. The marriage or civil partnership must be subsisting and recognised under Irish law. The section provides that the residence criteria and length of marriage criteria could be waived by the Minister in cases where the applicant shows that they would suffer serious consequences in respect of their bodily integrity or liberty if not granted Irish citizenship.

Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application although the statutory conditions are not satisfied in certain circumstances i.e. where an applicant is of Irish descent or of Irish associations. A person is of Irish associations if he or she is related by blood, affinity or adoption to, or is the civil partner of, a person who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen. An application for a certificate of naturalisation may be lodged at any time.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

191 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the percentage of the entire cohort of primary school teachers who have been Garda vetted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13141/12]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

192 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the percentage of the entire cohort of secondary school teachers who have been Garda vetted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13142/12]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

193 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the percentage of the entire cohort of third level lecturers who have been Garda vetted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13143/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 to 193, inclusive, together.

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for over 19,000 organisations in Ireland who are registered with the Gardaí for this purpose and which employ/engage persons in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or training capacity to positions where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults. Amongst these organisations are the Teaching Council, with whom primary and secondary school teachers are registered, and various Third Level institutions. Vetting is carried out in response to written requests made through these registered organisations on behalf of the individual who is to be vetted. As the GCVU only has responsibility for processing the applications it receives from, and issuing the response to, these organisations, it is not in a position to say what percentage of the entire cohort of primary and secondary teachers or third level lecturers have been vetted to date.

However, following inquiries with the Department of Education and Skills, I understand that there are approximately 73,000 teachers registered with the Teaching Council of whom approximately 30,000 have been vetted under the arrangements for vetting of teaching staff introduced in 2006. I am further informed that in late 2010 the Department of Education and Skills issued a circular which updated and clarified the requirements for Garda vetting as part of recruitment procedures for all teaching and non-teaching positions. I am also advised by that Department that with regard to third level lecturers, the higher education institutions are autonomous statutory bodies and they deal directly with the management of their staff and related issues such as vetting through the GCVU.

Citizenship Applications

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

194 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is a procedure that allows submissions to be made by third parties in respect of applications in respect of persons for immigration status (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13149/12]

Submissions by third parties in respect of immigration applications under consideration by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) can be made in writing to the appropriate section of INIS, details of which are on the INIS website —www.inis.gov.ie. All submissions made are given due consideration in the overall consideration of an application, subject to the requirements of data protection, fair procedure and due process.

Where an individual has information that is relevant to a particular case, INIS encourages that such information be provided to inform the decision making process. Members of the Oireachtas who wish to make such a submission can do so using the Oireachtas Members email facility which provides a dedicated service to Members seeking up to date information on the status of individual applications or who wish to submit representations or information in respect of an application.

Deportation Orders

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

195 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 182 and 183 of 25 January 2012, when a reply will issue. [13183/12]

I have written to the Deputy today providing the detailed information sought in Parliamentary Questions 182 and 183 of 25 January 2012.

Court Orders

Martin Heydon

Question:

196 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Defence the number of court orders that were obtained against persons illegally parked at a location (details supplied) in County Kildare in 2007 to 2011; the costs associated with these orders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13134/12]

Under Section 19C of The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as inserted by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 2002, it is an offence for a person to enter on and occupy property without the consent of the owner. Under Section 19E of the Act, An Garda Síochána have the power to arrest persons who fail to leave when requested and seize anything they may have brought onto the property. In cases where persons illegally park on the Curragh Plains they are firstly asked to leave by the Department's Lands Staff. If they subsequently refuse to leave, An Garda Síochána are notified. In such cases it is a matter for An Garda Síochána to pursue prosecution of offenders. My Department does not therefore have details of the number of court orders obtained and the costs involved.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

197 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13562/12]

The bodies under the aegis of my Department are the Civil Defence Board, the Army Pensions Board and the Board of Coiste an Asgard. No appointments have been made to these bodies to the post equivalent to the CEO or de facto Accounting Officer since 1 January 2009. Neither the Army Pensions Board nor the Board of Coiste an Asgard has a Chief Executive Officer. The Chief Executive Officer of the Civil Defence Board is a serving civil servant at Principal Officer grade and was appointed to the post in 2008.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

198 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his and this Government’s position in relation to GM, GM food, GM plant trials and bio-diversity in general. [12903/12]

Responsibility for issues relating to the cultivation of genetically modified crops, including GM trials, in Ireland rests with my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, while responsibility for GM foods rests with the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly. I have responsibility for issues relating to GM animal feed and, should it arise, the commercial cultivation of authorised GM crops alongside conventional crops.

Since 2007 all GM feed proposals have been considered in joint application with "food" under EU Regulation 1829/2004 on genetically modified food and feed. My Department considers the proposals in relation to feed while the Department of Health considers the proposal in relation to food. However a single national position is taken in respect of each proposal.

The use of authorised GM ingredients plays an important role in the supply of protein feed materials at affordable prices for the Irish livestock industry. In relation to the authorisation and use of products consisting of or containing authorised GM ingredients in animal feed, my Department adopts, on the basis of scientific evaluation, a positive but precautionary approach to EU applications for the authorisation of GM ingredients in food and feed and supports applications which have been deemed to be safe by European Food Safety Authority.

Responsibility for issues in relation to biodiversity rests with my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan. Ireland's strategic actions on biodiversity up to 2016 are set out in the second National Biodiversity Plan, "Actions for Biodiversity 2011 to 2016”, which was published last November by Minister Deenihan. The Plan was developed in line with the EU and International Biodiversity strategies and policies.

Grant Payments

Jim Daly

Question:

199 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the dairy equipment grant in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12942/12]

The person concerned submitted an application under the Dairy Equipment Scheme under the first tranche on 27 April 2011. The application was approved into the Scheme on 10 October 2011. The person named has submitted a payment claim and payment of the grant will take place when it has been determined that all the terms and conditions of the Scheme have been complied with. These checks will be completed as soon as possible.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

200 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if donkeys are eligible to be counted as livestock for stocking density purposes under the 2012 disadvantaged areas scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12948/12]

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.

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 reduction will arise from technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose main 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.

There are an increasing number of applicants under the Scheme, who have discontinued livestock (cattle or sheep) farming, but who continue to benefit from aid under the Scheme by grazing some horses on their land. It is proposed that horses and donkeys will no longer be eligible for the stocking density calculation on the basis that these applicants' contribution to the rural economy is minimal. However, equine breeding enterprises will continue to be eligible on the basis of the contribution they make to the local economy. My officials have engaged with the horse industry representatives in order to agree on criteria that would mean that those equine breeding enterprises (irrespective of their size), who are making a valuable contribution to the local economy will continue to receive support.

Grant Payments

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

201 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the delay in processing payment under the 2010 agri-environment options scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; when payment will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12950/12]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st November 2010. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. During these checks a query arose in relation to the claimed Natura area on one of the parcels. This problem is presently being addressed and I expect payment will issue shortly.

Michael Moynihan

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the outstanding REP scheme payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12960/12]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in June 2008 and received payments for the first three years of the contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. During the course of the administrative check, an area discrepancy was discovered between the Single Payment Scheme application for 2011 and the REPS Agri-Environmental Plan submitted by the person named which has resulted in the necessity for further clarification. This issue is currently being investigated with the intention of an early resolution and payment in respect of 2011.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Catherine Byrne

Question:

203 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the proposal by Teagasc to undertake genetically modified crop trials here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12970/12]

Responsibility for issues relating to the cultivation of genetically modified crops, including GM trials, in Ireland rests with my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan.

Aquaculture Licences

Brendan Griffin

Question:

204 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a licence will be granted for aquaculture, mussel farming, in Kenmare Bay, County Kerry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13010/12]

The application referred to is in respect of a site located within Kenmare Bay which is designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive (Natura 2000 site).

All applications in ‘Natura' areas are required to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of environmental compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. My Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of ‘Natura' areas. This data collection programme is substantially complete. Analysis of the data, together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives by the NPWS, will enable all new, renewal and review applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. This work represents a significant financial, administrative and scientific investment by the State in resolving this issue. The Appropriate Assessment of aquaculture applications is being dealt with on a bay-by-bay basis.

Addressing the issue of aquaculture licensing in Natura 2000 areas is a key priority for my Department and you can be assured that every effort is being made to expedite the determination of this aquaculture licence application having regard to all the complexities involved.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Brendan Griffin

Question:

205 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the plans and rationale behind changes to disadvantaged area scheme, DAS, stocking levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13020/12]

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. My intention is that the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget will be submitted to Brussels 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. At this stage it is not possible to break this figure down by measure and by county. This reduction will arise from technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose main 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.

It is proposed that eligible applicants in 2012 must have met (a) a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per hectare in 2011 (equivalent to 2 ewes per hectare) and (b) 0.15 livestock units per hectare in 2012. However, in recognition of the environmental objectives of the Scheme, specific provisions will be made for those farmers, who had a stocking density less than 0.3 lu/ha in 2011, where that lower stocking density was as a result of adherence to lower stocking by agri-environmental measure. If the proposals are accepted, all applicants, whose stocking density was below 0.3 lu/ha in 2011, will be written to formally and given the opportunity to apply for a derogation on the grounds that his or her participation in one of the above measures resulted in the lower stocking density. The principles of force majeure/exceptional circumstances will also be provided for in the process. It is also intended that provision will be made for new entrants to farming.

It is proposed to continue with the minimum stocking density of 0.15 lu/ha in respect of 2012. With a view to focusing the aid to those farmers, who make the most significant contribution to the rural economy and to the environment in general, it is proposed that the calculation of the stocking density will be based on (a) a retention period of 6 months where the stocking density on the holding has to be equal to or greater than 0.15 lu/ha and (b) the stocking density calculated over the twelve months of the scheme-year.

With the intention of targeting those farmers who are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, it is proposed that farmers, whose holdings consists of land situated both in Disadvantaged Areas and non-Disadvantaged Areas are better positioned from a farming viewpoint than those farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas. Therefore, it is proposed that where some of an applicant's declared land, whose main holding is situated in a non-Disadvantaged Area, is non-Disadvantaged land, a digressive of aid under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme will be payable to such farmers. This proposal is regarded as fair in that the greater proportion of Less Favoured Areas land in the holding the greater the level of payment.

There are an increasing number of applicants under the Scheme, who have discontinued livestock (cattle or sheep) farming, but who continue to benefit from aid under the Scheme by grazing some horses on their land. It is proposed that horses will no longer be eligible for the stocking density calculation on the basis that these applicants' contribution to the rural economy is minimal. However, equine breeding enterprises will continue to be eligible on the basis of the contribution they make to the local economy.

It is also proposed to exclude land situated more than 80 kilometres from a farmer's holding from aid under the Scheme. This exclusion will be confined to applicants, whose main holding is situated in a non-Disadvantaged Area, and who declares land situated more than 80 kilometres from the main holding. It is contended that the local impact of the farming of those lands situated in the Disadvantaged Areas is marginal.

Grant Payments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

206 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a grassland sheep scheme payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13026/12]

An application under the 2011 Grassland Sheep Scheme was received from the person named on the 3 May 2011. This application was fully processed and payment issued on 20 January 2012, based, in accordance with the provisions of the Scheme, on the average of the 2009 and 2010 Sheep Census return as received by my Department, which indicated that the person named had 195 and 208 breeding ewes in his flock, respectively.

Hazardous Waste

Michael McGrath

Question:

207 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if contractors have been appointed or tenders issued in respect of the planned clean-up of the former Irish Steel and Irish Ispat site at Haulbowline, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13032/12]

A contract was signed with Martin O'Callaghan Ltd. on 14th November 2011 to complete the works necessary to repair two sea breaches on the East Tip. The works were completed on 21st November 2011. SKM Enviros (environmental consultants) were appointed as the single-operator under the framework agreement for multidisciplinary environmental advisory services in relation to a waste licensing and remediation/reclamation project at Haulbowline Island, Co. Cork (17th January 2012). Notice regarding the establishment of this framework was published oneTenders (www.etenders.gov.ie) on 14th October.

Arup, Mott MacDonald, RPS, Verdé and WYG (environmental consultants) were appointed as operators under the framework agreement for multidisciplinary environmental consultancy and design services in relation to waste licensing and remediation/reclamation projects in Haulbowline 24th January 2012. Notice regarding the establishment of this framework was published on eTenders (www.etenders.gov.ie) on 14th October 2011.

A contract has been signed with WYG Environment Planning Transport Ltd. to provide multidisciplinary environmental consultancy services for site investigations and an associated detailed Quantitative Risk Assessment.

On 21st February 2012 a site investigation tender notice was published on eTenders (www.etenders.gov.ie). Notification was also posted on the “latest news” section of the project website (www.corkcoco.ie/haulbowline) and contained in a Cork County Council composite advertisement published in the Irish Examiner on February 24th 2012. The deadline forreceipt of tenders is 17:00 on Friday March 16th 2012. The project website (www.corkcoco.ie/haulbowline) is continuously updated and contains all relevant date relating to notification and award of tenders.

Forestry Sector

Billy Timmins

Question:

208 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding Coillte lands (details supplied). [13064/12]

As recently announced by the Government, consideration will be given to the possible sale of some assets of Coillte, excluding the sale of land. This involves a process of looking at all issues relating to the disposal of Coillte assets including economic, social, strategic and employment. I am conscious that Coillte's forests provide a range of recreational opportunities for the general public continuing a long tradition of open access to state owned forests. I am aware that this is a very significant issue of concern for the general public, therefore public access to recreational land will be an important consideration in the decision-making process regarding the potential sale of such assets. Obtaining the best economic value for the taxpayer will also be an important consideration.

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

209 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13110/12]

In common with all Departments and Agencies, my Department is obliged to comply with new targets for reducing staff numbers in respect of each year to 2015 under the Employment Control Framework. The reform of our Regional Office structure has facilitated a more efficient and cost effective model of service delivery and has allowed the Department to utilise its declining staff resources to best effect while maintaining a high quality of services to farmers and other food business operators. My Department is using the Croke Park agreement to deploy staff in a manner that ensures optimum resource usage in the delivery of services. For County Kerry services can be accessed from my Department's Regional Office in Tralee.

Grant Payments

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

210 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a REPS 4 application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13147/12]

The person named commenced REPS 4 in February 2008 and received payments for the first three years of their contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all application to be completed before any payments can issue. Administrative checks in respect of 2011 payments have been finalised and the 75% payment amounting to €5,768.99 issued on 1 March 2012. The remaining 25% balancing payment of €1,923.00 will issue shortly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

211 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when digitisation of maps will be finalised in view of the fact that this matter has been going on for quite some time in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13190/12]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 21 April 2010. The application was fully processed and payment issued on 5 November 2010 and 1 December 2010 respectively. The person named is also a participant in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme 2010. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. The required processing has recently been completed and payment will issue in the next two weeks.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

212 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to a post equivalent to that of chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer, who was, within 12 months of that appointment, a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13558/12]

Mr. John Osborne was appointed CEO of the Irish National Stud Co. Ltd. on 5th March 2010. Prior to his appointment as CEO, Mr. Osborne served as a Director on the Board of the INS.

Foreign Adoptions

John Paul Phelan

Question:

213 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when a legal opinion on the suitability of Panama as a country for Irish parents to adopt from will be complete; when she expects the Adoption Authority of Ireland to be in a position to be able to enter an agreement with the Panamanian authorities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12979/12]

The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) is an independent statutory body charged with implementing the Adoption Act 2010. The Authority has responsibility for the direct operational implementation of legislation and Government policy. In November 2011 the AAI commenced a review of the adoption law(s) of Panama, which has ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The general review process followed by the AAI in such instances is detailed on the Authority's website. Owing to the variable nature of the process in respect of each individual country, and the need to engage with legal experts in the country being assessed, there is no definitive or set timescale for the completion of such reviews. The AAI will provide all relevant information relating to reviews on its website at the appropriate time.

The Hague Convention is a formal state-to-state agreement between countries developed on a multilateral basis. If a country has ratified the Hague Convention then the Adoption Authority of Ireland may establish administrative arrangements, as provided for in Section 72 of the Adoption Act, 2010. Administrative agreements are designed to underpin the Hague process and are related to the sequence and process arrangements in place to support the safeguards already agreed between states. The Adoption Authority of Ireland works with central authority counterparts in the establishment of administrative agreements.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

214 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009 appointed a person to a post equivalent to that of chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer, who was, within 12 months of that appointment, a member of the board of that organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13560/12]

I would like to inform the Deputy that the position in respect of my Department is that four agencies are funded by the Exchequer through my Department's Vote. These are the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI), the Family Support Agency (FSA), the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) and the Ombudsman for Children. With effect from 1 January 2012, I have taken responsibility for children detention schools as provided in Part 10 of the Children Act 2001. They are funded through my Department's Vote and I am responsible for the appointment of their Board of Management. None of these bodies appointed a Chief Executive or de facto Accounting Officer in the circumstances described in the Deputy's question.

Health Services

Robert Dowds

Question:

215 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Health if there are cases in which a child whose parents applied for an assessment of need by the Health Service Executive before the child turned five are still waiting for an assessment after the child has turned five, and if such children retain their entitlement to an assessment. [12963/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was commenced on 1 June 2007 in respect of children aged under 5 years; this includes an entitlement to an independent assessment of health and education needs. From the date of commencement, any parent who has concerns that their child aged under 5 may have a disability can apply for an assessment of need under Part 2 of the Act. Where a parent has applied for an assessment of need on behalf of a child before their fifth birthday, the entitlement to an assessment is retained after the child turns 5. The part of the Deputy's question relating to specific cases in which a child whose parents applied for an assessment of need before the child turned 5 and may still be waiting for an assessment after the child has turned 5 is a service matter and has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Pat Breen

Question:

216 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the situation regarding the progress made on delivering a general practitioner visit card for diabetics who are registered as having a long-term illness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12897/12]

The Programme for Government committed to reforming the current public health system by introducing Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all. As part of this reform programme the Government is committed to introducing Universal Primary Care within the first term of office of this Government. Initially it is intended to extend GP cover without fees to persons with defined long-term illnesses who are in receipt of drugs and medicines under the Long Term Illness Scheme. Primary legislation is required to give effect to this commitment. Once primary legislation has been approved by the Oireachtas, the details of the new arrangements will be announced.

Ambulance Service

Gerry Adams

Question:

217 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if the key performance indicators for emergency response times for the national ambulance service which the Health Information and Quality Authority published in November 2010 have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12908/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

218 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if a new intermediate care service comprising of a new type of ambulance known as an intermediate care vehicle to be crewed by a new grade of intermediate care operative to respond to lower acuity calls and with a primary role of patient transfers to take pressure off the emergency medical services has been introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12909/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

219 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he approved 40 new posts at the new grade of intermediate care operative, ICO; if the Health Service Executive purchased over 20 of the new intermediate care vehicles; the total cost of these vehicles; if they are now in operation; if the Health Service Executive advertised these positions and formed a panel to fill the 40 ICO positions; the current status of that panel; if the 40 positions have been filled; if the national ambulance service is now able to meet the target times set out by the Health Information and Quality Authority to prevent unnecessary deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12910/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 to 219, inclusive, together.

The HSE's National Ambulance Service (NAS) publishes key performance indicators for emergency response times, in accordance with the target requirements for category one emergency ambulance calls as set out by the Health Information and Quality Authority. The NAS began collecting the data in line with HIQA requirements in January 2011 and publishing this data in July of 2011. This information is published each month and can be accessed directly from the HSE website.

With regard to an intermediate care service, the NAS has developed a new model of service, in order to end the current practice of using emergency ambulances for inter-hospital transfers. This model has been developed following engagement with the HSE Clinical Care Programmes and individual hospitals. The foreseeable requirements for an intermediate care service have been based on the needs of hospitals, taking into account the impact of the HSE's Clinical Care Programmes and the Government's Employment Control Framework. Despite these challenges, the NAS has, over the past year, successfully put in place an intermediate care service in areas such as Limerick, Castleblayney and Galway and has developed plans to put a long term service in place in Mallow, Roscommon and Bantry. Regarding the Deputy's query on the number of posts, as this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Dara Calleary

Question:

220 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health the reason there is a delay in processing a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and the steps that are being taken to reduce the waiting times. [12944/12]

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

Tom Fleming

Question:

221 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12953/12]

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

Health Services

Jack Wall

Question:

222 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health his views on a submission (details supplied); his plans to address its content; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12959/12]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Brendan Griffin

Question:

223 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health his views on a matter regarding disability services in County Kerry (details supplied); his plans to address this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12980/12]

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

Public Procurement

Pearse Doherty

Question:

224 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if he will list all public contracts awarded to and currently being undertaken by companies (details supplied) at the Health Service Executive or other Department of Health funded locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12983/12]

The information sought in relation to public contracts awarded to and currently being undertaken by the companies in question for agencies funded by my Department is not readily available. Information is being sought from the agencies and will be provided as soon as possible. The question has also been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Catherine Byrne

Question:

225 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health the dental treatment to which medical card holders are entitled; if patients with diabetes and or a heart condition can avail of dental treatment on their medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12999/12]

The National Oral Health Office issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to Dental Contractors in November 2011 to provide clearer guidance on the application of DTSS prior approval requests. The SOPs confirm that High Risk patients, including Diabetes and/or complex heart (cardiac) conditions, will be prioritised for approval. They will receive all DTSS services that were available prior to April 2010 which will include all fillings as required and approval for complex care including root canal treatment, gum treatment and dentures.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

226 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13000/12]

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

Pension Provisions

Jack Wall

Question:

227 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if a person (details supplied) can be furnished with a statement of their pension that they receive from the Health Services Executive in respect of their late spouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13005/12]

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

Health Insurance

Brendan Griffin

Question:

228 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health his views on the rising cost of private health insurance; the way he plans to tackle the issue of rising health insurance premiums; if there are ways that customers can reduce their health insurance premiums without jeopardising their cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13022/12]

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

I am strongly committed to protecting community rating, whereby older and less healthy customers should pay the same amount for the same cover as younger and healthier people. In order to protect community rating, we need a system of Risk Equalisation which ensures that community rating can survive. We have an Interim Scheme in place since 2009. It is designed to compensate insurers which have older, less healthy customers and therefore higher claims costs, compared to insurers which have younger, less costly customers. It does so by a system of tax credits, based on age, in respect of persons of 60 years and over. Without such a system, community rating cannot survive.

In order to keep down the cost of health insurance for older people, I was pleased recently to increase significantly the age-related income tax credit for insured persons aged 60 years and over, from 1 January 2012. Without this support, health insurers would have had a strong financial incentive to "segment" the market by offering policies targeted at young people, to the disadvantage of older customers.

I must emphasise that these measures are designed to result in no overall increase of premiums in the market and to spread the risk more evenly between the healthy and the less healthy, the old and the young. The increased tax credits for older people are balanced by a corresponding increase in the levy on each insurer in respect of all of its insured customers, so that the system is Exchequer neutral.

In addition, I am keen to explore other available measures to limit the costs related to health insurance. I met recently with the three commercial health insurers to establish a Consultative Forum on Health Insurance, which met for the first time on 21st February. It agreed to work cooperatively to examine the potential to drive down costs related to health insurance and to identify savings that could be achieved by both public and private hospitals.

I am very concerned that any inefficiency in the management of claims is addressed before the introduction of Universal Health Insurance. The VHI will play a key role in addressing costs in the market, as due to the age profile and health status of its customer base, it currently pays out about 80% of all claims in the market as a whole. A new review of the VHI's claims costs will be carried out to establish what further savings can be made and it is expected that it will contribute significantly to more effective cost control within the private health insurance market.

The Government's clear objective is for the health insurance market to remain as competitive and affordable as possible, as we move towards a new system of Universal Health Insurance. I am determined that the measures outlined above will have a significant impact in containing the level of any future increases in health insurance premiums.

Hospital Accommodation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

229 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of step down patients currently in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, awaiting short-term, medium-term and long-term care; the length of the waiting periods for these patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13038/12]

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

Health Service Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

230 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the measures that have been put in place to address any gaps in psychiatric hospitals and services that may arise in view of the current public sector retirement programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13041/12]

The cumulative impact of staff reductions from this year and previous years presents a significant challenge for the health system generally 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. Like other care areas, efficiency and other savings will be required from the mental health service and it will have to deal with its share of staff reductions.

The HSE's Service Plan includes a commitment to reduce acute in-patient capacity by a minimum of 153 beds nationally in 2012, in line with the recommendations of A Vision for Change. A key priority for the HSE is the reconfiguration of acute in-patient services and the redeployment of staff resources away from old institutional settings or over-provision of acute in-patient beds towards community based services. In that regard, a special allocation of €35 million for mental health was announced in Budget 2012 in line with the Programme for Government commitments. Funding from this special allocation will be used primarily to strengthen Community Mental Health Teams in both Adult and Children’s mental health services. Approximately 400 additional staff will be recruited to support these and other initiatives in mental health.

In the context set out above, planning for staff exits from mental health as well as across the wider health service commenced in October last year and is continuing through the transition phase. The plans reflect the fact that the number of staff leaving varies from region to region and from service to service. The HSE is seeking to mitigate the impact of the retirements on frontline services by, among other measures, using the provisions of the Public Service Agreement to bring about greater flexibilities in work practices and rosters, redeployment and other changes to achieve more efficient delivery of services.

Medical Cards

John Lyons

Question:

231 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if information is still outstanding for the application to be fully processed. [13057/12]

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

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

232 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health the reason a general practitioner visit card was not renewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13060/12]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Charles Flanagan

Question:

233 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois, who suffers severe illness and is scheduled to undergo a VNS procedure at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13068/12]

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 day case 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.

Hospital Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

234 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if he will confirm recent reports that staff working at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, will now have to pay to park their vehicle in the hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13069/12]

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

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

235 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health when the senior house officer post in plastic surgery will be appointed at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13070/12]

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

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

236 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13115/12]

My Department does not have any offices in Kerry.

Medical Cards

Thomas Pringle

Question:

237 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health if he will grant a medical card to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13136/12]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if and when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who first applied in February 2011, then reapplied in September 2011 and is still awaiting a response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13138/12]

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

Health Services

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

239 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Health the number of adults and children who are on community based audiology waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13145/12]

The Health Service Executive has supplied the following information on the numbers of adults and children waiting for hearing tests and waiting to be fitted with hearing aids as at August 2011.

HSE South

HSE DML

HSE West

HSE DNE

Total

Adults Awaiting Hearing Test

1,708

2,485

2,153

835

7,181

Children Awaiting Hearing Test

1,899

1,468

2,613

432

6,412

Adults Awaiting Hearing Aid Fitting

50

304

566

97

1,017

Children Awaiting Hearing Aid Fitting

5

72

25

23

125

The HSE published the report of its National Audiology Review Group (NARG) in April 2011. The report contained a number of recommendations aimed at improving audiology services. The following recommendations which are being progressed will assist in reducing the waiting times for services:

The appointment of a National Clinical Lead which has recently been approved.

The planned integration of community and hospital services and the reconfiguration of the audiology workforce into fewer larger teams.

A unified career structure and increased staff numbers including 10 MSc in Audiology candidates whose education is being sponsored by the HSE and who should be ready to join the workforce in September 2013.

A standard system for the collation of audiology activity data which will commence this month.

The planned development of a national patient management system for audiology which will ensure easy access to patient data, facilitate the annual validation of waiting list activity and assist in the monitoring of local audiology productivity.

A national procurement process for hearing aids, hearing aid fitting systems and audiological assessment equipment due to be completed this month.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

240 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that hearing aid providers deliver adequate follow up services to patients who have purchased expensive hearing aids; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13146/12]

Follow up services for patients who have purchased hearing aids from a private provider is a matter of private contract between the hearing aid providers and the patients. While I have no role in relation to this matter, I would expect that private hearing aid providers would provide the necessary follow up and repair and maintenance service for their patients.

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if and when a medical card will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13153/12]

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

Health Services

Regina Doherty

Question:

242 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Health the plans for the future development of primary care in Ashbourne and the rest of County Meath, including timelines and other considerations. [13185/12]

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

Medical Consent

Sean Fleming

Question:

243 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health, further to Parliamentary Question No. 654 of 24 January 2012 regarding the issue of whether consent of guardians is required when making a medical decision in the case of a child born within a marriage, when he referred to the 2006 Health Service Executive guidelines on obtaining consent to clinical treatment in an acute hospital setting but made no reference to the most recent document, staff guidelines for obtaining consent for non-emergency treatment-services from parents of children and young people under the age of 18 years, if he will explain the difference between both documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13192/12]

There are clearly differences between the two HSE guidance documents referred to in the Parliamentary Question as they pertain to different service areas: The 2009 document Staff Guidelines for Obtaining Consent for Non Emergency Treatment/Services from Parents of Children and Young People Under the Age of 18 Years relates to the non-acute services and the 2006 document Guidelines in relation to obtaining consent to Clinical Treatment in an Acute Hospital setting pertains to the acute hospital setting.

The HSE recognises that a national consent policy is required and in 2011 the Quality and Patient Safety Directorate established a National Consent Advisory Group with broad stakeholder representation to develop one overarching consent policy and supporting documentation, which will include national guidelines. It is anticipated that the policy will be available in the latter part of 2012.

Medical Cards

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

244 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health if a person who is in receipt of a full medical card takes ill while in Northern Ireland is covered should they have to be admitted to hospital in Northern Ireland as an emergency case; if their follow-up treatment is covered under the GMS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13195/12]

Under the provisions of EU Regulations 883/2004, all persons ordinarily resident in Ireland are covered for necessary health care for the duration of their stay in another EU member-State. Follow on treatment is subject to the normal eligibility rules for treatment in this State.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

245 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13566/12]

I can confirm to the Deputy that none of the Chief Executive Officers appointed to the Non Commercial State Agencies under the aegis of my Department since 1 January 2009 was a member of the board of that organisation within twelve months of that appointment.

Rural Transport Services

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

246 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to maintain or extend the rural transport scheme in County Galway in view of the importance of the scheme and the critical impact any reduction in this scheme will have on rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12949/12]

Following a recent Government decision, I announced plans on 28 February 2012 to achieve greater levels of transport integration and co-ordinated delivery across a range of exchequer funded local and rural transport services incorporating the RTP, HSE non-acute transport, school transport and voluntary transport initiatives. A key element of this decision was that the National Transport Authority (NTA) assume a national role for integrated local and rural transport. This will involve the Authority taking responsibility for the Rural Transport Programme.

The NTA will develop proposals for future integrated local and rural transport services based on a series of pilot projects to be undertaken. The pilots will trial how integrated local and rural transport services can operate and how savings can be achieved across the various transport services. I am currently finalising arrangements for the six pilot areas. The outcome of the pilot areas will inform the wider national roll-out of integrated rural transport services.

I am also establishing a high level committee to oversee the initiative and this committee will be led by the NTA. The committee will also include representatives of the Departments of Education and Skills and Health, Bus Éireann, HSE, Local authorities, Rural Transport Groups and Pobal as well as from my Department. I strongly believe that by co-ordinating the resources we have available across a number of areas, we can further enhance and optimise the wider transport service offering in rural areas.

My Department has provided €9.77 million for the support of the rural transport programme nationally for 2012. In advance of the outcome of the pilot schemes it is essential that groups such as those in Galway continue to drive efficiencies and integration locally in order to minimise the impact of reduced funding on services. I will be asking the NTA to work with Pobal and groups to also support this effort by focussing on achieving efficiencies in administration costs in 2012. Developing a more integrated and effective rural transport programme is now a priority for Government and I intend to take a very active role in pushing this forward as quickly as possible.

Public Procurement

Arthur Spring

Question:

247 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of inspections that were carried out by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants on Irish-based contractors who were awarded public works contracts each year since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12965/12]

Arthur Spring

Question:

248 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of inspections carried out by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants on contractors registered outside of Ireland and who were awarded public works contracts in this country each year since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12966/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 248 together.

My Department has no responsibility or function for any inspections carried out by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and does not have the information requested by the Deputy.

Rail Services

Brendan Griffin

Question:

249 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will research a matter regarding railway usage (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12971/12]

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please inform my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

250 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will research a matter regarding railway stock (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12972/12]

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please inform my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Public Procurement

Arthur Spring

Question:

251 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will clarify the countries in which companies, who have been awarded public works contracts in Ireland, are registered to operate construction workers pension schemes similar to the Irish CWPS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12989/12]

Arthur Spring

Question:

252 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views that companies that have been awarded public works contracts here and are registered in other EU countries, which do not operate construction workers pension schemes or operate construction workers pension schemes that require substantially lower employer pension contributions than the Irish CWPS, are gaining an unfair competitive advantage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12994/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 252 together.

My Department does not have the information requested nor does it have any function in the matter of construction workers pension schemes.

Rail Network

Brendan Griffin

Question:

253 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding a railway matter (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13018/12]

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnód Éireann. I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Will the Deputy please inform my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

Taxi Regulations

Catherine Byrne

Question:

254 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if, in view of the recently published report of the review group on taxi regulation, he will allow for taxi licences to be transferred to family members on retirement of the licence holder; if there will be a set retirement age for taxi drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13051/12]

The regulation of the taxi industry, including issues pertaining to the renewal and transfer of vehicle licences, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009.

Currently, certain categories of SPSV vehicle licences are non-transferable, meaning they are individual to the person to whom they are issued and cannot be sold to a different person. A similar arrangement exists for taxi licences issued since January 2009. It was considered by the Review Group that it was necessary to move away from a system whereby a licence will have value in itself — a licence should determine a person's suitability to carry out a function and it should not have monetary value or be traded on the open market. An anomaly exists in that taxi licences issued prior to 1 January 2009 can be sold or transferred on one occasion. The Review Group agreed to introduce a prohibition on the transferability of taxi vehicle licences such that after 1 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 Taxi Regulation Act 2003 does not provide a basis for the application of a set retirement age. SPSV driver licensing is currently the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner. An applicant must satisfy the Gardaí that he/she is a fit and proper person to hold a licence and has not been convicted of an offence that would render him/her unsuitable to hold such a licence. I will arrange for your correspondence to be forwarded to the NTA for any additional information the NTA considers appropriate. If the Deputy does not receive a reply within ten working days will he please notify my private office.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

255 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on a matter regarding the cost of road haulage (details supplied); his plans to address this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13062/12]

As this issue relates to the rate of duty on diesel and proposals from industry representatives for a rebate scheme, it is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Public Transport

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

256 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of drivers and total staff members working for Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13071/12]

The issue raised is a matter for Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus. I have referred the Deputy's question to the companies for direct reply. Will the Deputy please inform my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

Departmental Properties

Tom Fleming

Question:

257 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his Department’s offices in County Kerry will be retained; if current staffing levels will be maintained.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13119/12]

My Department's offices in Killarney, County Kerry will be retained. These offices will accommodate the Tourism and Sport division of my Department. Staffing levels in all areas of my Department are reviewed regularly in the context of the reductions required under the Employment Control Framework and the flexibilities provided by the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement and improvements in business processes.

Public Procurement

Arthur Spring

Question:

258 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he is satisfied with the current system of pre-qualifying for the framework agreement for roadmarking for public works contracts, where the process of self declaration is widely used as self-declaration only requires the main contractor to sign a confirmation of their compliance with the registered employment agreement and not the submittal of the rates of pay and conditions of employment certificate or other compliance certificate in view of the fact that currently there is no requirement for the main contractor or his sub-contractors to provide evidence of compliance with current employment legislation here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13188/12]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and maintenance of individual national primary and secondary roads are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Similarly, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a statutory function of each road authority within its area, in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993.

I would also like to point out that works such as those mentioned by the Deputy are tendered out by the NRA and Local Authorities according to the criteria promulgated by my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Details of the requirements are available on the e-Tenders website at www.etenders.gov.ie.

Appointments to State Boards

Gerald Nash

Question:

259 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a detailed list of any State organisations, including non-commercial statutory bodies, which, since 1 January 2009, appointed a person to the post equivalent to chief executive officer or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was, within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13569/12]

In the agencies for which I have responsibility there have been no persons appointed to the post equivalent to Chief Executive Officer, or de facto Accounting Officer to such an office, who was within 12 months of that appointment a member of the board of that organisation since 1 January 2009. The Chief Executive Officers of the State agencies for which I have responsibility are appointed by the Board of the relevant organisations. Chief Executive Officer and Board membership details are available from the Annual Report and Accounts of the relevant agency. In addition, full details of State Board appointments are available on my Department’s website.